Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Author Spotlight on: Medeia Sharif

So many amazing books are coming out this year, many by people I've seen around the blogosphere for a while. And to me, it's even cooler when someone you "know" has a book to celebrate. One of those people is Medeia Sharif. Her debut, BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER., will be released in July and check out these cool blurbs:

"I laughed out loud as Almira struggled to fit in with her traditional family as well as the rest of the world."

BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. deftly combines humor and poignancy with an authentic teen voice set against the multicultural background of vibrant Miami and Almira's loving yet-strict Muslim family. The book's universal themes will resonate with all teens balancing family ties with coming-of-age conflicts."

Please welcome author/blogger/teacher Medeia Sharif!

How long did you work on BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. before you started querying?
I worked on it for five months before I started querying.  Then I revisited the manuscript after a round of rejections, made it stronger, and started querying again.

How long did it take to find your agent? Your editor?
About nine months after starting BRE I found my agent Marlene Stringer, and this was after a few months of querying.  After finding her, it took approximately a year to get a book deal (but my editor was interested months earlier).  I’d say for both it took approximately 3-4 months.

That's pretty fast in the publishing world. You’ve had other agents before you signed with Marlene. Did you have books that came close to publication as well?

With my first agent that didn’t happen.  After her, I signed with someone else.  We got one strong nibble on one of my manuscripts, which was adult fiction.  But my writing wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready.  So, that was my closest call before BRE. (You can read about some of her earlier novels on this fun blog post.)
BRE sounds like it does a great job of capturing the feelings of a first generation American struggling between two cultures. How much of the story reflects your own high school experience?
In high school, many times I felt out of place at home and at school because I didn’t want to conform to someone’s idea of how I should act and I didn’t confirm people’s expectations of me.  I remember what I wanted didn’t always sit well with family or classmates.  I felt like I was sitting on a fence between two ways of life and not fitting in.

Do you celebrate Ramadan?
I’ve never celebrated Ramadan.  I grew up with it, but never participated.

Oh, I love the irony there :)
Even before writing BRE, I wanted to write a book centered on the holiday.  My first inkling was to write a MG book with a male main character until Almira popped into my brain.  I liked the idea of the purification and self-restraint associated with the holiday, and both of those elements are mentioned in the novel.

So in a way, I guess it's similar to Lent, right? What does Ramadan commemorate?
The Koran was revealed during the month of Ramadan.  Also, it’s a time to rid oneself of sin and get closer to God. 

As you wrote BRE, did you have a feeling that this was the one?
Yes.  I wrote adult fiction prior to that, but most of it centered around teenagers!

Ha! Love it!
I finished my first manuscript when I was eighteen, and practically everything after that was a coming-of-age type of story.  Once I switched from adult to young adult (BRE is my first young adult piece), something clicked with me.

Are you still teaching full time?
Yes, I’m a full-time English/Reading teacher.

So how much time do you actually get to spend writing?
I write a half hour to an hour a day depending on my schedule.

It doesn't sound like much but the time adds up quickly and it has obviously worked for you! What are you working on now?
I’m working on a sequel to BRE and a young adult novel unrelated to my debut.

Okay, one last question. How do you pronounce your name? meh DAY ah or meh DEE ah? Medeia’s pronounced like the Greek mythological character, meh DEE ah. Then Sha-reef.

Good to know! Thanks for stopping by. I'll be looking for BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. when it comes out in July.
Thanks for this great opportunity.

You can find Medeia around the web:

BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. will be available July 8 from Flux.


Stina said...

Yes! Thank you for the lesson on how to say Medeia's name. I love her name, but have never been able to pronounce it.

I'm with you, Sherrie. It's way more fun buying books from authors you know. Now when I buy books, I tell my kids (loud enough so everyone else can hear) that I KNOW this author. :D

I can't wait to read the book. :D

Laura Pauling said...

Wonderful interview! I love seeing the different roads to publication! And I love telling my kids I kinda know certain authors but they usually aren't that impressed! Unless it was Jeff Kinney.

Angela said...

This book looks wonderful, and I like her story of perseverance. Can't wait to read this.

Kristan said...

Love the title!! And as a (half) first generation American myself, I can totally identify with Almira's struggle to fit in while also trying to be herself.

Lisa Reiss said...

Another great interview. Thank you! :-)

Laurel Garver said...

I loved hearing more about this book with its fun and intriguing title. I am always drawn to what are called "third culture kids"--those who have a create their own way while being squeezed between two cultures. Observing my nieces and nephews who grew up as missionary kids in South America is likely part of the draw for me to stories like this.

Tiana Smith said...

Yeah Medeia :) I'm excited for when her book comes out, thanks for spotlighting her!

Tabitha said...

Great interview! I'm really looking forward to this book. :)

Sherrie, I've passed on a blog award to you. :)

kah said...

Love Medeia! She's just as sweet in real life as she is in this interview.

I'm hoping to go to Miami for her book signing. Yay!

Angie said...

Great interview! Congrats on your book coming out, Medea!

Chris Phillips said...

Wonderful interview. Will add to twitter.

kathrynjankowski said...

Thanks for the interview! Very excited for Medeia. ;-)

Krispy said...

Congrats to Medeia! Her book sounds fun; I love funny multicultural coming-of-age stories.

Also, thanks for asking the name pronunciation question! Now I know I've been saying it right in my head. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Great interview. Medeia often comments on my blog. I was so thrilled to read an interview with her. I wish her all the luck in the world.


Paul Greci said...

Great interview!! I loved learning a little more about your road to publication, Medeia!! Thanks.

bfav said...

Great spotlight. The books sounds great. I love learning different cultural tradition. Congrats Medeia and goo luck on the release.

Lydia Kang said...

Thanks you two! I can't wait to read this. And I love the cover, that girl is adorable!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, everyone. And thanks for interviewing me, Sherrie.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Loved reading this interview, ladies, and can't wait to read the book, Medeia.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Yay for Medeia! So much fun watching our blogger friends' books come out.

Sounds like an awesome story. I'll have to read it. Thanks for the heads up!

Carol Riggs said...

Thanks so much for the interview! Fun. I enjoyed learning more about Medeia (and I had guessed right about her name pronunciation). ;o) Sounds like YA is the perfect niche for Medeia's writing, and best wishes for the debut! It sounds like a great novel.

Deniz Bevan said...

Great interview! It's so exciting to hear about others' writing process. A half hour to an hour a day? Gosh, I've got to stop feeling guilty when I only spend a half hour a day working on my novel :-)

Anonymous said...

So glad to see Medeia here, and learn more about her novel. Can't wait for the release!


Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for the interview! I've been looking forward to this one, and it's fun to see how she sold it.

Victoria Dixon said...

Wonderful interview. Thanks for doing it, ladies. It's always inspiring to see another writer's story/struggle to find their voice and niche. I look forward to the book!

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