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My First Time...with Anbara Salam

Anbara Salam, The Riff Raff

Anbara Salam is half-Palestinian, half-Scottish, and grew up in London. After studying in Beirut and York, she graduated from Oxford with a PhD in Theology in 2014. She lives in Oxford with her partner where she works as an academic.

Anbara will be reading from her debut Things Bright and Beautiful and answering your writing questions at The Riff Raff on Thursday 9th August and we cannot wait....

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Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I was living in the South Pacific, and a few girls in the village had taken it upon themselves to exorcise each other. It was late at night and I went out to investigate. Just as I came across them chanting in a big circle in the forest, my torch died. It was one of the spookiest moments of my life and I was inspired by a sudden thrill to put it onto a novel. That interaction never made it into my book but I couldn’t shake that sense of foreboding.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

Not to be put off by the mysticism surrounding writers and writing. All the rules about how to write can be intimidating and everyone has their own methods and habits. There’s no ‘right’ way to do it.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

This is a bit gross, but it’s giving myself spontaneous haircuts. I have curly hair so no one ever really notices if it’s uneven, so when I’m really frustrated I just snip a bit off here and there until I’m in danger of an unplanned fringe and then it’s back to work.

Read more My First Time interviews >>

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing it?

When it came time to choose the title, we spent weeks trying out hundreds of different ideas and I was so over-wrought by that point I spent a whole train ride scribbling potential titles and then burst into tears because my pen stopped working.