I'm absolutely delighted to welcome a super lovely author to the blog today to find out more about
their upcoming YA debut!
Check it out...
Yousra S Imran is an English-Egyptian hybrid who works and lives in West Yorkshire. She has been writing from the moment she learned how to hold a pen and works full time in marketing and events in the education sector. Yousra grew up between the UK and the Middle East and has a BA Hons in International Relations. She is passionate about women’s rights and gender justice. Her debut YA novel Hijab and Red Lipstick is set to be published in October 2020 by Hashtag Press.
Follow Yousra here!
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“You cannot do anything in this country without my permission.”
Being a teenager isn't easy. And it doesn't help when you have a mega strict Egyptian dad who tells you that everything is "haram" a.k.a. forbidden. All Sara wants to do is experiment with makeup, listen to the latest Destiny's Child single and read fashion magazines, but her dad's conservative interpretation of Islam makes it impossible. Things get even harder when her dad lands himself a job in the Arabian Gulf and moves Sara and her family to a country where the patriarchy rules supreme. In a country where you have to have your father's permission for everything, every door feels like it is being closed on Sara's future. In a desperate bid for freedom, Sara makes a judgement call that threatens to ruin their dysfunctional father-daughter relationship forever.
An insight into life as a young British Muslim woman growing up between London and the Middle East, this is a tale of a woman’s difficult quest to find herself, and an exclusive insight into life in countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, where people’s personal lives are rarely spoken about.
Pre-order your copy here!
Learn more about Hashtag Press here!
Hashtag Press website: www.hashtagpress.co.uk
Who are you and what do you write?
My name is Yousra Samir Imran, and I am the author of Hijab and Red Lipstick, my debut YA novel, which is being published by Hashtag Press in the UK in October 2020. I am also a freelance writer and full time marketing and events coordinator.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
I began writing the moment I could hold a pen. I was always entering poetry and writing competitions at school (and won a good few). I wrote the playscript for the end of year production in Year 6. When I was in my last year of university I started to write professionally as a freelance content writer and then after graduating I was a freelance journalist, writing articles, features and interviews for a number of local and regional magazines and websites in the Middle East such as Glam, Haute Muse, The New York Times Magazine (Qatar edition) and Cairo Scene. I was also the fitness and wellbeing columnist for Grazia Arabia when I changed careers and became a personal trainer! I no longer work as a personal trainer as unfortunately my Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome deteriorated a couple of years ago, and I now work full time as a marketing and events coordinator in the education sector, but I continue to write articles from time to time for online publications.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
I had always wanted to write a book based on my experiences growing up between London and the Middle East, but while I was in the Middle East the censorship and lack of freedom of speech meant this was impossible. When I moved back to the UK in 2018 I decided it was finally time to write my book.
I initially wrote Hijab and Red Lipstick as a memoir and on the second round of submissions I got the chance to meet one of the literary agents who had rejected it. She gave me some personal feedback, saying that the content was very political and perhaps that was the reason I had been getting rejections. I decided that I could still get my story out but by turning it into a novel, and changing the storyline, character names and the timeline. I could still have my voice heard and get across an important message in the form of a piece of fiction. I had to rewrite it from scratch.
While on my third round of submissions I came across Hashtag Press and their book deal competition, Hashtag Press 2020. I decided to enter, and was ecstatic when they contacted me to say they like my first chapter and wanted to read more. I couldn't believe it when I made the shortlist and then made the finalists. And then I was in denial followed by being over the moon when I found out that I was the winner! What I love about Hashtag Press is that it is run by women, and that it is an independent publishing company that publishes books by diverse authors with diverse characters. Everyone at Hashtag Press has been so supportive, and they are so down to earth and friendly.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
I would say the editing process can be a bit nerve-wracking. You are keen to produce the best version of your book and for it to reach its full potential. You remind yourself that the editor has more experience than you in the publishing industry and that you need to be open to their suggestions, but at the same time you do worry that they will try to remove important parts of the story, and you get nervous about how to put your foot down while remaining cooperative.
The most enjoyable part for me so far was writing the first and second drafts of the story itself. It felt cathartic, as I unloaded the story onto the pages. If you have a story inside you, I say get it out.
Would you go back and change anything?
If I had the knowledge I had now, I would have not sent my first draft out on a round of submissions haha! But you learn by making mistakes.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10?
Whether it is in 5 years time or 10 years I would love to a full time author (sometimes you have to be patient and work at it for a while to achieve your dream ) - being able to earn enough from writing so that it is a full time job is the dream!
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
I would say not to put too much pressure on yourself or be too rigid when it comes to word count targets, otherwise the process loses its enjoyment. Some days you may write a couple of chapters and other days you may only manage a couple of paragraphs, but no matter how much you write, you will eventually finish writing that book.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? - Mayo
Night or Day? - Day
Inside or Outside? - Outside
Dogs or Cats? - Cats
Twitter or Facebook? - Twitter
Ebook or Paperback? - Paperback
Sun or Rain? - Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - Keyboard
Comedy or Drama? - Comedy
Chips or Chocolate? - Chocolate
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!