Medeia’s here today to share a few insights on her novel in development…
Congrats on selling your debut novel to Flux! Tell us a bit about BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER.
Almira Abdul, a Middle Eastern mutt of Syrian and Iranian origins, is fifteen going on sixteen and she’s fasting for Ramadan for the first time ever. Coinciding with the holy month is her first major crush with a boy named Peter, whom her best friend Lisa also is in love with. She also has a new enemy at school, catty Shakira Malik, a fellow Muslim who trades barbs with everyone. Her dentist father proclaims that she needs braces. Along with the hectic month her grandfather, who knocks down mailboxes and garbage cans when parking, is teaching her how to drive in his tank-like car.
What was the inspiration?
At first I was going to write a children’s or MG book about a boy’s experience with Ramadan, but then the idea of a teenage girl took hold of me. Almira’s voice became loud and clear.
The YA genre as a whole seems to be so heavily populated with white females. I love that your book features a "Middle Eastern mutt." I think I speak for many fans of YA when I say I'm so hungry for a different POV! Did you ever think your main character's ethnicity would help or hurt in your search to find a publisher? How so? Did you write BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. because you saw a hole that you could help fill in the YA genre or because it was the story you felt compelled to tell?
I believe it fills a hole, and I was fairly positive that the novel would garner attention. My main character and premise is unique, but at the same time I worried that people might not relate. I felt compelled to write the novel because a) I truly adored my story idea and b) I wanted to contribute to multicultural literature.
I knew about Flux before getting agent representation. I admired the covers and titles I saw on their website. Also, I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few of their books.
How'd you snare the deal? Agent? Slush?
I have a wonderful agent who got me the deal, Marlene Stringer of The Stringer Literary Agency.
What's the development process been like so far? What's been the highest point?
Each step is different to me and draws out better things from both me and my manuscript. I don’t know if I’m at the highest point yet, because something new keeps popping up. Right now I think the highest point will be when I see my cover since this doesn’t seem real to me yet.
What's been the biggest surprise since you sold your book?
I’m surprised that people are reaching out to me. The YA community is warm and generous. I’ve had established authors visit my blog, tweet at me, and email me when I used to believe that authors were inaccessible. Complete strangers approach me to ask about my debut novel. This is a delightful and welcome surprise
Are you working on anything new right now?
I’m working on a sequel to BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. Also, I take breaks from it to work on a new, unrelated work-in-progress.
How has the acquisitions and development process changed the way you read?
I find myself questioning the publishing journey of the novels I read: how long did the authors take to write them and what kind of feedback did they receive to fine-tune the work? These intrusive thoughts thankfully don’t get in the way of me comprehending the text.
How has the acquisitions and development process changed the way you write? Do you think you'll pay more or less attention to the market as you draft new work?
I’m a more patient writer. With previous works I did revisions in a rush, within a few weeks with poor results. Ever since I had hope brewing in me that BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. might be the novel that gets my foot in the door of the publishing world, I spent months revising it. Even with my current projects, I take my time on revisions. I’m better at utilizing feedback and putting a manuscript away and taking it back out to view with fresh eyes. Also, after my book deal, I tested the waters with a few critique groups and finally found one that I’m comfortable with. If I’m stuck on BESTEST or another project, they give me great advice.
As for the marketability of my work, I don’t really pay attention to trends, but I do ask myself if my new projects would be of interest to people. I’m a voracious reader, so I wonder if someone else were to write my story idea, would I be compelled to read it? If I look deep inside of myself and the answer is no, then I save the idea for later and instinctually pick another one.
What are you most looking forward to as your book nears publication?
I’m curious to see people’s reactions to my novel. I hope I strike a positive chord in my future readers, whether I entertain them or teach them something.