Q&A: Abdi Nazemian, Author of ‘The Chandler Legacies’

From the Stonewall Honor–winning author of Like a Love Story comes a revelatory novel about the enclosed world of privilege and silence at an elite boarding school and the unlikely group of friends who dare challenge the status quo through their writing.

We chat with Abdi Nazemian about his latest book release The Chandler Legaciesalong with writing, book recommendations, and more!

Hi Abdi! Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I suppose the most revealing way to tell readers about myself is to tell them exactly what I’m doing right now, which is answering these questions as my beautiful ten-year old twins take a swim lesson on a cloudy Los Angeles day, with Lana Del Rey’s magical voice in my headphones, which are held together with packing tape. That’s as typical a me moment as I could describe these days. What else? I was born in Iran. I lived in France and Canada before moving to the United States. I find it very hard to define where I’m from. I started my career writing for film, and have since moved into television, novels, and am trying my hand at scripted podcasts and a stage musical, which I guess makes me a creatively restless person. I love my family and my family of friends, and look to the arts for guidance in a world awash with division.

How has the first month of 2022 been for you?

My kids are thriving, and I’m writing, so no big complaints. Like just about everyone else, I was hoping to begin this year out of isolation. I was looking forward to launching my new novel with in-person events, at book festivals, surrounded by friends and fellow members of the book community. That’s obviously not happening, but if the last two years have taught me anything, it’s how to have gratitude for each day’s joys and surprises, one day at a time.

When did you first discover your love for writing?

I always loved to write. When I was in middle school, I would write poems and draw my own comic books. I was very inspired by Archie Comics which I read obsessively, and which both my kids now read obsessively. But it wasn’t until high school, with the help of an English teacher, that I recognized writing as something I might be good at. And it wasn’t until my early twenties working as an assistant in Hollywood that I saw a path for myself as a writer. Growing up, the arts weren’t presented as a viable career path, and I’m very thankful for all the people and experiences that taught me that it can be a career, because I really, really, really love my job.

Quick lightning round! Tell us the first book you ever remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author, and one that you can’t stop thinking about!

I honestly can’t remember the first book I read, but the book that comes to mind is Charlotte’s Web by EB White. I was absolutely obsessed with it as a kid. Looking back, there are themes in there that have always spoken to me, especially the idea of ​​feeling rejected by society and the power of finding a chosen family. I read it out loud to my kids during the early pandemic days, and I wept and wept when I read the perfect last line: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” I mean, come on, I’m tearing up just typing those words.

Your new novel, The Chandler Legaciesis out February 15th! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?

Writing challenges boarding school secrecy.

What can readers expect?

Brutal honesty and hopefully, a reminder that creativity and friendship give us the ability to challenge even the most powerful institutions. This book is drawn directly from my own experiences in boarding school. With some very prominent exceptions, I’ve seen very few depictions of what boarding school was really like for me, and I wanted to take readers deep into the world, in a way that brings to life both the magic and connection, and also the darkness and the pain.

Where did the inspiration for The Chandler Legacies eat from?

I went to boarding school. Those were four of the most impactful years of my life. I was subjected to, and observed, intense hazing. My first year there was especially dark. I have never felt as lost as I did that year. But boarding school is also where I met the people who would become my closest friends, and where I first met my first creative mentors. I have so many conflicting emotions about my boarding school years, and the book is my way of reflecting on both the anger and the gratitude I have for an experience that shaped me.

Can you tell us a bit about the challenges you faced while writing and how you were able to overcome them?

Writing about an experience that hurts you is always difficult. Doing justice to this story meant going back to what it felt like to be hazed, hurt, and hopeless. But it also meant reliving the friendships I made, and reliving the creativity I discovered as a way out of pain. Beyond the emotional, this book was a bit of a structural beast, and it took a long time to edit the book into a structure that made sense and honored each perspective.

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Were there any favorite moments or characters you really enjoyed writing or exploring?

I loved writing The Circle scenes. The Circle is the name of the writing workshop the main characters become a part of. In those sessions, the students are challenged to be honest writers, and through their writing, they come to understand themselves, each other, and the world of privilege they inhabit, with new eyes. Those scenes were a really fun opportunity to share some of my own thoughts about writing.

What do you hope readers take away from reading The Chandler Legacies?

Building on the answer above, I would love readers to try some of the writing exercises suggested in The Circle. I really do believe writing is a powerful tool for every human. It’s a way to make sense of the complicated word that exists inside us, and the one that exists outside us. I also hope the novel leads to robust discussions about how to challenge authority, and how to forgive ourselves and those we love as we demand a better world.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on my next YA book, which is deeply personal and which I’m so excited about.

Lastly, do you have any 2022 book recommendations for our readers?

I’ve been lucky to get early peeks at some upcoming novels. A few that I really loved: Bill Konigsberg’s DESTINATION UNKNOWN which comes out in August, Sonora Reyes’ THE LESBIANA’S GUIDE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL which comes out in May, Aaron H. Aceves’ THIS IS WHY THEY HATE US which is also out in May, and Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt’s April book DOES MY BODY OFFEND YOU? I’m also aware that some of my favorite young adult authors – including Robin Benway, Dean Atta and Vitor Martins – have new books on the way this year, which I can’t wait to read.

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