1. We know you as an author. What don’t we know about you as Hend Hegazi?
I’ve loved animated movies ever since I was a child. I still enjoy watching them with my kids. But that’s not really the interesting fact. The interesting fact is that I hope to one day be a voice for a cartoon!
2. Could you please take us through your journey as an author?
The dream to become a published, widely-read author began when I was very young. In elementary school, I often wrote plays and acted them out in front of the class. But I put aside my writing to focus on academics, and then when I got older, to focus on my home life.
About seven years ago, after I had written a short story and decided to turn it into a novel but found that I kept dragging my feet with it, I told myself that I either had to put in the effort to fulfill my dream… or simply forget about it. That’s how I came to finish Normal Calm. I spent months querying agents, getting rejection after rejection (I think I topped 100!), until I finally came across FB Publishing. I will forever be grateful to them for taking a risk on me and helping me fulfill my dream.
Behind Picket Fences was written as a personal challenge: “Can you write another novel, or have you reached your limit?” Alhamdulillah, I’m now working on my third novel and hope to finish it up soon.
3. Who are your favorite authors?
Khaled Hosseini is such a gifted writer whose books always affect me. And I’ve recently read Wonder by R. J. Palacio, and although it is not a genre I typically gravitate towards (children’s literature), she really won my heart! Her writing is inspiring.
4. What or who inspires you?
This is such a difficult question because my inspiration comes sporadically and in different forms. Anything can inspire me: a book, a movie, a scenic view, a random topic of conversation. Most often the inspiration begins as one thought that marinates in my brain for a while before I begin to write about it.
5. What topics are you passionate about with regards to writing?
I love to shed light on the Muslim American experience for two reasons. First, as a Muslim American, I never had literature which represented me, so I’d like to help fill that gap. Second, I want the larger American community to embrace Muslim Americans, with their differences and vast similarities, as an integral part of the American fabric.
6. Have you considered writing non-fiction?
I’ve written some non-fiction; my work has been featured in SISTERS Magazine as well as Azizah Magazine. I’m planning on writing a memoir for my next project. We’ll see what happens.
7. There are many who are averse to the term Islamic Fiction. What is your stand on it and how do you respond to them?
I think that your question can be understood in two different ways. The first is those who oppose fiction, regardless of any other label attached to it. They feel that telling stories of people or events which are imagined is a form of lying. I don’t give in to this theory. The best way for us to understand a message is often through an example; I don’t think these examples have to be based on real events for them to be beneficial. And it isn’t a lie because no one ever claimed it to be based on real events.
The second way your question may be understood is that some people who don’t oppose fiction on its own find it hard to attach the term “Islamic” to it because of the portrayal of prohibited acts within the story. For example, one of my characters in Behind Picket Fences cheats on her husband. Some critics of the term may say, “Since this act is prohibited, this story can not be called ‘Islamic.’” Well, to be honest with you, I don’t label my books “Islamic Fiction” for this very reason. Perhaps that theory is correct. I don’t know. And because I don’t think it’s a debate worth getting into, I don’t use this label. I prefer “Muslim Fiction.” Muslim Fiction is written by a Muslim author and/or shows how some Muslims interact on a daily basis. It shows them with their virtues and their flaws. That’s what I try to do with my books; to give the accurate picture of how it IS not how it SHOULD be.
8. I felt Behind Picket Fence had the writing style of Danielle Steel – in a halalized manner. Have you been compared with any such author?
That’s really very kind of you. To the best of my knowledge, you’re the first one to compare me with any author, let alone one who has such a huge following.
9. How and when do you write?
I sit at my dining table, preferably when my monkeys are at school or sleeping, and write into a notebook. Once I’ve filled between ten to twenty pages, I’ll transcribe my work onto my laptop. This gives me the chance to both write by hand (which is preferable for creativity) and to use the laptop for organization, speed, research, etc.
10. What advice would you give to novice authors?
Learn from the criticism. No artist is liked by everyone. None. So there will be people — lots of people — who don’t like your work. There is nothing wrong with that. But if you can not take their negative feedback and grow from it, then you do yourself a disservice.
11. Could we have a peek at your work-space? 🙂
Unfortunately, I’m away from home as I write this, so a pic is not possible. But honestly, it’s not my ideal work-space; I use it because I have nowhere else to write, not because it is where I prefer to write.
Hend Hegazi was born and raised in Southeastern Massachusetts. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in biology and a minor in religion. Shortly thereafter, the winds of life and love blew her to Egypt where she has been living for the past 15 years. She is a full time mother of four as well as a freelance editor who recently joined the Djarabi Kitabs Publishing team as the Managing Editor. Some of Hend’s work has been featured in SISTERS Magazine. Her fiction and poetry focus on the human condition, often shedding light on the Muslim American experience. Hend strives to be God-conscious and aims to raise that awareness in her readers. As a common theme in her pieces, the intimate relationship between God-consciousness and love is often explored. Hend’s debut novel, Normal Calm, was published in January 2014. Her latest novel, Behind Picket Fences, was published in July 2016. You can read her poetry and blog posts on her website, http://www.hendhegazi.com.