YEM Author Interview: Adi Alsaid talks about his book Before Takeoff being from a medley of inspiration

Adi Alsaid is the author of Before Takeoff. Before Takeoff follows James and Michelle as they find themselves in the Atlanta airport on a layover. The book explores fantasy, drama, and cinematic romance, and suspense.  YEM was able to speak with Adi about having his book Before Takeoff out, what his writing process is like, and  advice he has for those who want to be authors as well.

Young Entertainment Mag: Do you remember when you first realized that being an author was what you wanted to do?

Adi Alsaid: I remember the first moment I enjoyed the act of writing, which was in sixth grade after getting assigned a list of vocabulary words and having to write a sentence with each one. That love continued on until college when I came up with a plan to write a book after graduating, but it has never felt like becoming an author was a decision I was taking myself. The job comes with so little control, that it more often feels like I’m asking myself “do I get to still be an author?” and I wait for someone else to answer.

YEM: How does it feel to have your book Before Takeoff out?

Adi: Every book that comes out is a dream come true. This one feels especially gratifying because I wrote it not under contract, and took a chance on a strange book that I wasn’t sure would ever get published. I won’t lie and say that my 7th book coming out is as exciting as the first one, especially when the fanfare surrounding the release has been a little quieter. But I’m thankful to still be releasing books, to still see my name on the shelves.

YEM: What was your inspiration for writing Before Takeoff?

Adi: It’s kind of a medley of inspiration. Partially, the movie Before Sunrise and its sequels, which inspired a lifelong desire to write a book about a couple just walking and talking. Partially, Bel Canto, and the rich inner lives granted to every character no matter how secondary. There was also the desire to write something different from what I had at that point in my career, in 2016, when I first started working on it. The heart of the book is the concept that growing up is scary, and part of the novel was definitely me trying to think of the specific ways growing up is scary these days.

YEM: Was any part of the book taken from your life?

Adi: Just tiny details, the kind that always sneak into fiction. A meal, a pair of headphones, etc. I did spend a night at the Atlanta airport, but the most chaotic thing that happened was a fire alarm that didn’t let me sleep.

YEM: What is your writing process like?

Adi: It kind of changes with every book I write. Sometimes I outline very heavily, sometimes I don’t outline at all (I didn’t for Before Takeoff). Generally, I have a morning writing session at a coffee shop. Then after lunch I’ll do another writing session somewhere, or a late-night one at home. When I’m on a tight deadline there’s usually 3-4 writing sessions per day, aiming for at least 1,000 words when I’m drafting.

YEM: What is one thing you learned about yourself while writing Before Takeoff?

Adi: That I can sometimes work quicker than publishing schedules allow for, and I should not wait for approval to write in between contracts. 

YEM: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Adi: I forget at this point if I came up with this metaphor or if I stole it from someone else. So apologies to that someone else if this is stolen. But: to me, writing is a lot like the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. You are going around a graveyard finding pieces that you’re trying to mash together to become a living thing. That’s the drafting process. Then you’re in the lab, tinkering with stuff, and waiting for lightning. The best part about writing is when you’ve waited long enough, or turned the right knobs (or your assistant Igor has, with apologies to the editors and agents who are represented by Igor in this metaphor), and then boom, it’s alive, your vision has come to life.

YEM: What is some advice you have for those who want to be authors as well?

Adi: Read a lot, and read widely. The more you do it the better you get at writing. And then you have to actually write. Not necessarily every day, but often enough to find your voice and work through the same mistakes we all work through. Lastly: pay attention to the world. The most compelling writing comes from people who do.

YEM: What is one thing you hope that your readers take away from Before Takeoff?

Adi: Your average layover isn’t all that bad.

YEM: What is a book that made you fall in love with literature?

Adi: Goosebumps and Calvin & Hobbes books are very much responsible for my love of reading. I then fell into a bit of a horror/Stephen King phase, transitioning into Kurt Vonnegut love in high school (fortunately my reading habits eventually graduated beyond white male authors). I don’t know if I can point at any one book that did it though.

YEM: Do you have a line or part of the book that is your favorite?

Adi: I really love the last two paragraphs of the book, so for spoilers I won’t give any more than that. But endings sometimes feel so hard to get right, and this one, I think, really landed (no pun intended).

YEM: Are you in the process of writing any other books right now?

Adi: Always! I’m a couple of drafts into two different books. One is my next YA, which will be out next summer. It’s called Actually Super, and it’s about a girl who decides to forego her senior year of high school to travel the world in search of people with superpowers. The other is my middle grade debut, The Greatest Living Warrior in Nefaria, a comedic fantasy about a possibly invisible boy who uses a cursed gumball machine and falls into an incompetent but evil wizard’s scheme to take over the land. 

I also am working on outlines/pitches for about a million other books, hopefully some of which will one day be real.

YEM: Favorite quote from the book?

Adi: “Just zoom in,” James whispers. “Shit gets scary when you look at the big picture. But if you zoom in to individual people, I think you’re more likely to feel better about the world.” The earth rotates a little more, bringing the sun closer to the horizon in Atlanta. Gold appears over the tree line. Just a hint of it for now. James has to squint to spot it, but he’s sure it’s there. “Zoom in, and you can see the good.”

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