Can you give us a brief outline of And the Raindrops Fill the Sea?
My creative work, And the Raindrops Fill the Sea interweaves the stories of three women and two men. Marjan, a single mother in Iran; Sara, an Iranian lesbian writer; Baran, an Iranian pregnant woman; Arsalan, an Iranian singer; and Dylan, an Iraqi university student. Baran, Sara, and Arsalan are immigrants in Australia, Dylan was brought to Australia from Iraq when he was one year old, and Marjan lives in Iran. The interrelation between space and state of mind and the identity process of characters of different cultures placed in Australia and Iran are influenced by my own experience of feeling dislocated. All characters are on a journey towards a new experience of being in a place where they are either culturally, emotionally, and/or physically dislocated. This novel provides diverse prototypes of life among individuals of different cultures and worldviews. This novella explores the ways in which the individuals perceive and misperceive themselves as well as others, how they come to know each other more willingly and profoundly, and how they overcome their emotional and mental misjudgments about others and their surroundings.
One of the interesting aspects of your work is the way you weave contemporary technology in with the story, was this a conscious decision or something that arose during the writing process?
I incorporated contemporary technology into my narrative without giving a lot of thought to formatting my manuscript. I guess it happened because my story is set in the current time when people prefer briefer and more immediate ways of communication than phones or emails. I found myself incorporating texts and Facebook messages into the story without having a clear purpose. It was also fun to experiment weaving technologies of composition in my work at a time when the use of contemporary technology is proliferating.
How does your work as an academic inform your creative writing?
My academic work helped me develop both a personal and professional orientation to my writing. I developed an ability to express literary themes in a creative and ordered way and put my writing in perspective on the basis of my academic research.
My academic research foregrounds key literary works in Persian and Australian culture, which deal with the representation of exile and dislocation. Through cultural and literary analysis, my PhD study investigates the influence of dislocation on self-perception and remaking connections both through the act of writing and the attempt to transcend social conventions. My research broadened my own knowledge about inner/outer exile and sense of identity in a state of dislocation, and enhanced the themes and discourses of my creative outcome.
Your DPhil was concerned with a ‘comparative literary study of dislocation, writing and identify in Persian and Australian contemporary fiction’. What’s one of the most striking parallels you found between Persian and Australian fiction in recent years?
This comparative critical study arose out of my own wish to investigate and understand the process of dislocation in crossing boundaries and adapting to social norms, despite a sense of loss and/or nostalgia for the home country and/or past life. To me, as an immigrant creative writer, the focus of reflective research becomes the subjective, lived experience of individual perspectives and emotion, offering a way of investigating the quest for identity among dislocated people. My PhD thesis includes a literary analysis of dislocation, with its social and psychological manifestations, and act of writing expressed as an evolving process of remaking identity in David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life (1978), Iranian diaspora literature, and Shahrnush Parsipur’s Women Without Men (1989/ Eng.1998). The main theoretical premise behind this research was that exploration of exile/dislocation, as a narrative that needs to be explored through imagination and meditation, provides a mechanism for creative writing practice. What I liked about both works was that despite the uniqueness of each individual’s experience of dislocation, a writer is always in a process of redefinition and re-articulation in response to place, whether it be exile in Malouf’s Ovid, or socio-cultural/inn sense of dislocation in the case of Parsipur’s women.
What are you working on now?
With the completion of my PhD, I am now moving to a new stage of my career, and am looking to extend my work into a broader study of 'Writing and Identity in Literature' as a key theme and preoccupation for Indigenous Australian and Persian writers.
I have also started a collection of short stories with a focus on dislocation and immigration, based on my personal observations and experiences as well as those of other Iranian immigrants I have met so far either as friends, university mates, or clients in my role as a NAATI interpreter.