Firstly, I will start off by congratulating Sadia on her first novel, ‘ Junpier Smoke’ which releases July 8th. I will post her Bio and then my interview down below, I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I have because she has taken her time and given depth to her answers.
I’ve had an odd and beautiful life. I was born in one continent, raised in another one…and moved to a third one to settle down. From the thousands of people I met and befriended, there was always a common theme: Everyone had a story to tell.
Since I was three years old, I have wanted to tell the stories of the fictional people trapped in my head. I love dissecting characters and exploring what lies beneath the razor-thin surface of human behavior. I am humbled when anyone—a stranger, friend or loved one—reads what I wrote. So, thank you!”
Sadia Ash has held jobs in different fields that involved writing (and never math) in some way. She has worked for film and TV publicity with the Prenner Group, did news and TV placement for Aeros (a NASA project), edited scripts for indie films, and fundraised. A lot. A serial volunteer, she has raised funds for many charities that educate and help girls.
Currently working on two other novels and a film script, Ash hopes to see the sunlight outside her window one day. She holds an MA English degree from Loyola University in Chicago, a Screenwriting Certificate from UCLA and one more impractical MA in English Literature from NUML. Originally from Chicago, she lives in sun-drenched Cali with her husband—who is her best friend—and two bright kids.
Q. What inspired you to start writing?
A. I have always written. Ever since I was a four, I’ve been a big reader and a big dreamer. I wanted to always be a writer someday. I did do other things and other jobs. Most of my communications, media, nonprofit promotion, and editing jobs involved writing in some ways.
Because of that I got a grad degree in English and took a few creative writing courses. After that… family, job and life took priority. But after 18 years of marriage, 2 kids, exciting PR jobs, I finally got the courage and time to focus on my writing.
The past five years (even though I was working) I would take my weekends and my evenings to focus and write. Two years ago I finished a few screenwriting courses at UCLA film school. That really helped me understand the concept and process plotting and pacing and dialogue better.
Q. Where did you come up with the characters Juniper and Kyle? Mainly Kyle’s complex character?
A. Juniper was a character I think I saw in a lot of girls I have met over the years. Girls who are really hard-working and self-sacrificing. They’re shy and reserved and don’t really get a lot of attention. They are sort of wallflowers. Yet they are the ones that silently make the world run on a daily basis. And I love art and history so I liked the idea of her working in a museum.
Kyle was interesting for me because I try to imagine people who are the opposite of me. I am terrible in math and science. All my life I struggled with numbers. And I thought what if someone’s mind was just composed of numerical thinking.
On top of that, I am married to an engineer/inventor. To him, the entire world is a box of broken toys. He wants to fix that everything. Any dialogue that hasn’t got to do with that fixing seems like a waste of time to him.
Yet underneath the surface there is such a depth to his still waters run deep. My husband’s also very quiet and observant but he’s also extremely hilarious and loving. And I think a lot of the heroes I saw were not very realistic and I wanted to create a guy who was sort of realistic…
Q. Was it a hard process or was it an easy flow of writing?
A. Actually this was an easy book to write. I was struggling with a very long saga of a historical fiction WIP that I have been working on for two years. It is set in the Victorian era. I’m going to get back to that later on. I needed a lighter book that was less research-intensive, so I decided to write a contemporary Romance. This helped my overall writing flow better and become more succinct.
I think when you start a novel you struggle with a new set of characters. By 30% of the book, I was still trying to figure out who the characters were. But after a certain point, the characters start writing themselves…I know it sounds crazy…but a lot of writers say this.
But you don’t truly experience it until you write hundreds of pages and then you get to a point where you can sit back and say, ‘Oh well I have literally no control over these characters…er people…they are taking over.’ Juniper and Kyle were like that. I did have different things planned for them but they had different ideas LOL
Q. How many times did you have to go back and edit before you were happy with the final piece?
A. Oh my goodness, this question brings me so much pain. First of…I have an excellent editor, Beth Bruno, who has edited 300 books. I send her my final manuscript and then I add my re-dos and send back. I think my problem is I overdo my own editing.
This book has probably seen 30 rounds of editing by me. And four professional rounds by my editor. I am never happy with my writing. And this is a bad thing because I overthink and overcook things. This also makes me slower. This fairly simple 600 page novel took me a year to write and edit. And I see my writer friends putting out five or six books a year…wow…I’m just in awe of them.
Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A. In the past I have written a few screenplays and I got really good feedback on two of them from successful film writers in LA, who were my mentors for the project. One is a rom com and one a thriller. Hopefully, one day I can find time to get back to them.
After the Juniper book 2, I want to go back to my historical novel which is half done at 500 pages. I am also writing a fantasy series that I have only done 100 pages on. Hmm I have a lot of works in progress so the scripts may not happen. LOL
Q. How important are reviews to you?
A. Well, this is my first novel, so I am going to find out 🙂 However, I have developed a thick skin after doing some script editing and PR work in the film industry. You realize it’s not personal. A person is not reacting to you…but to your work and that’s fine.
You can’t please everyone and that’s all good too. A lot of people are just trying to help and that helps me grow as a writer. But as far as the good reviews…they make me dance for hop, skip and jump.
Q. What is your favourite part of Juniper Smoke?
A. I would have to say the part when Kyle tells Juniper love is a manufactured lie. They are in the hidden garden on the cliff and the French chef serves the soufflés and the candle lanterns swing above. It’s a dark and cloudy night and they sit overlooking the Pacific. I like the mood of that scene.
Q. If you looked back 10 years ago, would you have thought you’d be where you are today?
A. I think as Juniper Smoke is my debut novel, I’ve only just started. I would be a little disappointed if I saw this 10 years ago. But that’s okay…the older I get, I am learning that the journey is just as important as the destination.
I honestly don’t write with a great ambition…except that it’s a compulsion. I just have to put the words down.
And I’ve always written and thrown stuff in a drawer. In fifth grade I wrote short adventure stories. As a teen, I wrote and drew comics that thank god will never see the light of day. 10 years ago I was writing post-colonial literary short stories. And now I’m doing more mainstream work, for which there is a bigger audience.
Q. Any advice for upcoming Authors/ aspiring writers?
A. Everyone is different so I hesitate to say this. But….
• Don’t forget to read. Read the classics. Read everything in your genre. That’s where writers start. Take some time out to read every day or at least every week. Reading is the fuel that powers writers. If you are writing to sell, then look at what sells. If you are writing to get awards, look at what is getting awards. If you are writing just for yourself, forget all of the above and have fun with the process!
• Keep on Writing. Don’t stop. Writing is like swimming. The more you do it, the better you get. And don’t stop if you’re frustrated. Take a break. Just circle back. If you feel like your draft isn’t good enough, pause. Put it away, start something else and then come back and finish your first one. I have so many WIP’s that will never see the light of day. But they helped me practice for the other ones.
• Practice! Practice, practice and write, write. I cannot stress the pre-work practice to writing a novel enough. Now there are exceptions to the rule–there are people who are natural born writers and their first draft might be the one they publish. For me, I’m kind of slow and it takes me a while to learn things properly.
• Meet Diverse People In order to write realistic and a wide variety of characters, it’s always good to develop empathy for others. Especially for people that may be extremely different from you. This is hard to do but it helps to see different POVs especially when you’re writing from different character POVs. I’ve had the luck of traveling and meeting and friending a lot of people from diverse cultures and lifestyles. Meeting people helps me write finer nuances, dialogues and motivations.
• Enjoy the Process. Honestly every writer is different and every writer has a different style of getting there. Don’t stress too much! Just remember, it takes time and practice. If you have time to write and if you are putting words on a piece of paper…you are already doing what you love. Don’t forget to enjoy the process.