Thursday, November 5, 2020

Natasha Deen Interview - In the Key of Nira Ghani

Photo Content from Natasha Deen

NATASHA DEEN’S confession? She didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer. The deeper confession? She really wanted to be a superhero. Her family moved from Guyana to Canada to escape the country’s growing racial and political violence.

She loved growing up in a country of snow and flannel, but sometimes, being the only mixed-race kid in class meant being bullied and feeling invisible because there were no reflections of her on TV or in movies, and it meant growing up feeling different from everybody. Thank goodness for books and comic books. They were full of weird, oddball, don’t-quite-fit-in characters who turned out to be amazing and cool and found their happy endings.

These days, Natasha writes for kids and teens, and she loves mixing mystery, action, and creepy with a whole lot of humour. Her books have been described as “gripping” (School Library Connection), “engaging” (CM Magazine) and “feel good” (VOYA).

The funny, sad, embarrassing moments of her life aren’t just part of her books, they’re part of her presentations, too. Natasha loves using all the times she felt different to show people that at heart, everyone is the same. And her final confession? Writing is the hardest thing she’ll ever do, but she loves it because writing is story, and stories change the world.

What inspired you to pen your first novel? 
Ha! It was a **terrible** novel I was reading. I thought to myself, “Either writing is A LOT harder than I thought or this author has no respect or love for their reader.” And then I thought, okay, Big Mouth, put your money where your mouth is! So, I did and got writing—and I found out was right, writing IS a lot harder than I thought, but also, that author didn’t love or respect their readers. 

Tell us your latest news. 
I’m SO EXCITED because In the Key of Nira Ghani is the 2020 Amy Mathers Teen Award Winner! 

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? 
Oh, gosh, everyone and everything influences my writing. Great stories give me a standard to strive for, while stories that don’t connect with me prompt me to ask, “why?” and then find those answers. Plus, as a writer, I love listening and watching people because it’s a great way to get fodder/inspiration for character creation, plot, and description. 

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
Anytime I hear from a reader that they were caught up in one of my books, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. Whether they’re loving or loathing what my characters are doing, the connection we have through story is pure bliss. It makes all the early mornings and late nights completely worth the effort. 

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel? 
I don’t have an expectation of what they might be thinking. When it comes to my novels, I think of them as playgrounds. I create a place for readers to play, but it’s up to them where and how they want to play. Do they want to go on the slide or the swings? Totally their call! 

In your newest book; IN THE KEY OF NIRA GHANI, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
(I wasn’t sure if this was a question—but in case it is, here is my answer): A Guyanese teen immigrant must convince her parents that instead of pursing a career as a doctor, they should let her follow her passion as a trumpet player. It’s also a book about sassy elders and the magical power of a **really** good cup of tea. J 

If you love funny stories that explore family and friendships, you might enjoy Nira’s story. 

  • It began as a fantasy novel aimed at Middle-Grade readers 
  • Depending on the math, it either took a year or 2 years to write 
  • I knew I had something worth the early mornings and late nights based on how my beta readers were reacting 
  • The grandmother is an amalgamation of my grandmothers 
  • The BBQ scene was from a real life and my folks arguing! 
  • And yep, one of my elders really did climb under the pillows! 
  • The title went through almost 10 different versions before we settled on In the Key of Nira Ghani 
  • Some of the chapter headings came easily, while others took weeks to think of 
  • I played the trumpet in junior high band 
  • Like Nira, my folks wanted me to pursue a profession.
What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
Ha! Myself. Like most people (ack! I hope I’m not alone on this), sometimes my fears about “what if,” can stop me before I even get out of the gate. (What if no one likes it? What if I can’t finish the book? What if it’s not engaging?). 

What part of Nira and Noah did you enjoy writing the most? 
I think it was the play between the secrets they held, the worry about what happened if the other one found out, and then writing the scenes so they realize there’s nothing to fear in being honest about who and what you are, and owning both your ups and downs. 

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
Hmmm, what a lovely, twisty question! It would be great fun to take the crew from Nira (sorry, I can’t pick just one!) and introduce them to the crew from the Guardian series. A bunch of musicians meeting up with a bunch of kids who solve murders via a supernatural bent would be awesome! 

  • My house (#1)
  • My parents’ house
  • My aunty’s house
  • Any warm spot with a beach
  • The Rocky Mountains
  • That little cabin in BC that had the creek & that cat (Gandalf!) that came to visit.
  • A spa retreat
  • That blissful place where the writing is working and going smoothly (trust me, I’m there so rarely, it’s a vacation!)
  • Any friend’s house
  • The driving on the open road that takes me to the vacation spot (driving & listening to music is, for me, a mini-vacation).
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know? 
Hehehe, too many (and too many favourites) to name. ;) 

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home? 
Actually, nothing weird! I find folks decorate according to their personalities and passions, so while the d├ęcor may not suit me, it always matches them. 

Best date you've ever had? 
First date with my husband and then every day I’ve spent with him, since. 

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go? 
I don’t know that I would—I try to hold those high and low moments with me in the present, to carry them along and use them to propel me into being the person I imagine I wish I could be…if I had to choose, maybe a moment from when I was a baby, so I could go back and thank my parents and elders for their care and love and patience! (ha! I was a loud baby!) 

What are 4 things you never leave home without? 
Cell phone, house key, wallet, lip gloss. 

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today? 
When I was five and had a group of junior-high boys hurl racial slurs and snowballs with rocks at me and my sister. It was the worst I’d ever seen in humanity. But, seeing how my parents handled the situation (my mom tracked down the leader of the group), and how the boy’s grandparents handled it (they brought him to our house to apologize), and how the boy handled it (how, once he truly understood what he’d done, his horror and regret) showed me the best of humanity and the power of stories—our stories—to change the hearts of people around us. It’s why I encourage folks to tell their story. Someone needs that light, someone needs to hear that story and know they’re not alone in the world. 

What is one unique thing are you afraid of? 
Bugs—but **only** when they’re inside the house! 

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer? 
Oh, man, too many to name! But anything that centers around the fun writers have together or when readers and writers get together—oh! Or that moment when we persevere and **finally** break that writer’s block is the best! 

Where can readers find you? 
On Twitter and Instagram (@natasha_deen) and my website, 

Nira Ghani has always dreamed of becoming a musician. Her Guyanese parents, however, have big plans for her to become a scientist or doctor. Nira's grandmother and her best friend, Emily, are the only people who seem to truly understand her desire to establish an identity outside of the one imposed on Nira by her parents. When auditions for jazz band are announced, Nira realizes it's now or never to convince her parents that she deserves a chance to pursue her passion.

As if fighting with her parents weren't bad enough, Nira finds herself navigating a new friendship dynamic when her crush, Noah, and notorious mean-girl, McKenzie "Mac," take a sudden interest in her and Emily, inserting themselves into the fold. So, too, does Nira's much cooler (and very competitive) cousin Farah. Is she trying to wiggle her way into the new group to get closer to Noah? Is McKenzie trying to steal Emily's attention away from her? As Farah and Noah grow closer and Emily begins to pull away, Nira's trusted trumpet "George" remains her constant, offering her an escape from family and school drama.

But it isn't until Nira takes a step back that she realizes she's not the only one struggling to find her place in the world. As painful truths about her family are revealed, Nira learns to accept people for who they are and to open herself in ways she never thought possible.

A relatable and timely contemporary, coming-of age story, In the Key of Nira Ghani explores the social and cultural struggles of a teen in an immigrant household.

You can purchase In the Key of Nira Ghani at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you NATASHA DEEN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen. 


  1. If I could go back in time to a point in my life it would be when my grandparents were alive and living on their farm.