Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is pleased to shine our Friday spotlight on Author Marjan Kamali, who will be signing her new book at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester on Sunday, July 14 from 1-3 PM. Marjan was born in Turkey to Iranian parents, spent her childhood in Kenya, Germany, Turkey, Iran, and the United States. She studied English Literature at UC Berkeley and received her MBA from Columbia University and her MFA from New York University. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in two anthologies: Tremors and Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been. An excerpt from The Stationery Shop was published in Solstice Literary Magazine and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The Stationery Shop has also been selected as an Indie Next Pick and as an Amazon Best Book of the Month.
Her debut novel Together Tea was a Massachusetts Book Award Finalist, an NPR WBUR Good Read, and a Target Emerging Author Selection.
Marjan teaches writing at GrubStreet in Boston. She lives with her husband and two children in the Boston area.
Thanks for being here with us, Marjan. We’d like to start with asking you where people can find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)
You can find my books wherever books are sold.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
My website is: https://marjankamali.com. You can find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MarjanKamali, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MarjanKamaliAuthor/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/marjankamali7/
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
The Stationery Shop is set in 1953 Iran and present-day New England. To prepare myself for writing about 1953 in Iran, I read books about the coup d’etat of 1953 and immersed myself in autobiographical accounts. I pored over newspaper articles with timelines of what happened down to the hour on August 19, 1953. I also interviewed family members and friends of family. My father helped me by sharing period details down to the kinds of pastries served in Tehran cafes in 1953.
A few cool facts I discovered: many high school kids in Tehran at the time were learning how to dance the tango and the waltz. They were watching Italian films at Tehran cinemas and arguing about democracy, communism, and the parliamentary system. I learned that for girls in high school in 1953 Tehran, ankle socks were forbidden (but oh-so-wanted). That fact actually did make it into the story!
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I love the process of creating an entire world from absolutely nothing. Seeing characters develop on the page and watching a story unfold is exhilarating and exciting. I love the sense of discovery as the pen moves across the page (and yes, I do write longhand often!). Writing both of my novels was emotionally intense but ultimately very healing.
In my first novel, Together Tea, I wrote about a family who comes to the Unites States after the 1979 Iranian revolution and the start of the Iran-Iraq war much like my own family did. I had to draw on my own memories and experiences and put into words fears and joys I had previously tucked away.
My new novel, The Stationery Shop, tells the story of two teenagers who fall madly in love when they’re seventeen and then are separated on the eve of their marriage due to a variety of reasons (no spoilers!). Sixty years later, they reunite in the United States. I had to dig deep to understand the politics and social mores of 1950s Iran and to inform myself of a coup d’etat that impacts the whole world to this day. It was a taxing and often times frustrating process but one that gave me so much insight and understanding into not just history, but the power of young love and family bonds. My greatest lesson so far is that no matter how wonderful and exciting it is to have your book out in the world and to reach so many readers, nothing beats the feeling of being behind your desk creating characters and finding their truth. That is the greatest high of all.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I mostly prefer quiet but for certain scenes I listen to music especially music that provokes the mood of the time and place of my story. While writing The Stationery Shop, I listened to a lot of Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, and Persian music because that’s what the characters of my novel would have been dancing to at those social gatherings of their high school days.
Thanks very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions, Marjan, and we look forward to seeing you here on Sunday, July 14th!