Saturday, June 23, 2018

0 Aminah Mae Safi, author of NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, on writing rules being like The Pirate Code

We're delighted to have Aminah Mae Safi stop by to chat about her debut novel, NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I love my opening scene. In the first ten pages, Lulu stumbles out of a hall closet, re-arranges her clothes, and knocks a guy into a pool. When I wrote it, I remember thinking, “Who is ever going to want to publish this?” I’d written a Muslim American teen girl who made a lot of questionable choices. I’d never seen her in fiction. At the time, I couldn’t imagine people would want to see her. For me, that scene reminds me that I’ve been so lucky to be able to publish this story with all of Lulu’s messy traits fully in tact.

How long did you work on NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?

Oh boy. Seven years from when I started Not The Girls You’re Looking For to my pub date. I kept telling myself I would shelve it and work on something else, but I just couldn’t quit this book. It was the book seventeen year old me needed and, on some level, I just couldn’t stop working until this book was out in the world for her. There was one point where I put the manuscript down for a couple of years to work on some scripts, but I still came back to it in the end.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

That writing rules are like The Pirate Code— they’re more like guidelines. Know what they are but also know when they aren’t serving you. Take what works for you and use those to your best advantage.

What do you hope readers will take away from NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?

That everyone has a story. That everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about, including the people you love the most. That you can recover from your screw ups and make amends.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Honestly if somebody knows this please forward the information to me immediately.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

All of the above! Libraries are fantastic free spaces and are great when I need a fresh, quiet place to work. I meet writer friends in coffee shops around LA when I need someone to hold me accountable. I also have a two monitor set up at home for when I need to buckle down and edit. Other than that, sometimes music, sometimes tea, sometimes Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on in the background while I work. Some days, the work is easy, and I don’t need any external cues to get into that headspace. Other days, I’ve got to use every tool in my kit to get through a scene.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a story about two girls from opposites sides of the social scale as they fall in love while making a film project during their senior year. It’s got enemies to lovers, some pretty great best friends, and it’s set in LA. It’s set to be released next summer— I can’t wait for everyone to meet Sana and Rachel!


Not the Girls You're Looking For
by Aminah Mae Safi
Feiwel & Friends
Released 6/19/2018

Lulu Saad doesn't need your advice, thank you very much. She's got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It's all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can't find her way out of this mess soon, she'll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She'll have to go looking for herself.

Purchase Not the Girls You're Looking For at Amazon
Purchase Not the Girls You're Looking For at IndieBound
View Not the Girls You're Looking For on Goodreads


Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer who explores art, fiction, feminism, and film. She loves Sofia Coppola movies, Bollywood endings, and the Fast and Furious franchise. She’s the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest. Originally raised in Texas, she now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner, a cat bent on world domination, and another cat who’s just here for the snacks. NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR is her first novel.


Have you had a chance to read NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR yet? Are you writing the book you needed as a teen? Why kind of external cues do you need to get into the writing headspace? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Charlotte, Anisaa, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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