I’m an Iranian who has lived in the US for three decades. Let me tell you about my
writing blocks.  During the last fifteen years, I visited my motherland four times. Each
time I was there, I found at least one publisher interested in my work with whom I
signed a contract to publish my book. Therefore I had a total of four exhilarating
moments when it comes to writing.  Unfortunately after they submitted my
manuscript to the censorship bureau of the government called Ministry of Guidance,
they all refused to proceed, one even denied even knowing me.

One of these publishers was told, “If you publish this work, not only the author but
also you the publisher would be blacklisted!”

One publisher after receiving the informal “NO” from the Ministry of Guidance called
me and said, “Mr. Tavakkol, they asked me to print your book first and then submit a
copy for their approval before distribution. And if they find harmful ideas in your book,
they will confiscate all copies and paste them. This is their new trick!”  

Publishing in Iran is a dangerous venture for dissident writers, publishers and
sometimes their immediate families!

I truly enjoy my personal freedom in America. I also enjoy the recently acquired
heavenly gift called Internet! I hope Internet  stays free and available for everyone in
the world.

Q. What would you want our readers to know about you?
That for me writing is a therapeutic ritual, it truly is.

Q. Do you write in a particular genre?  If so, what genre is it?
I write literary fiction. Writing is a sublime art therefore its true essence must be
gradually discovered by readers over time. Depth is the dominant dimension in
writing and not length.   

Q.  What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
A vivid imagination and the writer’s valor to callously and uninhibitedly exploit words
to morph his fantasy into fiction.

Q.  How do you develop your plots and characters?  Do you use any set formula?
Usually my plots are already buried in my subconscious. In a hazy state of mind, in a
trance, I find the courage to explore and discover them one by one.  To me it is a
painful and exhausting process.

Q.  What do you do to unwind and relax?
I paint and play guitar. I love to cook, play racquetball and go out and have fun.

Q.  What inspires you?  Who inspires you?
Usually one insignificant incident, a flash of childhood memory, an aroma or a
glimpse triggers my creativity and compels me to write.
Great Persian poets and philosophers such as Rumi, Hafez and Omar Khayaam
captivated my imagination in my early childhood and adolescence. Writers like Kafka,
Borges, Dostoevsky, Poe and Wild inspired me.  

Q.  Are you working on any projects right now?  
I’m always cooking something either inside my head or on the stove.

Q.  What is most frustrating about writing?  Most rewarding?
The damn article “THE” in English is the most frustrating nuisance in my writing
endeavor. In Farsi we don’t have this menace so I don’t know when to use it and
when not to. I hope something bad happens to it one of these days.
The most rewarding feature of writing is the process of doing it.

Q.  If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
Write for yourself not for an audience and delve deep inside you and scrape the raw
material for your art from there.

Q.  What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Complacency is your biggest enemy. Write genuine articles and set the bar higher
for yourself every time you write.