Thursday, July 21, 2022

Q&A with Abdi Nazemian




Abdi Nazemian is the author of the new young adult novel The Chandler Legacies. His other books include the YA novel Like a Love Story. Also a screenwriter and producer, he lives in Los Angeles.


Q: The School Library Journal review of The Chandler Legacies says, in part, “Inspired by Nazemian’s own boarding school experiences, this gripping story reads like an insider’s exposé into abusive school cultures and trauma.” What do you think of that description, and can you say more about the inspiration behind the book?


A: I think that description is accurate, and I appreciate that they found the story gripping. As they said, the story is based on my own time at boarding school in the 1990s. It was an incredibly impactful and complicated time in my life.


On the one hand, I started my boarding school years experiencing hazing and cruelty. On the other hand, boarding school is where I met my best friends for life, and where I met mentors who recognized the creative spirit in me.


The book is my attempt to make sense of these conflicting emotions toward a place I’m angry at, a place I’m grateful for, a place where the person I am today was born, and a place I can still travel back to when I close my eyes.


The description is, of course, just one part of that particular review, but I hope readers don’t approach the story as an exposé, or read it for shock value. To me, the book is less about trauma than it is about the tools that helped me overcome it, chiefly creativity to community.

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


A: I don’t even know how my books will begin, or who the characters will be, so I definitely didn’t know how this one would end when I started. I begin my writing process with little more than a world I want to explore, or an unresolved conflict in myself I need to write about.


With this novel, the ending was probably the part that changed the most often in the editing process, though. It took a few drafts to land on how to bring the story to a close.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I hope readers come away from the book feeling hopeful and empowered. I know this is a dark story, and to tell it I needed to go to some dark places in myself, but it’s ultimately about how we can come through the darkest parts of our lives through creative expression and the true support of a community.


I also hope some readers use the book as a writing resource, because Professor Douglas’ sessions are full of writing prompts. It would make me so happy if readers found some writing tips they find useful in the book’s pages.


Q: Do you have any other favorite novels set at boarding schools?


A: The one that comes to mind is Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, because it’s the first book I read that described the kind of boarding school experience I had. It’s a really fantastic novel, as are all of Curtis Sittenfeld’s books.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently working on my next young adult novel, which I’m very excited about. I think it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written, but maybe all writers always say that about whatever they’re immersed in at the moment. I think and hope it’ll come out next year, but since it’s not done and hasn’t been announced, there’s not much more I can say right now.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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