Get Lost with Adi Alsaid (You’ll be glad you did)

At the end of July 2014, Adi Alsaid‘s first mass market novel for teens, LET’S GET LOST, hit shelves.  I was first introduced to Adi at Book Expo America a few years ago when randomly at a panel he sat next to me and we struck up a conversation.  He handed me his self-published book SOMEWHERE OVER THE SUN which I loved and I saw a future for Adi.  Fast forward a few years and that future is here, published by Harlequin, National tour and a marketing campaign that actually featured a physical car decked out as an ad.

LET’S GET LOST tells the tale of a single amazing girl through the eyes of the various people who meet her.  Adi Alsaid has an excellent handle at different voices and does so deftly.  He is truly a fantastic writer as I originally discovered with his first book.  He has an incredible use of word play.  You owe it to yourself to seek out both books, but definitely do not miss Let’s Get Lost.  It’s the true start of what I think can be a great writer’s career.

Adi was willing to take questions for me for an interview and he provided some really amazing answers.  I was able to come up with what I felt were four very meaty analytic questions that also provided more review structure and statements from this fantastic young author.

1.) In your many travels and life through Mexico, California, Vegas and Israel. can you name actual singular favorite locations. Such as favorite restaurant, quiet spot to read, etc.

My favorite bench in the world is in Pacific Grove, California, facing out at the ocean beneath a beautiful tree. An ice cream shop in Tel Aviv called Iceberg has lines out the door past midnight. Vegas has incredible spots to view the sunrise and the sunset. Mexican breakfasts are the best, no matter what kind of restaurant you go into.

2.) What was the journey from writing and self publishing to being picked up by Harlequin? Is there anything you miss from self-publishing? What do you enjoy most about being with a large publishing house?

I went to BEA a few years ago as a struggling writer, just trying to see what the expo was all about, maybe make some connections. At the time, my ex-girlfriend, who’d helped me edit the first book I wrote, SOMEWHERE OVER THE SUN, was working at Simon and Schuster. She invited me to a Young to Publishing party, where I ended up meeting Emilia Rhodes, who would later be my editor at Alloy. A few months, maybe a year, after that party, Emilia and I got in touch and not too long after that I’d written the first half of LET’S GET LOST and a proposal for the second half, which was how Harlequin picked me up.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to garner a ton of support from Harlequin TEEN. They really believe in the book and the reach that they’ve had as far exceeded anything I could have possibly done on my own. I know self-publishing works for a lot of people, but it was not a good fit for me, and I’m thrilled to be where I am now.

3.) You’ve written two books now with multiple perspectives. Although you switched from first to third. Do you have a preference? Was there a particular decision making process of your narrator/perspective decision on LET’S GET LOST compared to SOMEWHERE OVER THE SUN?

I’ve always been drawn to multiple perspectives, as a reader and a writer. I like getting inside people’s heads, and I think my natural inclination is to use as many voices as a given story will allow. I usually prefer third person, although it’s never really a conscious decision, just something that naturally happens when I start writing.

4.) You seem to have a focus on road trips and that experience. How much of your own life has found its way into your work? Do you have any road trip experience (experiences) or people you’ve met you’d still write about? Anything or anyone you’d care to share?

That’s something else that isn’t necessarily a conscious choice. Like Mario Vargas Llosa writes in LETTERS TO A YOUNG NOVELIST, ” The novelist doesn’t choose his themes; he is chosen by them. He writes on certain subjects because certain things have happened to him.” Life experiences definitely work their way into my writing although I usually dress them up in fiction to make them fit the context or be more interesting.

This one I haven’t yet written about, although the character involved is too bizarre to leave out of my writing forever. When I was traveling across the country visiting friends last summer, I was enjoying a cup of coffee in Pasadena when a homeless man started insisting to everyone around the he was the world record holder for thumb pushups. Which is not a thing. Eventually, after lots of ranting on his side and some good-spirited chiding from a group of construction workers nearby, the homeless man, who goes by the name Ohio, whipped his shirt off and started assuming the push-up position, his thumbs stuck out like a hitchhiker’s. The construction workers and I prepared to witness a man breaking his thumbs on the sidewalk of Pasadena. A security guard stood by, a hand on his walkie-talkie. Tourists stepped into the street to avoid Ohio. “We’ll give you a quarter per thumb push up,” the construction workers say, elbowing each other in the ribs, winking behind sunglasses.

Turns out, thumb pushups are a thing, and I fully believe he holds the world record.

Thumb pushups… sound like there’s an entire book in there somewhere.  Homeless World Record Olympics?  Maybe not the book for Adi, but with his flair for penmanship, I’m sure he could pull it off.

 

From New Zealand to Monaco- BOY x SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

To travel around the world without leaving home there are only three ways. The first is to jump around the internet which really doesn’t count, the next is to visit Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida which has a pavilion of buildings representing many countries except unless you live in Orlando that would count as leave home, so the real way is through the power of film and exotic restaurants. The added addition of films is you get to time travel as well.

On the last week/first week of February/March 2012 I got to visit New Zealand, India, The United Kingdom and Monaco and each adventure was quite amazing.

It started out with getting to see Taika Waititi’s latest feature BOY at a special screening at Knitting Factory Brooklyn. Taika is an Oscar nominated film maker who is best known for his very popular Eagle vs. Shark and his work with Flight of the Conchords. BOY takes place in the early 80s and tells a truly funny, smart and compelling film about a young man in rural New Zealand. He lives in a very small town full of lush landscapes and beauty in a very poor but sustainable lifestyle. The bulk of the film is about his father’s return to town after a stay in prison and the changes that come to Boy’s life in that time. The film has some awesome fantasy sequences including animation, music video recreations and uproarious photo montages. The film has so much heart, but its also full of kinetic energy. The landscape scenes of New Zealand’s lush green are an amazing stark contrast to the poverty of the houses and town, creating a vibe in the film of hope full with hopeless that so much of life contains. When so much changes, it also always feels the same, as people come in and out of your life, relationships change, emotions evolve, personalities develop further and BOY finds a way to express all that through a simple story with complex situations.

After the film I had the pleasure to meet Taika himself and he was very down to Earth and open. That feels like it’s changed a bit in his very humorist updates on his Kickstarter, but I’m pretty sure it’s still humble despite the films instant smash success in America. I had asked him some simple questions about the film, in both its making and its message and he expressed himself with an honest and passionate discussion. If you have the chance to see BOY while its on its US tour, do so… but hopefully this will all lead to a North American DVD/Bluray available at a reasonable price and not imported from New Zealand for multi-zone players.

Before seeing BOY I had dinner at Bay Leaf, an excellent Indian place off of Bedford. It’s actually from what I can tell the only Indian cusine in that area of Williamsburg. Traditionally I have Thai when out there, but since I was alone for the evening I got to try out this place and it was excellent. Actually some of the best tasting Indian I’ve ever had. I ended up having Indian again on Thursday at one of the places on 1 and 6th and they paled in comparison at least flavor style, in my opinion. Both meals were amazing and filling, but Bay Leaf was a tantamount experience followed by an amazing movie I had really desired and meeting its star.

I had gone to Sunshine Cinema on Thursday evening to see a Village Voice screening of SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt with Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas. It was directed by Lasse Hallström from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, two masters of adapting complicated novels into exceptional films. The novel in question here is by the same name and was written by Paul Torday, while never having not read the book, I ascertain from what I can find online that it was very comedic in nature, a great satire filled with a poignant story. The film strips a a bit of that comedy down to just the barest essentials I feel, but still delivers a poignant story with a completely non-allegorical political message alongside an a subtly allegorical life message. Amr Waked is the best thing in this entire film outside of the travelouge. His performance is so strong it is unfortunate when this film has debuted in America, as if it wasn’t directly after The Oscars he would be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nomination if not a win and as there’s no Acting Nods for foreign films, well… He is just that good though. As said, next comes the visuals. The film travels throughout the UK and Monaco and truly shows them off with a flair. A much higher flair than New Zealand is shown in BOY, but here LOCATION was a character where in BOY it was just a setting. Every space becomes as important to the events and the story as the people themselves. Traditionally one would credit the Director of Photography for this, but Terry Stacey’s previous work was never at a scale like this, so I’ve gotta think that Beaufoy’s script and Lasse’s directing propels this magnificence. Look at Simon’s 127 Hours or Slumdog Millionaire or Hallström’s many films to see their hands in the work no matter who the cinematographer is. SALMON is parable in many ways, just as the concept of salmon fishing in the yemen is a metaphor for life itself.

Through these two films and two wonderful meals I got to see and feel life, love and imagination and for just a moment feel like I’d left New York City and traveled the world.

(It must be stated that unfortunately BOY is currently only scheduled for the following cities: New York, Throughout California (LA, SF, etc.), Boston,  Seattle, Washington DC, Atlanta, GA and Santa Fe in Texas with various different opening dates at specific theaters which you can see here.

and SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN opened March 9th in Limited Theaters in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Info can be found here.

As stated above on BOY, hopefully both films will recieve North American DVD/Blu-Ray releases, they are both worthy.)