Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Q&A with Adi Alsaid


Photo by Greg Fairbank


Adi Alsaid is the author of the new middle grade novel The Bravest Warrior in Nefaria. His other books include the young adult novel Let's Get Lost. he lives in Chicago.


Q: What inspired you to write The Bravest Warrior in Nefaria, and how did you create your character Bobert?


A: The inspiration came very directly from my wife. She asked me for a bedtime story. I said no, because telling stories is work for me, and I was ready for bed too. But she asked nicely again, and offered to give me a prompt: Gumball machine. So I started telling her a silly story about a kid trapped in a gumball machine in a land where evil schemes ran rampant.


The next morning I was still thinking about it, and when NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] came around, I decided the story needed to be a book.


Long ago, before I was published, I used to post little short stories online. Some commenter asked me why my character are often lonely. I don’t know if that’s true anymore, but I think I like lonely characters because a) I’m probably still working through feeling lonely at times in my life and b) it’s a satisfying problem to solve for a character. All that to say: I made Bobert lonely so that I could give him friends to make him happy.


Q: How did you create the world of Nefaria?


A: Little by little, one silly thought at a time. A lot of the details I think are thrown in to make my inner kid laugh/be amused, and then I had to develop the world in a way that made those details make some sort of sense. Middle grade books are a little more forgiving and willing to accept silliness, which I leaned into. But unfortunately logic has to carry through as well.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “Many readers will be able to relate to the relationship issues explored, both between kids and adults and within peer groups.” What do you think of that assessment?


A: I hope it’s true! This is my first book writing for this age group, but I think the aim of all of my writing—and the aim of most writing in general—is an exploration of what it means to be alive. That’s why the best books are relatable to people from all walks of life, and from all age groups. Because being human is relatable, even if it’s set in a goofy world of evil schemes, ghosts, and fantastical talking animals.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Yes, I think I had the general ending in mind from that first night when it was a bedtime story for my wife. It of course wasn’t perfect and had to be finessed as the drafts went on, especially as some details from earlier changed and affected what the ending looked like.


I think I went back and forth between two versions of the ending, and there was one major change in the final draft that made it the most emotionally satisfying one.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: At the time of this writing, I’m waiting on revisions for a second Nefaria book! Which is exciting, as I’ve never written a sequel before. We see a lot of the same characters again, but it’s a whole new storyline, and even a new world.


I’m also working on a potential TV adaptation of one of my YA novels, waiting on revisions for a semi-secret project, and trying to finish up my first adult rom-com.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: This might not really be relevant, but when you’re cooking eggs, add salt near the end. Salt breaks down the protein and releases water, resulting in watery scrambled eggs. It took me so long to learn that, and I much prefer non-watery eggs, so thought I’d share for any of your readers that might appreciate the tip.


Hopefully they’ll cook up some breakfast while reading The Bravest Warrior in Nefaria and appreciate the tip.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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