Today I have the privilege of introducing a new author friend of mine: Intisar Khanani. Besides being incredibly talented and super friendly, she’s just released a new fantasy novel, Memories of Ash. It’s a sequel to her novella Sunbolt, which I *might* have stayed up past my bedtime reading. Oh man. I read a lot of fantasy, and this was one of the most original and gripping I’ve read in a long time. The setting is rich and interesting, the suspense had me reading chapter after chapter, and the protagonist, Hitomi, is a mighty girl with a strong sense of conscience but also a relatable vulnerability. Go read it right now. Right. Now.
Then come back for an interview with the author!
Welcome, Intisar! How did you first get started writing?
I’m one of those people who was always writing. I stapled my first books together when I was three or four, and never stopped. I’ve always had stories and characters in my head; even if I wasn’t actively writing, I was still telling myself stories as I went through my days. Nowadays, if I don’t write them down, I find I’m a much less happy person—which means if I’m feeling particularly grumpy, I’ll sometimes just excuse myself to go write a story!
What draws you to fantasy/fairy tales?
I love fantasy (and science fiction, though I don’t write it) because it takes us out of our world. We deal with issues in a different framework, and so we can challenge ourselves more deeply because we think we have less at stake. Likewise, fairy tales contain old, deep truths within them—some of them that bear challenging as social contexts and cultures change, and some that rise above time and place. I love the depth that fantasy and fairy tales are capable of while still granting us an “escape” from our own lives. I may also have a soft spot for dragons, mages, and talking horses. 😉
What inspired your current series, The Sunbolt Chronicles?
I wrote the first ten pages of Sunbolt thinking that I was writing a short story. I had no idea where it was going, though, and was unable to write the ending. Two years later, while staying with my in-laws in Pakistan during a family illness, I volunteered to stay awake through the night with our ill family member while everyone slept. (I was the most jet-lagged of everyone, so this made a lot of sense.) Sitting up each night in the sick room with my laptop, I picked up that story and Sunbolt, Memories of Ash, and a third novella all came pouring out of me in the space of about two or three weeks. They were a necessary and complete escape for me, and if you look at each carefully, you might see a bit of the illness and sorrow we were dealing with, especially in Sunbolt. Admittedly, each story went through massive revisions before being published, to the extent that the third novella is now utterly irrelevant, and Memories of Ash is an epically long novel. But that’s how revisions roll.
Did anything unexpected happen as you were writing Memories of Ash?
My beta-readers laid down the smack with me, and informed me that I needed to stop trying to make Memories of Ash into a novella. They wanted more detail, more connecting scenes, and a couple less short cuts (I admit the short cuts were a bad idea). I took their advice, and the book literally doubled in size, and then grew some more. I really was planning for The Sunbolt Chronicles to be a novella serial, so I’ve had to re-imagine the rest of the series, and apologize profusely for everyone who thought I was going to be able to churn out a sequel within a year. Between taking a writing hiatus for family reasons, and writing an epically long sequel, it’s been three years!
Wow! You are disciplined! So why did you choose self-publishing? What’s your favorite thing about it?
I chose self-publishing because I spent two years searching for an agent, and it was miserable. When my husband e-mailed me an article about Amanda Hocking’s success, I went, well, I don’t care about making a fortune, but if I can reach a few readers this way, why not? I haven’t looked back since, and I absolutely love it. I love being able to have complete creative control of my work, get the covers I love (and change them if I need to), and offer my book at a more affordable price to readers while still making more than I probably would have from a traditional publishing deal (given that midlist authors make almost nothing when traditionally published). I also just love how quickly I can move from completing a book to releasing it—the wait is for the actual writing, and not for the publishing process.
That’s awesome. What gets you into creative mode?
My kids going to bed. Seriously. I get them in bed, sit down with my laptop, and get to work. I don’t have any routines or any special tricks. (I should probably try ringing a bell before I get to work to see if I can turn on my creative juices at the sound of a chime… Thank you, Pavlov, for that idea!)
I do, however, often do writing sessions with friends online, where we check in for a few minutes beforehand via chat, then spend an hour writing before reporting back in. This keeps writing from becoming that isolating, lonesome misery we writers fear. 😉 It doesn’t get me into creative mode, but it does make me more accountable, and that helps me get going!
What are three books you’d want with you on a desert island?
- Desert Island Survival 101
- How to build a sea-faring craft from scratch
- Navigating by the Stars
I’m getting off that island one way or another!
Practical! I’d probably just sit there reading until the coconut supply ran out. So which character in Memories of Ash do you relate to the most? Why?
I definitely relate to Hitomi, the heroine, a lot, but I think that’s probably because I’m writing from her perspective. When I sit down and think about it, she’s a lot braver and probably more moral than I am. If there were another character in Book 2 that I relate to more, it would be Huda. She’s strong but in a quieter, more down-to-earth way. She’s got a lot of problems, but she doesn’t let it slow her down too much. And she’s stubborn as all heck. Yep, she and I both have that going. I really like Huda and am so glad she’ll be back in Book 3! 🙂
Ooh! What a teaser! Thank you so much for joining us, Intisar 🙂
Here’s where you can find a copy of Memories of Ash:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo
And add it to your Goodreads TBR list!
In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.
Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.
If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.