F.A.Q. about "Letters from Afghanistan"
It's the first time I hear about you and your book. What is "Letters from Afghanistan" about?
"Letters from Afghanistan" is a fictional novel aimed at teenagers (but I think it suits adults as well) which tells the story of Olivia, a 14 years old girl from California, who spends the summer with her parents and her older sister Samantha at grandpa's home in San Francisco. Her geography teacher sets her an assignment: to write emails to a female student in Afghanistan. That is how Olivia and Basya connect. Basya is Olivia's age. She lives in a small village in Afghanistan and has to deal with so many difficult things in order to survive, continue her education and hopefully realize her dream to become a teacher one day. When Basya is in trouble, Olivia has to find her own courage to help her friend.
Why did you write "Letters from Afghanistan"?
Most readers expect this to be a book about sheding a light on the lives of Afghan girls and, even if that surely is a relative huge part of the book, that isn't the reason why I wanted to write this book. The novel's main aim is to encourage Western citizens, especially young people, to care for people living in other countries. We all make choices everyday. Being kind is a choice. Olivia coasts along life until getting in touch with Basya opens her eyes and lets her see how she can be a part of positive changes to make the world a better place.
Do you think your book is for everyone?
No. No book is for everyone. I think this book is for socially conscious people who love to learn more about our world and to get involved. I also hope it'll speak to those who, for whatever reason, never took time to think about current issues and to seriously ask themselves what they could do in their own community and beyond to improve other people's lives.
Is it true that you originally wrote the book in Italian?
Yes, "Letters from Afghanistan" has been written about five years ago in Italian. Olivia had another name. She wasn't American, she was from Rome. I then realized the story has a lot of potential and the topic is so important that I wanted more people to be able to read it so I've re-written it in English. I of course had to change many things, including the setting. In the original one Olivia spent her summer holidays in Tuscany, my native region. I of course had no clue about what would have happened in Afghanistan in 2021 when I first wrote the novel in Italian.
How does your writing process work?
I write by instinct. I can't say if this is a right or wrong way of writing but I feel it works for me. When I start writing a novel I generally have a vague idea of what is going to happen. I then listen to my characters, I somehow let them lead me. I of course have a message I want to share through each of my books and that is crystal clear to me from the first moment. I then edit the book quite a lot. When I published with publishing houses they edited the book. When I self-publish the book, I edit it myself and for "Letters from Afghanistan", being in English, I had a few native English speakers as beta readers.
Is it true that "Letters from Afghanistan" was originally free to download?
Yes, I have released the novel on September 11th 2021 and it was free to download. I took that decision due to the topics the novel tackles and my desire for as many people as possible to read about them and because, being my first book in English, I thought readers could have been put off by a foreign, unknown name so I gave them the chance to approach my writing style and my work for free. I kept it that way until the beginning of February 2022 and I then decided to make it downloadable in exchange of a free donation, so people can donate how much they can/want/feel the book is worth.
If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?
I honestly don't know. I'd probably choose local, unknown actors or even non-actors to play all the roles. That is especially true for the Afghan characters. I'd go to Afghanistan, if possible, and pick local people to give their own country a proper voice.
Why did you choose Afghanistan?
I needed to place the co-protagonist of the novel in one of those countries where being a girl is particularly life-threatening and limiting and sadly Afghanistan ticks the boxes. As much as the novel turned out to be very actual due to what happened in country in 2021 and the current situation over there, I always try to point out that there are many other countries in the world considered "the worst places" to be born a girl such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, South Sudan, Chad, Sudan, DR Congo and Sierra Leone. I just hope the novel is a starting point to encourage readers to care and learn more about all the countries in which girls rights and human rights in general are violated.
I would like to help Afghan girls. What can I do?
You can search for reputable NGOs in your country and/or in Afghanistan and support them. If you are under 18, ask the guidance of a trusted adult. I personally encourage my readers and followers to support Razia's Ray of Hope. I'm not directly linked to them (even though I have written to a member of their staff to tell them about the novel) but I admire their work so much. They offer a program called "Sponsor a girl" which allows you to support the education of a female child, a girl or a young woman in Afghanistan and to receive letters from her, just like Olivia does. You can also send them seldom donations. Despite the current situation in Afghanistan, the NGO's all girls schools are still up and running (read here to see how and why) so supporting them is extremely important.
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