My guest today is Amna Boheim, debut author of The Silent Children. I’m thrilled to have her on Reade and Write to answer some questions about her new book. Welcome, Amna!
Tell me about your new book.
The Silent Children is a supernatural mystery set in Vienna, Austria, following Max Gissing in the aftermath of his estranged mother’s suicide. Shortly before her death, she had sent him a disturbing black and white photograph, with the words, you knew written on its reverse. When he returns to his old family home in Vienna, he starts to experience things which play on his mind. The photograph, too, continues to haunt him, pointing to a secret which he can’t ignore. As Max uncovers his mother’s long-buried past, he makes a horrifying discovery that will mark him for the rest of his life.
Who is the audience for the book?
It’s for anyone who loves a good mystery and the element of the supernatural, all set against the backdrop of Vienna, past and present.
Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?
The Silent Children is set predominantly in Vienna. I fell in love with the city shortly after I fell for my Better Half. Vienna has an impressive yet quietly restrained atmosphere. Behind the grand neo-classical façades, a dark undertone flows through the city. Perhaps it’s to do with the history of the place, the role it succumbed to before and during World War 2, and the role it played on the frontline of the Cold War. Vienna has a repressed air about it, too. I’ve visited the city a few times, although I went on a ‘field trip’ to explore the areas specific to the story I was writing.
What was the hardest thing about writing the book?
The Silent Children is my first novel, and as such, the process of writing it was a learning experience. Other than a story I wrote when I was thirteen years old (see below), I’ve never written a story – short or long form. Sorting out the plot, the characters, was like sorting out the wheat from the chaff and it took a long time and a lot of iterations before I was happy with it.
If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?
At the time The Silent Children came out, I cautioned you should never moon over who should play the lead in your novel. In my case, I found that the times I imagined who should play the lead – Benedict Cumberbatch or Eddy Redymane – I never made any progress.
Have you written any other books?
When I was thirteen years old, I wrote a story called The Cloaked Figure of Archway Hall. I gave it to my older sister to read and she ripped it apart. I cried. Then I re-wrote it. She said it was, ‘a bit better.’ She’s very hard to please. My dad, however, kept hold of it. He thought it was amazing. Naturally, he is my number one fan.
Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?
I have a small circle of people from my Faber Academy Writing a Novel class who read drafts of my novel. My Better Half is a brutal critic.
Do you write every day?
I try to, but my time is limited as I have three children under the age of five. At best, I try to write for a couple of hours, Monday through Friday. It’s a good day if I write more than 500 hundred words. And I don’t write at all during the holidays.
When you read a book, what authors do you like best? What genres do you like best?
I read a range of books – literary fiction, thrillers, mysteries. I love novels featuring flawed characters and stories that don’t necessarily end all happily ever after. I’m not sure why that is! I love anything by Ian McEwan, Agatha Christie, Vikram Seth, Margaret Atwood, Sebastian Faulks, Simon Mawer, Tom Rob Smith, Henry James … and then I’ll read something by a particular author, but I won’t necessarily read anything else by that person. It depends on the story and whether the blurb on the back of the book captivates me.
Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?
Tough question! New Zealand is on my bucket list. And if I’m being sentimental: anywhere I can hear my children’s laughter.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Just keep writing, enjoy it and don’t think about getting published. Just write the best story that you can and don’t give up.
What is your favorite movie and why?
The English Patient. I loved the book and the film was beautiful – the music, the cinematography. It’s one of the few films which captures the book and its characters. The same goes for Atonement by Ian McEwan. The novel is one of my all time favourites and the film was brilliant. I love stories that take place when the world was on the cusp of World War 2, and I enjoy plots where characters cross boundaries and challenge the status quo.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be confident in yourself, and don’t balk at the idea of giving up your day job to have a family; you can have many careers throughout your life.
Describe yourself in three words.
I just asked my Better Half as I find this is one of the hardest questions to answer … this is what he said: determined, organized and … charming (of course, he had to say that …)
Where can readers connect with you?
Readers can find me on Facebook (facebook/akboheim), Twitter (@AmnaKBoheim), and on my website: http://akboheim.com which houses my blogs, poems, flash fiction as well as further information on The Silent Children.
Where can readers find The Silent Children?
It’s available from most e-retailers, including:
Amna K. Boheim worked in investment banking before turning her hand to writing. She has completed two Faber Academy writing courses, including the six-month Faber Academy Writing a Novel (online) course. She authors a blog under the title, Djinn Mamu … & Other Strange Stories and posts snippets on life and writing. The Silent Children – a supernatural mystery set in Vienna – is her debut novel.
I absolutely loved your responses to my questions, Amna. Thanks so much for the interview and congratulations on The Silent Children!
Until next week,