A Quickie with Ausma Zehanat Khan

Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?

The Language of Secrets is the second book in my Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, so the lead detectives have a comfortable, yet still edgy, relationship, though the murder is a standalone. The plot of Secrets was inspired by a real-life event: a foiled terrorist plot in Toronto, Canada in 2006. In the book, an informant who was part of a terror cell has been murdered in the woods. And Esa is called in to consult on what turns out to be the murder of an old friend. Esa is a practising Muslim, so the case puts everything he stands for to the test. As Rachel and Esa attempt to foil a murderer and a second attack, I can promise heart-pounding suspense, and a finale that you’ll never see coming.

If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?

Girl, Constantly Interrupted

What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?

This isn’t strange at all, but I am often asked about the romantic possibilities for Esa and Rachel. A lot of my readers want them to end up together, and just as many don’t. This is a fun problem to have to wrestle with.

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?

Amin Maalouf, the French-Lebanese writer, who is the author of Samarkand, my favourite book. He has a wicked sense of humour, and a wonderful grasp of history. I would pick his brain with my relentless and unoriginal questions about where he gets all his ideas.

Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).

I really love to write and perform in plays. I have a few unpublished plays scattered across my writing career, but it’s been a long time since I’ve taken part on a stage.

Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. It’s a book about a charismatic and wily young con artist named Nahri, who gets swept up on a grand adventure with a handsome djinn warrior, en route to a legendary city. This is my first recommendation because it’s wildly imaginative while also meticulously researched. The worldbuilding is so original, and there’s a smouldering love triangle at the heart of it. At least I think there is. The author could be tricking me because the City of Brass is a very tricky and beguiling place.

Swiss Vendetta by Tracee de Hahn. This is one of my favourite kinds of mysteries—seemingly cosy but full of emotional complications and rife with atmosphere, as those suspected of the murder of a young woman at a Swiss chalet, are bound together by a terrible blizzard. As the mystery unravels, each new layer that’s revealed proves to be even more disturbing. A bracing introduction to Switzerland, and to the book’s clever and compelling detective, Agnes Luthi, who has plenty of secrets of her own.

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. I got a sneak peek at this one, which is due to be published this June. It is a thoroughly delightful, trailblazing romance set in the Toronto Muslim community, upending just about every stereotype in sight. The story sizzles with the romantic tension between Ayesha and Khalid, and it dazzles with its sly, but never hurtful, humour. It will make you fall in love, right along with the charming, all-too-relatable Darcy-and-Elizabeth protagonists. I was alternately laughing and swooning my way through this one. And I love what the book has to say about the bonds of community.

Who is Ausma Zehanat Khan ? Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of The Unquiet Dead, published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. Works in her critically acclaimed Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series include The Language of Secrets A Death in SarajevoAmong the Ruins, and the forthcoming A Dangerous Crossing. The Khattak/Getty series has been optioned for television by Lionsgate.

The Bloodprint, Ausma Zehanat Khan’s fantasy debut, has been hailed as “truly remarkable” and “one of the year’s finest fantasy debuts”. Published by Harper Voyager US & UK, The Bloodprint is Book One of The Khorasan Archives, a four-book epic fantasy series. Khan’s non-fiction book, Ramadan, for middle-grade students, is to be published by Orca Books as part of the Origins series in Spring 2018.

A frequent lecturer and commentator, Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English Literature & Sociology at the University of Toronto.

Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girlre-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. The magazine was the subject of two documentaries, and hundreds of national and international profiles and interviews, including CNN International, Current TV, and Al Jazeera “Everywoman”.

Khan practiced immigration law in Toronto and has taught international human rights law at Northwestern University, as well as human rights and business law at York University. She is a long-time community activist and writer, and currently lives in Colorado with her husband.

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