Author Interview with Shaila Abdullah
I’m interviewing Shaila Abdullah today, author of children’s book “Rani in Search of a Rainbow”. Welcome to my blog, Shaila, and thanks for answering my questions.
1. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
As a teenager, I used to write for various publications in Pakistan and even did some commissioned work for a major magazine and newspaper. After coming to the United States in 1995, it took ten years for me to start writing again. I guess I wanted to feel out this new land. My father has always been the driving force behind my writing. Initially when I stopped writing, I felt his disappointment but he kept encouraging me to start again. When I did, I decided to not tell him and surprise him with a book in print––a collection of short stories called Beyond the Cayenne Wall. His extreme happiness at the news made it very rewarding.
2. Where did you get the inspiration for Rani in Search of a Rainbow?
Rani in Search of a Rainbow is based on the 2010 floods in Pakistan that affected 20 million people. Nearly 8.6 million of them were children. This devastating event touched me to my core. Any time a child is displaced from his or her familiar surroundings, it can be a frightening experience. But one of the greatest qualities of children is their resilience in moving on after the initial shock and trauma wears off. They know how to make the most of any situation, just like Rani and Juju did in Rani in Search of a Rainbow.
3. What is your editing process like?
Vigorous, to put it mildly. Most often my editors are easy going but I am pretty hard on myself. Once I finish a manuscript, I have a group of beta readers (editors, writers, readers, etc.) go through it. I ask the group to be very critical in their analysis. Based on their suggestions, I modify my manuscript and pitch it to a second group of beta readers. After refining the manuscript a second time, I send it off to the editors for further review. My second novel Saffron Dreams took 9 months to write and three years to edit.
4. What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
Time constraint. I am a busy mom with two kids, a job, design business, and a house to run. Often times, my passion, which is writing, takes a back seat. That is not ideal when you have deadlines to meet. I handle the design and marketing end of my books too, which makes my projects more time consuming. I would not have it any other way. I am a graphic and web designer by profession and I am glad I have a publisher who lets me get hands on with all aspects of the book development process. It has helped me see publishing from a very different lens.
5. Did you set any writing goals for 2014? Did you accomplish them?
I set impossible goals for 2014 but I am happy to report that I met all of them. This year in January, my first children’s book called My Friend Suhana came out which I coauthored with my 11-year-old daughter Aanyah. It is about my daughter’s friendship with a child who has cerebral palsy. We had a fun time collecting reviews, and doing book reading and signings at schools, libraries and bookstores. Rani in Search of a Rainbow came out in mid November and I am doing a blog tour for it now. The reviews have been extremely gracious so far and I am happy about the response the book has received.
6. Are you working on something now? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
Yes. I finished working on the advance reading copies of my third children’s book called A Manual for Marco which will come out in February 2015. It is written from the perspective of an autistic child’s sibling and includes tips and suggestions to help siblings deal with their unique situation and how parents can help make accommodations for their differently abled children.
About The Book
Title: Rani in Search of a Rainbow
Author: Shaila Abdullah
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Displaced by the Pakistan floods, Rani’s family has taken refuge at a relief camp where they are doing their part to help other flood victims. Eight-year old Rani wants to assist but doesn’t know how. Heeding the advice of her father to help in a way only children can, Rani embarks on a journey to bring true joy to a dear friend on the occasion of Eid.
Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer based in Austin, Texas. She is the author of four books: Saffron Dreams, Beyond the Cayenne Wall, My Friend Suhana, and A Manual for Marco. The author has received several awards for her work including the Golden Quill Award and Patras Bukhari Award for English Language. Several academic institutions have adopted her books as course study or recommended reading, including the University of California, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Indiana University, Boston University, California State University, and George Washington University. Learn more about the author at www.ShailaAbdullah.com.