I’m thrilled to present Leylah Attar’s interview. She is a master at writing gorgeous romance stories all heartbreaking and different from each other.
It always amaze me when authors I admire consent to play the interview game. Leylah Attar replied immediately and took the time to answer all my questions. Of course I always have a peek before publishing on my blog so I was the first to know that Nutella is Leylah’s weakness! Ha, ha! I know how to soften the girl LOL
Now here we go with a HUGE thank you to you Leylah for the gift you’re offering us.
PS: Know that I love her books so much that I’m having a signed paperback giveaway of Mists of the Serengeti. I know shipping costs are killers but I really want to make a happy reader so this giveaway is exceptionally open internationally!
- First question about the child you were: how was little Leylah like? Did you always know you would write books one day?
As a child, I was a total book nerd. Agatha Christie, The Famous Five/Secret Seven/Nancy Drew – anything and everything I could get my hands on in the school library. It a was magical thing – being transported to new worlds and meeting new characters within the pages of a book.
I’ve always veered towards the creative, but a career in writing was never an option when I was growing up. My parents did not believe it was it was something that would support me and nudged me towards health sciences instead. I’m glad it worked out that way because when I started writing, much later in life, it was just something I was doing for myself, because I loved it, so there was no pressure. The thought of publishing was never there initially.
- You’re the sole survivor of a shipwreck and you are stranded on a desert island. You can choose only one book to entertain you, what book would you choose?
I would pick Calvin and Hobbes, because I could do with all the laughs in a situation like that. You need to hold on to your sense of humor
- Now could you share some interesting tidbits about who the woman is? What would the persons close to you say about Leylah Attar?
If there’s one thing the people closest to me would agree on, it’s that I’m curious. About anything and everything. I love to learn. I want to paint, take flamenco lessons, learn the handpan. There’s something about embracing new knowledge and experience that infuses life with energy and enthusiasm.
- What are your guilty pleasures? Just tell us what’s lifting your mood or what you need to survive as a happy woman. Now on the contrary what can’t you stand or has your panties in a twist? My guilty pleasure is Nutella. Straight from the spoon. What lifts and soothes my soul is being near the water. I’m happiest by the lake or the sea. At the other end of the spectrum, being around toxic people drains me.
- Let’s get into your books now. Do you recall how you felt when you published your first book? Was “53 Letters to my Lover” your first work published? What are the “lessons learned” or the “mistakes” you would not do again?
Yes, “53 Letters For My Lover” was my debut novel. I didn’t know a single soul in the book community. I was so excited when that I sold two copies on the first day. I kept checking to see if either of them had left a review.
I don’t think I would do anything differently. I learned a lot about publishing, editing, formatting, cover design. It was a one-man job and I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day, I enjoyed the process so I wrote another book, and then another. For me, the benchmark of success is how much joy something brings you.
- Your books are all very different and that’s one thing I love about your writing: you surprise me. So what is your writing process? Did you change it from one book to the other to give each its unique signature? What happened in your life maybe?
My writing varies from book to book. So if I’m writing a character who is rough around the edges, the language will reflect that. Rodel, for example, is the ultimate romantic, so the words she uses are more ‘flowery’, maybe even a bit over the top. I try not to sensor it. My approach is to write the story first and then let it find its audience instead of the other way around.
- What do you need to write? And how do you deal with writer’s block?
I need silence and solitude to tune in to what my characters are saying – who they are, who they aspire to be. Finding the time to write is my biggest challenge. Having a day job means I really need to carve out my hours. Sometimes I disappear from social media for weeks.
When it comes to writer’s block, what works for me is to take a break and reconnect with something else I love doing. When I come back, I usually have a better perspective and I’m not as stressed about it.
- What’s inspiring you? Do you have a muse? Real life events you experienced? Where did you get your ideas for the plot?
The idea for Mists of The Serengeti came to me after meeting an optometrist who had returned from providing eye exams and glasses for kids at an albino orphanage in Tanzania. The pictures he showed me from his trip and the stories he shared were the basis for that thread in the story.
You never know when inspiration is going to strike. For 53 Letters For My Lover, it was a music video. With The Paper Swan, it was a mix of ideas, articles, songs.
- How do you choose and build your characters? How do you make them “flesh and bones”? Were you inspired by some movie character for Jack? Sorry but I soo see this book auctioned and become a fantastic movie… Who inspired your side characters Bahati and Goma? As I said to a GR friend I want to be Goma when I grow up!
Thank you! I think what makes a character “flesh and bones” is the same as what makes us flesh and bones. Our flaws, our imperfections. They are what makes us human and relatable. You will probably not like my characters right away. You may not like them at the end of the book either, but hopefully you enjoy their journey.
I can’t pinpoint any one person who inspired Jack, Goma, or Bahati. They are a mesh of people that I have met or observed in real life, in books, songs, movies, poems. The qualities surface organically depending on what kind of balance the story needs.
- Do you visit every place your write about?
I have written about some of the places I have been to, but research is always a fun part for me. It could be online, sifting through books at the library, newspaper articles, travel magazines…It brings back the details in some cases, and other times it fills in the blanks. It also lets me visit places I might never get to see in real life.
- This will be a hard one but who is your favorite character so far? And which female character would most likely look like you?
Hmmm…they’re all so different, it’s hard to pick. I’d like to take some of Goma’s chutzpah (Mists) and give it to Shayda (53 Letters). Or lace Jack’s grief (Mists) with Damian’s resilience (The Paper Swan). The female character that would resemble me the most physically would probably be Shayda.
- Could you tell us something about your future books?
I have a few ideas, but nothing concrete right now. It really has to hook me in before I start writing and I’m happy to wait for that rush, that fire, that enthusiasm because it’s the best feeling ever!
Now some light and fun questions to end this interview:
- What was the last movie that made you cry?
This is going to sound crazy, but it was a South Korean zombie apocalypse thriller called Train to Busan. Awesome, action-packed movie with some touching themes about heroism, sacrifice, and relationships, in-between all the blood and gore.
- What would you say to your eighteen self?
Girl, stop buying acne cream and get yourself some shares in Google.
- You were walking on the beach and found this very old lamp. Of course you’re scrubbing it and a Genie you summoned inadvertently materializes in your kitchen. He grants you three wishes: what would they be?
A genie? In my kitchen?! I’d wish to never scrub anything again…pot, lamp, floor, dishes; that my fridge was filled with food from all over the world, changing each time I opened it; nothing would ever spoil, nothing would have calories; my windows faced the ocean; my dinner guests were fictional characters or people I’ve wanted to meet my whole life; anyone who entered my kitchen would leave happy; enough chairs to fill the room with everyone I loved….and that’s it for the kitchen. Two more rooms left. This is a room-based scenario, right?
Now just a personal note: a huge thank you for your time and consideration. I fell in love with your writing and I can’t wait to read your next book!
My pleasure! Thank you for the interview, for reading, blogging, and being such a fun corner of the book world!