Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Gian Sardar

Gian Sardar studied creative writing at Loyola Marymount University and is the author of the novel You Were Here, as well as the coauthor of the memoir Psychic Junkie. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and insane dog.

Sardar's new novel is Take What You Can Carry.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Take What You Can Carry is a title I lifted from the pages of my book, in a scene where one of my Kurdish characters talks about being forced to flee to the mountains during the government attacks. The book takes place in 1979, mostly in Kurdistan of Iraq, and was originally called No Friends But The Mountains, which is a Kurdish proverb. However, right as I finished the book, another work came out with that same title. Perhaps it was fortuitous, because while hunting for a title I saw the words on the page and knew right away that I’d found my title - and it’s a title I love. Not only does it capture the actual physical goal of running with whatever you can grab, but it plays upon a thematic element of the book as well.

What's in a name?

Picking a name can make or break a character for me. In the past, I’ve felt almost blocked when writing a character until I realized that the problem was that their name was wrong. With my current novel I knew I had to get it right from the start. Olivia, my protagonist, is a young adult in the late 1970s, so clearly the name had to exist then. I also wanted a name that wasn’t overly feminine, but was beautiful and strong. To me, Olivia was someone almost unaware of her charm and looks, someone who might drive an orange Rabbit while barefoot, and who is strong but a bit of a dreamer.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I actually don’t think my teenage self would be that surprised. Excited, yes, but not surprised. I always wanted to write, and my new novel is inspired by my father’s stories. I think I always knew at some point I’d weave them into fiction.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings are much, much harder for me, only because when you first sit down to write a book you don’t know that book yet. Of course you can rewrite the opening later, but there’s still an enormous amount of pressure on a beginning, and that right there can be intimidating. Endings, however, tend to reach out and grab me. I know generally where the book is going the whole time, but I feel it when I get there. In fact, with my latest book, I was writing something I’d not planned on being the last scene when it hit me that what I was writing was, in fact, the end. I had to move some parts around, but the second the words appeared on the page I knew they were the ending. The fact that I was crying when I wrote them was also probably a good indication.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There’s a part of me in all my characters, but in this book I felt a particularly strong connection to my main character, Olivia. She’s an American who goes with her Kurdish boyfriend to the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq, and has an eye opening, life changing experience. Though I’m Kurdish American, it was easy to explore the part of me that would still feel like a bit of an outsider in a land I’d not grown up in. Also, while visiting family and researching on a trip there a couple years ago, I stood out just like an American, just like Olivia did, so I certainly related to that! As well, Olivia’s always wanted to make a difference in the world, as have I. Her hope is to affect people through her photography, and mine is through my writing.
Visit Gian Sardar's website.

--Marshal Zeringue