|“||All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.||”|
|Age||30 (November 9, 1988)|
|Family|| Ransom Riggs (husband)|
Four older brothers
Tahereh Mafi the author of the New York Times bestselling series, Shatter Me. She was born on November 9, 1988, and was the youngest child with four older brothers in a small city somewhere in Connecticut. She currently resides in Santa Monica, California. Mafi graduated from a tiny liberal arts college two miles from the shores of Laguna Beach, has varying levels of competency in eight different languages, and spent a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain, where she had the opportunity to study Spanish literature in its native form. In May 2017, she became a mother to a baby girl.
Interview by Seventeen
Cosmogirl: Where were you when the idea for Shatter Me came to you?
TM: I was sitting at my desk, drinking a cup of tea, when this lonely, isolated girl walked into my head. So I opened up a new word document and started writing her down.
CG: What appealed to you about creating a character that can't touch anyone?
TM: Nothing at all. It's a fairly terrible thing, I think, not being able to touch anyone. But I do think that the isolation and alienation Juliette experiences is something that many teens (and adults) are able to relate to. We all feel a bit cast-off and misunderstood, sometimes; like there might be something about us that sets us apart from our peers. Juliette's affliction takes that idea to an extreme.
CG: What makes Juliette a character to look up to? Is she like you in any way? How?
TM: Juliette is the kind of person I'd like to be. She has a lot of inner strength and a lot of compassion. I admire her for being able to hold onto her humanity in a world that has given her nothing to hope for.
CG: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
TM: I've been a lifelong reader, but I never thought I could write a book -- I never thought I was capable of accomplishing something so monumental as writing a novel. It wasn't until after I graduated from college -- about 2 years ago -- that I dove back into the world of fiction and wondered if I might be able to try writing something for myself. I fell in love pretty instantly, and never looked back.
CG: What was the first thing you can remember writing?
TM: I wrote a lot of things when I was very young, but they were almost always for school projects. Though I do remember that in 6th grade, I wrote and illustrated a very lengthy comic book about a boy whose touched turned everything to chocolate. It was my opus. An ode to chocolate.
CG: Did anyone discourage you? How did you deal with that?
TM: Rejection, I think, is sometimes harder to stomach in the publishing world, if only because writing is such an intensely personal experience; the stories we write are very near and dear to our hearts. But I really believe that the only differences between a successful and an unsuccessful person are time and perseverance. There are many extremely talented individuals who might never be appreciated, simply because they gave up too soon. Every single day is a struggle, but we have to fight the hardest on the days we most want to give in.
CG: What is your advice for our readers out there that want to become writers?
TM: Read everything, even if you think you won't like it. Write as much as you can, even if you think it's terrible. And then keep doing that for the rest of your life.
CG: What authors do you most look up to and why?
TM: The ones who make me think. It can be one line, one paragraph, one punctuation mark in an unfamiliar place. But make me stop; make me pay attention; make me question and reconsider if only for a moment, and I'll remember you for a very long time.
CG: Which books do you think should be on every teen's reading list and why?
TM: The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson; because it's one of the most beautifully crafted stories I've ever read. The Giver, by Lois Lowry; because that book broke my brain and begged me to start asking questions about our world. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; because it's an incredible story about self-sacrifice, devastation, and compassion in a world falling apart.
Interview by The Daily Quirk
The Daily Quirk: The use of words and punctuation in the Shatter Me series is rather unique. The physical words are written like they would actually appear in Juliette’s journal, complete with repetition, run-on sentences and unusual punctuation. Where did you get this idea and what strategies did you use to make it work within the context of the story without distracting from it?
Tahreh Mafi: I didn’t think about the prose as something separate and apart from the story; I didn’t really think about it at all. I just wanted the writing to reflect the mental state of the protagonist; I wanted it to become a visual representation of the inner turmoil this near-insane girl was experiencing. But as Juliette grows and becomes a stronger, more convicted character, the prose evolves as well — it stabilizes and takes on a more understated elegance. The writing becomes a reflection of her state of mind.
TDQ: Is there a specific scene in Unravel Me that you found especially enjoyable (or especially challenging) to write?
TM: Yes to all. Chapter 62.
TDQ: One interesting thing about Shatter Me is how well readers have responded to Warner, who is essentially the villain. He has a legion of adoring fans! Did you expect (or hope for) that kind of reaction? Did the fan reaction impact the way you approached his character in Unravel Me?
TM: It’s certainly been very interesting — and fascinating — but I’ve had plans for Warner from the beginning. I’m very excited to see how readers react to him in Unravel Me.
TDQ: Speaking of Warner, you wrote a companion novella from Warner’s perspective, Destroy Me. Did you find it challenging to write in Warner’s voice as opposed to Juliette’s? Is there a chance we might get the perspective of some other characters (Adam, perhaps?) down the road?
TM: I loved it, actually. It was a really fun experiences to explore the inside of Warner’s head, especially as his voice is so distinct from Juliette’s; they have very different ways of looking at the world. And yes! There will — hopefully — be another novella, and another perspective to come. No details yet!
TDQ: What (if anything) can you tell us about the next book in the Shatter Me trilogy?
TM: Things go nuts.
TDQ:Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
TM: I wish I could! But there’s nothing I can say just yet, I’m afraid.
Interview by JustJaredJr.
JJJ: Let’s start from the beginning: What initially sparked the idea for Juliette and the Shatter Me series?
TM: An image of a girl. I had been writing (and failing) for a long time before writing Shatter Me; every story I’ve ever written has started with a voice, an image, or both. For Shatter Me, it started with a very clear picture of a girl who, for some reason, appeared in my mind one evening as I sat down to write. I could see her very clearly: alone, terrified, curled into herself in a dark corner. All I knew about her was that she’d been locked up for a crime she didn’t intend to commit. So I opened up a new document and started writing, trying to capture her on paper. I asked questions about who she was, where she came from, and what must’ve happened to get her where she was, and slowly, the story of Juliette came to life.
JJJ: Did you know from the start how it would all come together, or is it something that progressed on it’s own over time?
TM: I don’t outline first books [in a series], because I like them to be fluid, dynamic, and a little unexpected. I like to discover the story as I write it. But once the world is fully established, I have to play within the confines of the world I’ve created, so the second and third books are very plotted-out and roughly outlined. When I finished writing the first book, I’d gotten to really know my characters; I’d gotten a look inside their hearts. It was important for me to know what was most important to each of them — and what would kill them to lose. And that’s when I knew how things would have to end.
JJJ: Juliette’s narrative is so much different than other YA protagonists with the way she repeats herself and crosses things out. What inspired you to write this way?
TM: I wanted to be true to the way she sounded in my mind. I’ve written nine manuscripts so far (only three of which have been published), and each story I’ve ever written has had its own very distinct voice. And Juliette needed a distinct voice. She was a girl on the brink of insanity — a girl who’d lost all sense of self-worth as well as her grasp on reality. She was broken and emotionally unstable, and I wanted to show this in the truest way I could. I knew it wasn’t right; it wasn’t the way books are supposed to be written; but it was also the first time I said screw it. Screw convention — I’m going to write this book the way it needs to be written. The prose evolves with Juliette — grows as she does. When she’s falling prey to insanity, lost in despair and crippled by insecurity, her thoughts are scattered, repetitive, disjointed, over-the-top and occasionally nonsensical. She draws wild comparisons, counts everything, writes things down and crosses them out: this is Juliette at her worst. But she slowly she picks herself up, finds her voice, learns to speak up, to defend herself — and when she finally stands strong, the prose stands strong beside her. I’m so, so proud of her at the end of the series.
JJJ: Where did the idea of writing from Adam and Warner’s perspectives for the eBooks come from?
- Me! Mostly. My publisher asked me if I would write some companion novellas for the series, and it sounded like fun. So I chose the POVs, and the time-period they would cover. It was important to me that the novellas be an active part of the Shatter Me timeline, and not prequels or bonus content. They felt more critical to the story this way.
JJJ: Juliette really comes into her own in Ignite Me. She takes on a role that I don’t think many readers will see coming. Did you always know she would become a leader?
TM: Yes. Always. From the very beginning. I’ve always had great faith in her.
JJJ: I think a lot of authors are asked this after a series is completed, but do you see any possibility for spin-off in the future?
TM: I’ll never say never, but I will say this: not now. Maybe one day!
JJJ: We’ve read comparisons between the Shatter Me series and The Hunger Games series – two VERY different stories, but also two young, female protagonists overcoming major personal and political obstacles. Is that exciting for you?
TM: It’s a huge, huge, huge compliment, because I am a diehard fan of The Hunger Games and Suzanne Collins, but it’s also kind of embarrassing, because I am a diehard fan of The Hunger Games and Suzanne Collins.
JJJ: Would you be open to seeing the Shatter Me series hit the big screen?
TM: Absolutely! Shatter Me was optioned by 20th Century Fox. (But I don’t think it’ll ever come to life.)
JJJ: Do you have a dream cast in mind, or do you try not to think about it?
TM: I definitely try not to think about it. Though I have a lot of fun seeing who the readers pick as their favorites.
JJJ: I love watching you interact (and tease!) your fans on Twitter. What’s it like having such direct access to your readers?
TM: I love it. I love them. I really love them. They’re so full of life, love, and enthusiasm for books — all books. My favorite kind of people.
JJJ: Any final words about the Shatter Me series?
TM: I’m so, so grateful to the readers of this series. They’ve stuck with me and these characters for three years now, and their love and support has been so tremendous, and so crucial to inspiring me to get to work everyday. These books are strange: a little different, a little upside-down, a little divisive. It is my great, great hope that my readers will find this a satisfying conclusion. Because I write these books for them.
- Mafi's Website
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- Mafi's Pinterest
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- Mafi's Youtube
- If she could have a superpower, Tahereh said she'd want to have all the powers!
- Chapter Sixty-Two in Unravel Me was her favorite romantic scene to write
- She is married to Ransom Riggs, author of the Peculiar Children series