In just one week AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE by Susan Laidlaw will be released to the world!
Susan is my critique partner so it’s extra special that I get to celebrate her book coming into the world here on the Lucky 13’s. Last weekend we met for the first time at the SCBWI conference in New York and Susan gave me an autographed copy of my own. It was such an amazing time!
I got to ask Susan some questions I’ve been dying to ask.
Here they are:
1. One of my favorite aspects of AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE is the setting of the book. Pakistan is so romantic, yet lately filled with tension. You’ve lived in many places around the world, so what inspired you to set a book in Pakistan?
I wanted to write a book about the difficulties of being a rotational kid. Everyone thinks moving around is such a wonderful experience and while it can be very enriching, it can also be quite painful. Every time a child moves they have to leave behind all their friends, favorite activities, beloved places, and start all over. In addition, they’re often adjusting to radically different cultures and even dangers that they wouldn’t face in their home country. Pakistan, being both a relatively strict Muslim culture, where western influences have made only limited inroads, and a tumultuous political backdrop, lent itself to illustrating both those challenges.
At the same time, when I began writing AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE, Pakistan was getting nothing but bad reports in the news and I wanted to correct that. There’s no question that Pakistan was a challenging place to live, but I loved living there. The kindness of the people and the beauty of the country far outweighed the negative things.
2. I completely fell in love with Mustapha. He’s such a three-dimensional character with his ties to his family being pulled against his ties to Emma. Tell us a little about your inspiration for Mustapha.
First, I worked at the international school, so I knew boys like Mustapha, who were trying to balance their family’s expectations with the competing values and expectations of the western education they were immersed in. Often their parents would encourage them to embrace many aspects of western culture but marriage was always a thorny issue, which is at the heart of Mustapha’s problem. His parents have already chosen a mate for him, so a relationship with Emma is definitely not in the plan.
I got into many discussions about this with Pakistani women friends and they made a very convincing argument for arranged marriages, assuming the children were not seriously opposed. Few, if any, of my friends, would force a marriage on their children but many felt that parents were in a better position to judge such an important issue as choosing a suitable life partner. They argued that young people are often blinded by superficial things, or overpowered by sexual attraction, and don’t have the wisdom and emotional distance to choose someone truly compatible. They also argued that with both sets of parents personally involved in the decision, there was a greater likelihood they’d be invested in helping their children to make the marriage work.
3. What is the theme for AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE?AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE has a lot of themes. At its heart it’s a story about the importance of family. Emma’s parents split just before she and her mother and her older brother and younger sister move to Pakistan. The absence of her father causes a major shift in the relationships of those who are left. At the beginning, Emma rebels against taking on more responsibility for her younger sister but with their father gone, there’s a gaping hole in all their lives and they must work together to reconstruct a nurturing and mutually supportive home life.
Another important theme is the challenge of being a Third Culture Kid or TCK, as they’re often known. A TCK is a child who is raised outside of their passport culture.
Another crucial theme is the commonalities between people that transcend culture.
4. Since we're the Lucky 13s, I’m curious: Do you have any superstitions or good luck charms?First I grew up in a house that was number 13 on the street, so 13 has always been a good luck number for me. But other than that I’m really not very superstitious and I definitely don’t have any good luck charms.
I do hesitate to tell people when good things happen to me, for fear I will “jinx” it. That’s probably the most superstitious thing I do.
Christina Farley's debut YA, GILDED, releases spring 2014 by Skyscape (formally known as Marshall Cavendish). She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC. She blogs and vlogs about writing and traveling, and is often found procrastinating on Twitter.
Photo by Abby Liga