Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Atia Abawi
By Yeow Kai Chai
As a broadcast journalist and foreign news correspondent, Atia Abawi is used to reporting from the front line, interviewing personalities like former Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as embedding herself with NATO, American and Afghan forces during key military operations for media outlets such as CNN and NBC.
Born to Afghan parents in West Germany and raised in the United States, she was especially attuned to the social tension and cultural traditions in Afghanistan when she was stationed there for almost five years.
Her experience inspired her first novel, The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan, which focuses on the budding romance between a Hazara girl and a Pashtun boy who strive to forge a life together in the face of opposition from their families as well as the Taliban.
Based in Jerusalem with her husband, Fox News Channel correspondent Conor Powell, and their infant son, she takes on the Proust Questionnaire before coming to Singapore as a featured author at Words Go Round in March.
1) What are you reading right now?
2) If you were a famous literary character in a novel, play or poem, what would you be and why?
But who I am most like? Probably Ron Weasley from Harry Potter – because I'm not the friend who will save the world or the one who is the smartest but I will always help them in any way I can.
3) What is the greatest misconception about you?
4) Name one living writer and one dead writer you most identify with, and tell us why.
I also loved Suzanne Collins' writing in The Hunger Games, especially in the third instalment, Mockingjay. Her books really felt like she understood the realities of war and the effects both physical and mental it has on individuals and society. Reading Mockingjay, I somewhat felt like she knew what we saw and experienced during war.
5) Do you believe in writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
6) What qualities do you most admire in a writer?
7) What is one trait you most deplore in writing or writers?
8) Can you recite your favourite line from a literary work or a piece of advice from a writer?
9) Complete this sentence: Few people know this, but...
10) At the movies, if you have to pick a comedy, a tragedy, or an action thriller to watch, which will you go for, and why?
11) What is your favourite word, and what is your least favourite one?
12) Write a short-short story in three lines that includes the following three items: refugee, Lesbos, pebble.
13) What object is indispensable to you when you write?
14) What is the best time of the day for writing?
15) If you have a last supper, which three literary figures, real or fictional, would you invite to the soiree, and why?
Rashid – from my novel The Secret Sky. Although he is a creation of my mind, he embodies the young men I met in Afghanistan. And I want to have a political and religious discussion with him.
Katniss Everdeen – I'd love to talk to her about the impact of war on a young person and the pressures of leading a movement to free a nation.
16) Your first novel, The Secret Sky, focuses on the romance between two teenagers, Fatima and Samiullah, who come from two different tribes in modern-day Afghanistan. As a journalist, why did you decide to write a Young Adult novel, as opposed to a non-fiction account of the situation in the nation?
17) What would you write on your own tombstone?