Today I am SUPER excited to be interviewing Hafsah Laziaf, incredibly talented designer, amazing friend, and author of one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life (and I don’t just say that because she’s my friend – you guys know I don’t play when it comes to books no matter how much I like the author…), UNBREATHABLE.
Available October 29, 2013
One hundred and fifty years ago, Earth was destroyed, and the remaining humans fled to the dusty red planet of Jutaire, where the only oxygen is manufactured, food is scarce, and death strikes often.
When Lissa’s father discovers Earth still exists, she accidentally inhales the toxic air of Jutaire, and in one breath, discovers she isn’t quite human.
Her father hangs for his discovery, and Lissa knows the Chancellors will come for her, for she saw the Earth that night too. With nothing to lose, she sets out to expose the truth. It isn’t long before she meets Julian, a beautiful boy who can breathe the toxic air like she can – and shows her that the Jute, the original inhabitants of the planet, are more tangled in their lives than she knows.
But the Chancellors are only pawns in a greater game – one where the Jute control everything. Worse, the Jute plan to leave Jutaire for Earth, but to get there, they need her. And they’ll stop at nothing until Lissa is in their clutches, even if they kill every human in the process.
The race for Earth has begun.
About the Author
Hafsah Laziaf was born on the east coast on a hot summer day in 1993, raised on the west coast and is now stuck in the middle – in Texas – with more books than she can read.She’s the designer behind IceyDesigns and the blogger behind IceyBooks.
UNBREATHABLE is her debut novel.
For those who may not know you already, will you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Well, there’s my official bio [see above]. That’s pretty much all there is to it. But I love designing, all things vintage, and space. Obviously ;)
You seem to be a pretty busy lady. Where on earth did you find the time to write such an amazing story?
I am quite busy! And because of that, there just wasn’t enough time to write UNBREATHABLE during the day, so I stayed up an hour more or less each night to write.
I’m curious…what’s the story behind Unbreathable? Who or what gave you the idea and how long did it take you to really develop all your ideas into a working piece of art?
I love answering this question. When I was polishing up a YA scifi retelling (that I hope to share with you all one day!), I saw Random House asking people to tweet their favorite first lines. I saw some great ones and some meh ones and it made me go back and look at my own, which was something any book could have as its first line. On my quest to find a line that no one had ever used, I thought: in how many first lines are people searching for Earth? That became the first line of UNBREATHABLE: They search for Earth everyday. It has since changed, but the whole story went on from there. As for shaping the idea, I had no clue how the story would continue. In fact, the story began with a male protagonist before I realized the breathless, ornamental voice fitted a girl much better.
What has the self-publishing process been like for you? Do you have any advice for other writers out there who want to self-publish but maybe have doubts?
It has been incredible thus far. I never wanted to self-publish. Like many people, I frowned down upon it because a lot of writers publish work that shouldn’t be published. First drafts and novels with sloppy editing. But I’ve gotten acquainted with a community of writers who faced the same fears I did, and took the same plunge I did, and have never looked back. I never thought I would say this: but it is the single best decision I’ve ever made.
Self-publishing is constantly seen as ‘the easy way out’. And it is, for some. But you’ll know, in your heart, when that manuscript is too good to let go. Edit, revise, make your story the best it can be and let it be for a few weeks. When you come back to it, you’ll see flaws. Reach out to your closest friends who are also readers and ask them to see if it’s ready. When it is, take the leap.
Ok, the question everyone is wondering about…will there be a sequel to UNBREATHABLE? *prays that you say yes*
Is everyone? *listens to chirping crickets*
UNBREATHABLE was meant to be a standalone when I first wrote it. But once I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. I started plotting and planning – something I never do.
So will there be a sequel? The answer is: if there’s enough interest for one. I’m keeping track of everyone who asks me the question. So far, it seems like it will be a yes! I can’t say anything about it without spoiling UNBREATHABLE, but I have one word for you: gladiators ;)
The world you created in UNBREATHABLE is simply amazing. Did you find it difficult to create a world that was different from ours but still relatable and fully believable?
Aww, thank you! Jutaire, the planet the story takes place on, was pretty simple to write because it isn’t a world with overly advanced technology. It’s pretty much a red desert. With that in mind, it wasn’t hard at all!
Here’s a little secret: I wrote UNBREATHABLE in the dark, with my then-cell phone, which measured 3.5 inches or so. All 110,000 words (now less). With nothing to see aside from the words in front of me, it was easy to visualize the story more.
The Jute kind of reminded me of vampires, in a way. Was that intentional or am I just making my own connections? (I hope that’s not too spoilery!)
Because of their pale skin and good looks? Aliens are portrayed as green or ugly or odd. I wanted the Jute to be the opposite of that – to look like humans but better than us. So no, it wasn’t intentional. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I promise they don’t drink blood!
Probably my favorite part of the book (and a major theme of it) is the romance between two of the main characters, Lissa and Julian. I love that there was a refreshing “realness” to their relationship; they go through some hard times and question themselves and each other. Did you base their relationship on your own experiences? *waggles eyebrows*
This made me laugh. If the relationship between me and my cell phone counts, then yes!
But in all seriousness, I was homeschooled since the age of 11, and I’m now self-employed. My social skills are lacking because I don’t know anyone or talk to anyone aside from my family. Simply put: I’ve never met a guy since I was in 5th grade. But when I do, he’ll have Julian to compete with ;)
Who was your favorite character to write?
Hmm, that is a tough question! I loved writing them all, but I think Dena and Rowan were fun.
Along those same lines, what is your favorite scene or quote from the book?
Oh, I absolutely loved chapter 33. ;)
But my favorite line would have to be:
“Sometimes, we only notice the beauty of something once it’s broken.”
Along with the scene that follows it!
What inspires you the most?
Quiet. I need silence and the dark to visualize and plan.
That’s such an interesting answer. Quiet inspires me too, I’m glad to know that’s not weird. Or maybe it is, but I no longer care! :P So, UNBREATHABLE quickly became one of my favorite books of all time and you, of course, one of my favorite authors – do you have a favorite book and/or author?
First of all, I’m kinda tearing up here because woah, UNBREATHABLE is one of your favorites! That is incredible and I am honored. In answer to your question: it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but it could be SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo.
Well thank you so much for hanging out with me
and enduring my threats of bodily harm if you don’t write a sequellong enough to answer my questions!
Thanks for having me!
Two lucky readers will win a copy of Hafsah’s new book! Simply use the form below to enter. Physical copy available to US residents only. eBook giveaway is open internationally.