Meet Tahereh Mafi, the definition of an ultra cool successful young woman. The Connecticut born, California based writer is the New York Times bestselling author of the Shatter Me series and a total style heroine. She's the embodiment of Miista and when we come across people as talented as her, it becomes difficult to even get in touch without sounding like a teenage fan girl. Odds are we did sound a bit crazy when emailing her, but Tahereh is kind and warm and welcoming - and just like that she agreed to let us pick her brain on what drives the young writer. When you start writing, who is it that you write for?
Myself. I tell the stories I want to read. What’s your writing process like in terms of creating the story and the world it exists in?
I always start with the character; once I find his/her voice, I let that be my guide. I don't stop to outline, because I'm a bit of an obsessive writer. I plough through the draft until it's done.
Why did you choose the dystopian setting for your books and not something else?
I didn't actively choose it. I had this character I loved and cared for: a girl so broken and tortured; a girl burdened with an awful preternatural ability. I asked myself where she came from--why had she been treated the way she had? Where does she live that would allow something like this to happen? The dystopian world grew up around her. You mentioned Harry Potter as your favourite ever book. What makes it special?
Harry and I were the same age when I started reading those books. I grew up reading Harry Potter, and those worlds will forever be some of the greatest places I've ever been.
Thinking back at kid Tahereh - what was the dream? If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing instead?
I had no idea I had it in me to write a book, so the idea never even crossed my mind. I always teetered between going to school for the rest of my life, and devoting myself to fashion design. But I love books too much to ever leave them for long. Your parents are immigrants from Iran. How much has that influenced your life and writing?
Much more than I ever realized it could. I grew up with extremely educated parents who carried with them a wealth of Iranian culture and literature. But I was born and raised in America, and I figured I'd been fairly untouched by Persian influence. I only realize now how wrong I was. My family is made up of people who love deeply, speak passionately, and really believe in the power of dreams. I was raised in a language rich in metaphor and rhythm. All of this has absolutely had a profound impact on how I interact with the world.
Every writer occasionally experiences a writers block. How do you overcome it?
I have a number of coping mechanisms for this sort of thing, but my favorite way to unlock my brain is to work in a different creative field. If I can't write, I'll bake, draw, DIY. Focusing on another project helps me get out of my own way and let my mind work quietly, uninterrupted. Your husband is also an author. How much do you inform each other’s work?
I don't know. :) I don't think we do, but it could be that I just don't have the distance necessary to see it just yet. But I'm a huge, huge fan of his work. He reads me his stories as he writes them, and it's a real privilege to hear him read in his own voice. He always inspires me.
Juliette, the main character of your book series has a lethal touch. Where did the idea stem from? Are any of the characters you’ve created autobiographical?
Juliette just showed up in my head one day. It sounds odd, I know, but it's a fairly normal occurrence among writers; our heads are caught in strange places. But once Juliette showed up, she wouldn't go away, so I opened a new word document and started asking questions about where she came from. Everything came to life from there. I do think that most everything we write comes from a personal place, but nothing about Juliette or this story is exactly autobiographical, with with one exception: these books are about a girl trying to find herself in a world trying to tell her who to be. And this last bit is certainly something I experienced while growing up. Shatter Me was the story I wrote for my teenage-self. See Tahereh's website here