Today I am incredibly excited and honoured to welcome Aamna Qureshi over on Misty Realms!
Aamna is the amazing author of The Lady or the Lion— a story filled with court intrigue, a forbidden romance, a setting inspired by Pakistan and more!
I read The Lady or the Lion not too long ago and it is such a spectacular book, I’m not even kidding!!! You can read my review for it here.
So let’s get on with the interview :))
Title: The Lady or the Lion
Author: Aamna Qureshi
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Publication Date: OUT NOW!
Publisher: CamCat Books
For trigger warnings click HEREsuicide (mentioned), murder, contagious disease, racism, classism, manipulation, dysfunctional family, death of loved ones, murder of a child, neocolonialism
Retells “The Lady or the Tiger?” against a Pakistan-inspired world of forbidden love and court intrigues.
Once there was a princess forced to choose a fate for her lover – to a future in the arms of a beautiful lady, or to death in the mouth of a lion? But what came first was the fate she would choose for herself.
As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. Enter Ambassador Asfandyar Afridi, a wry foreigner who admits outright that he is a spy. Stubborn, proud, and suspicious of foreigners, Durkhanai does not appreciate that he won’t bow to her every whim and instead talks circles around her.
And yet, she has to make him her ally to expose those truly responsible for the attack as more ambassadors from neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each one of them with their own agenda and reasons to hide the truth.When a mysterious illness spreads through the village and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must sort through the ever shifting loyalties at court and her growing feelings for Asfandyar. Will she be able to leave the antics of a spoiled princess behind and become what her people need – a queen?
Interview with Aamna Qureshi
Hi Aamna! Thank you so much for joining me over here on Misty Realms. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey till now?
Thank you so much for having me! I’m so happy to be here. As for an about me, I’m a twenty-two year old Pakistani-American Muslim author living in New York. I love baking, traveling, nature, reading, and of course, writing. My writing journey has been pretty chaotic and nonlinear, but the main thing I’ve learned is to just keep writing, and eventually, one day, something will happen from all your hard work.
Pitch your debut novel, The Lady or the Lion in a short sentence!
(Ah, the pressure!) A desi princess must exonerate her grandfather to avoid war whilst also avoiding falling in love with the enemy ambassador.
The Lady or the Lion is a lush fantasy with an amazing premise and plot. What made you want to write it, and what inspired it in the first place?
I read the short story “The Lady or the Tiger?” in high school and was so enthralled by the story, especially by the princess! I immediately wanted to know more, so I decided to work out the story for myself. And I grew up reading those classic young adult fantasies set in lush kingdoms with swoon worthy romances and drama, but I never saw my own culture reflected in any of those stories. So The Lady or the Lion is very much so a self-indulgent world, and at its core, a love story, because I am just obsessed with the human condition and how we behave when we’re in love.
Can you tell us which desi snacks Durkhanai and Asfandyar absolutely love to eat?
Durkhanai has a looooong list of snacks that she is constantly getting the maids to make: aloo samosay with imlee chutney and cholay; flaky chicken patties; crisp jalebi; and almond cake. (Coincidentally, these are my go-to snacks, and the best place to get them in Pakistan is definitely Jamil Sweets.) Asfandyar isn’t so picky, but he definitely appreciates some good pakoray (as do all sane people.)
This discussion is steering a lot towards food but if you had a tea party with Durkhanai from The Lady or the Lion (2021) and Zahra from When a Brown Girl Flees (2023), how would each of them drink their chai?
Oh, what a fun question! I cannot even think of my characters interacting haha because they’re so different! But actually, at their cores, they are both emotional girls, so maybe they aren’t so dissimilar…
Durkhanai drinks her chai very strong and very sweet and very spiced. Zahra, on the other hand, drinks her chai very mild: sugared and milky and comforting. And Durkhanai drinks her while its scalding, while Zahra waits for it to get a little lukewarm.
Do you have a playlist/ some songs that embody The Lady or the Lion? If you do, would you like to share them with us!?
I listened to Judai and Ghalat Fehmi on repeat the most. Take from that what you will.
What was your favourite part in The Lady or the Lion?
My favorite part was how dramatic Durkhanai was! I, too, want to be dramatic in my life, but unfortunately since I’m not the crown princess of a wealthy kingdom, I’m not afforded that liberty. Sigh.
It was also incredibly fun to write Durkhanai as dramatic because so many times desi girls in media are shown as very demure and shy and awkward, all things Durkhanai definitely is not, and all things most of the desi girls I know are not.
Speaking of a favourite part, what were your favourite elements you have incorporated into The Lady or the Lion? Do you have a list of tropes that you love to see in books?
I love romance tropes! Despite how many times they’re done, they’re just so classic. I didn’t often get to see characters who looked like me participate in them, so it was really entertaining for me to include some in The Lady or the Lion, such as: “hiding in an enclosed space,” “being stranded due to the weather,” “it’s freezing and there’s only one blanket”. They just make me giggle.
Also, and I don’t know if this is a spoiler, but…betrayal trope. Kills me every time.
How would you describe the dynamic between Durkhanai and Asfandyar?
Durkhanai is a spoiled princess who was raised by her grandparents, who dote on her immensely; whatever she wants, she gets. No one argues with her and thus she is very proud and used to things being her own way. When Asfandyar comes in, he is very clever and can twist her words and sort of make her look like a fool, which no one else has done before. As they become reluctant allies and friends, he pushes her to be the best version of herself. He doesn’t go easy on her, which she likes. He takes her seriously, whereas her grandparents coddle her and consider her a pretty fool.
I took a lot of relationship dynamic inspiration from Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice! In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie is also very headstrong and opinionated, and Darcy proves her wrong time and time again, while pushing her out of her comfort zone and forcing her to expand her horizons and thought processes.
What do you hope readers take away from your debut novel, The Lady or the Lion.
Always open your heart to love, even when it is difficult, even when it is painful.
Can you give us some hints about book two and your upcoming projects? I’m literally not okay after finishing book one 😭
The joy I get when I hear readers being absolutely crushed by the ending of The Lady or the Lion. Hehe. Book Two, titled The Man or the Monster, will be out in July 2022, and I hope is just as much of an emotional rollercoaster as The Lady or the Lion was.
As for hints, I can’t say much because literally everything is a spoiler, but I will say I had as much fun writing the first ⅓ of the book as I had writing the last ⅓ of The Lady or the Lion, and there was a moment in the sequel where I felt even I was being too cruel to some of my characters.
As for upcoming projects, I am working on many! But my next one When a Brown Girl Flees, about a Pakistani-American Muslim teen who runs away from home in order to find herself, will be out in Spring 2023! You can add it on Goodreads.
That was it! Thank you so much for your time Aamna, it was so so lovely having you over on my blog! Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you so much for having me! I had the greatest time answering your fantastic questions! I’ll be doing a cover reveal for The Man or the Monster soon, so be sure to follow me on Twitter @aamnaqureshi_ to keep up to date!
Aamna Qureshi is a Pakistani, Muslim American who adores words. She grew up in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Through her writing, she wishes to inspire a love for the beautiful country and rich culture that informed much of her identity. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel to new places where she can explore different cultures, or to Pakistan where she can revitalise her roots. She also loves baking complicated desserts, drinking fancy teas and coffees, watching sappy rom-coms, and going for walks about the estate (her backyard). She currently lives in New York.
Did you enjoy the interview? What intrigued you the most about The Lady or the Lion? Let’s chat in the comments!
Thank you so much Aamna for taking your time to do this interview for Misty Realms, I had a wonderful time chatting about The Lady or the Lion !!