1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
I was inspired to write Not Like My Mother after the Balkan wars broke
out. My parents are from the former Yugoslavia and after having identified ourselves as Yugoslavian, all of a sudden our identity changed. Due to the politics behind the civil unrest in the Balkans we could no longer call ourselves Yugoslavs, we were now Bosniaks, or Croatians or Serbians depending on what part of the former Yugoslavia you came from. It also baffled me that a neighbour who you have been living next door to for many years, and indeed has been to date a good friend, can suddenly turn against you and become your enemy. I wanted to explore all of this and more in Not Like My Mother. It was at times confrontational and very difficult to write but I wanted to give a voice to the victims of those wars.
2. When did you take up writing?
I started writing when I was in high school. I’ve always been an avid reader and loved being pulled deep into the pages of a new book. I only ever dabbled at it though until I hit my 30s, when I decided I should try to take it a little more seriously. Not sure I’ve succeeded yet, life tends to get in the way a lot, especially when you juggle motherhood and a full time job!
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
My stories have always tended to be more character driven, but I do like to have a setting that’s different so that I can learn something about another part of the world.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
I’m currently working on a book about refugees, and I really love my female protagonist. She is a strong woman who despite her circumstances, dares to create change in her life through what is, at times, a harrowing and dangerous journey.
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
Be disciplined! However, as mentioned earlier, I am yet to make it my mantra. Even if you think what you’re writing is crap, keep going because you can edit crap but you can’t edit nothing.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
When I was a stay at home mum, I would write after dropping the kids off to school – such a luxury:) Now that I work full time, I have to stay up late at night or weekends to try to get some words down. Sometimes, I really do feel like the old cliche of a ‘tortured artist’ because I’d love to have more time to write creatively.
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I’m trying to become a plotter, but most of the time I just wing. I really love the feeling of sitting in front of my computer and just letting the story flow through my mind spontaneously and through to my fingertips. It’s an indulgent way to write but I find it utterly delicious.
8. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books?
The Book Thief, Behind The Beautiful Forevers and The Help
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
I’m currently working on a novel about illegal refugees. It’s in its very early stages, but I am wanting to examine what drives someone to abandon their country to board a rickety boat and travel across an ocean in order to seek a better life. You have to be desperate to do something like that and I don’t think, as Australians, we fully understand or appreciate that.
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Write because you love to write, not because you want to make money out of it, because it’s highly unlikely that you will! Join a writer’s group and surround yourself with a supportive network that will help you develop your writing. Don’t give up.
You can buy Not Like My Mother here http://itunes.apple.com/au/book/not-like-my-mother/id540225909?mt=11
or visit Azra on her blog