Jamila: Hello everyone! My name is Jamila Mikhail, I’m 22 years old, I’m a human rights student from the capital of Canada and earlier this year my dream of publishing my first book finally came true! In January I published Innermost which is a collection of poems written over half a decade. In February I was also one of the people awarded the title of Top Writer for the year 2018 on Quora. That was quite a shock (but a good one) because I never in a million years would have imagined that my writings about World War II, Islam and my bad experience wearing braces for 4 years would ever earn me such a title!
Me: Congratulations! What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Jamila: The only book I currently have published is Innermost, my collection of poems that includes both free form and fixed form poetry. It’s about a variety of topics but mostly the human experience; the good and the bad, from romance to war and everything in between. For most of my life writing poetry (and just writing in general) was the only socially acceptable way to express myself so I did it a lot. I’ve also written a few short story compilations (about just as many topics as my poetry book) and novels that are available for free download on my website. I’m also very much working on some new projects that will be released shortly right now as well!
Me: Wow! Sounds like you've been busy. :-) What are you working on now?
Jamila: I’m working on my first young adult novel called Don’t Let Me Go that is currently available for preorder on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords. It’s only $0.99 (USD) for a limited time too! It officially comes out in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats on August 1st and I actually have quite a list of people already anticipating it. While I’m at it let me share with you guys the blurb! On top of battling the normal teenage angst that everyone goes through, Joanie is also reeling from her parents’ bitter divorce and having to cope with her mother’s new boyfriend and father’s new family. Alone in a new town and without friends, she turns to passing the time by indulging in her longtime hobby of making toy models of soldiers and is both amazed and shocked when one of them comes to life. Despite her millions of unanswered questions and having to make sense of new mysteries every day Joanie comes to find a loyal and trustworthy companion in Adler, a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and a member of the German Resistance during World War II who must also find a way to handle living in modern times on top of being invisible to most of the population. The two of them will have to fight several battles on many fronts in both the physical world and unseen realms as they both try to comprehend Adler’s new existence and piece Joanie’s broken life back together.
Me: Sounds interesting! What authors or books have influenced you?
Jamila: I could probably write an entire book just about the other books that have influenced me in life! I especially like to read non-fiction, in particular the memoirs and autobiographies of those who lived through major or unbelievable events. I’ve been particularly influenced by Elie Wiesel and Irene Nemirovsky since I am a huge history buff who fully intends to write historical fiction in the future. Stories about war always have a profound effect on me because my grandfather served in both WWII and Korea and it’s in large part his stories that have motivated me to get into human rights.
Me: Cool! What are you reading now?
Jamila: Aside from my own proof copy of Don’t Let Me Go, I’m only reading a few books about 20th century history for school. My final essay is due extremely soon but this is in fact quite boring and irrelevant because I’d much rather be reading the books of a fellow indie author! Last month I’ve just began a free review program for my fellow indie authors where I get a free book and they get an honest review posted to Amazon, Goodreads, my book blogs and other social media pages.
Me: That's kind of you. I'm sure there are a lot of authors who are grateful. :-) For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?
Jamila: I’ll say straight up that my work isn’t for the faint of heart! I like to write about important and relevant issues in society and I don’t shy away from hard topics either. I don’t write to escape reality, I write about reality. My poetry book is for mature audiences only, but Don’t Let Me Go is geared towards the 13-17 age group (though adults will be able to enjoy it as well) and deals with domestic violence, bullying at school and teenage anxiety with a bit of history and a twist of fantasy!
Me: Sounds intriguing. What’s your favorite part of being an author?
Jamila: It’s definitely being able to push boundaries. Your writings don’t have to be socially acceptable. You can write whatever you want, create worlds that would otherwise not exist and experiment with whatever you want as much as you want in a safe environment. When I’m writing nobody can tell me what is right or wrong, or what I can and cannot do.
Me: I agree; writing is definitely liberating. What motivated you to become an author?
Jamila: It was my therapist that suggested that I begin writing seriously actually. While I was being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2011 and 2012 I told him that writing journals and snail mail letters he challenged me to write a full-length novel. And so I wrote what is now known as The Distant Factory available for free on my website but it was many years before it went from a messy file to an actual book.
Me: Yeah, there's certainly a learning curve when it comes to writing books. Do you have a day job as well?
Jamila: No, I’m still a student actually. I’m currently studying human rights and it’s a small job in itself. For many years my “job” was caring for my grandmother but she recently passed away in March of this year so you could say that I am in a transition phase in my life, actively looking for what to do next.
Me: I'm very sorry for your loss. What would you tell up and coming writers?
Jamila: I would simply say to go for it. A world of opportunities and amazing things is waiting for you out there. Believe in yourself and let the world know about your book. I honestly didn’t think that I’d make it in a sea of authors but my first book did much better than I ever could have expected, and poetry is just about the hardest thing to sell! The sky is the limit as I don’t believe they have books in outer space.
Me: Yep. You never know unless you try. Thank you so much for stopping by, today, Jamila. And thank you, as well, to the rest of you who joined us.