Friday, September 12, 2014

Author Interview: Krista Bremer

Welcome to Day 12 of our Travel the World in Books Readathon! Today we are delighted to welcome Krista Bremer author of  My Accidental Jihad.

Since My Accidental Jihad is one of the books I selected to read for my travel the world in nonfiction books reading challenge I jumped at the chance to learn more about Krista Bremer:

1.    Introduce yourself and your book to us.
My name is Krista Bremer, and I’m a writer as well as the associate publisher for The Sun, a North Carolina-based literary magazine. My memoir, My Accidental Jihad, is about my bicultural family (my husband is a Libyan-born Muslim.) It seems to me that all marriages are bicultural; no matter who we marry, we have to negotiate different assumptions about home and family  - and we have to navigate those times when our mate seems impossibly foreign. This book is about intimacy and about the search for home.  It’s also about overcoming prejudice and discovering what we as a human family have in common.
2. Describe your path to becoming a writer. Give our aspiring writers one tip to achieving their writing dreams.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t begin to publish my work until I was about 30 years old. At that time, at a writing workshop, I shared a piece I had written and the instructor insisted I submit it to a magazine for publication. That became my first published essay.  Several years later, my essay “My Accidental Jihad” won the Pushcart Prize – and not long after that, I won the Rona Jaffe Award, which is a $30,000 prize awarded to six emerging American women writers each year.  That award set me on my path to finding an agent and selling a book contract.
My advice to aspiring writers is simply to write.  Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect. If you are working a fulltime job or if you have small children, as I did while I was writing this book, steal whatever time you can. Even half an hour makes a difference. If you continue to put down words each day, the work will accumulate, and your writing will improve.
3.    How and why did you pick the location(s) of your book?
Because it’s a memoir, that decision was determined by my experience. The first section of the book, called Homeland Insecurity, takes place in California and North Carolina. The second section, Foreigners, takes place in Libya. The third section of the book, Homecoming, takes place in North Carolina.
4. Did you spend time in the countries your book is set in? Give us examples of customs or something you found interesting about the culture you experienced.
The middle section of my book takes place in Libya, where I met my in-laws and relatives for the first time when I visited in 2005. When I arrived, I sort of pitied my female relatives because their lives seemed to revolve in such a tight orbit around their families and faith. They’d never be able to do certain things I enjoyed: jog down the street in shorts, have their own credit card, fly alone to a city they’d never seen before. To my surprise, I discovered they were also rich in ways I was impoverished. They enjoyed so much family and community support, and the women enjoyed such intimacy with one another. I realized when I was there how much my life in the U.S. was lacking in these aspects – how lonely I was trying to raise a family while working fulltime and living far from my relatives.  
5. What is your favorite place that you visited, either personally or professionally?
The prophet’s mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, is unlike any other place in the world.  The building is exquisite, and as a pilgrimage site for Muslims from all over the world, it has a tangible quality of peace and love. One can practically tast it in the air, like salt water on an ocean breeze.
Also - the Roman ruins in Sabrata, Libya, which overlook the Mediterranean sea, are just unbelievable. 
6. Where are your bucket list travel destinations?
Right now I want to make sure my children to see the exquisite natural beauty of this country: Zion, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone.
7. Where would you most like to write about?
I believe that intention matters a great deal when we write. It’s not enough to just be entertaining; I want my work to be an offering, to give readers something enriching. So I hope to write about my experience honestly, with courage and integrity, in a way that helps readers to reflect on their own lives and discover something about themselves.
8. What book are you working on now and where does it take place?
I have a project that is so new I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it.  It is another work of nonfiction, so it takes place in the United States as well as places I have visited, like Saudi Arabia and Libya. 

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  1. Thanks for hosting our featured author interview today! I love that Krista says all marriages are bicultural, it's true we each have our family cultures!

  2. I've had this on my TBR but I don't remember knowing part of it took place in NC. I like reading about different cultures in NC, where I'm from and live now. Great interview!

  3. Her publisher is Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill Becca. I was so excited to see that and support a local publisher. :)

  4. What an interesting person - I will need to read her book! I am in love with her advice for writers .... I often use the kids and my work as an excuse - like sleep is more important, so I don't have time to write. She blows that excuse right out of the water! HAHA Thanks for sharing her info with us and painting such a beautiful picture of who she is and why she writes.