Below is a recent interview I did with Pubslush, a “global, crowdfunded publishing platform for aspiring authors and trendsetting readers.”
1. How and when did you decide to become a writer?
I started writing poetry when I was in the first grade, and have never stopped writing. I earned an MFA in Poetry from Columbia’s Writing Division, and soon afterwards starting working on fiction. My first novel ZABELE, a fictionalized account of my grandmother’s life as an Armenian Genocide survivor and immigrant bride, was published in 1998. My second one, DREAMS OF BREAD AND FIRE, which was also set in the Armenian-American community, was released in 2003. My third novel, ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS, has just appeared from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
2. What is the most important piece of advice you can give to aspiring female authors?
1. Be disciplined about your writing. Try to set a schedule and keep to it. If your day gets hectic and you have only a half hour to write, use it.
2. Find a reader you trust who can give you feedback. This might be a mentor, or a friend or a partner. Sometimes the best way to find this kind of reader is by taking a class or a workshop. Half the work of writing is editing, and at least one other trusted voice is invaluable in that process.
3. What is the role of social media in your publishing process? Who are your greatest fans, what are their demographics, and what social media platform do you find most useful in communicating with them?
I have been on a steep learning curve in the past few years with regards to social media so I’m unable to fully answer the question about demographics. Because of my years as a grassroots peace activist, my connections in the Armenian community, and my network of literary friends, my impression is that my fans are evenly divided among those groupings. I would have to say that my favorite platform is Twitter, where I think I have become a good curator of news and information about politics, literary culture and things Armenian. About six months ago I set up an author page on Facebook and launched an author website in anticipation of the publication of my new novel. Initially I was worried that the self-imposed schedule of a weekly blog post for my site was going to feel onerous, but it’s actually been fun.
4. If you had to describe yourself in three words only, what would they be?
Three words: energetic, empathic and determined.
5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
I have always wanted to visit Adana and Mersin, cities in Turkey where my grandparents were born. Because of the sad history of how they left those places—my grandfather after anti-Armenian massacres in 1909 and my grandmother after the 1915 Genocide—I have not yet made the pilgrimage. I’m hoping to do so in the next few years.
6. What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future? Do you have any exciting plans or projects coming up?
My new novel ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS, which is about an Armenian family in Paris during the Nazi occupation, has just been published. I am currently researching my fourth novel, which will focus on an Armenian family that emigrates from Beirut to New York City during the Lebanese Civil War. This will be the final volume in what I’ve started to call THE ARMENIAN DIASPORA QUARTET.
July 2, 2013