A Quickie with… Kia Abdullah

Kia Abdullah is a best-selling author and travel writer. Her novels include Take It Back, a Guardian and Telegraph thriller of the year, Truth Be Told which was shortlisted for a Diverse Book Award, and Next of Kin which was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award and named Times Book of the Month.

Kia has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Times, The Telegraph and the BBC, and has received a JB Priestley Award for Writers of Promise (2020). She is also the founder of Asian Booklist, a nonprofit that advocates for diversity in publishing.

Born in Tower Hamlets in East London, Kia was raised in a family of eight children. As the most stubborn of six daughters, she constantly found herself in trouble for making choices that clashed with her parents’, a habit they came to accept when she became their first and only child to graduate from university – with a first in Computer Science.

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

In Next of Kin, London architect Leila Syed is starting an ordinary working day when she receives a panicked phone call from her brother-in-law. His son’s nursery has called to ask where little Max is. Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot he was in her car… on the hottest day of the year. Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done. What follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses it becomes clear that there’s more to this incident than meets the eye.

Next of Kin is a thrilling courtroom drama at heart, but it also examines some deeper themes like the stigma around childlessness and how we treat women differently based on whether or not they have children.

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

A Comedy of Errors! Okay, no, let’s be serious. Someone once called me a streetfighter and I loved that. It speaks to where I come from, my attitude to life as well as my nerdy side (as a kid, I wanted to be Chun-Li), so maybe Streetfighter would work. 

I love clever titles for memoirs/biographies though, like Andre Agassi’s Open, so maybe I’d have to think of a good pun.  

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

A tricky one is when people ask “how many books have you sold?” without realising that it’s a bit like asking “how much do you earn?” I usually say something like “enough to keep in chocolate hobnobs.”

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

The writers I most admire are Donna Tartt and Jeffrey Eugenides, but they write in a very different style and genre. I’d probably choose Brit Marling. She’s a screenwriter – and I’m not – but I’d love to work with her on something because I think she’s brilliant.  

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

I’d quite like to try my hand at erotic fiction.  

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

After the Lights Go Out by John Vercher. They talk about second book syndrome, but John has outdone himself with his second novel. I always say that I like crime with heart and this is exactly it. 

The Local by Joey Hartstone is a legal thriller in the vein of John Grisham. It’s set in the American south and the sense of place is palpable. I just love that in a novel. Plus, I have a bit of a crush on the protagonist, James Euchre. 

Out of Touch by Haleh Agar, which isn’t crime (nor did I read it recently!), but I still want to recommend it because it’s so beautifully written. If you like Sally Rooney, you’ll love Haleh Agar.

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