Six Questions with Marzieh Abbas
Marzieh Abbas is a baker-turned-author. She loves adding magic to her creations, whether that’s a seven-layered rainbow cake or the books she writes for children all over the world. Marzieh -- who occasionally writes under the name Marzieh A. Ali -- enjoys
learning new skills, jumping rope, sipping chai, and observing nature. She is the author of several upcoming children’s books. Marzieh dreams of owning a talking parrot someday. But until then, she lives in Pakistan with her husband and children who inspire her every day. Visit her on the web at www.marziehabbas.com
1. How did you begin your journey as an author?
Firstly, thank you Mary for having me! I’ve always loved reading but I never dreamt of being a writer! I am a business graduate, and I used to run a successful home-based bakery for eight years. In May of 2019, a little after my second child turned two, I was on a hiatus from baking; it was the month of Ramadan and summer time in Pakistan and I just couldn’t handle orders. I missed baking but turned to writing to process the demands of motherhood. What started as a journal for myself, soon morphed into letters to my kids and then fictional stories depicting a family like ours. I took the Children’s Book Academy course in August 2019 and joined Twitter where I found the #WritingCommunity to be extremely helpful. I signed with my lovely agent, Lynnette Novak of the Seymour Agency, in September 2020. I have a chapter book series and four upcoming picture books!
2. What three things bring you joy?
Chai. Nature. Faith. (Not always in that order :))
3. Do you every get stuck creatively? If so, how do you get unstuck?
Reading other books, playing with structure and running ideas by my critique partners (and sometimes my agent) always gives me some ideas to move forward with a stuck manuscript.
I also try to work on several projects at a time. So if I’m not feeling too inclined to plot or draft a story, I may go back and revise another story based on a critique partner’s feedback. If I can be productive in some way, it makes me feel unstuck on other projects.
Also, taking a class or attending a virtual conference always gets me pumped up!
4. Your new chapter book series is titled Nadia & Nadir. Was that always the title for this project?
The six books in the Nadia & Nadir series were released in August. The publisher (North Star Editions) had approached my agent with a call for submissions. I was to write a couple of chapters of the first book and have pitches for the next five books. The title for the series was initially Rania & Rohail. But since this is a series for early chapter book readers, the publisher requested a simple, phonetically pronounced set of names. The titles in this series are:
Nadia & Nadir: Beach Art Trash
Nadia & Nadir: A Leafy Surprise
Nadia & Nadir: Ramadan Cookies
Nadia & Nadir: Eid Surprise
Nadia & Nadir: Visit Pakistan
Nadia & Nadir: Hurricane Helpers
These were pretty much the same titles I suggested at the onset. The only one that changed was the last- it was previously titled: Nadia & Nadir: Donation Drive.
5. How was the editorial process? Did you do any revisions? Did you have a lot of collaboration with the illustrator?
I was on a tight deadline for these books. Some titles in the series required more revision than others. Some revisions involved cutting out entire chapters. One of the books stayed exactly the way I submitted it! Since it revolved around a Muslim, Pakistani-American family, the editor and art director kept me very involved in the illustration phase for each book. I was shown character sketches and my feedback was taken into consideration for each title.
6. Where do you get inspiration for your characters? Are you influenced by people you know?
Often my characters are influenced by my children. And many times my own childhood and the friends I had growing up sparks an idea. My main inspiration for the characters in the Nadia & Nadir series are my nephews who stay in Houston, where Nadia and Nadir are based. I often cross-check facts with them to make sure I’m getting everything correct.