N.H. Senzai tells us why she didn’t originally like Nadia, the main character of her book Escape from Aleppo, but how she eventually grew to respect her.
“Strong girls always have a Plan B. (Then a Plan C, Plan D….).”
Tell us about a time when your strength was tested.
I promised myself, on a key, coming of age birthday, that I didn’t want to wake up at eighty and wish I’d written a book. After two years of hard work my first book was finished and it landed me my agent. With great excitement and crossed fingers we sent it out. A year later, after being rejected by dozens of publishers, I had a tough decision to make. Did I have the strength and grit to attempt to write another? After much deliberation and lots of cake, thankfully I did!
What is your favorite book about a strong girl and why?
I grew up reading stories about flying carpets, magic lamps, giant birds and clever jinns in A Thousand And One Nights. What fascinated me most was the story teller herself – Scheherazade. Smart and filled with gumption, she agrees to marry a mad and cruel king who marries a different woman each day and executes her at dawn. She avoids this fate by telling him fascinating stories that end at a cliff hanger, only to be revealed the next night. Her bravery and intelligence save not only herself, but an entire kingdom.
What is it about the main character of your story that inspires you?
To be honest, I didn’t like my main character in ESCAPE TO ALEPPO, Nadia, when I first met her. Born to wealth and privilege she was spoiled, vain and didn’t treat others particularly well. When the Arab Spring engulfs Syria, Nadia is confronted not only by the brutality of war but the end of a life as she knew it. Left to survive on her own, she finally reveals her true character, filled with spirit, ingenuity and compassion – that is what inspired me, how she rose to the occasion to survive and help others along the way.
What is the best piece of advice you were given as a girl?
The best advice I got as a girl was to accept the fact that I wouldn’t always succeed in attaining a particular goal, no matter how much I desired it. Failure was part of the journey and learning to pivot towards something else was painful, but necessary. I’ve accumulated many failures in life, hopefully choosing better paths to travel.
What’s your superpower, or what’s your Patronus?
Since I love to eat, my son would say my superpower stems from my passion for food and the ability to replicate dishes I eat on our travels.