Interview - Meghan Nuttall Sayres, author of Anahita's Woven Riddle

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): All We Are by One Republic.

This is a very special event, because not only was I able to get in contact with an awesome author with a very very cool life story, this is my 100th blog post! I can't believe I've made it this far so quickly. You guys are incredible. And I can't believe that Ms. Sayres was willing to take time out of her very busy schedule and help enhance this "semi-themed" multi-cultural month. Without further ado, I happily present Meghan Nuttall Sayres, author of Anahita's Woven Riddle.


1. I don't know which is more interesting - your life, or your books. Do you really dye your own wool and make your own tapestries? :)

Yes. I raise sheep, collect dye plants at home and on my travels and weave a tapestry now and then.

2. What are some of your favorite plants to use? Which ones dye the best? Is there one that makes purple? (it's my favorite color).

Locally, I use tansy, yarrow or golden rod for yellows and gold, however to achieve a primary yellow one must use weld or dyers broom. I buy imported indigo for blue and madder root for reds. Sometimes I bring home madder root from Turkey. To make purple you must dye with indigo and then over dye it with madder root or cochineal. The Celts and Phoenicians made purple dyes with shell fish, but this method is labor intensive and time consuming. I gave it a try when living in Ireland. Check out my website and my book Weaving Tapestry in Rural Ireland for more information on natural dyes.

3. I've heard that Anahita's Woven Riddle was inspired by a Turkish tapestry you saw, one that you actually own. Is this true? Is there any way you could send us picture of one of your tapestries? Or perhaps the one that inspired this rather remarkable novel?

The novel was inspired by an Iranian Afshar tribal rug. I'll send a photo along. One of the borders woven into the rug is featured on the hardback edition of Anahita's Woven Riddle. It is an image of a band of clouds, a prayer for rain.

4. I loved how you didn't make Anahita a stereotypical defiant heroine who gets her way by sheer force of will. Instead you had her work realistically within the bounds of her culture. Any yet you still made her strong and very relateable. Was this difficult? How did you manage to pull it off?

This is a difficult question to answer. I suppose she acted in a way that was consistent with her character.

5. How did you manage to integrate a foreign culture so seamlessly? It's one of the best I've ever encountered. It was so natural and didn't feel like you were "telling" or talking down to me at all.

Thank you. I think spending time in the cultures that I write about gives me a sense of place beyond what research books might offer. Also, having made friends with Iranians at home and in Iran, I have realized that they are people much like you and me. They get up in the morning, have breakfast and go about their day just as we do. They share similar dreams. When writing, I imagined my characters as friends, as people I've met or would like to get to know. Maybe that is why you did not feel "talked down to" as you read.

6. I also loved how you naturally wove history into the story. I had no idea that Russians were trying invade Iran at the turn of the 20th century (and I'm a history major. Shameful). How much research went into writing this novel?

An enormous amount of research, however, it arose organically over many years and included travel. I had several scholars and Iranians proof read various aspects of the manuscript. For more details about this please see my acknowledgments in the back of the book.

7. On the inside of your book it says after hearing of the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran you decided a portion of the sales will go help the women and children affected by it. Is that still in effect?

Yes, however the most recent donation went to a weaver in need that I met on my trip there this spring. Just this weekend I read an article in Persian Hertitage Journal (a US publication) about the restoration work in Bam and how impressive it is. The government of Iran more than doubled the number of new schools in the city from 90 to 186, there is a brand new bazaar, cultural centers and sports complex. The ancient citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is coming along, but most of the funding at this time is going to housing and the infrastructure of the city itself. Each homeowner helps design their new house. Apparently this involvement of the locals has helped them to recover psychologically as well. I had visited Bam in 2005, fifteen months after the quake. At that time many people were still living in tents and shop keepers operated out of makeshift stalls or the skeletal remains of their former buildings. And yet, despite the destruction, they hosted a children's book festival, where publishers gave away some 40,000 books. Reading about Bam's recovery today brings me much joy.

8. Who was your favorite character to create? Why?

They are all my favorites!

9. Personally, what is your favorite scene in the novel?

Again, I do not have a favorite scene all though two scenes come to mind that required extra revisions for cultural reasons: the bathhouse scene in the chapter Fatima's Fire, and the mosque scene in the Wounds chapter. For those who have not read the book, you might skip reading this next sentence. In the bathhouse I initially had Dariyoush in the pool with Anahita, helping teach her to swim. In the mosque scene, I was told that I must not show Anahita and Arash embracing in a mosque.

10. Is there anything else in the works? Would you be willing to share any little hint about it?

Among other works in progress, I have finished a companion novel to Anahita's Woven Riddle, entitled Night Letter. I have also just finished revising a novel set in Ireland.

Thank you so much for your time Ms. Sayres. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.

Thank you for inviting me on your blog.


Unknown said...

Oooo...this sounds amazing. And you're right--the author's life is equally cool!

Heather Zundel said...

I know! Don't you think so? I would love to learn how to weave my own tapestry.

Kate said...

Superb interview. It was interesting to read :)