Science fiction author Nadia Afifi joins BookEnds, represented by Naomi Davis.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I typically write at home, although I’ll scribble down thoughts and ideas wherever they strike – on airplanes, during my lunch break, when I’m out for a walk. When my day job becomes life-consuming, it can be extremely difficult finding time to write, but I always grab time where I can find it. Weekends, and sometimes an hour or two in the evening during the work week. Even half an hour is better than nothing! I always set the goal of writing something at least four days out of the week.
Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. burning a candle if you’re having trouble getting started at the computer or writing longhand first if you’re feeling uninspired.)
Nothing dramatic! I’ll make myself a decaf coffee (I can’t handle the real stuff) and put on some music. It’s not really a ritual, but sometimes, I’ll disconnect from the internet when I really want to hunker down and knock out a chapter or two without the usual distractions. It keeps me from falling down rabbit holes, like a 90’s music playlist on YouTube or a cute puppy picture marathon!
What do you love about writing [science fiction]?
I love the world-building and imagining how human nature would intersect with new technology and conditions. It’s great to explore how human nature drives technology, and how technology changes us in turn. That’s the most important thing for me in any science fiction story – grounding a new setting or world in that human element.
It’s also great, as a writer, to escape the trappings of the present. As a woman with a Middle Eastern background (I’m Arab and American), it can be depressing to read modern fiction, based on the world’s present realities with sexism, racism and general inequality. But in a science fiction world, I can remove those barriers, or explore them in a new context. An Arab woman running a space ship? A woman warrior, waking up from a cryonic state into a new world? Anything is possible!
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
I’ve always loved fiction that can transport me to a different place but still ground me in something relatable. Science fiction has always appealed to me more than fantasy (which I also enjoy) because it is forward-looking, into the future or the stars. And, going back to the previous question, good science fiction has always tackled social issues in new, interesting ways, or created worlds and settings that show another way of co-existing. Also, writing about space travel and nifty, futuristic gadgets is fun.
What is the hardest part about writing [science fiction]?
The research! I’m not a hard sci-fi writer, so I don’t introduce advanced scientific concepts into my writing, but the details still need to be credible and plausible. I’ll be in the middle of writing a scene on a space station and have to ask myself a million questions – what happens if a gun is fired in zero gravity? How fast would a fire spread? How would a large structure in deep space simulate gravity? The internet is my friend in those moments.
Do you get inspiration from any TV shows or movies? If so, which ones?
Absolutely! My first novel has cloning as a key component of the story, and halfway through writing it, I discovered Orphan Black. Although it’s a different plotline, it’s a great show about a group of women, all played by a fantastic actress (Tatiana Maslany) who discover that they are all products of a covert cloning experiment. I was inspired by the clever plot turns, as well as the strong but varied representation of female characters.
Some additional science fiction shows I love are Black Mirror, The Expanse, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica (the newer version). Battlestar Galactica, in my opinion, is everything great science fiction can be – intelligent, emotional, full of rich characters and compelling villains, loaded with tension and unafraid to raise complex questions without answering them for the viewer.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
The beach! Having grown up on an island in the Middle East, I love being near the ocean. I’d find a quiet stretch of beach in southern California and write under the shade of the palm trees.
I also have a dream of writing an epic novel while crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Do you belong to any writing organizations?
I am a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Association. A great organization that hosts a wonderful conference in Denver once a year, along with a number of writer’s retreats. I’ve been to the conference twice – a great way to grow as a writer and meet fellow storytellers.