Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blog Tour: A Manual For Marco by @ShailaAbdullah #interview

Children's Picture Book
Date Published: February 1, 2015

A Manual For Marco:

Living, Learning, and Laughing With an Autistic Sibling

Why does he act that way?
Pages from the diary of an eight-year old girl who decides to make a list of all the things she likes and dislikes about dealing with her autistic brother, and in doing so realizes that she has created A Manual for Marco.

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Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
While there is a wealth of information that deals with the various challenges faced by parents of autistic children, there is relatively little information available on how a sibling can cope with an autistic brother or sister. My latest children’s book A Manual for Marco, is considered a game changer in that category. For 8-year-old Sofia—the main character in the book—living with her autistic brother is not easy but she does so with wisdom, wit and loads of patience. 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The toughest challenge for me as a busy working mother is to find adequate time to devote to writing, which often takes a back seat to my other obligations. Unlike other writers who set aside time to regularly focus on their talent, I write in bursts. When I am on an assignment or have an idea in my head, I often stay up late or wake up early to write.

How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
I have written five books so far. Two for adults: Saffron Dreams and Beyond the Cayenne Wall, and three for children: My Friend Suhana, Rani in Search of a Rainbow, and A Manual for Marco. It is hard to pick a favorite. Each one is special and unique to me in its own way.

If you had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
Meesha Shafi would be perfect to play the role of Sofia’s mother in A Manual for Marco. She is a popular Coke Studio singer who also starred in The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

When did you begin writing?
Writing for me has always been as natural as doing art or design. When I decided to make design a career, I promised my father that writing would be a very serious hobby. With five books under my belt, I have proven that I do take writing vey seriously.

How long did it take to complete your first book?
The first book was never meant to be one. I was writing short segments as a personal journaling exercise, which took a fictional bend. From concept to publication, the collection probably took three years.  It took me 9 months to write my second book Saffron Dreams, and 3 years to edit it. In the end, my publisher had to yank it away from me to publish it. I have been a bit better in my subsequent efforts, taking an average of 6-8 months from writing to publication.

Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
When I was attending a community college in California, my English teacher introduced me to the works of Indian author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I was fascinated by how much culture she brought forth in her works. My teacher felt that I had what it takes to follow in her footsteps. Chitra is now a very dear friend.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Hands down, my favorite part is holding the final product in my hands. Being a designer I have always negotiated full control over the visuals, layout, and design of each book. So for me it has always been an added excitement to see that final piece.

Describe your latest book in 4 words.
Sibling Dealing With Autism

Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?

After releasing A Manual for Marco in February, I am taking a much-needed break for a while. Trying to do three books in a year has exhausted me.

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Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer based in Austin, Texas. She has written five books: Saffron Dreams, Beyond the Cayenne Wall, My Friend Suhana, Rani in Search of a Rainbow, and A Manual for Marco. The author has received several awards for her work including the Golden Quill Award and Patras Bukhari Award for English Language. Several academic institutions have adopted her books as course study or recommended reading, including the University of California, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Indiana University, Boston University, California State University, and George Washington University.  Learn more about the author at www.ShailaAbdullah.com

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