The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Sharbari Z. Ahmed

by Farah Ghuznavi

Sharbari AhmedLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because I have to. It’s for creative outlet, mental and spiritual health, to bear witness to the time I am living in and to share with the world at large.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I am working on a few things at once. This past year was mostly about a show called Quantico and I contributed to that as a writer who has been tasked with bringing another artist – Josh Safran’s – vision to the world. Which by the way is a very interesting way of sharpening one’s skills. I have written a new short story – it’s a ghostly story, well it’s a story about being haunted by trauma, and in it I explore how a victim disassociates herself from her trauma and the after math of that. I use Bengali ghost stories about Djinns and superstitions to do it. I don’t have a message in anything I write. I just want to use story to explore the human psyche.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Lord, I have no idea how to do that. If I have to I would say I am a realist.

Who are your favorite authors?

Marquez, just discovered Elif Shafak’s 40 Rules of Love gifted to me by a fellow writer on Quantico and I am like wowee! Atwood, Carver, Munro to just name a few.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

Everything is challenging in its own way. The novel, Dust Under our Feet, because it was historically based and – well, it’s a novel! The play I wrote, because it required me to use dialogue more than any thing else to push the narrative forward. The screenplay I am working on right now, because this requires me to be more of a visual story teller and not rely on dialogue, any short story because of the economy required.

What’s your idea of bliss?

My son, friends and family happy and healthy and productive, and a secluded beach where I can swim and nap and read (with no sharks).

QuanticoWhat makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

Being willfully misunderstood, people turning their backs on others, saying, “well, it’s not my problem”. This is a fallacy. Though we have to pick and choose our battles sometimes (especially on Facebook), thinking we are not connected to others who are suffering is deplorable.

What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

Love in the Time of Cholera, an accessible book that would help me understand geo politics and why we are where we are geopolitically (I sound pretentious but I am being honest) like Guns Germs and Steel. 40 Rules of Love, everything by Carver, a good ghost story collection, like traditions from around the world, anything by Susan Sontag, The Rachel Papers, Midnight’s Children, Lucky Jim. Translations of Bengali work like Sunil Gangapadhey’s, and biographies of “illbehaved” women.   This is all I can think of. There are tons more.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

My son.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.

Oh dear lord. I am not advanced enough to have one. I guess if I have to: be kind, to yourself, and to others.


Sharbari Z. Ahmed’s short fiction has appeared in such publications as The Gettysburg Review, Wasafiri, the Caravan, and the Asian Pacific American Journal. Her story collection The Ocean of Mrs Nagai was published in 2013.  Her screenplay Raisins Not Virgins was part of the Tribeca All Access Program at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008.  She wrote for Quantico on ABC from 2015-2016. She is working on a novel, Dust Under Our Feet.