NEGEEN PAPEHN’S BIOGRAPHY
Negeen Papehn was born and raised in southern California, where she currently lives with her husband and two boys. She wasn’t always a writer. A graduate of USC dental school, Negeen spends half of her week with patients and the other half in front of her laptop. In the little time she finds in between, she loves to play with her kids, go wine tasting with her friends, throw parties, and relax with her family. FORBIDDEN BY FAITH is her debut novel.
INTERVIEW WITH NEGEEN PAPEHN
Negeen Papehn’s debut New Adult Contemporary Romance novel. FORBIDDEN BY FAITH, was published on February 20, 2018 by Owl City Press. It is the first novel in the Forbidden Love Series. Since the debut of the novel, I have interviewed Negeen about the novel and her writing process.
Question: Please describe what the book is about.
Negeen Papehn: Sara knows her life would be easier if she married a Muslim man, but when has love ever been easy?
Raised by her immigrant Iranian Muslim parents, she’s been taught that a good daughter makes decisions based on her family’s approval, and she’s spent most of her life doing just that. Then one night, she meets Maziar, and her world is turned upside down. She feels an instant electricity between them, and it seems like fate when he tells her he’s also Iranian. Just as her mind begins to soar with the possibilities, he shatters her hopes when he tells her he’s Jewish.
Despite the centuries of unrest behind them, Sara and Maziar embark on a forbidden love affair, attempting to navigate through the cultural and religious prejudices that beat them down and attempt to tear them apart.
Deep within the trenches of her battle, Sara finds herself more empowered and careless than ever before. Angry at and disappointed by the people she’s idolized all her life, she’s determined to forge her own path. But choosing who to be could mean creating a life that’s no longer acceptable to those around her.
Sara feels herself growing into an independent and confident woman, but will it be worth the ultimate cost: her family?
Q- Where did you get the idea?
NP: The premise of FORBIDDEN BY FAITH with the clashing religions comes from my own relationship. My husband is Jewish and I’m Muslim. People think this story is the story of us, but it’s not. We’re lucky to have the families that we do. We didn’t have to go to war over a love that was ours, but a fight that spanned centuries behind us. It could have been our story though. So instead, I wrote the story for Maziar and Sara. This is their love story, not mine.
Q- What’s the story behind the title?
NP: I came up with the title, but that was after my editor thought we should change it. It was originally called UNBOUND but that didn’t seem as intriguing. After a lot of brainstorming with my CPs, my editor and I decided on FORBIDDEN BY FAITH.
Q- No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
NP: There’s a steamy love triangle that unfolds. Everyone chooses a team by the time they’re done J
Q- Tell us about your favorite character.
NP: My favorite character is Bita. She’s my male MC’s sister. I think her evolution throughout the book is pretty spectacular. She starts off being the person you love to hate, but as the story progresses and she’s faced with losing her brother, she begins to question her decisions, and ultimately chooses to change. By the end, you’re rooting for her.
Q- If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
NP: Hmmm… I think I’d spend the day with Ben. He’s a bit dreamy and I have a tiny crush on him, LOL. Maybe we’d go to a baseball game. He’s a big fan. Or maybe we’d do karaoke. That’s a pretty fun scene in my book.
Q- Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
NP: A little bit of both. No character is based on one single person, but more of a combination of characteristics of people in my life, past and present. And some of it just comes from my imagination.
Q- How long did you take to write this book?
NP: It took me a year to write it and then another year to have it picked up. By the time my book is published, it’ll be close to three years.
Q- What kind of research did you do for this book?
NP: I had to do research on the religions. I’m not very religious so I wanted to make sure I had the details correct. I also researched various aspects of the Iranian culture. Other than that, there wasn’t too much else. My book is based in Los Angeles, so I’m familiar with the location.
Q- What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
NP: I did a complete rewrite before I sent it in to agents/editors. I restructured the timeframe of the love triangle and changed the details. There was about ten chapters that were cut and redone. Once my editor did a sweep, we took out a few chapters that didn’t seem necessary.
Q- Are you a plotter or a pantser?
NP: I’m a total pantser! Sometimes, I think it’s my downfall. I would love to be a plotter, and I try, but my story always has a mind of its own. I end up backed in corners that I have to find ways out of, which slows down the writing process. In the end, though, I come up with a storyline I hadn’t anticipated, which is exciting.
Q- What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
NP: My favorite part of the writing process is when my manuscript is ready for the first round of beta readers. I love sharing my work with people. Hearing their reactions and listening to their responses is my drug of choice. And it doesn’t have to just be praise. I welcome their constructive criticism as well. Makes the story better, and makes me a better writer.
Q- What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
NP: The most challenging part for me is the beginning. The actual process of brainstorming and coming up with a premise for the next story, one that’s interesting, different, and deeper than just the surface. I’m so passionate about writing; it’s a dream for me. But I’m always afraid I won’t be able to come up with the next idea, and it will all come to a tragic end. I almost paralyze myself with fear. It causes me to get major writer’s block.
Q- Can you share your writing routine?
NP: I don’t actually have a routine other than writing in between everything. On my days off I try to carve out a few hours to write, if errands and my children allow it. The days I work, I write in between patients and during my lunch breaks. Weekends are usually up in the air. Any free time I can find, even if it’s twenty minutes, I write. I just pick up where I left off and keep going any chance I get!
The location I write in isn’t always the same. Sometimes I’m at my desk in the spare room, sometimes at the dining room table, and sometimes I escape to the local coffee shop. Just depends on what works for the moment. But, regardless of where I’m sitting, my headphones are on and always blaring in my ears.
Q- Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
NP: Yes! It’s miserable. I just walk away. I leave the writing behind for a week, give my mind a break by binge watching shows.
Q- If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
NP: “Hang in there. Even when you feel like you’ve lost sight of who you used to be, don’t worry, you’ll find her again. And when you do, amazing things will happen.”
Q- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
NP: I have one full unpublished manuscript that I need to start submitting soon, titled What Will Be, and I’m halfway through the second book in the Forbidden Love series.
Q- Do you have any writing quirks?
NP: Yes. I’m picky about location. I don’t need to write in the same spot each time, but the space needs to have the right energy. I have to feel the creativity flowing, otherwise I’m too distracted. And I must have a good playlist going. It needs to compliment the scene I’m in, otherwise it throws me off. So sad scenes get a ballad, hot scenes need a steamy 90s R&B song, and so on. J
Q- Tell us about yourself.
NP: I’m a mom and a wife. I have two boys, they’re 8 and 10. They’re spectacular little human beings and keep me super busy. They are in the “arguing phase” of their relationship right now, so it’s lovely. I’m a dentist by day. I know, not a glamorous job, nor is it even close to writing, but I dig it. I get to interact with a lot of people, and I’m definitely a social butterfly so it works for me. Oh! And I love wine, LOL.
Q- How did you get into writing?
NP: Growing up, I sang and wrote music and poetry. But then adult life took over and I lost that creativity. A few years ago, I started getting desperate for an outlet; it felt like I was suffocating without it. A friend suggested I write a book after I told her an elaborate recollection of a situation that had transpired.
Two weeks later, I thought, what the hell, and sat in front of my laptop. The rest is history.
Q- What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
NP: I love spending time with my family, reading, hanging out with friends, wine tasting, going on vacations. I’m pretty easy and low key. I’m a social butterfly for sure, but prefer it in casual, intimate settings.
Q- Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
NP: I used to write poetry and music but I haven’t done that in ages.
Q- Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
NP: I can sing. I won a national contest for a song I wrote and recorded with my band in high school. And I was prom queen.
Q- Which book influenced you the most?
NP: ME BEFORE YOU, by Jojo Moyes. I was depressed for a week after I finished that book! I loved the reality of it. Just because her MCs fell in love, the path of Will’s decisions didn’t change. That’s how real life goes. When I started writing, I wanted to implement the raw, messy truths of life into my own work as well. And I wanted my readers to believe it, completely involved and invested in my characters, long after they turned the last page.
Q- What are you working on right now?
NP: I’m currently working on the second novel of the Forbidden Love series. I’m very type A, so sadly, I can’t work on more than one project at a time.
Q- What’s your favorite writing advice?
NP: “No matter what happens, you’ve already won. This has become so much more than you ever imagined. Remember that. Hold onto that. You can’t fail.” My boss is one of my biggest supporters and he said that to me when I was in full panic mode over the publishing process.
Q- The book you’re currently reading?
NP: I’m currently reading The Finish Line by Leslie Scott. It’s her debut novel and it’s fabulous.
Q- Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?
NP: KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini. I can’t really explain how this book changed me, but I just know that it did. It opened my eyes to the horror that so many in this world face, and reminded me of how privileged I am to have been born and raised in the States. Things could have been so different if my parents hadn’t come to America so many years ago. This books tragic beauty and heartbreaking devastation has stayed with me from the moment I read it.
LINKS TO NEGEEN PAPEHN
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/NegeenPapehn