Welcome, Patricia Panahi!
- For those who might not be familiar with you, would you be a dear and tell the readers a little about yourself? How did you get your start in the writing business?
(Patricia) Originally from Massachusetts, I moved to Iran at the age of nine. I later returned to the States and completed my graduate work at San Diego State University. I have taught English in Iran, California, and Hawaii, owned and operated The Light Spot Bookstore and Coffee House in San Diego, and directed English language programs for international students for the University of Hawaii. Due to the many misconceptions about Iran and Iranians, and considering my direct experience and knowledge of the people and their culture, I decided to begin my writing career with a novel that portrayed them in a more realistic light.
- Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, please share how you handle it.
(Patricia) I began my writing career late in life and have not experienced writers block to date. If I don’t feel inspired, I just wait until inspiration comes.
- Will you please share with the visitors what genre(s) you write? Also, when you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
(Patricia) I write literary fiction and non-fiction books. I am also retired and live in Hawaii, enjoying the beautiful nature, yoga classes, good friends and good books.
(Kam) I’ve been to Hawaii only once (so far). It’s absolutely gorgeous and the people are very friendly.
- I know many writers, such as myself, keep their pastime/career a secret. Do those close to you know you write? If so, what are their thoughts?
(Patricia) Everyone who knows me, also knows that I write and completely supports me. I have done local presentations and book signings that were well attended.
5. Will you share with us your all-time favorite authors? If you’re like me, it’s a long list so give us your top ten.
- Deborah Harkness
- Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Katherine Howe
- Arthur Golden
- Anne Rice
- Amy Tan
- Alice Hoffman
- Barbara Kingsolver
- Richard Bach
- Michael Cunningham
(Kam) Thank you for the list. You’ve gave me (us) some new authors to possibly fall in love with.
- If you could choose one book to go to the big screen, yours or otherwise, which book would you choose and whom would you love to see cast in the parts?
(Patricia) I would love Veil of Walls to go to the big screen. No preference on actors.
- Would you care to tell us what you’re working on now? That is if it’s not top-secret information. If so, just whisper it in my ear. I swear it’ll go no further.
(Patricia) The Nature of Love, a novel tells the story of five Iranians whose lives intersect as they learn about love and life during the tumultuous 2009 Iranian election protests.
- Where can we find your stories, and is there a particular reading order?
(Patricia) I have a novel and a nonfiction book on Amazon.
Veil of Walls, the struggles of an American girl who visits her father’s relatives in Iran and not permitted to return home.
God Outside the Box – a spiritual memoir.
Peaceful Warrior, you will likely enjoy this true story of a journey to spiritual awakening.
Born to a New Jersey Catholic mother and an Iranian Muslim father, author Patricia Panahi was never quite sure exactly who she was from the very beginning. This early confusion would lead her on a rollercoaster ride of a spiritual journey for years to come – an amazing journey chronicled in her inspirational new book, God Outside the Box: A Story of Breaking Free (published by AuthorHouse).
After exploring a variety of religions and traditions, Panahi discovers that none of them truly “speak to her soul.” She begins to question if there really is a God at all and, finding no answers to satisfy her, becomes an agnostic. But at 28 years old, Panahi’s world is rocked by a surprising diagnosis: cancer. Feeling lost, alone and afraid, groping through the dark with a weak-willed Persian husband and without a religion or solid tradition to turn to, she begins the search for a spirituality that would fill the large and heartbreaking void.
At 32, Panahi’s painful childhood memories – her mother’s abandonment and her forced relocation to her father’s country – resurface. She is able to heal and find inner peace, but discovers that her “journey of transformation” has only begun when she makes contact with her inner voice and begins to experience extrasensory perceptions. It is after a particularly vivid dream that Panahi opens The Light Spot Bookstore and Coffeehouse, where her spiritual search continues with the help of the many fascinating people who come through its door.
As her spirituality grows, so does the gap between Panahi and her husband. Her inner voice and visions call her to move to Hawaii, where two years later she meets and marries her “true soul mate” and begins a new life. Her happiness is challenged quickly, however, when she is suddenly afflicted with Bell’s Palsy – a paralysis of one side of the face – in 2002. As traumatic as this experience is, it finally leads her to face her doubts and fears while fully committing herself to her spiritual path and purpose in life. Firmly rooted and happy, her life is shaken up once again when she receives the call to let go of her secure career as a university faculty member and become a writer.
Today, this move still terrifies Panahi, but she feels that she has made peace overall with her new calling. “A spiritual life is not about complacency and comfort and self-satisfaction,” she says, “but the ability to accept and flow with change.”
It is Panahi’s hope that her readers of God Outside the Box will “gain a new understanding of their own search for answers” as she unveils “universal truths and discovers a rich spiritual path that crosses the boundaries of culture, tradition and belief.”
- Would you please share how your present and future fans can contact you?
- Before we conclude this enlightening interview, do you have anything else you’d like to share? The stage is all yours.
(Patricia) I hope my first novel, Veil of Walls, can provide readers with a new perspective of a country and a people.
Anahita Sadeghi, a typical, happy-go-lucky American ten-year-old, was not too keen on traveling to the other side of the world to meet her father’s family. But her month-long vacation turns into a nightmare when her Persian relatives refuse to let her return to the States.
She is forced to deal with the dizzying maze of social customs, resist her grandmother’s efforts to mold her into the proper Persian girl, dodge her aunt’s schemes of marriage, and fight to make her own life choices until she can find a way to return home. Longing for her friends and her freedom, only the enigma of her missing aunt, Scheherezade, gives Ana a glimmer of hope of one day escaping Iran for good.
Will Ana’s family marry her off and forever bind her to this country, or will she break free of Iran’s walls and find her way back to America?
The blue Aerogram with its scribbles of Dad’s native language lay open on the breakfast table like an ancient spell. It was 1962, a nippy New England morning just like any other in the snow season; snug in our thick winter robes over a Sunday feast of johnnycakes, corned beef hash, fried eggs and the rich aromas of percolating coffee and hot cocoa, my parents dropped a bombshell – we were going to Iran. Just for a month, they said. In March – for the Persian holidays. A surgeon at St. John’s Hospital in Lowell, Dad rarely took more than a week off, but the Shah of Iran was abolishing the feudal landlord system – whatever that meant – and my father had been summoned home on family business.
I was ten and not too keen on traveling across the globe to meet a slew of strangers, so I whined and pouted and complained that I’d miss a whole month of school, that Grandma and Grandpa promised to take me to Beantown to watch the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, and we had to consider Angel, our cocker spaniel. Wouldn’t it be better if I stayed with Grandma Brigid? But Mom believed it was an opportunity for me to finally meet my Persian relatives and all my pleading landed on deaf ears. So they dragged me away from my shady New England neighborhood to the walled-in courtyards of Tehran.
March 1962 – Tehran, Iran
I stood before the dancing flames, unable to move. A row of bonfires crackled and popped. The earthy scent of burning brush teased my nostrils; the smoke burned my eyes. Branches of persimmon and pomegranate cast eerie shadows on the courtyard walls. I bit my lower lip so hard it bled.
My cousin nudged me forward. “Jump, Ana. It’s Chaharshambeh Suri – Red Wednesday. You have to purify yourself in the fire to let go of the old year and welcome the new one.”
I fixed my gaze on the flames, my heart skipping a beat.
Parvaneh pushed strands of dark hair away from her face and tilted her head. “It’s safe, Ana. Iranians all over the country are jumping over fire tonight.”
But I’m not Iranian. I grimaced at my cousin, trying to wrap my head around these weird Persian rituals. Her name means ‘butterfly’ in Farsi, but with her rose-bud lips and dark liquid eyes, she looked more like a princess out of One Thousand and One Nights. I thought her name suited the way she flitted about without a care in the world.
Roxanna and Kianoosh, my other cousins, their faces luminous in the firelight, called out and waved from the far end of the line. I liked Roxanna. The girl had spunk. Kianoosh, on the other hand, thought he was God’s gift to the world.
“Go on, Ana. You’ll be fine, sweetheart,” Mom called from the veranda, her ginger curls dancing in the breeze. A nurse of Irish descent, Mom loved Iran – the food, the hospitality, the multicolored Persian carpets. She waved in a big arc, her face lit up with a smile. A smile that always calmed and anchored me. She looked happy this evening, glowing even.
But tonight her smile didn’t work its magic on me. My leg muscles tightened further. The family didn’t understand just how much a burn hurt. How it ripped your skin. I pictured the flames licking at my feet, my dress catching fire and going up in flames. Why did Dad have to bring us here?
Parvaneh poked my arm. “Trust me, Anahita. You’ll be all right.”
I felt trapped, still not sure why my cousin insisted I jump into the flames. Trying to buy time to calm my jitters, I cleared my throat and spread my hands. “Why do they call it Red Wednesday when it’s Tuesday night?”
Parvaneh rolled her eyes. “The night before Wednesday is Wednesday night. Everybody knows that.”
Like many other things that everybody knew in Iran, this made no sense. After two weeks, I still found myself scrambling to digest this exotic land of my father’s.
With a sigh of exasperation, Parvaneh shook her head and nudged ahead of me. Bunching her skirt, she leapt over the bonfires, chanting the ritual words.
I sucked in air and faced the fire. Sparks escaped, floated for a time like fireflies then winked out. My cousins hollered and whistled. They had jumped across all seven bonfires. No one had burned. No one’s clothes had burst into flames.
A stream of relatives flowed down the steps and lined up behind me. I recalled the ritual words Dad had taught me. The words all Iranians chanted while jumping over fire. Not wanting to look like a sissy in front of my Persian relatives, I pushed back the fear, gathered my skirt, and jumped.
“Zardi-eh man as toe – I give my yellow, my sickness and pallor, to you,” I chanted, the Farsi words feeling strange in my mouth. The flames licked my feet, teasing me, daring me. I sailed over the first fire and landed safely on the other side. Elated, I braved the next one.
“Sorkhi-eh toe as man – I take from you your red, your ruddiness and vitality,” I sang to the flames, imagining the energy of the fire soaking into my skin, my bones, filling me with strength and courage. Then I skipped over the remaining bonfires, chanting the words again and again. I turned to my cousins, arms raised in triumph.
Parvaneh and Roxanna hooked their arms in mine and pulled me to the back of the line “Again,” they said in unison.
I imagined telling my friends all about the fire festival when I got back home to Lexington. Becky, her pudgy cheeks dotted with freckles, would stand there with arms folded and refuse to believe I jumped through flames. But Julie, my other best friend, would probably stare at me with those big brown eyes and say ‘Wow!’
**For a longer FREE PREVIEW of Veil of Walls, please visit Patricia Panahi’s WEBSITE.**
(Kam) Thank you Patricia Panahi for allowing me the chance to interview you. I wish you much success in life and look forward to what you create next.