Assalaam wa alaikum friends and welcome to Muslim Hours! Today, we have a very special guest and it’s none other than Syed M. Masood, the author of More Than Just a Pretty Face, a young adult ron-com book featuring Muslim main characters, arranged marriage and of course, a lot of food! I’m so delighted to have Syed. M Masood on my blog, considering that More Than Just a Pretty Face is one of my anticipated releases.
Before I start, this post is part of Hear Our Voice Book Tours and I’m so excited to be a part of it! Now, if you’re as excited as me for More Than Just a Pretty Face, I’m going to let Syed M. Masood take over for this. I hope you enjoy our conversation!
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE
by Syed M. Masood
young adult | contemporary
publication date: 4 August 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
INTERVIEW WITH SYED M. MASOOD
Hello Syed! Thank you so much for having me! To start our conversation, would you tell me more about More Than Just a Pretty Face? What can we expect from it?
It is the story of Danyal Jilani, who is dashingly handsome, and he knows it! I mean, seriously, he is super aware of his own looks. So, he is a little vain. At the beginning of the book, he’s also a little shallow and directionless. He also isn’t academically gifted. He wants to be a chef—and he’d make a talented one—but his father is against that career choice.
The book deal with challenges in this young man’s academic and personal life, which cause him to grow and mature.
It’s a rom-com, so you can expect to at least smile, hopefully, and you can expect some romantic shenanigans!
I know that we shouldn’t pick favorite when it comes to our children, but if you could choose, who is your favorite character and why?
Ultimately, for a bit of sunshine on a dark day, there is no one quite like Suri Akram, who is endearing, funny and very determined to make sure her sister, Bisma, gets to live the best life possible.
It didn’t matter how tired I was when writing, it didn’t matter how challenging the scene was, Suri always made me smile. I don’t think I’ve ever written a character like that before or since.
If you could explain Danyal’s and Bisma’s relationship in one word, what would it be?
Sorry, you didn’t specify what language I should use, so I decided to cheat a little and go to Urdu, where words have more depth because they can be used to mean multiple things.
Nazeen translates to exquisitely beautiful or charming. However, the root is nazakat, which is elegant, delicate loveliness. Nazakat, more importantly, implies effort because it is a word that applies to things that you do, that you build, that you write or craft. I think it describes their relationship perfectly.
Did I mention I love Urdu? I love Urdu.
What inspires you to create such amazing characters as Danyal and Bisma?
I’m so glad you thought they were amazing!
But I don’t know how characters come to life, to be honest. It just happens when you are writing. That said, the basic elements for creating characters, in my opinion, are simple. You pick a great weakness and you pick a great strength (ideally something related to the weakness) and go from there.
Last question before we part, do you have something you’d like to tell to your readers?
Have fun with the book! It’s a rom-com. It deals with some serious topics, definitely, but I hope that MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE makes you smile.
I didn’t write it from a place of despair. I wanted to bring a little joy into the world. I wanted to show the lives of desi kids in California—of whom I have been one and around whom I have spent my life—living their lives.
There is no Islamophobia in the book. There is no significant prejudice the characters face. It’s a book about desi teenagers being desi teenagers. I think that’s pretty cool.
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.
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