History of the making of my first novel, Unrest
I love libraries; I’ve been reading library books since I was about seven, thanks to my mother. Growing up I was a bookworm to say the least; I even had those Coke-bottle-thick glasses Annie had worn in the novel.
I’d graduated with an English major from college with a concentration in writing and had initially wanted to get into publishing after I graduated. I had dreamed of writing a novel and had taken creative writing classes in college. But instead I fell into the world of commercial appraisal, which was almost like being a writer—100-page narrative appraisal reports.
About the time Argo was set to be released, there were articles about the upcoming movie which fired a kind of creative spark and strong rekindling of the emotion that I had felt for the country we had been forced to leave behind; I owe it all to my parents and my military “brat” upbringing, and most of it was good. It had made me culturally rich.
Anyway, about six years ago, I decided that I should start to check off those bucket list items you carry around as you become older. One of them was to write fiction.
As I wrote scraps of story on nights and on weekends, I set out to create a tale that was classic in its universal themes of love, loss, war, grief, and coming of age.
I wanted to tie in the non-fiction aspects of the Iranian Revolution I had experienced as a teenager in Tehran and preserve them in the same young girl’s perspective, but also try to engage empathy for the people I knew and loved and for the loss of the pre-Islamic Iran in which we had lived. I wanted to share all that was good and is still good about Iran and its people. I knew I had an exciting story to share – our benign, but culturally-contentious introduction to Iran, the rapid unraveling of a country and a regime, and a love story to boot. I wanted to tell the story of the suspense my mom, siblings, and I had felt until the day of evacuation and how my father had stayed on to experience Khomeini’s transition to power in those dark days of February 1979. I knew fiction would be more exciting than memoir.
It took me five long years to research, write, and edit Unrest. My husband and I would share ideas; he came up with the character of Mrs. James, the idea that she could be trapped away from home after curfew because of her drinking problem. I had to research to fill in my memory gaps; I even obtained a de-classified interview that my father’s boss had given in April of 1979 in which he had described that fateful February day when the Iranian Army had defected, changed sides and the country was in upheaval. My dad hadn’t been to work that day, just as I had portrayed in the novel, because he was trapped in an apartment with work buddies, even with some time spent in a closet.
I know that there are films out there like The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and Argo and TV shows like Homeland that illustrate unrest and war from grown up points of view. I imagined Unrest being like The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns. But I could see it more closely aligned with A Catcher in the Rye or a cleaner version of John Green’s novel, Looking for Alaska, which by the way was the most challenged book of 2015 for libraries!
While writing Unrest was a labor of love, publishing it was even more so. When I was editing Unrest my golden retriever was sick with kidney disease and she would lay beside me and I would pet her with my left hand and edit with my right, and I got this crick in my wrist that I still have. After she died, I decided I wanted to publish it in honor of her; I even put a photograph of her in the back of it.
Unrest is fictitious but it steals from true events and actual personalities which let me enrich the story in a way I couldn’t have had I not lived there. Now, I am writing my next novel, which is a murder mystery novel set in exotic locations, and I have made great progress. Recently, I took time off from writing to attain my MAI (Member Appraisal Institute) designation. I am so proud of that accomplishment, more so than self-publishing a novel, but it is great to be back at writing again. I'll let you know when I'm finished with my next novel. But in the meantime, I'm glad to be getting back to my hobby. Then I'll have additional stories to write about in my blog. I hope that I am young enough to continue to write many novels despite starting at it rather late in life.