Interview with Dana Dargos and Said Al Bizri


1-When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My writing journey began in kindergarten, where I’d create crayon-scribbled, staple-ridden stories (drawing inspiration from diverse entertainment media, such as Bluth’s “The Land Before Time” and the videogame “Jak and Daxter”), and proudly present them to the class. But although I enjoyed writing, I viewed it as a hobby, as I also aspired to be a ballerina and a doctor. However, during high school, I discovered a profound appreciation for writing upon reading Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre.” Her ability to weave words in a precise, skilful, and poignant manner that evoked emotions and empathy in the reader astounded me. Her writing captured the essence of the human experience, making both the narrator and reader feel seen and understood. This realization sparked my ambition to become an author, although I also harboured aspirations of becoming an investigative journalist or a criminal law lawyer (it wasn’t a matter of indecision, but rather a lot of ambition). As time passed, however, my goal of becoming a successful author solidified, and I have been working towards that career ever since.

2-How do you schedule your life when you’re writing?

I’m still trying to figure that out, to be honest. It’s not easy. As soon as my daytime job ends, I dive straight into my writing life without delay, so I almost have zero free time. Because of this, there are admittedly times when I need a break and force myself to take one or else I’ll get burned out. The truth is balancing both a daytime job with an author’s life is exhausting. Even after you’re done publishing a novel, the work never stops. After releasing a book, it’s marketing, seeking new ways to build your social media presence, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for this privilege and opportunity to grow as an author. But being a writer is much more time-consuming than anyone can imagine. That’s why reminding myself to take breaks as needed is important—to take care of me. During those breaks, I’ll often schedule my life and wrap it around my writing.

3-What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Not sure if it’s a quirk, but I’ve been told that people really enjoy my ability to write raw writing. Whether it’s comedic or dramatic, I apparently do a good job of writing both honestly.

4-How did you get your book published?

I pitched to about 300 agents and publishing companies before finally getting signed by Solstice Publishing. That patience and persistence were worth it, though. Since the time of its publication, “Einstein in the Attic” has won the Independent Press Award, Literary Titan Award, Firebird Book Award, Maincrest Media Book Award, Best Book Award Finalist by The American Book Fest, and THREE honourable mentions at the prestigious New York, Hollywood, and San Francisco Book Festivals, so far and counting.

5-Where did you get your information or idea for your book?

Said and I was having a conversation one time about six years ago about spirituality and faith and how each of us struggled with it before the time we had the conversation. By then, we each had our own beliefs. However, upon having that conversation, we realised that many people have had that same internal struggle with trying to understand whether there was an intelligent designer. And with all of the problems going on in the world at the time (and even more now), we figured that a lot of people would find the topic relatable–especially when it came to wondering why there was so much evil and negativity in the world if a god did exist–and how science could tackle that theme if it took a fair stance. From there, we each wondered aloud how the world would change if one were to zap some of the most intelligent minds from the past and ask them those questions–how would the philosophers respond to those questions (with logic and evidence), and how would their opinions influence the world? From there, Said and I kept adding more and more to the idea until it became a storyline.

6-What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

  – I enjoy reading, art, music, dancing (badly), exploring new events, places, and things, shopping, travelling, gaming, content creating, hiking, swimming (and the beach), street hockey, blogging, appreciating a unique and cleverly crafted mocktail, fashion, film, (occasionally) cosplaying, self-care, (via activities, such as spas, facials, treating myself, etc.), journalism, museums, horse-riding, photography, entrepreneurs, and spending time with my family and loved ones, and obviously with my bunny, Fufi, and trusty speed Pitbull-Rottweiler mix, Rocky. Don’t worry; he’s a cute, silly pup, haha.

7-What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

A lot of people you know won’t support you like the ones you don’t know, and many people you wouldn’t expect to support/be proud of you are.

8-Is there anything you would like to confess about as an author?

It’s much harder than it looks. I know my social media presence has made my author’s life look easy, fun, and glamorous, but that’s just a small peek of it. Being an author, building your brand, and working towards success is a marathon of diligence. The hard work behind such a lifestyle will never be accurately portrayed by social media, no matter how hard you try to explain it. All I can say is that I did not grow up privileged, none of my success was ever handed to me, and all of my accomplishments resulted from working my way from the bottom up.

9-As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to be a ballerina and doctor (although I loved writing). Look how that ended up, haha.

10-How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

I’m fairly confident in my work and know its strengths and weaknesses. If someone gives me constructive feedback, I’ll listen, analyze it honestly, and think about how to improve in my next book. However, if it’s something like a matter of taste (that I can’t change) or an uninformed opinion (such as calling the main character ‘whiny’ without understanding how his trauma and mental health have contributed to that),  I just shrug and move on with my life. I know what “Einstein in the Attic” is and isn’t and what Said and I intended with it. I don’t let negative reviews bring me down because A: I focus on the positive reviews and the readers whose lives I’ve impacted, and B: There are more important things in the world to worry about, such as the devastating earthquake in Turkey and the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon. 

To provide some context on the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, the country experienced the third worst non-nuclear explosion in history as a result of government mismanagement and corruption; the inflation rate has surged to 123%, (causing the value of the Lebanese currency to plummet to an all-time low, making it nearly impossible for people to survive on their wages), more and more children cannot afford to attend school. Many families are struggling to access fuel, electricity, food, medicine, and/or water. Hospitals have even shut down due to the lack of electricity and medical supplies. Furthermore,  terrorism, crime rates, armed conflicts, riots, kidnappings, and civil unrest have skyrocketed. The situation is heartbreaking, and seeing it in person is much worse.

When I see how patient, humble, and hopeful the Lebanese people remain despite the extreme instability and pain they endure, it puts my own problems into perspective. Who am I to complain about something much smaller than their problems? I’m not invalidating my experiences or saying our problems don’t matter. Rather, I find inspiration in the Lebanese people’s incredible resilience and determination to continually rebuild their lives from the ground up. It inspires me to not sweat the small stuff and carry on. I think we need more of that in the world. A review is a review. Life is more than that.

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