it is always a good day when you meet a vibrant, talented woman. and that’s exactly what happened on my recent trip to San Francisco when i had the pleasure of making Jasmin Darznik’s acquaintance. it was a chance encounter at a local Palo Alto pizzeria. you see, Jasmin was ready to take the stage for a book reading and Q & A session while on her book tour for Song of a Captive Bird and mr. style and i were dining with his cousins. one who was ready to serve those questions to Jasmin at Books, Inc., the oldest bookstore in the West. or so they claim. but you can imagine my delight upon meeting a celebrated author. Jasmin’s first book The Good Daughter is a New York Times bestseller. and, i might add, Song of a Captive Bird was recently chosen by the New York Times as an “Editors’ Choice” book and is also an LA Times bestseller! impressed? i know i am.
it was great fun chatting with Jasmin over pizza and beer, learning a bit more about her background, listening to her struggles with California traffic, and finding a common denominator – our love of fashion. of course, we exchanged contact information as i knew the moment i met Jasmin i wanted to introduce her and her latest book to all of my lovely readers. i’ve had a chance to read it. the prose, ladies, the prose will captivate you. plus, you’ll be transported to a different time and place. isn’t that what a good book is all about?
here’s what the critics are saying about Song of a Captive Bird:
“A thrilling and provocative portrait of a powerful woman set against a sweeping panorama of Iranian history.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Darznik’s marvelous homage to Forugh captures the frustration and determination she must have felt to overcome the strictures of her environment, beautifully recreating her difficult path to fame.”—Publishers Weekly
this creative force of energy also holds an MFA in fiction from Bennington College and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. now a professor of English and creative writing at California College of the Arts, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and is working on a novel set in 1920s San Francisco. i cannot wait to read it!
are ready to learn a bit more about Jasmin? let’s get to it.
Jasmin, first question. Are you over or under the age of forty?
Over, and loving it! So much in our culture tells people, especially women, that getting older is awful. Untrue! I am far happier now than when I was in my twenties, and it has everything to do with caring less and less about what people think.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of your debut novel Song of a Captive Bird?
The novel tells the story of the trailblazing Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, who defied the expectations of the 1950s and1960s to become one of the most famous women in her country’s history.
What do you think of first impressions?
I definitely trust the “vibe” I get from a first impression, but people’s stories are infinitely richer than anything I imagine at first glance, and I just love that. I feel this real pull to figure people out, to get to the heart of why they are the way they are. Writing lets me indulge that curiosity.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
My first writing teacher, Linda Watanabe McFerrin, impressed on me that tenacity, more than talent, counts in writing. She was right. Few people will encourage you to write—in fact many will flat-out discourage you. I come from a family where a life in the arts was considered totally off limits. What I’ve learned is that writing, like so much else, is a confidence game—you have to cultivate a dogged faith in yourself and your work. You have to believe you have something worth saying and that nobody else can quite say it as well as you can.
What is your favorite book and why?
This is an impossible question! But I’ll answer by telling you about the first book that made me want to be a writer, and that was Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna. I was totally entranced by the storytelling and the prose. I still hold that book up as a model of what I want to do: transport readers to another time and place.
What was the reason you sat down and wrote a book?
I was a reader long before I even thought of becoming a writer. Fundamentally, my writing stems from an impulse to create something as beautiful, moving, and engrossing as the books I most love.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“The trouble is we think we have time.”-Buddha
Was it easier or harder to write your first book or your second one?
From an emotional standpoint, The Good Daughter was harder to write—it’s very tricky writing a memoir about your family, particularly if you have a vexed relationship with them, as I certainly did (and do). That said, every book poses its own challenges. Every book tests you, both as a writer and a person. It never gets easier, but it also never gets dull.
What three words describe your current life?
Complicated, frenzied, joyful.
On average how long does it take you to write a book?
About four years from idea to final copy edits. Having an editor speeds up the process dramatically. There’s nothing quite as motivating as having someone waiting for your work.
Who designed your book cover?
My publisher. I think they did a fantastic job evoking the novel’s themes. In particular, I love the blue door, which suggests both enclosure and escape—two threads that run through Song of a Captive Bird. . .and so many women’s lives.
Do you work from an outline or plot or do you prefer to just to see where an idea takes you?
I have a general idea of both the beginning and the end, as well as some major plot points that connect them, but what’s most thrilling are the discoveries that pop up along the way. I recently heard a writer describe writing as an act of discovery rather than creativity. I totally agree. What I love best about writing are the moments where the story surprises me. In a sense, you give up control or the illusion of control, and your task becomes sitting still and opening your mind up to what emerges.
Ocean, lake or pool?
Ocean. I’m lucky to live close to the water, and the scent of the bay is deeply soothing to me. Whenever I come back to San Francisco, it’s the first thing I notice and that tells me I’m home.
How do you relax?
I love to go on long walks in Marin County. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I head to Lake Lagunitas. The calm and the beauty “resets” my mind.
How do you know when a book is finished?
In a sense I don’t think a book is ever done—only abandoned, as Paul Valery once said of poetry. However, I do think that after several years of working on a project the thrill of it dims, and that’s when it’s time to wrap things up and go looking for new project that really sets you on fire.
thank you so much, jasmin, for taking time from your busy schedule to stop by and chat. ladies, jasmin would love to send two lucky readers a signed copy of Song of a Captive Bird. enter the raffle below for your chance to win!