Afra Atiq in conversation with Lang Leav on Zoom Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: “My sadness is what goads me into writing. Of course, it is hard to put your feelings out there in public and can be terrifying, but it is a compulsion [for me],” novelist and poet, Lang Leav, said at the second online Book Club session on Thursday by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA).

During the session, moderated by Emirati poet Dr Afra Atiq, which was hosted on Zoom and live streamed on the SBA’s Facebook and Instagram pages, the author of six collections of poetry and two novels revealed that she was ready to take on other forms of writing, such as film and television scripts. “I am open to all kinds of writing,” she said.

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Dr Atiq, an eminent poet in her own right, set the ball rolling by saying that she tends to open herself out and expose her vulnerability in her poems. “It is like bleeding myself out on paper,” she told Leav, who tended to agree, saying: “I too tend to expose my feelings in my work.”

Leav, who first found fame by publishing her poems on social media, discussed her mystical writing process. “Something outside of me appears to be talking to me when I write,” she said. “It is not my decision [what the characters do], they dictate the story. In many instances, they surprise me. Essentially, I am reading the book as I am writing it.”

The author becomes so attached to the characters she writes that she loathes leaving them when the book is complete. “I do own my characters,” she said. “They are a part of me, and they live on.” She revealed that she was so fond of the character in Sad Girls that she wanted to write a sequel to the best-seller before she was distracted by another plot.

Sense of longing

Her advice to aspiring writers is to listen to “the voices in your heart that speak to you, demand to be heard. You will then find your own voice, your own story.”

The poet who loves “the sense of longing” in the works of Robert Frost made the transition to fiction easily. Sad Girls, which she describes as a cautionary tale for young girls, happened quite naturally. “The main character had this story to tell and it was like a dialogue with her. I didn’t have to force it at all,” she said.

Leav is presently working on a novel and a novella. “I don’t know which will come first, but I see a lot of novels in the future,” she promised.

The writer also recited a selection of her poems chosen by the audience. Dr Atif also recited some of her poetry that received unconditional praise from Leav.

SBA’s fortnightly and free-to-attend online Book Club event debuted earlier this month with New York Times best-selling author, Joseph Finder. This new literary initiative is aimed at promoting a culture of reading among the UAE’s and global communities.