Nafiza Azad Wrote "The Wild Ones" To Reclaim Herself
The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad, author of The Candle and the Flame (which was a finalist for a William C. Morris Award), is a feminist fantasy which follows a group of girls who become immortal and are imbued with magic powers.
Azad, in an interview via email, said the book was born out of anger.
"I was determined not to be a victim, a statistic," she said. "It's my way of reclaiming myself. I wanted something beautiful to come out of a horrible experience."
Born in Fiji and now living in Canada, Azad says on her website that she is a "self-identified island girl."
In our interview, she said, "my earliest memory of writing is trying to compose a poem about animal sounds." She continued on to explain that for a long time she thought of herself as a poet, saying she didn't know she was capable of writing longer pieces.
Azad grew up on a sugarcane farm and indicated there often wasn't much to do, other than read and make up stories.
"You read and you played; you make up stories and you day dream," she recalled. "I remember asking my nanny for folktales and she told me these really brutal tales where the princesses always died and happy ever after always happened to people other than the protagonists. I read a lot so writing seemed to be the natural progression of things for me."
She added that writing is less something she does because it's enjoyable and more something she feels compelled to do.
"I feel obliged to write," Azad said. "It's a calling and something I feel like I have to do...If I go for a period without writing, I start leaking dialogues and narratives, disconnected and fragmented though they may be."
Azad added that books bring comfort to children, highlighting her experiences as an immigrant finding friendship with fictional characters. "I found home and I found a way to dream tangibly through reading," she said. "If my words can give the same comfort to another person, then I reckon my job is done."
When it comes to The Wild Ones' writing process, Azad called out that the book takes place in 13 different cities, and though she had traveled to one of them, she had to do research to discover them.
"I found a lot of colour, a lot of history, a lot of culture while researching," she said. "I had to do a lot of
research and then decide what I could keep and what I, sadly, could not."
The Wild Ones is a YA fantasy, and Azad pointed out that, while everyone can engage in a search for identity, it's often
something that teenagers are going through more intensely.
"Kids especially look for representations and reflections; they seek reassurance that they matter..." she said. "Stories are one way to reassure kids and give them reflections of themselves. And diverse stories in particular which focus on cultures and characters not usually seen in mainstream books and other media are doubly important."
Finally, I asked Azad to share some book recommendations of recent reads she's loved: "Made in Korea by Sarah Suk is a lovely read!" she said. "Obit by Victoria Chang if you like poetry is really amazing. Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses blew my mind!"