Monday, March 01, 2010

Book Club: Sons & Other Flammable Objects, by Porochista Khakpour

Hi everybody! Welcome to our March Book Club "meeting." Today we're talking about Sons & Other Flammable Objects, Porochista Khakpour's debut novel, which is published by Grove.

Be sure to check out Undomestic Goddess's interview with Porochista--it's about much more interesting things than my publishing-related questions!

Also, if you're in the mood for a little short fiction, Porochista just published this brand spanking new short story in Guernica.

And now, Editorial Ass's Three Questions for Authors, with Porochista Khakpour:

MR: How did you get your agent?
PK: I had one agent at first who everyone on earth raved about, but he was a truly awful fit for me. I don't know know what happened, but I think I caught him at a bad time--he was completely absent from my world. So I was back to the drawing board, looking for new agents in New York, while being very poor and depressed. It wasn't going too well. Then I met a writer--a pretty well known one--on the street in the East Village one night. We hit it off and began dating. He felt bad for me struggling as I was and so I think he just thought he was doing a cute favor for me by passing on my manuscript to his agent. He hadn't read a word of my writing. But it turned out she really loved it and she is still my agent today.

MR: How did you get your book deal?
PK: A year and a half before my agent sold it, a friend of mine who was quitting his job as an assistant at the publishing house that bought my book, asked me, just for the hell of it, to email him my novel. I had shown him a chapter or two when I was in the process of writing it and he had liked it. But I told him it was nowhere near done, just a very rough draft. He said it was his last day and he wanted to see what would happen if he just tossed it on the desk of a prominent editor there who would likely toss it back into the slush pile, but who maybe, on some off-off-off chance might peek at it. . .I said fine and thought nothing of it. I was a shopgirl at Rodeo Drive at the time and miserable. I suddenly got an email out of nowhere from this prominent editor a week later saying she had been crying and laughing all week, reading it on the subway ride home. She wanted to know how to proceed. I thought it was a joke. In any case, I had no final draft and no agent so I exercised amazing restraint and said I'd have to wait, which she understood. I don't think I even grasped what a big editor she was. Finally, a year and a half later I had an agent and a real draft and we sold it to that same publishing house, a very happy ending.

MR: Are you working on another novel?
PK: Yes! I began it last summer and it is going suspiciously smoothly. Well, at least quickly. But, yes, I am happy to finally say I honestly am.

MR: Thanks so much for dropping by, Porochista! I can't wait to read what's next :)


Kristan said...

WOW what a story!

Anonymous said...

she is on the cover of poets and writers mag this month!

karissa said...

what i enjoyed about this book was the language. it was quirky and different, funny yet poignant in a lot of places. it wasn't your typical "immigrant" story in that the style was different... which makes it fresh to read. i found myself feeling so sad for the poor dad who didn't know how to reach out to his son appropriately, and who is so burdened by sadness in so many ways. the mom and her secret friends were hilarious.

S.K. Azoulay said...


I should date a writer, and ask my friends in the publishing industry to quit their jobs.

I'm on it.

Lyndsay said...

Whew, I just finished reading this yesterday! In the beginning I was really into it, thinking that Porochista has a great voice (and great control over that voice) and loved the descriptions of Xerxes growing up. But towards the middle/end I got a bit bogged down by the literary-ness of it all--I felt that it was becoming a tad bit overwritten. That, and I could sort of see where the story was going.

I'm glad I got through it, and just hope that her next effort won't seem like she's trying too hard to be overly literary while grappling with some very serious themes (immigration, the post-9/11 world, familial estrangement, etc).