Friday, October 22, 2021

Leila Siddiqui Interview - House of Glass Hearts

Photo Content from Paul Clarke

Leila Siddiqui is a Chicago-born Texan who calls New York home. She currently works in publishing in the marketing department. Leila spent a childhood fascinated by history and horror, and how intricately both can be entwined, and now wants to write the kind of fantastical and strange fiction she loved to read growing up, by shedding light on pieces of history the rest of the world tends to forget or write off.

She is a horror film devotee and when not writing, spends her time fawning over her very floofy cat. She lives with her partner in Queens.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
My most rewarding experience is seeing pictures that my friends and family have taken holding the book. That’s when it hit home for me that my lifelong dream came true and having their love and support has been incredible.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m working on a 1920’s based historical fiction novel with a South Asian flapper as the main character. I feel like my goal as a writer has been to insert South Asian people in narratives where they haven’t previously belonged. I know in my heart there were Desi flappers in the ‘20’s so I’ve set out to tell the story of one of them.

Can you tell us when you started HOUSE OF GLASS HEARTS, how that came about?
I started writing it early in 2018. I can’t remember what exactly sparked the idea, but at that time I wanted to explore some of my family’s history in India during WWII and Partition and turn it into something that was as dark as Stranger Things. My grandfather had a creepy greenhouse on his roof that no one was allowed to go near, and I had heard stories about a great uncle fighting in WWII. Those personal histories, along with stories of my grandparents during the 1947 Partition, came together in my book.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I’d like them to think about how history often favors white narratives. India was in a complicated position during WWII as a British colony. There were millions of colonized people across the Empire and also the Caribbean, who enlisted to fight on behalf of the British, and yet where are their stories? That’s millions of personal narratives not logged away in our history books. We see films that take place during WWII, and though historically they were there, Indian soldiers aren’t present on the beaches of Dunkirk or flying in war planes. So I’d like for readers to understand that history is a complicated thing and it has a very diverse cast.

What part of Maera did you enjoy writing the most?
I named Maera after my first cousin! So that was one thing. J But also I wanted to explore how grief and hope can mingle together to inform a character’s decisions and behaviors. Maera is grieving for her lost brother, but she also is hopeful that she has a chance to find him when her grandfather’s mysterious greenhouse shows up her backyard. She isn’t the most rational at times, and I think that’s okay. Grief affects all of us in different ways.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d like to introduce the Churail that lives in the greenhouse to Frankenstein’s monster. I feel like both are a manifestation of other people’s traumas and both are created against their own wishes. I feel like there would be a strong kinship there and they can both go marauding together across the Indian subcontinent and England.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
We used to do a lot of road trips when I was a kid. There was one summer where we drove from Dallas to Chicago and I met most of my dad’s side of the family. I was eight years old and I’d never met my cousins before. I thought I had made new friends and I was upset thinking I’d only have the summer with them, but when I was told that they were my actual family, I remember being so ecstatic that I had a deeper kinship with my new friends. That summer in Chicago was one of the best summers of my childhood. I still remember it fondly.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Write a book! I feel like everyone has at least one book in them. It’s a torturous journey, but having created something with your own personal stamp on it is rewarding.

Best date you've ever had?
My partner recently took me over the ferry to Governor’s Island where he taught me how to write a bike for the second time. The first time he’d taught me was several years ago in Central Park where I’d fallen and was too terrified to do it again. It was a beautiful sunny day, there was great food on the island, and I managed to make my way around the island once without falling or crashing!

What was the first job you had?
My first job was at Half Price Books in Dallas, still the best job I ever had!

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I feel like 9/11 changed everything for South Asian people. Even now, I think of my life in terms of pre 9/11 and post-9/11. Before that, the macroaggressions existed, but without the under layer of vitriol and Islamophobia that started the day of the terror attacks. I remember watching the news with my family that day, glued to the TV, and as soon as we heard who was behind the attacks, the fear of what would happen to us was immediate. The TV show Ramy illustrates this very well in an episode that shows what it was like being a young person during that time. Our neighbors became cold with us, we put all sorts of American flag iconography around our home and in our cars and yet I was still bullied in school and we were still regarded warily by our neighborhood. I think before that time, South Asian people felt “safe” existing in white spaces, because of the model minority myth. Then we were reminded that it could take one terrible act of violence for friends and neighbors to turn on you and discard you from the privileged bubble they’d let you previously inhabit.

What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh?
Probably hanging out with my wonderful partner, Paul. Every day I have a belly laugh with him. J

First Heartbreak?
There were so many heartbreaks in middle school, so many fleeting crushes, that I’ve lost count! I think back then it was easier to daydream about boys than pursue them!

  • 1.) I have a twin sister
  • 2.) I was born on Friday the 13th
  • 3.) I was a supernumerary for the Dallas Opera, which is pretty much an extra on stage with no speaking or singing role
  • 4.) I’m an amateur chef and have perfected making my own vegan meat
  • 5.) I spend a lot of time in Ireland every year
  • 6.) My favorite flavor of ice cream is salted caramel
  • 7.) I have three cats
  • 8.) I’m very good at foosball
  • 9.) When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut
  • 10.) One of the most venerated Sufi shrines, beloved by both Muslims and Hindus alike, was supposedly in my family until my grandfather’s grandfather decided not to continue in the tradition of caring for the tomb. He wanted to go out into the world, so the lineage of caretakers was passed to his first cousin. It’s the shrine of Sheikh Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, in India.
Your journey to publication
My path to publication was not a traditional, linear process. House of Glass Hearts was the third novel I’d ever written. My first novel will never see the light of day! But my second had quite a bit of interest on the first #DVpit Twitter pitch contest, though the interest didn’t turn into any offers. I had also submitted it to Pitch Wars and it didn’t pick up much interest. Which is an important thing to consider – pitch contests are only one way to find representation. I began querying HOGH in late 2019. I also wanted to explore submitting to indie presses so I subbed to both editors and agents and received an offer of publication from Yali Books. I had to do a reverse process of then going back to agents that I had an offer of publication! I’d previously queried my second novel to my agent, Cate Hart’s, previous agency, but that agent had left and then it had passed through several agents before before landing with her. However, I had forgotten which novel she’d had so I had contacted her about my offer, but when I realized it was for a different novel than the one she had, I let her know. She was still interested in reading it, so I sent her HOGH and she offered!

A small part of me was superstitious so I waited until the news was out that Yali Books would be publishing my novel that I told my close family and friends. Of course, they were really happy for me! But the only people I bored with all of my writer angst was my partner and my twin sister, who have been my beta readers from the first novel I’d written. They’ve been my constant champions and it’s a huge credit to the two of them that I’ve been able to consistently write and be motivated to finish my manuscripts.

Maera and her ammi never talk about the Past, a place where they've banished their family's heartache and grief forever. They especially never mention the night Maera's older brother Asad disappeared from her naana's house in Karachi ten years ago. But when her grandfather dies and his derelict greenhouse appears in her backyard from thousands of miles away, Maera is forced to confront the horrors of her grandfather's past. To find out what happened to her brother, she must face the keepers of her family's secrets-the monsters that live inside her grandfather's mysterious house of glass.

Seamlessly blending history with myth, HOUSE OF GLASS HEARTS follows a Pakistani-American teen's ruthless quest to find her missing sibling, even if the truth would reveal her grandfather's devastating secret and tear her family apart. In a narrative that switches between colonial India and present-day America, this ambitious debut explores how the horrors of the past continue to shape the lives of South Asians around the world.

You can purchase House of Glass Hearts at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LEILA SIDDIQUI for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of House of Glass Hearts by Leila Siddiqui.


  1. yes i have seen ghosts several times each time has freaked me out ! thanks for the chance!

  2. I have been freaked out many times...but if something involves my kids and their safety, it freaks me out the most!