Let’s start from the beginning. Who were the writers who inspired you to become an author?
Honestly, it was one specific author and one specific book. After reading ‘It’ by Stephen King I realized that I wanted to become an author; it was just short of an epiphany! Seeing the way King made his imagination into a playground, as well as the way that he seamlessly tied childhood fears to adult ones — it all made me incredibly inspired — and jealous! I wanted to be able to breathe life into the stories inside my head — just as vividly as King. Of course, I’m nowhere close to King’s masterful writing, but it doesn’t stop me from dreaming! Nothing can!
What is the very first piece of fiction you ever wrote?
It’s this novella! ‘Luca’ is my very first manuscript-length piece of fiction. Although I have written many short stories during my teen years. My favorite one was a short story about a transgender teen that craved to have a body that would bring him peace of mind. The only time he ever felt comfortable inside his own skin was while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.
What is the hardest part of writing, in your experience?
I have neither the years nor the acclaim as a writer needed to grant me the right to complain. However, I would have to say that the hardest part of writing would be finding the strength to pull out a story that you see so clearly in your mind, and write it in a way that makes sense to someone who has never visited the world that you have created.
Tell me about your book. What was the inspiration behind it?
The inspiration behind Luca was the struggles that I had to go through as a teen; when I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I dropped out of high school due to my inability to stay in a stable state. I was bedridden for six months and majorly depressed as well as locked inside my home for over a year. It was only when I was 18 that I started writing this novella, and it was in the hopes of processing everything that I had gone through. At that time, my life was starting to pick up again. I managed to gain a few friends from a local support group for queer youth, and I started performing as a drag artist. My ‘drag name’ (my alias when performing at drag clubs) was the name Luca. Luca was a mask, but it was a mask that gave me power; not only the power to get better, but also the ability to thrive.
Being Luca, I learned that my writing was another form of a mask, but my novella as it was back then wasn’t a mask that gave me power, it was one that drowned me in the past. I realized that my novella needed a metamorphosis that could allow my writing to be a worthwhile disguise; not the concealment of a frightened teen, but the mask of a superhero.
So the novella, as it is today, has two protagonists; Dani and Luca. Luca represents despair and illness, while Dani represents healthy confusion and hope. ‘Luca’ is filled with contradictory elements that melt into one another and prove to be one.
What do you think is the status of publishing today? I’m referring to issues such as representation, diversity, etc.
Regarding diversity, I think that in general, people tend to realize what’s lacking by searching for whatever it is that they feel most strongly about. That being said, I think that the publishing industry still needs a hell of a lot more queer love stories; whether it be a romance novel or just a subplot affair.
In addition, I’m craving more fictional works that tell Middle Eastern stories. There’s a lot of non-fiction books that speak about the Middle East as well as a lot of articles, fake news, social media hate, and biased or uneducated opinions — but there are not enough stories that speak of what it’s really like to live in the midst of this conflict.
What do you think about Awards in publishing?
I think that awards highlight the most important thing in this life: victory.
I’m only kidding!
I think that awards - in every field — are a wonderful thing. It’s touching to be acknowledged and it boosts the morale of the winner, as well as that of the nominees, and even of the authors watching from the sidelines. On the other hand, I think that it’s very difficult to compare novels because each one is its own individual universe, and there’s a place on this earth for every universe that ever was or ever will be.
Even so, I believe in Liza Minnelli’s words: “Everybody loves a winner”.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on two novels; both of them deal with accentuating the power of words. One novel is set in a dystopian future where our words are prophecies for our dreams. In this world, a young woman named Poppy is labeled as a Dream Rider: someone who doesn’t have the natural link between words and dreams. The novel follows her story along with that of another young Dream Rider named Sam.
The second novel that I’m working on is about a crime-fighting witch (who doesn’t love those, am I right?) that uses violence as a means to convey her power. In the novel, this witch meets a grade-school teacher that predominantly uses her words as a way to assert her presence. The novel follows these women’s hearts as they transform into halves that fit almost perfectly with one another.
If you had to recommend an author and/or a book, who would it be?
I’ll be blunt: I’m a Shirley Jackson fanatic. My favorite novels of hers are coincidentally her very first and very last published: ‘The road through the Wall’, and ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’. Shirley Jackson aside, a few of my favorite books in the world are the books of ‘Earthsea’ by Ursula K. Le Guin. There’s no other fantasy series that puts matters of the heart at the forefront like these books. In my eyes, Le Guin is a true oracle of the human soul. If you haven’t read these books, you definitely should.
As an individual living outside of an English-speaking country — what were your considerations when deciding to write in English?
Technically, English is indeed my second language, but despite that, I believe that English is the language of stories. I’m nailed to that belief, with no concrete proof other than a gnawing feeling in my gut.
Besides that, I lived in California with my family for five years during my early teens: monumental years that mark the beginning of my growing affection towards books and stories. Consequently, even nowadays, writing in English feels like letting sand slip through my fingers: natural, and unavoidable.
If you had to compare yourself to any written character, who would it be and why?
I would definitely say that I’m a mixture between Noah and Jude from Jandy Nelson’s heartwarming young adult novel, ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’. Like Nelson’s unparalleled pair of twins, I’m also a hopeless romantic, and I too get lost many times along the way.
Joining Luna for the first time, Or Luca is a 20 year old living in the Middle East. Her high school education ended abruptly in order to battle the first wave of her major depressive disorder.
Coming out a fighter, her dream is to write stories that reach the hearts, imagination, and at the very least - curiosity of others. Or is a dreamer through and through, and she’s willing to fight for the stories floating around in her mind.
Or currently lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, with her family and two dogs. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching anime, and spending time with her beautiful girlfriend.
Two young women live in the same city in the Middle East; Luca is drowning, while Dani is slowly being lifted off the ground. Luca is rapidly spiralling into a heavy depression that no one but her can see. Alongside Luca’s descent, Dani is trying to find her place in the world. She has the unusual ability to see other people’s emotions. Fortunately for Luca, Dani’s ability isn’t just an inconvenience; it might also be a gift. Watch the YouTube Book Launch here.