Shani Boianjiu, author of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and a participant in this year’s International Festival of Authors, answered our five questions.
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IFOA: The People of Forever Are Not Afraid chronicles the experiences of several young men and women in the I.D.F. Do you have a favourite of these characters?
IFOA: When did you decide to write about your experiences over those two years in the I.D.F.?
Boianjiu: I would not say my book is necessarily just about female soldiers in the I.D.F., and it is most certainly not a book about my own experiences in the IDF. It is a work of fiction, and there are many characters in it that are not soldiers and not even Israeli. Several of the Israeli female characters are not soldiers in several of the chapters in the book. I never sat down and said, “I shall now write a novel.” I just happened to write one word, and then another. And then before I knew it, I had something that looked like one day it could be a novel.
IFOA: What did you consider when choosing the title for your novel?
Boianjiu: It chose me, but I considered language, overall appropriateness for what was happening in the book, sound and emotion.
IFOA: You have said that every piece of your writing “represents the music it could never quite become.” Is there a song that is particularly meaningful or inspirational to you?
Boianjiu: I have mentioned, elsewhere, many of the songs I listened to as I was writing, although there are thousands of others, of course. But one song that is sort of (in an extremely indirect way) parodied in the book and that I haven’t mentioned in interviews before, is the song “Still Alive” written by Jonathan Coulton and performed by Ellen McLain.
IFOA: What are you working on now?
Boianjiu: A vast novel that is at the same time also very small. And that will try to silence the least amount of people in the world as possible. Those are at least some of the futile hopes.
Shani Boianjiu is one of the youngest writers on Random House of Canada’s prestigious Bond Street Books list. She will be discussing her riveting debut novel with award-winning writer and filmmaker David Bezmozgis on October 27 at 1pm.