Farah Naz Rishi and A Strange and Long Journey

Sep/20/2021 / by Pratika Yashaswi
farah naz rishi

There’s nothing more warming to the tired adult Bollywood-loving heart than a good old desi young adult (YA) romance and Farah Naz Rishi’s “It All Comes Back to You” (IACBTY).

Set in Philly and NY’s Muslim community, its heroine, the hilarious, dance-loving Kiran Noorani, was once in a picture-perfect secret relationship with the witty, whip-smart and entirely charming Deen Malik, before he ghosted her for no apparent reason and his family moved away. Now four years on, their respective older siblings are in a serious, fast-progressing relationship. Fiercely protective of her sister, Amira, Kiran is bent on finding out the truth about the tight-lipped, secretive Faisal Malik, while Deen is as bent on keeping it from her at any cost. What is Deen hiding? And why did he ghost her all those years ago?

Farah Naz Rishi’s “It All Comes Back to You” is a delightful romance that showcases the many quirks of the colorful American desi community, while capturing readers with its characters’ quick wit, funny quips and charms. Among the many twists and turns in Kiran, Deen, Faisal and Amira’s story, readers will find themselves in the midst of an enjoyable teenage romance that will keep adults as well as young adult readers thoroughly entertained.

Rishi is a Pakistani American Muslim writer and voice actor, but in another life, she’s worked stints as a lawyer, a video game journalist, and an editorial assistant. She received her BA in English from Bryn Mawr College, her JD from Lewis & Clark Law School, and her love of weaving stories from the Odyssey Writing Workshop. When she’s not writing, she’s probably hanging out with video game characters. She is the author of “I Hope You Get This Message.”

You’ve been an editorial assistant, a lawyer, a voice artist and now a writer. What’s your journey been like from JD to writing novels?

It’s been a long and strange journey! I think deep down, I’d always hoped to be a writer, but I tossed that dream aside as an impossibility. I decided to get my JD with a focus on environmental law instead. But I never stopped writing, never stopped trying to improve my craft. It was like a compulsion; I couldn’t stop writing, even if I wanted to. I remember sitting in the back of my lectures and writing out stories that would never see the light of day, and my classmates would ask why I took such copious notes.

However, during my final year of law school, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My entire world shattered, and like most people who experience traumatizing life events, I began to reevaluate my life trajectory. Life is short, I realized — too short not to focus on what I truly want to do. I focused full-time on writing after that, and never looked back.

farah naz rishi

What was your writing process like, for “It All Comes Back to You”? What is it like in general?

For IACBTY, I first wrote a detailed outline. I need to have an outline of some sort, a roadmap, to keep my thoughts organized as I write. I have a habit of losing focus often, so an outline is also essential to remind myself why I need to keep engaged. The outline basically gives me a glimpse of the shape the story will take; it gives me a preview of all the exciting scenes I’ll get to write. Having it on hand gives me something to look forward to, and is a useful tool to fight writer’s block!

The rest of my writing method is easy: sit down and write at least 500 words a day. It’s a small amount, but it’s doable and doesn’t put too much pressure on myself. As long as I push myself gently to write a little, eventually, those words will add up to a book.

What inspired your characters? What inspired you to write about protective siblings?

This might sound ridiculous, but usually my characters will pop in my head when I’m dreaming (or daydreaming). In part, I think they’re churned from combinations of other characters or tropes that I’ve been stuck on; for example, Deen was created from my love of charming, flirty characters who wear masks to hide a deeper, more emotional self (literally The Charmer trope).

I’m an older sister myself, so sibling stories will always be my favorite kinds, “I Hope You Get This Message,” my last novel, also had a sibling relationship at the center of the story. In this novel, though, I wanted to write a story about the lengths siblings are willing to go to in order to protect their siblings from perceived dangers, and how sometimes our siblings are extensions of ourselves. I love romance, of course, but sibling relationships have their own kind of magic.

It All Comes Back to You,” by Farah Naz Rishi (Quill Tree Books) is on sale from September 14, 2021.


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