Sway with Me by Syed M. Masood BOOK TOUR + Author Interview

Sway with Me by Syed M. Masood

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Publishing Date: November 9, 2021

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Synopsis:

Arsalan has learned everything he knows from Nana, his 100-year-old great-grandfather. This includes the fact that when Nana dies, Arsalan will be completely alone in the world, except for his estranged and abusive father. So he turns to Beenish, the step-daughter of a prominent matchmaker, to find him a future life partner. Beenish’s request in return? That Arsalan help her ruin her older sister’s wedding with a spectacular dance she’s been forbidden to perform.

Despite knowing as little about dancing as he does about girls, Arsalan wades into Beenish’s chaotic world to discover friends and family he never expected. And though Arsalan’s old-school manners and Beenish’s take-no-prisoners attitude clash every minute, they find themselves getting closer and closer—literally. All that’s left to realize is that the thing they both really want is each other, if only they can get in step.


About the Author:

I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently live in Sacramento, California. There have been plenty of stops in between though. I’m a first generation immigrant, twice over. I’ve been a citizen of three different countries and lived in nine cities. I am, as Goethe, said, “nothing but a wanderer […] on this earth.”

Living among different people, in different countries at fascinating times in their histories, has shaped both my view of the world and my writing. Ultimately, human beings are the same everywhere (despite the fact that they tell themselves, everywhere, that they are different from each other), and the theme of this fundamental human unity informs everything I write.

As to my life outside of writing, I went to the William and Mary School of Law, and before that attended the University of Toronto, where I studied English Literature. I am currently practicing as an attorney and must “measure out my life in coffee spoons” on a daily basis.

Some members of my family will tell you that I’m also a poet. This isn’t true. I wrote a few poems in Urdu when I was a teenager, and I’ve never heard the end of it…which I wouldn’t mind, honestly, if they were any good. As it is, I’m very happy living in prose, thank you very much.

Other interests include good food, video games, sitcoms, and books of all kinds. Most of my time that doesn’t go to writing or billable hours is consumed by my two children, four and two years of age.


I was thrilled to be able to interview Syed as part of this tour, here’s the Q+A:

What inspired this story, did you pull from your own teenage experiences? 

I definitely pulled from my own experiences. I was an immigrant as a teen, and that involved a lot of changes. The slang around you changes—the idioms people use are different and always confusing. For example, someone approaches a car and shouts “shotgun”, it doesn’t make any sense unless you know what is going on.

I mean, I literally thought that the original Star Trek—the one with William Shatner—was still going even though it was the late 90s. So yeah, I know what it is like to be a character out of time, in a way, like Arsalan is.

When writing this story, what made the writing processes different than your two previous books? 

It wasn’t different actually. I typically start with an interesting concept or scenario, put a character into it and see what happens. This time it was “what would it be like if a young person grew up in an isolated environment and had to go to high school for the first time?” After that, I just started writing, like I always do, and hoped it would lead somewhere.

Arsalan has such an interesting family, how did you decide on this dynamic?

I don’t do a detailed outline or plot for my books, so I rarely decide things. At least, it doesn’t feel that way. Things just happen. 

Arsalan’s family arose naturally from the scenario. I can’t remember my exact thought process, but I knew that I wanted a character who was not in touch with modern technology or modern idioms. Okay, but how can such a person exist? Maybe they’re raised by someone who doesn’t believe in technology. Maybe it’s someone older, someone like a grandparent or a great-grandparent. That’s where Nana came from.

But why was this character raised by Nana, his great-grandparent? Where are the parents? I had to figure that out too. As you can see, once I accepted the scenario I gave myself—a character out of sync with time—I had to build a whole story not just as to where the character is going but where that character came from. It’s like tipping over a domino. Things just fall into place. At least, that’s the hope!


What made you decide to write YA AND an adult title?

To a large extent, this depends on the original concept too. I thought it’d be funnier to write this as a YA novel, because there is more room for comedy when a character who doesn’t understand slang terms or doesn’t know tech much goes to a modern high school. It’d be a very different book if it were an adult book. I suspect it’d be sad.

At the same time, THE BAD MUSLIM DISCOUNT, couldn’t be executed as a YA novel. It’d be a different book entirely. So I guess the answer is that as an author, you pick the vehicle that you think will get you where you want to go, and that’s what I did. 


What are your favorite characteristics from this couple of characters? 

Beenish and Arsalan are very different characters, but they both share an endearing earnestness which I really enjoy about them. They’re both genuinely themselves more than most people and most characters are. I enjoyed that about them.

If you had one thing you wanted from your readers, what would you hope they take away from reading this book?

I think the friendship between Arsalan and Diamond Khan is key. They are both members, at least nominally, of the same religion and desi culture is part of both of them. But they’re tremendously different. I think that’s important for readers to understand. Diversity within diversity is important.

But also important is the fact that they don’t butt heads. They don’t argue about what the right way to be Muslim or the right way to be desi is. They try to understand each other, yes, but they’re never insulting or mean. That’s why they find friendship, and I think that’s pretty cool.

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