"Writing is everything to me. It gives me meaning and a sense of purpose."
An interview with Sci-fiction Author, Zoha Kazemi
Interviewed by Elham Nosrati
February 18, 2020
Zoha Kazemi is an Iranian fiction writer with over ten published books. Her latest sci-fi book, Rain Born is available in English since January 2020. A story that is happening in a post-apocalyptic world that author creates, yet it is a symbolic implication of what is occurring in today’s world.
This week, I had the pleasure of having an interview with Zoha about her newest book.
1- When and how the idea of “Rain Born” occurred to you?
It is very difficult to say how the idea comes. It doesn’t always come in an instance. In the case of Rain Born I have had visions of certain scenes over a long period of time, nearly six months. I usually let the images and visions sink in my mind and then try to interpret them, to understand why I have them and what it is they are trying to tell me. Eventually the idea is formed and in the next steps I analyze the concept and themes I am trying to write about. The first visions of Rain Born were mostly of the ships and people living on them, the drowned Earth and the semi-dolphin babies. But the very first image was of my character Asin, burying her baby in the sands of Oxan. Of course at the time I didn’t have characters or places and certainly they had no complete shapes or names. I had to discover the characters and their stories. The characters and the story were mostly designed, carefully enough to reflect my ideas and my concerns about the world we live in, which is a world full of injustice and meaningless wars where religious-political leaders take advantage of their people. All these came together for me in a period of around ten months and I was finally ready to write down my plot and my writing plan.
2- The story happens in a creative platform. How do you set your mind free of the usual cliché platforms and empower your imagination for writing?
I am not sure! It is very difficult to comment about creativity. Some people have a wilder imagination. It’s not completely genetics based, but genes are part of how our brains are wired. Children are more curious and they tend to read books and watch movies that amplify their imagination. In this way their minds are trained to work more creatively. Perhaps this was the case for me. I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy novels and watching such movies and I enjoyed them very much. But as you know we never had a professional sci-fi writer in Iran and this is very new. For me to move away from realistic stories to sci-fi was partly because of my personal interests and partly because of the censorship in Iran. It is easier to speculate about essential themes in a sci-fi story than to write it straightforwardly in a literary realistic novel, somehow the censors don’t relate the themes of a fantasy novel to real life problems! Of course you need to go to the trouble of creating a whole new self sufficient world and tell a story in it to convey your meaning but at least you can say what you want and be less censored.
3- Is there a main message that you want to get across with your writing?
I believe that all writers have special messages otherwise they wouldn’t go to so much trouble of writing and publishing their books. But it’s not just one message! I usually have more than one message and more than a single theme in my novels. I would like the readers to discover my messages and not to talk about and reveal them myself.
4- Please tell us about authors/books that have influenced you the most.
There are so many writes and books that I could mention here but I will try to name a few that really split my understanding of life to the time before I read them and the time afterwards. For example Jorge Luis Borges, Dostoyevsky and Arthur C Clarke are the main three. The books Mortelle by Christopher Frank and A Perfect Day by Ira Levin were also very influential for me.
5- As a reader, I know that readers’ life, breath and being can be among lines of a book that writers create. Now my last question from you: As a writer “What is writing to you?”
Writing is everything to me. It gives me meaning and a sense of purpose, the only hope I have to make a small difference in the dark times of our lives in Iran. The creative part of coming up with an idea and writing the story is always very enjoyable, although it is difficult. But the rest of the publishing process is usually tiring and discouraging. But it’s the creative part and the joy of it that makes me addicted to it! Therefore I usually don’t wait for my previous book to be published and then write the next one. I try to keep them overlapping so that I am always writing or working on a new idea. My greatest fear is that one day I may not be able to do this, either for physical problems, life crisis or running out of new ideas! That is my nightmare!