By Kia Makarechi
June 8, 2011, Los Angeles, CA – Talent runs deep in 25-year-old Iranian-American Alexandra Monir’s family. Given that her grandmother is the late Persian folk and opera singer Monir Vakili, it is perhaps not surprising that she has already released her first, much lauded novel Timeless.
But when one realizes she also wrote and recorded multiple songs to compliment the novel, and that she’s already penning her second book (as requested by Random House), it’s hard not to be impressed.
PAAIA talked to the novelist and songwriter about what it’s like to have new fans, the process of writing Timeless, and how her family and heritage inform her work.
Monir shares snapshots of her success with the wonder that one would expect from a first-time novelist. She talks openly of seeking out her book in bookstores, and was so excited to see it displayed among a collection of Harry Potter novels that she had to immediately tweet a photo. In addition to strong promotional support at Barnes and Nobel stores, Timeless was also selected as one of Amazon.com’s Best Books of the Month – before it was even released.
The novel is a young adult book that details the story of a “time-crossed romance between young characters that have yet to grow jaded,” which Monir says allowed her to write a “true love story that spans centuries.”
Given that the novel spans such a sweeping timeline, research was of great importance to her writing process. She describes her studies as a “kind of living, breathing, eating exercise” that consisted of trips to the library for primary source documents and watching period movies that had her “living in an Edith Wharton type of world.”
Part of Monir’s success may well be attributed to her innovative use of technology. While she says her publisher hasn’t yet started doing enhanced e-books, she wants to “move music and storytelling forward through technology,” adding “it’s not enough to rely on radio and live performances, especially if you’re not a newsmaking artist like Lady Gaga.”
The young author says that her grandmother inspired a storyline in her novel in which her protagonist goes back in time to meet her family. She grew up entrenched in the world of Iranian music and art, though she never met her grandmother, who many call the “First Lady of Iranian Opera”. “I never met my grandmother because she died in a car accident before I was born, and because of her career and the way my parents talk about her, I always wish I could have.”
Timeless took Monir a year and a half to write, though she says research took as much as sixty percent of that time. The deadline for the sequel is tighter, and Monir says that, all told, she’ll have about six months to finish it.
Another advantage that technology has given the author: Fan interaction. By connecting with readers on Twitter, she’s been able to find the inspiration to continue working. She excitedly shares such connections, telling us the story of a reader who said that reading Timeless inspired her to enter her school’s writing competition, where she found success all the way up to the state level.
“That’s what it’s about,” says Monir. “With writing, you can touch people’s lives. If someone picks up my book and it makes him or her write and read then that’s all I could hope for.”
Kia Makarechi is a New York-based writer and news editor for the Huffington Post.