Friday, January 14, 2011

The Fangirl interviews: Medeia Sharif

Medeia Sharif is a Kurdish-American author who was born in New York City, and she presently calls beautiful Miami Beach her home.  She received her master’s degree in Psychology from Florida Atlantic University.  Not only does she write, but she’s a high school English teacher.  BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. is her first novel.  You can find her on the web at

I found Medeia the best way one can find an author...she commented on one of my blog posts.  (Yes, if you comment on my blog, usually I go back and figure out who you are and usually will follow back).  I was immediately intrigued with Medeia's debut novel and was excited to see an author who is writing with a multi-cultural aspect.  I knew she was the perfect addition for a Fangirl Friday segment.

Magan:  For those who haven't heard of your debut novel, BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER, can you tell them what it's about?

Medeia:  Fifteen-year-old Almira Abdul is fasting for Ramadan for the first time ever, but the month does not move smoothly at all. She has her first major crush, treads on her best friend’s toes, butts heads with a new archenemy, and has a strict old-world grandfather who drives her crazy. Her will is tested in more ways than one during the holy month.

Magan:   How did you get the idea for this novel?

Medeia:  My first inkling of the novel centered on a middle grade boy celebrating Ramadan but Almira, a high school female voice, later came to mind. She was so vibrant and funny that I had to write her story.

Magan:   Was there any music or a playlist that inspired this novel?

Medeia:  I don’t have any set playlist, but when I write I listen mainly to alternative bands like The Bravery, The Killers and Interpol. My musical tastes don’t necessarily match the tone of what I’m writing.

Magan:   Did you find any times when you were stuck in your writing and how did you get through them?

Medeia:  What I do is continue writing and then eventually I have an ah-ha moment, either by myself or through a critiquer, to improve a difficult scene. That means I have to go back and do a major rewrite for the scene and then minor tweaks to link the revisions to the rest of the manuscript. My problem usually involves low tension scenes. Even though I outline, I might still arrive at a new chapter and realize it’s tepid and needs more conflict. I return to it later after I’ve had time to think things through.

Magan:  With a multi-cultural project like BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER, did you have trouble finding an agent or a publisher?

Medeia:  I had a previous agented, but unsold, multi-cultural manuscript before BRE. Before and after that particular manuscript I wrote non-multi-cultural novels. I’ve received more attention from agents—i.e. more requests for partials and fulls—with my multi-cultural work. I believe the realism attracts people and fills a gap in publishing.

Magan:   Did you take anything from your own personal experiences when writing this novel?

Medeia:  As one reader of BRE said, “This is your world.” I needed to tap into my familial and cultural knowledge to write the novel. I’m also familiar with the first and second generation immigrant experience. BRE isn’t autobiographical, but my experiences have colored my work.

Magan:  What is the best advice you've gotten along your writing journey?

Medeia:  Although they would praise my voice and dialogue, agents and editors urged me to work on plot, which used to be my weakness. I worked on creating multiple layers of conflict in a manuscript. When I’m reading I love seeing those layers unfold. Writing them involves coordination and planning, but I have fun in the process. So the best advice was to work on plot.

Magan:  Was there ever a time you felt like giving up and if so how did you get through that?

Medeia:  I’ve never given up. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I amassed a huge pile of rejections for it. I wrote another novel after that, and I had the same thing with numerous rejects. And I wrote another and another. I didn’t stop. I was experimenting with different styles and genres, as well as receiving and using feedback. Even if I wasn’t getting published, I still enjoyed writing and the scary-exciting thrill of querying. I’m in my thirties now, so you can see that this was a looong process.

Magan:   If BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. was to be made into a movie, who would you like play the main characters?

Medeia:  I’m going to take a stab at this, but not a good one since I don’t keep abreast with current entertainment.

Almira: Summer Bishil

Lisa: Selena Gomez

Shakira: Alia Shawkat

Peter: Zac Efron

I’m not sure if these are good matches, so don’t ever put me in a casting chair.

Magan:   Famous words to live by? (Whether your own or someone else’s)

Medeia:  Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.

–Helen Keller


  1. That was a GREAT interview, Magan. And what an interesting book. A great way to learn about new cultures!

  2. Great interview! I always wanted to know more about Medeia's journey, so thanks to both of you!

  3. I follow Medeia but was glad to learn more about her. Great interview!

  4. Awesome interview! That's awesome that Medeia found a better reaction for her multi-cultural work; YA needs more of it :)

  5. Thanks for the opportunity, Magan. And I'm going to link this to my site. :)

  6. Lovely interview, thank you Magan and Medeia Sharif. I love that Medeia weaves her experiences into her fiction and the phrase "creating multiple layers of conflict" is just great!!! Take care

  7. Great interview. I found you through Medeia's blog. Congratulations to her -- sounds like a great book!

  8. Found you via Medeia's Facebook entry. Enjoyed learning more about her. Thanks!

  9. Wonderful author-interview, Magan. Medeia, I enjoyed learning more about you and your debut, also about how much work it has taken you to get to being published. Eagerly anticipating BRE's release! ; )

  10. I just found your blog and I already follow Medeia but learned more through your interview. I am also a teacher (at the elementary level though) and many families in my school observe Ramadan. I'm always happy to find that publishers are opening their doors to the experiences of a variety of cultures.

  11. Loved the interview :-) I know Medeia from blogsphere and Facebook, but certainly learned more from this interview.

  12. Great interview. So good to learn more about Medeia. I'm looking forward to her book.
    Magan, I think you have one of the best-ever names for a blog. And I love the concept.

  13. Great interview! It was great getting to know Medeia better, especially learning about her perseverance and determination. I'm looking forward to her book :)

  14. It's so interesting to hear the back story behind a writer's journey to publication. Thanks for sharing~


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