To write the book? Seven years.
Were you getting paid by the hour?
Yes. In gold bullion. So I held out because the price of gold’s been going up of late. That, and I couldn’t get the story right to save my life.
Which story is that? I stopped counting after the first dozen.
Yes, I realize there are many characters and each one has his own life and struggles, but the main story, about the value of Truth, is what took so long to shape.
A bastard boy who’s born after a 13-month pregnancy; a woman who carries the scent of the sea everywhere she goes; a book-keeper with only half a face…Do you know people like this?
I do. And so do you. These characters are inventions, but they all have real life parallels. Even Raphael, who suffers from Luminescence Disease, has a real life precedent. I knew them growing up in Iran, or I met them here in the United States.
You really think Angela S. saw flickering ghosts parade down Mulholland Drive in the rain?
Remember what she says: It’s not what you see, but where you choose to look.
You keep looking at Iranian Jews. What gives?
Faulkner had Yoknapatawpha County. Garcia Marquez had Macondo. I have this 3000-year-old people whose stories were never told. It’s the one rule of fiction I believe in: the most personal the story, the more universal its resonance.
Where are you looking these days?
Down another strange and exhilarating path, at a woman who bleeds white tulips.
GINA B. NAHAI is a best-selling author, columnist, and full-time lecturer at USC’s Master of Professional Writing Program. Her novels have been translated into eighteen languages, and have been selected as “Best Books of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has also been a finalist for the Orange Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and has won the Los Angeles Arts Council Award, the Persian Heritage Foundation’s Award, the Simon Rockower Award, and the Phi Kappa Phi Award. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles magazine, Publishers Weekly, and the Huffington Post, among others. She writes a monthly column for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and is a three-time finalist for an LA Press Club Award. Nahai holds a BA and a Masters degree in International Relations from UCLA, and a Master of Professional Writing from USC. She’s a former consultant for the Rand Corporation, and a frequent lecturer on the politics of pre-and postrevolutionary Iran.