Interviews

16 Questions with Raven Leilani

Photo of author Raven Leilani

Raven Leilani answers 16 questions on writing, inspiration and her creative process.

Raven Leilani has been longlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut novel Luster. We caught up with her to ask sixteen quickfire questions about her writing habits and the women writers who most inspire her.

1) Describe in three words how it feels to be longlisted for the Women’s Prize.

Surreal, affirming, overwhelming!

2) What inspired you to write Luster?

A mentor asked me about the intention behind a previous project. I had no answer, and so I began writing Luster in a complete panic. 

3) What is the best book you’ve read in lockdown?

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura.

4) Which woman writer do you think is most underrated?

Kathleen Collins.

5) What was the first thing you ever wrote?

When I was five years old, I wrote a short story about my fear of the dark. It was for a school project, and the books were displayed publicly. But my book was stolen, and my mother is still upset about it!

6) What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

If you are taken with a subject, there is no shame in writing toward it until you’ve exhausted its possibilities. It’s okay to repeat yourself.

7) Which book do you most often buy for friends?

Hard Damage by Aria Aber.

8) If I didn’t write, I would be a ____

Illustrator/Cartoonist (If I’m optimistic!)

9) I can’t write without  _____

Music.

10) My bookshelves are ____

A mess, organized either by most nutritious (will teach me something) to least nutritious (will teach me nothing, pure pleasure)

11) My favourite bookshop is ____

My neighborhood Greenlight Bookstore.

12) My favourite fictional character is ____

Fleabag from Fleabag.

13) Historical fiction or science fiction?

Science Fiction.

14) Ali Smith or Zadie Smith?

I truly love them both! However, Zadie Smith’s work is not only hugely important to me, but she was my teacher, and without her kindness and candor, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my book. I was having a bit of a hard time (with Luster, with life) when I met her, so her guidance came at a crucial moment. 

15) Bridgerton or Pride & Prejudice?

Bridgerton. 

16) Plotting in advance or going with the flow?

Plotting in advance, unfortunately!

Discover the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist here.

The Women's Prize Podcast


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