Interview with Author Dana Dargos
I am thrilled to have interviewed author Dana Dargos, who shared with us details of her writing life, her book ‘Einstein in the Attic‘, which was released on 20th January 2022, and answered a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.
Dana Dargos is an award-winning Lebanese-American writer born and raised in the Bay Area. From the moment she created adventurous, crayon-scribbled tales in kindergarten, she knew writing would forever be a part of her life. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English Literature. Einstein in the Attic is her debut novel.
1) Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
Said, (my co-author), and I were having a conversation one time about six years ago about spirituality and faith and how each of us struggled with it prior to the time we had the conversation. By then, we each had our own beliefs. However, upon having that conversation, we came to realize that a lot of people have had that same internal struggle with trying to understand whether there was an intelligent designer or not. And with all of the problems going on in the world at the time, (and even more now), we figured that a lot of people would find the topic relatable–especially when it came to wondering why there was so much evil and negativity in the world if a god did exist–and how science could tackle that theme if it took a fair stance.
From there, we each wondered aloud how the world would change if one were to zap some of the most intelligent minds from the past and ask them those questions–how would the philosophers respond to those questions, (with logic and evidence), and how would their opinions influence the world? From there, Said and I kept adding more and more to the idea until it became a storyline.
2) How did you plan out the plot?
We utilized a wide range of tools such as whiteboards, notebooks, post-it notes, Microsoft Word, and even WhatsApp to collaborate on our project, despite being in different continents (with me in California and Said in Lebanon).
I’m a very visual person and need to organize a story via sequences, (I adhere to the Hollywood eight-act screenplay formula), to be able to see and comprehend how I’m constructing the story, what happens in every sequence, how the order of the tale looks from afar, if I’m missing any elements or could add in a few things, how the story flows, etc. And to be able to do that, I need to properly look at the story from a visual perspective or else I’d get overwhelmed, disorganized, forget what I wrote, (yes, I have bad memory), etc. Plus, since I was working with Said on this, we needed a visual reference to be working off of, anyways.
3) When did you choose the title for your book?
We chose it towards the end since we kept changing the name up until then.
4) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
The names in “Einstein in the Attic” were chosen deliberately, with each name serving a purpose. One such example is the main character, “Adam Reemi,” who was chosen for three reasons. The first was his name, “Adam” reflecting a connection to theological themes. The second being “Reemi” was chosen to reflect his Lebanese heritage. And the third was we used the name “Adam Reemi,” because we wanted something that reflected his heritage, was also easy to pronounce, and accessible to Western readers, so we named him something that was both English and Arabic. The same applied to “Evie Qana’a,” (although her last name is admittedly a bit more difficult for Western readers to prononce).
5) Can you give us a hint to any sections that you removed?
One example was Adam and Muntz meeting in college and becoming best friends there. I remember there was one fun scene Said and I wrote about the two sneaking into a frat’s party to steal some. But that, one: wouldn’t apply since we changed it so that Adam and Muntz meet as professors, and two: Adam’s college years and experience ended up dragging too long for the reader.
We hated to scratch that fun section of Adam’s life out, but we had to when we realized that it didn’t serve a purpose for the reader and would just drag the story along.
6) What made you choose this genre?
It’s funny, because we chose the idea before we decided what genre we wanted to work in. The idea came first, then the genre came into play. From there, we added more sci-fi elements that are often seen in that genre.
7) How long did it take you to complete your book?
It took us seven years to write and publish “Einstein in the Attic.” I know, a crazy long time. But this was for a couple of reasons. Said and I originally began discussing the story back in 2015 and wanted to move forward from there. But then I went to Berkeley, which was very time-consuming, (I was literally studying all the time and had zero free time). Sure, we would try to make it work, but school constantly interrupted my line of thought and disturb my focus, so I couldn’t sit down and properly work with Said to create a novel. Plus, whenever we tried, ideas, genres, themes, and stories constantly shifted. There was a point where I was thinking of having Einstein, Newton, Kierkegaard, and Spinoza discover ancient machine-like suits and use them to save the world from destruction. I know, pretty wild.
But anyways, the point is that even when we sat down to write the story, we’d end up changing it. It wasn’t until 2020 when COVID hit that we finally had free time, (in an ironic twist of fate). That was when I forced myself to sit down and make the best of the time I was given. Pitching the story after that took about a year and a half. And after 300 queries and rejections, we finally hit a deal with Solstice Publishing in 2021 and got published on January 31, 2022.
Those seven years were worth it, though, since “Einstein in the Attic” has won the Literary Titan Award, Firebird Book Award, Maincrest Media Book Award, Best Book Award Finalist by The American Book Fest, and THREE honorable mentions at the prestigious New York, Hollywood, and San Francisco Book Festivals, so far and counting.
8) Can you describe your book in three words?
Mind-shattering, unexpected, and hilarious.
9) What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
Two things. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and constantly pushing yourself.
I like to be authentic in all of my writing, and that includes writing dark/intense scenes. But in order to do that, I have to either imagine someone in pain, be creative enough to think up exactly what that person in that situation would be feeling, or dig deep down into some past, unfortunate experiences I have gone through and conjure up all of those negative memories and emotions. That often leaves me feeling quite drained or down since I have to re-live those uncomfortable moments. And not to mention that I have to present it to an audience, (which I don’t really like to do since I’m a private person). But that’s writing for you. You have to be willing to be vulnerable.
On a separate note, constantly pushing myself is another difficult aspect of being a writer. You can’t control everything, success included. However, you CAN control your efforts towards that success. As I result, I constantly push myself and seek new ways to build my social media presence, market “Einstein in the Attic”, etc. The truth is that it’s exhausting, especially when balancing a full-time job, (which I’m grateful for). Being a writer is much more time-consuming than anyone can imagine and is like a second job, (which I’m also grateful for). Plus, combine those factors with your personal life, and it can definitely become a little too much sometimes. But the key to navigating such near-burnout is to take care of yourself: Give yourself breaks when needed. Take care of yourself. Treat yourself. And from there, you push yourself and continue forth in your progress.
It’s easier said than done, and there are days where I wish I could quit. But I remind myself to be patient and endure because I want to know that even if the outcomes aren’t what I want them to be, I’ll know that I at least tried. I also try to focus on the positive possibilities: What if it finally leads somewhere? What if it leads to more opportunities? What if I finally make it? What if more people read our book? What if more people become inspired? You never know what could happen. That definitely motivates me to adventure forth.
10) Why should our readers pick your book up?
Because it’s gaining traction!
“Einstein in the Attic” has won a total of eight awards and counting, including the Independent Press Award, Literary Titan Award, Firebird Book Award, Maincrest Media Book Award, Best Book Award Finalist by The American Book Fest, and THREE honorable mentions at the prestigious New York, Hollywood, and San Francisco Book Festivals.
Furthermore, “Einstein in the Attic” is a page-turning, thought-provoking, mind-bending sci-fi adventure…with more than a little charm, drama, and humor sprinkled in. It will appeal to lovers of intelligent science fiction that grapples with big questions, such as Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, Embassytown by China Mieville, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and Kindred by Octavia E. Butler.
Publisher – Solstice Publishing
Pages – 366
Release Date – 20th January 2022
ISBN 13 – 979-8410620048
Format – ebook, paperback
A search for truth by those that transcend time.
Set against the backdrop of the war between science and God, reason and faith, Einstein in the Attic is the story of one scientist’s search for truth and meaning when faced with the ultimate question: Is there a God? Fleeing war-torn Lebanon, Adam Reemi’s faith is shaken by the hardships he has endured, but when he and a colleague successfully construct a nano hadron collider, and using sound waves, Adam finds unheard-of power at his fingertips.
To help him answer the greatest question mankind has ever posed, he zaps the best philosophical minds of all time–namely Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Soren Kierkegaard, and Baruch Spinoza–from the past and into his attic. Not all goes according to plan, however, and Adam finds himself in a race against time to formulate an answer to the question of intelligent design… or risk losing everything.
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1) Do you have a writing buddy (i.e. a pet)?
Yes! I have two. I have a Lionhead bunny named “Fufi”, (she’s a friendly sweetheart), and an adorable Pitbull-Rottweiler mix named “Rocky.” Don’t worry, he’s a goofball.
2) Do you have any writing quirks?
I definitely have to be relaxed. I can’t write a story when I’m stressed. This can include anything, such as turning on my salt lamp, lighting a vanilla-scented candle, turning on my aroma diffuser, twisting a small vial of lavender oil open and taking a deep, relaxing inhale, drinking some lavender or hibiscus tea, etc. If you couldn’t tell, infusing my environment with spa vibes is a must for me, haha. The times of day vary, but silence is, of course, also a must.
3) Where do you write?
In my room, office, (or most preferable), at a café or library.
4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?
Something memorable to audiences. Who knows, maybe something that would lead to another acting job or eventual behind-the-scenes work as a writer or director one day. 😉
5) A talking owl has just finished reading your book, what’s the first thing he says to you?
“Hoot hoot! That was a hootin’ stimulating story! Merlin ought to hear about this wondrous piece of art! I haven’t read anything like it in years.”
A big thank you to Dana Dargos for sharing her writing life with us and for a wonderful interview.