Published December 1, 2020

Jasmine Aimaq, author of The Opium Prince, has taught history and international relations and also had a career in nonprofit. She was director of press and corporate relations at the Pacific Council on International Policy. She is now the director of communications at Quest University.

Get to know Jasmine in this Q&A and then join us on Thursday, December 3 at 12 PM ET to hear her discuss her work in SHELF LIFE: Intercontinental Affairs with Jasmine Aimaq and Nev March.

Festival: What motivated you to become a writer? 

Aimaq: I was writing stories already at age five and remember sitting at my typewriter (yes, I am that old) writing a piece for my father’s birthday when I was nine. I also had a list of titles for future books. So writing was always there, and I’ve done it one way or another my whole life. I finally thought it was time for a novel.

Who or what are some of your creative influences?

I can list some of the writers I admire, although the list is too long to capture. Nicole Krauss is a genius at telling stories about legacies and being haunted by history, and she writes with lyricism. These things are important to me too. I discovered the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie after watching her amazing TED Talk online. I am trying to understand how she makes a story feel so immediate and so vivid that you feel you’re there even though you’ve never been to the country in which it’s set. Her stories are extraordinarily immersive and I strive for that. I won’t flatter myself by comparing The Opium Prince to Mohsin Hamid’s books any more than to Adichie’s or Krauss’s. But his work inspires me — it is so thought-provoking and offers difficult perspectives on complicated. My favorite crime is probably Michael Connelly, not least for the way he captures L.A.

What was your favorite part about writing your book?

Finishing it!

What impact or takeaway do you hope your work will have for readers? 

I hope they will understand the limited options many people face when confronted with a major crisis. It is impossible for us to know what role we are playing in history at any given moment, which I think should bring some empathy and humility. 

Describe how a book changed your life or perspective.

When I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in my early 20s, I was blown away by how wrong I thought she was. It helped me crystallize my own views on society and community.

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

I just finished Michael Connelly’s The Law of Innocence. It was a wonderful distraction from these COVID-19 times.

What are you working on next?

I am at work on a second novel that is set mainly in L.A., but also partly in a combat spot in Afghanistan. It involves a medical subplot—I think. We will see when I get closer to the finish line.

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