A Texas-based writer and food enthusiast, Khan is currently celebrating the release of Wildfire: A Paranormal Mystery with Cowboys & Dragons (Rashda Khan, $9.99). She is also the author of two award-winning works of fiction; The Djinn’s Dilemma, which won the novella category of the 2012 Romance Through The Ages (published) contest and A Tale of Two Djinns, which was honored with the 2013 Reader’s Crown for Best Paranormal Romance. Originally a native of Bangladesh, Khan grew up on stories of djinns, ghosts, and monsters, all of which now color her fiction, as does a love of magic, mayhem, and mischief. Also a teacher of culinary classes and a contributor to her local newspaper, she is currently raising a family two children, two cats, two dogs, and a husband.
Wildfire was published last month, and has since received an enthusiastic response. Random Book Musings noted, “A refreshing new approach to shapeshifters … The pacing here is excellent, with the author feeding us just enough clues along the way to hold our interest but not enough to be able to tell what the real answers are … Overall, an excellent read …” Further, Just Jeannie’s Books & Bling praised, “I have to say I loved this book … The characters are … thoughtfully constructed … Mina has spun a suspenseful and interesting story …”
From the publisher:
Lynn Hana Alexander is a 25-year-old Japanese American shape shifter haunted by guilt. She’s been questioning herself and her dragon abilities ever since she failed to save her grandmother. When her best friend is threatened by mysterious fires burning up acres of West Texas, Lynn rushes to the rescue, determined not to fail again. However, with a tempting firefighter, a flirty city developer and dragon pheromones distracting her, how is she going to find the arsonist? And worse: is her primary suspect a malicious rogue dragon or the love of her life?
Now, Mina Khan allows readers entry into her fantasy realm …
1) What inspired the idea for WILDFIRE?
Wildfire was inspired by several elements coming together in my imagination. Fresh out of college, I’d moved to West Texas for newspaper job and was still not used to the empty stretches of road and wild, rugged beauty of the area. A friend from Houston flew down to visit me and I went to pick her up in Midland. On the way back, my truck had a flat and we had to hitch a ride with a stranger (and yes, just like Lynn in the story, I armed myself with a wine bottle. Lol!). I’d recently seen Jurassic Park and imagined all kinds of creatures crashing through the Mesquite trees toward us (did I mention I have a very active imagination?). Well, being stranded on that Texas road sparked all kinds of misgivings and lots of “what if” scenarios...and ended up being Wildfire. (Yes, a writer’s mind can be a scary place.)
2) Your protagonist, Lynn Hana Alexander, is Japanese American. How does her ethnicity add depth to the story—and what challenges does capturing that pose to the writing process?
Lynn is actually inspired by two friends of mine. The friend stranded with me was (still is) Vietnamese American, and the other friend who very much inspired Lynn’s grandmother and mentor is Japanese American. So I knew I wanted to write an Asian American dragon...and when I based Wildfire’s dragon mythology on an old Japanese folk tale, Lynn’s heritage came together. Her heritage provides the cultural roots of the story, influences her beliefs, and also provides an unexpected connection to the German American hero. I’m Asian too but from the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh), so I was nervous writing about a Japanese American character. Fortunately, my friends came through for me – shared their family stories, read numerous drafts and helped me get Lynn written.
3) You grew up with a rich storytelling tradition in Bangladesh. How has that folklore influenced your own creativity—and how do you weigh contemporary sensibilities against more classic components?
Just as vampires are popular in the Western world, djinns are popular in much of Asia, Africa and Middle East. Djinn stories are part of my writing psyche and I base many of my stories on the djinn mythology I grew up with in Bangladesh. However, as a college student in the America, I discovered the wonderful world of fantasy (Sharon Shinn, Mercedes Lackey, Bujold), paranormal romance (Marjorie M. Liu, Linda Winstead Jones) and urban fantasy (Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews). These authors and their wonderful stories definitely influenced my writing. So my stories meld traditional South Asian elements with more contemporary components.
4) How do you see WILDFIRE as being an evolution of your award-winning Djinn books?
It’s really not. I mean writing my djinn stories got me into the practice of writing and that led to Wildfire. Beyond that, there really is no connection. The djinn stories are about djinns and are definitely paranormal romances, but Wildfire is about a dragon shifter and is a mystery with some romantic elements. It is not a traditional romance. If I had to put a genre to Wildfire it’d be paranormal mystery or contemporary fantasy. As a writer, I like challenging myself with new and different stories. Besides my djinn stories and my dragon one, I also have a literary short story about the immigrant experience, DEAD: A Ghost Story.
5) You are also a food enthusiast. Given that, tell us: what are the essential ingredients to a good paranormal romance? Also, how do you broach the suspension of disbelief in this genre?
I’m a food enthusiast and a food columnist for a newspaper, and that means I’m used to using all my senses in my writing. That helps with my fiction. :) The essential ingredient to a good paranormal romance would be: a good story, real characters readers root for, an intriguing world and plausible paranormal elements. Of course, you also need a conflict with meaningful stakes and an ending that resonates. When a book includes all of those ingredients readers will suspend disbelief and sink into the story. It’s not easy to write and I work hard at writing the best story I can...and hopefully readers connect to my words.
6) Leave us with a little teaser: what comes next?
So many things! I’m working on a couple of djinn stories, which will be followed by a sequel to Wildfire (yes, Jack & Lynn’s story continues) and then a literary project I’m not quite ready to share yet. Thanks for a great conversation, John! I enjoyed visiting with you. :)
With thanks to Mina Khan for her generosity of time and thought.