Today’s interview is very very special to me.
Say hello to S.K. Ali, author of Saints and Misfits and Love From A to Z. I am so thrilled to be interviewing one of the most wonderful people on the planet. I read Love From A to Z this year and I can’t explain how grateful I am to have read this book. I felt represented like I’ve never felt before. I made a vow to myself to never stop hyping this book. I really can’t wait for everyone to read it.
- Love from A to Z has decidedly become one of my favorite reads of this year.
- It was a really heartfelt and perfect read. What inspired you to write this amazing book?
Thank you so much! I felt so heartened to read that you, my very first Muslim reader of the published version of Love from A to Z, loved it so much! It really brought tears to my eyes. In terms of inspiration, it was just to write a love story centring two characters who should be showered upon with love from their immediate circle of humans and the world, but due to the present circumstances in their lives, were both not getting it or feeling it. So, yeah, I wrote this book because I wanted to bring love into these characters’ lives!
- Can you give a brief summary on what Love from A to Z is about for those who haven’t come across it yet?
Love from A to Z is about two teens grappling with big issues who cross paths — first at the airport, then on the plane and then in Doha, Qatar, the city they’re both flying to. The thing about these teens is that they’ve been keeping similar journals for a few years, journals recording the “marvels” (awesome things) and “oddities” (“um, no” things) in their lives. Meeting each other subsequently becomes both a marvel and oddity for them.
- Do you have any advice on writing for all those aspiring authors?
Write the kind of things you want to see on bookstore shelves. Even if you can’t imagine it on shelves — make it happen! I didn’t see much fiction exploring what it means to be a young Muslim person meeting and falling for someone while still being okay with the parameters of the Muslim faith — the sort of love which is very common around me — so I decided to write it. (I’m also surrounded by intercultural Muslim relationships, being in one myself, so I wanted to see that reflected too!)
(Noura’s note: I love this so much!!)
- Was becoming an author always a dream of yours or did you dream of something else before that?
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a child. At that time, I wanted to write and draw books. I remembering rushing home from school some days because I was brimming with a story and setting up my desk with my coloring pencils and paper to make the story bloom. It was the best feeling and I knew I wanted that feeling to continue my entire life so I’m so grateful it has come to be on a professional basis.
- Are there any authors that have inspired you?
Because I was a voracious reader from an early age, I’ve fallen in love with so many authors. I would say all of them have inspired me in that they arrived in my life at the time I needed them.
- What are some of your favorite reads this year?
Books I loved that are publishing this year: THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY by Hanna Alkaf, AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jalaluddin, A DEADLY DIVIDE by Ausma Zehanat Khan and THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME by Nafiza Azad. I’m also looking forward to reading THE BIRD KING by G. Willow Wilson and WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faizal and anything and everything Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow writes (she has a picture book out already but get ready for her Middle Grade to come!). (Why yes, all these authors are Muslim! I’m on a mission to support unapologetically Muslim writers so that’s why I am super enthusiastic about these books!)
(Noura’s note: I might have just added all these books to my TBR 🙈)
- So, let’s say you’re stranded on an island and you only have three books with you. What would those three books be?
Hmm, this is hard! Okay: the Qur’an, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and maybe the longest book in the world (have no idea of what it is) so I have a LOT of reading material?
(Noura’s note: That’s a pretty good answer!)
- How long has the idea for Saints and Misfits and Love from A to Z been in your mind?
Saints and Misfits took me five years from conception to finish. Love from A to Z was more of a saved idea thing; I thought of it in 2012 but wanted to save it for when I was ready to write it and that was last year! So it stewed for 6 years but then was written within a year.
- I think both your books will feel very close to Muslim readers. You also showed Islam in a way that some books don’t. What message do you want other readers to take home from them?
I don’t set out to write with messages for readers but with the realities I experience(d). Due to that, maybe my books hold different messages than what is traditionally circulated about Muslims/Islam by those not of the faith. Now that there are more Muslims writing and helming our own narratives, readers who are not Muslim will hopefully begin to close the gap between misrepresentations of us by others and our lived realities. And Muslim readers will see our stories in all their diversity. (What a beautiful thought!)
(Noura’s note: That brought tears to my eyes.)
- Any future projects that we should look forward to?
I have a picture book coming out on October 22, 2019 called THE PROUDEST BLUE, co-authored with Ibtihaj Muhammad. There are two books happening next year and I can tell you about one of them: a sequel to SAINTS AND MISFITS, with a seventeen-year-old Janna Yusuf grappling with her brother’s big fat Muslim wedding to Saint Sarah. I want to add that I’m so excited about this book because it is a romp of a beach read, being all the fun Janna missed having in Saints and Misfits!
(Noura’s note: omg I’m so excited for both of these!!)
Thank you to S.K. Ali for agreeing to do this interview (It means so much to me!), and thank you for making these books a reality.
Find S.K. Ali here:
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