[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview bestselling author Samira Ahmed and ask her five questions]
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Samira: I began writing INTERNMENT in late 2015. I often tell people that though it is set 15 minutes into the future, it is deeply rooted in our very disturbing past. Oppression and fear mongering and scapegoating are a part of our past and our present, but what ultimately inspired me to write this book was hope. I believe so much that young people are changing our world for the better–and I’m truly inspired by their acts of courage and their ability to speak their truths and use their voices as a force of good
Why do you feel young adult books are so popular and have such a voice right now? What’s your favorite young adult author?
I feel so lucky to be writing in this brilliant age of young adult fiction. There are so many authors I love–whose writing is beautiful and speaks so much truth. I don’t have a single favorite author but so many inspire me–Angie Thomas, Elizabeth Acevedo, Aisha Saeed, Sabaa Tahir, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, Zoraida Cordova, Gloria Chao, Julia Dao, Sona Charaipotra, Jason Renolds, Nic Stone, Laurie Halse Anderson–are some of the authors whose writing I absolutely adore.
I believe YA literature resonates with so many people because it is imaginative and bold and takes risks and tells the truth. I love writing YA because, to me, it means to to write in the realm of possibility. Young people are shaping their lives and their world and that’s truly an amazing and hopeful space to write in.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
INTERNMENT is set in a terrifying near-future United States where 17 year old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into the first interment camp for Muslim American Citizens. Layla must find her voice and her courage to fight for her family, her faith, and for the democratic principles that she believes should be the bedrock of her nation. This book is a harrowing account of what could be if good people remain silent. Layla’s story is a reminder that we must use our power and privilege to speak up against silent complicity and overt oppression wherever we find.
What’s next for you in the book world?
My next book MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW is out in spring 2020–a literary mystery that unfolds on the streets of Paris as a young woman in present day seeks to find the identity of a mysterious Muslim woman who pops up in letters, poetry, and art in 1840s France.
What’s your favorite writing method that you follow for inspiration?
I try to keep a small notebook with me at all times because my story ideas are often inspired by a visual image or bits of conversation or even the way light falls on leaves at different hours in the day and so I try to jot down these disparate thoughts. Even if those random ideas never become stories, when I look at them again, I can see what I was thinking or what was catching my eye at a particular time. I also really like reading poetry and I try to read a poem every day, if I can, and often by writers who are not American. It gives me new perspectives and shows me a different view of the world. I love how poetry captures a nugget of truth, often in an incredibly spare way.