Alexandra Monir is a bestselling U.S.-based author of Iranian descent who sprang to fame in her early twenties with the young-adult novel “Timeless.” A paranormal romance, it quickly landed on the bestseller lists, and was followed in 2013 by the novel “Timekeeper.” Monir – also a singer-songwriter who has written original songs to accompany her books – has just released her fourth novel. She recently joined Kayhan London for a conversation about her life and career.
You are a writer of paranormal romance novels. What attracts you to the genre?
I’ve been a hopeless romantic since I first saw Disney fairy tales as a little girl, and I also love anything to do with magic! Combining the paranormal with romance was a natural fit for me when it came time to write my own stories.
Can you describe your new novel The Girl in the Picture? How is it different from the young-adult novels that came before?
Girl in the Picture is a murder mystery built around both a complicated love triangle and the unique friendship between two prep school roommates. What makes it a different kind of romantic novel is that the story actually opens with the death of the male lead character – and then we go back into the past to tell this tragic love story in reverse, while at the same time flashing forward to the present day in alternating chapters, where we get into the thick of the murder investigation on campus.
What is your next book?
My next book is a space thriller called The Final Six, which publishes next year with HarperCollins and is in development as a feature film with Sony Pictures . . .
Your grandmother, the late Mrs. Monir Vakili, was considered by many as Iran’s greatest opera singer. Did you know her? What influence did she have in your life and career?
Monir Vakili was one of the greatest influences in my entire life, and I never even got to meet her. She died tragically before I was born, but my mother did the most amazing job of keeping her memory alive and sharing the stories and music from her trailblazing life – to the point where I felt like I knew her, and from a very early age I wanted to be just like her.
She absolutely influenced my becoming a singer, and I chose the professional name of Monir (also my middle name) to honor her legacy.
Where did you grow up and go to school, and what were your interests as a child?
I grew up and attended school in the Bay Area [of San Francisco, California]. I basically spent my childhood preparing for my career, since I was always reading and writing and performing. I’m grateful that my childhood passions got to be my livelihood as an adult!
When and why did you become an author of young-adult novels?
I got my first book deal, for Timeless, at twenty-three years old. I’d been developing story ideas for film and TV since I was a teenager, but I knew that that particular story was meant to be a novel. I’d just finished the last book in the Harry Potter series and was in withdrawal from the world of Hogwarts – so in many ways, Timeless was me living out my wish to create my own fantasy world!
Do the plots of your books – such as Timeless, which was a bestseller – have links to your own life story?
The plots of my stories are always much bigger and more dramatic than anything in my own life, thank goodness! I would never want to have to go through some of the things my characters endure! But in the case of Timeless, and of another one of my novels, Suspicion, my main characters experience the most incredible magic and adventure, too.
What do your Iranian roots mean to you? Do you ever go back to Iran?
My Iranian roots are very important to me. I’m so proud to be a descendant of four great Persian families. In addition to my maternal grandparents, Monir Vakili Madjidi and Abdol-Madjid Madjidi, the Saleh and Minbashian families on my father’s side also made great contributions to the modernization and growth of Iran in the decades before the Revolution.
I’ve never been to my family’s native country, but I like to imagine Iran the way it was when they lived there: a country of art, music, beauty and opportunity.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
In 10 years, I would like to have written and released another 10 major projects – a combination of novels, film, TV and theatre – and to be at the top of my game, with a happy and thriving family at home.