New York Times Best Seller Author, Fatima Farheen Mirza:
"Writing is paying attention. It is an attempt to look closely at a life, a moment, to try to understand it better."
Interviewed by Elham Nosrati | October 15 , 2018
This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Fatima Farheen Mirza, the author of New York Times Best Seller “A Place for Us.” She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. A Place for Us is her first novel which has been praised by both critics and readers.
1- When did you decide to be a writer?
I have loved writing since I was very young, but only after I started writing A PLACE FOR US did I decided to commit to it in a serious way. It was because I wanted to tell this family’s story, and I wanted to do it to the best of my ability, so I started making decisions based off of what would help me achieve that goal.
2- Which books/ authors play a significant role in your writing career?
The Lover by Marguerite Duras was a book I kept on me for many months. The prose was beautiful and the way she revolved around the same memories made me think of the way memory functioned in a life, especially memories one is haunted by, and the way prose and structure could mimic the affect it has on the mind.
3- “A Place for Us” is your first novel. Please tell us how different is writing a short story and a novel?
I haven’t written very many short stories, but I will say that what the novel demands of the writer most is time spent writing, trying to figure out who the characters are and understand how their lives are connected. What I love about the novel as a form is also linked to time—it allows readers a sense of who a character is over decades, and the way different moments continue to shape them and their destiny.
4- “A Place for Us” reflects the life of an immigrant community in the US in details. How did you collect these details and align them with the story’s main plot?
I only wanted to include the details that the character would naturally be observing in the moment, and so it felt more like trying to really imagine the world through their eyes rather than wondering which details would further the plot, for example.
5- Do you have a favorite paragraph in “A Place for Us”? Please tell us about it.
That’s a great question! I don’t know if I have a favorite paragraph. There is a line that I loved, without reason, and it takes place in Part 3. It is in Amar’s perspective, and he thinks: a punishment was a mercy.
Writing is paying attention. It is an attempt to look closely at a life, a moment, to try to understand it better.
6- Iowa Writers Workshop is many new writers’ dream. Please tell us about your experience there.
I loved my time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and I am so grateful for it. It allowed me to spend three years completely immersed in the world of the novel. The care and insight of the instructors and my peers was also invaluable.
7- As a reader, I know that readers’ love, 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 paying attention. It is an attempt to look closely at a life, a moment, to try to understand it better. To ask a character—what is the story of your life? And then to try and capture it in sentences, in the hopes of communicating it to another.
For Fatima Farheen Mirza's Website: