Now, we are honoured to have an interview with author Aya Khalil. Aya is a a freelance journalist and blogger. Aya has featured in Teen Vogue, Yahoo! and other publications, while her articles have been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Toledo Area Parent, among others.
Aya’s debut novel is called The Arabic Quilt. It is a children’s picture book and comes out on Tuesday 18th February.
Not too long ago, Aya and I got in contact via Instagram, and Aya kindly agreed to answer the following questions:
Where do you live and has this place influenced your writings at all?
I live in Toledo, Ohio. It’s influenced my writings because Toledo is a diverse city; especially the last couple of years, as there are many immigrants and refugees, and I want kids to see themselves in my writing.
You are a freelance journalist and blogger, whose articles have been featured in many prominent publications as stated above. Nevertheless, writing a book is different to writing an article. In your opinion, what are the three greatest differences between writing an article and writing a novel?
First of all, time! It takes forever to write a book (well not forever but months or maybe years). In the journalism world, there are deadlines and competition for getting your posts out quickly.
Secondly, writing a fictional story can have some facts. But news must be all fact-based with proper sources, otherwise you lose credibility.
Third, in a short article, you don’t really need a lot of description to save space. However, in a novel, authors try to show description through writing.
This blogger: I had not considered any of these differences. Thank you for pointing them out to me.
Your new book is called The Arabic Quilt, with beautiful illustrations by Anait Semirdzhyan. What inspired you to write this story?
The illustrations are so lovely, and I am so thankful she illustrated the book. Since The Arabic Quilt is inspired by true events growing up, the book is really special to me.
Anait did a wonderful job making my words come to life, and I cried when I saw the illustrations for the first time. When I was in elementary school I had a teacher who created the same lesson as in my book, and I remember how special she made me feel. Now, over 20 years later, I realize how important that lesson was, and I decided one day I needed to write it.
This blogger: Wow, that is amazing. I hope you show The Arabic Quilt to your former teacher and tell her that she inspired you to write this story. I imagine she will be moved to hear it.
Your target audience for The Arabic Quilt is children. First, what is the ideal age-range for your novel? And, second, what message would you like children (or adults) to take away from the story?
I would say my picture book is ideal for kids around ages 5-9. Nevertheless, kids who are older and parents can relate to the book as well. This is because the book is about trying to fit in, recognizing differences, and appreciating other languages and cultures.
You have a master’s in education, with a focus on English being a second language. Did this play a role in making you decide to write a novel for children as opposed to for an older audience?
Yes, for sure. I’ve worked with ESL children, plus second and third generation immigrants as well. There’s a part in my picture book where the main character asks for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of her leftover lentil soup (shorbet ads) because she wants to fit in. I’ve seen how kids can make fun of others because their lunch smells or looks ‘different.’
This blogger: Sadly, I can believe that with regards to lunches.
Which character in The Arabic Quilt is the most like you? And how?
Definitely the main character, Kanzi. I immigrated to the US when I was one and I grew up in cities that were not diverse at all. I wanted to fit in, but it was hard because often I was the only Muslim kid in school.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice about the writing process, what would it be?
Be confident about your work, keep writing and revise later.
This blogger: That’s great advice, and easy to remember too (*smiles*).
What is your writing kryptonite?
The editing and revising part. Sometimes I’m in a rush to hurry up and write (again because of my journalism background of writing under tight deadlines) and submit.
How has writing changed you?
It’s humbled me for sure. Especially when I read a manuscript to my children and they walk away, ha!
This blogger: (*Laughs hard*.) I am sure it’s nothing personal 😉. Seriously, though, writing can have that effect. No doubt, the effect writing has had on you has made you grow both in terms of your craft and in terms of your person.
Have your family and friends read The Arabic Quilt? If so, what do they think of it, and how do you feel when they talk about it with you?
Yes, they have. My husband, parents, siblings and close friends have read it and they loved it. Some of them even said they teared up reading it.
This blogger: That is truly wonderful: first, that you have such a great family and set of friends for support; and, two, it shows how talented you are that your words touched them to such an extent. Keep it up, Aya!
Are you writing another book currently? If so, please could you give us a sneak peak about it?
I am writing a holiday-related book, and I have another book on submission via my wonderful agent, Brent Taylor. He’s the best, and I’m so thankful he believes in my work.
Lastly, outside of writing, what do you like to do?
I love to exercise, travel and spend quality time with my family. My website is www.ayakhalil.com for more information.
End of Interview
Thus, our interview with author Aya Khalil comes to an end. I would like to thank Aya for her time, and to say that it has been wonderful talking to her. I wish her all the best in her upcoming book release, her journalism, future books, and travels.
You can purchase Aya’s book – The Arabic Quilt – on Amazon on 18th February. Those who have young children, nieces, nephews, and/or grandchildren, I urge you to check out Aya’s book as it is terrific.
Otherwise, like Aya on Facebook; follow her on Instagram and Twitter; and visit her website. That way, you will be able to keep up to date with her and be the first to know when all of her books will be released.
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