The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.

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Tanaz Bhathena

“Tanaz Bhathena is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, A Girl Like That, which received two starred reviews. Shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association White Pine Award, it was also a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, a Quill & Quire Book of the Year, a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book for Teens and a New York Public Library Notable Best Book for Teens. Her second novel is The Beauty of the Moment. Tanaz lives in Mississauga, Ontario, with her family”.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 8 years old and wanted to describe a certain cloud formation in the air. (I now know that it wasn’t a cloud, but fumes from a fighter jet.)

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
It was a story about three girls who visited a witch on a mountain. (I have no idea what happened to them because I never finished the story, but I like to believe now that they formed a coven and did a ton of cool magic.)

How did you develop your skills?
I read a lot of books and wrote short stories, but didn’t have a lot of formal instruction in creative writing. (My undergrad degree is in accounting and commerce!) Once I graduated university, though, I took up a full-time job and enrolled into a creative writing by correspondence course at Humber College. It was a great learning experience because it taught me to look at my own work from a completely different perspective.

Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
Some of my biggest influences are Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, Khaled Hosseini and JK Rowling. All of these authors are my favourites.

How would you describe your work?
I write books about fierce girls and loveable boys in a variety of settings—both contemporary and fantasy.

What’s your writing process like?
I usually start with a title or a character that I’m interested in. I play around with the voice for a bit before deciding which narrative suits best. I don’t like outlining my stories, but in recent years have found outlines useful when it comes to longer books. My usual routine is waking up at 5 in the morning, writing for an hour or two and then heading to work at my day job. I work longer hours when I have a deadline, of course.

Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent book, The Beauty of the Moment, follows the journey of a seventeen-year-old Indian Christian girl named Susan, who moves from Saudi Arabia to Mississauga, Canada and faces all sorts of challenges trying to fit into school in a new country. A perfectionist by nature, Susan is struggling to meet with her parents’ expectations—they want her to be a doctor or engineer, while she really wants to be an artist. Sparks fly when she meets a Parsi boy named Malcolm, who has a bad reputation and many problems at home. As Susan and Malcolm navigate the messy roads of love and family relationships, they must first figure out what they want for themselves before deciding if they really want to be together.

What are you working on now/next?
I’m currently working on a YA fantasy duology set in a world inspired by medieval India. The first book, Hunted by the Sky, follows a girl with a star-shaped birthmark prophesied to kill a tyrant king. There is magic, there are dagger-wielding warrior women, and there is also a love story. The book releases on June 23, 2020.

Tanaz Bhathena will be appearing at The Word On The Street Toronto’s 30th Anniversary festival this month. Visit their website for more