Welcome Patricia Panahi – today is release day for her debut novel, Veil of Walls!
Anahita Sadeghi, a typical, happy-go-lucky American ten-year-old, was not too keen on traveling to the other side of the world to meet her father’s family. But her month-long vacation turns into a nightmare when her Persian relatives refuse to let her return to the States. She is forced to deal with the dizzying maze of social customs, resist her grandmother’s efforts to mold her into the proper Persian girl, dodge her aunt’s schemes of marriage, and fight to make her own life choices until she can find a way to return home. Longing for her friends and her freedom, only the enigma of her missing aunt, Scheherezade, gives Ana a glimmer of hope of one day escaping Iran for good. Will Ana’s family marry her off and forever bind her to this country, or will she break free of Iran’s walls and find her way back to America?
What’s your writing background?
I’ve had the passion to write stories since I was a little girl and actually studied English in college, but lacked the confidence to pursue it as a career. I began getting serious about writing in the 1990’s and published The Well Woman Cookbook, God Outside the Box – a spiritual journey, and a couple of short stories. I have worked on my first novel, Veil of Walls, for over a decade and I’m ecstatic to finally see it become a book.
What gave you the idea for Veil of Walls?
Although I was born in the states, I lived in Iran for 16 years prior to the Islamic Revolution and was intimately familiar with the culture. Noticing all the misconceptions about Iran in the West prompted me to write a story that depicts the country, the culture, and its people in a more realistic way, yet be entertaining to read at the same time. So I wrote the story in the time period I was familiar with – 60’s and early 70’s – and while all the characters are fictional, I drew on my own bewilderment when I first went to Iran and tried to navigate the intricacies of that very ancient and complex culture.
Which characters were the most and least difficult to write and why?
The two aunts were difficult as they were diametrically opposed in personality – one traditional and bitter about life, the other a bohemian intent on living life on her terms.
But the main character, Anahita, was the most difficult. This was her story and written in first person. She is faced with so much loss and so many changes in her young life that to put her deep emotional pain and her attempts to cope in words so readers could feel the depth of her anguish and the exhilaration of her success took a great deal of soul searching on my part. I had to allow myself to feel what she was feeling in order to express it.
Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.
I am bilingual/bicultural, although my American side tends to be dominant.
I have recently retired from teaching English at the University of Hawaii.
I love to travel and have visited 15 countries so far.
I have been happily married to the love of my life for 22 years.
I have a passion for good books, Persian food, and cuddly cats.
Born in Massachusetts, Patricia Panahi moved to Iran at the age of nine. She later returned to the States and completed her graduate work at San Diego State University. Panahi has taught English in Iran, California, and Hawaii, owned and operated The Light Spot Bookstore and Coffee House in San Diego, and directed English language programs for international students for the University of Hawaii. VEIL OF WALLS is her first novel.
Available in ebook format in approximately two weeks.