“The Djinn Prince in America: A Microepic in 9 Tracks” is lyrically beautiful but at the same time exhibits an edge. The rhythm of the words read like poetry but the structure reads like prose. Do you prefer writing one over the other?
The proper thing for a poet/writer to say here is “they are very different animals,” etc., etc. But honestly I’ve come to write fiction almost exclusively these days. There are a slew of complex reasons for this, but the biggest ones are the crassest: fiction pays better and more people read it. I’m not ashamed to say that making a living and connection with a readership are both hugely important to me.
My absolute favorite line in “The Djinn Prince in America: A Microepic in 9 Tracks” is … “A hard sliver of day-moon is visible, a wickedly curved bit of impossible silver like the manicured sci-fi fingernail of some high school hoochie who he never had a chance with poised to strike a precise puh-leease incision into his ventricles.” This is possibly my favorite line ever. The imagery is brilliant and the puh-leease is priceless. Do you have a favorite line or excerpt?
That’s very kind, thanks. Picking a favorite line form one’s own poem kind of feels like the height of pompous jackassery, but what the hell – I like the lines about dragons and libraries in the section about Oakland/San Francisco.
Your fantasy novel, “Throne of the Crescent Moon”, will be released by DAW Books in February 2012. Will you tell us a little about the book?
Like many current fantasies (GRRM, Scott Lynch, etc.) it walks the line between epic fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. It’s set in a world that’s a sort of mashup of the Arabian Nights, D&D, and several preindustrial Islamic cultures. It’s told from multiple POVs, but the main character is a grumpy ready-to-retire ghul hunter who’s feeling too old for this shit. You can read more about it – and, if it presses your buttons, preorder it at a big discount here.
You have taught creative writing at Rutgers University and are also a writing mentor. Where can our readers learn more about the creative writing mentorship classes you teach? Have you found it fulfilling to help new authors find their path?
Teaching writing – and especially teaching fantasy writing – is just a wonderful experience. I’ve heard a lot of my fellow writing teachers bitch and moan over the years about how annoying it is to read student/amateur work, but I love it. In both poetry and genre fiction, I’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing teachers over the years. Being able to make part of my living by turning around and helping newer writers make their work as good as it can be – well, not to be cheesy, but it really does feel like a calling. I still teach the occasional university course, but nowadays I’m mostly focused on providing private online mentorships/critiques. You can read more about these services here.
On your website you speak of the racism you have faced as an Arab-American. Has this racism filtered into the publishing world or have you found publishers/authors to be more accepting?
Oh, wow. That’s a loooong conversation. The short answer is that I’ve received an extremely warm welcome from many writers, editors, and readers. And yet, structurally speaking, talking about this or that sector of society as being less or more racist is kind of like talking about this or that part of the ocean being less or more wet…
Who are some of your literary influences and when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I always suck at answering that first question. A very random list of literary influences might include Fritz Leiber, Borges, Melville, Maxine Hong Kingston, Whitman, Naguib Mahfouz, Chris Claremont, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Malcolm X, Robert Jordan, Kerouac, Lorca, Emma Goldman, Andre Breton, and Gary Gygax. I’ve thought of myself as “a writer” and/or “a poet” since at least the 8th grade, but I’ve actually been writing stories almost since I can remember. I’m very lucky that my family – most especially my father – always encouraged this.
Thanks for being such a great guest! Where can we go to learn more about you and your works?
My website’s a good place to start. And thanks for having me!