Author Halima Hagi-Mohamed on Her Novel, Warda Means Rose
To start, can you tell us about your novel, Warda Means Rose?
Warda Means Rose is a thriller set in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It revolves around the life of a young Somali woman named Warda. She’s in her early twenties and navigating her friend circle, school, and working at her family’s restaurant, Hooyo’s Kitchen. Warda’s life changes drastically when a handsome and mysterious regular enters her life.
Warda Means Rose is based on a short story you wrote. What did the process of expanding that piece look like?
It was a bit challenging, morphing the short story into a longer one. I had to develop the characters more and try looking at things through a different lens. I would compare it to adding more ingredients to a recipe and even using yeast to help the story expand.
How much did you pull from your own life and experiences when writing?
I’ve never lived in Minneapolis or worked at a restaurant before. However, I have visited Minneapolis numerous times. I was just recently there, spending Ramadan and Eid with family. I’ve always felt an affinity to Minneapolis. I made sure to include lots of local places I’ve been to and heard of before. I can say that Warda’s experience of being a daughter in a Somali family is one I can relate to. There were times while writing when I could see myself in her experiences and things expected of her.
Did you go into the project knowing you wanted to write a thriller? Or did the genre come to you while writing?
As a fiction writer, I always wanted to write a thriller. I had an idea of where I wanted to take this story before developing it into a novel. I remember sharing this short story with a community of Somali women and having lots of different reactions from my community. Many people were excited about the genre. That encouraged me to recreate this story into a novel.
How did you balance writing a novel with the rest of your life?
At the time of writing and revising this novel, I was working multiple jobs and balancing many things in my life. I remember it being really difficult to manage work, writing, and time for myself. I definitely took breaks in between writing and revising. I think it’s a healthy part of the writing process to step away for awhile and come back when you feel recharged and ready to write more.
When deciding on publishing paths, what was it about independent publishing that drew you in?
My first book, Amilah, was self published. I remember querying it to countless publishers and having no success in getting it traditionally published. It’s not always easy for first time writers to get traditionally published. I decided it was time to move on and self publish my work. I’ve found it in some ways better because I’ve had more creative freedom and flexibility with my work. I can freestyle my promotion and not feel stifled in any type of way.
How did you approach that process? Were there resources you used?
I had lots of experience self publishing and promoting my work. I had notes from when I last published. I’ve also connected with different marketing experts. I wouldn’t call myself an expert in self publishing, but it’s nothing new to me. I know how difficult it can be at times. My eyes are really opened to how much work it can be independently publishing your work. You really are the writer, director, and actor of your own series. Wearing so many hats can be exhausting but ultimately rewarding.
Now that the book is out, are there tips and tricks for marketing that you've found really helpful?
Outside of word of mouth, utilizing social media always has its advantages. I try being on as many social media platforms as possible. Being on social media can be great because you have the chance to easily interact with your audience and readers. It’s always been one of my biggest assets in promoting my work. Before the pandemic, I would sell my books in local bookstores and hold signings and readings. That’s not really possible nowadays. So I’ll have readings on Clubhouse and interact with readers and others writers there. I would recommend it for any writers promoting their work. People on Clubhouse can be very supportive and encouraging. Shoutout to Reading by Myself room and all the incredible members on there.
Do you have other projects in the works?
I’ve always wanted to publish a collection of poetry. I love poetry and the ease of expression it gives me. It’s been on hold while I worked on Warda Means Rose and other projects. I think I’d like to pick that back up again and hopefully get that out soon.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice for aspiring authors would be to never second guess yourself. The writing world isn’t always easy to navigate. I think a lot of aspiring authors worry about their work not being worthy of being sold and read. It’s important to remember that there’s millions of writers out there. Still, no one else can tell your story the way you can. The best thing to do is write like no one else is watching. Write for yourself and always reevaluate your intentions. A lot of us aren’t writing to get famous or rich.
Another thing to remember is when you tell your story in an authentic way, people will undoubtedly eat it up. Be consistent, write good stuff, and believe in your creative process. Take your time and don’t rush. The hardest part is getting yourself to just do it and write. Once you do, you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t start sooner.