Sophia Khan’s debut novel Dear Yasmeen is the story of Irenie, a young girl in upstate New York whose charismatic mother disappeared five years ago, and her distant, eccentric father James, who refuses to open up about the past. As Irenie digs around for details of her mother’s life, she uncovers love letters written between Yasmeen and a man named Ahmed, who remained in Pakistan when Yasmeen emigrated to America. It’s a gripping and satisfying psychological and emotional journey with many unexpected twists.
Where are you now?
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
In my study. In the past, I maintained a fairly strict 9 to 6 schedule but now I write whenever my two-month-old son lets me.
If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?
I like to get dressed to work. Then I make a cup of coffee, clear all tabs, read the previous day’s work and begin.
Full-time or part-time?
Pen or keyboard?
How do you relax when you’re writing?
I go for a swim.
How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?
When Irenie discovers a hidden box of love letters, she sets out to unravel the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.
Who do you write for?
Myself as a reader.
Who do you share your work in progress with?
No one. I don’t like to share my work until it is complete or nearing completion.
Which literary character do you wish you created?
Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.
So many! I write down lines I like from whatever I’m reading. The last thing I wrote down was: “The habitual medication of desire had dissolved into the air like ether.” From Fallout by Sadie Jones.
Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St Aubyn.
What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?
The Illustrated Beloved City: Writings on Lahore edited by Bapsi Sidhwa.
Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust.
Which book/s do you treasure the most?
Those I’ve saved from my childhood: C.S. Lewis, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Frances Hodgson Burnett, L. Frank Baum, L.M. Montgomery, various others.
What is the last work you read in translation?
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.
Which story collections would you particularly recommend?
For short stories I love Karen Russell and Henry James – very different but similarly capable of rendering whole worlds in short pieces.
What will you read next?
China Miéville’s new book, This Census-Taker.
What are you working on next?
A science fiction novel set far in the future.
Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?
The Lost Generation.
If you weren’t writing you’d be…?
Sophia Khan was born in Islamabad and spent most of her childhood in Pakistan before moving to the US, where she studied English at Haverford College and received an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Islamabad with her husband and son, and is currently working on her second novel. Dear Yasmeen is published by Periscope. Read more.