Interview with Intisar Khanani, author of Thorn

Since I found a really amazing book which I hope to read someday(may time pass faster so I can have my free time soon) I decided to ask the author, Intisar Khanani, some questions and she kindly accepted my offer! You can find out more about Intisar and her book by reading her answers below.
1. S: Hi Intisar! Thank you for accepting this interview! How about tell the readers some facts about you?
Intisar: Hi Simona! Thanks so much for having me here. Let’s see, what can I tell you? As just about every writer says, I’ve loved writing since I was a little kid. However, it took me until I was 31 to decide to make it more than a hobby—way too long! If you have a dream, don’t wait on it. 🙂 I’m also married to a wonderful man and have two little daughters (seven months and 2.5 years). I was born in the US and started traveling at the age of 6 months. I’ve spent about half my life in the Middle East and now live in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. I’ve been here just over six years—the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. While I’ve traveled a lot, I’m sorry to say I’ve never been to Romania. I hope to fix that someday!
2. S: What is your book “Thorn” about? Tell the readers a few words about it!
Intisar: Thorn tells the story of Princess Alyrra, a young woman who has lived in the shadows her whole life, seeking only to avoid her family’s notice—a family that neither loves her nor cares for her. When a powerful king comes to visit, Alyrra finds herself betrothed to his son, a man she has never met and can only fear for the power he will have over her. Then, during the journey to her new home, Alyrra is attacked by an inhuman sorceress and betrayed by her own companion. Her companion switches places with her, taking the title of princess for herself. For the first time in her life, Alyrra has a choice: to fight back, or to make a new life for herself free of the court. But what seems like an easy choice to begin with turns out to be the hardest one of all…
3. S: How did you come up with the idea for this book? Was it on the spur of the moment or it took you some time to come up with everything?

Intisar: Thorn is actually a re-telling of an old Grimms’ fairy tale, “The Goose Girl.” It was one of my favourite stories as a child, in large part because I felt that there were two stories hidden in it: the story from the men’s point of view, where the King does everything to return the princess to her rightful place and the princess just goes along with it; and the story from the women’s point of view, where the princess at first happily embraces her new life away from court, but then—seemingly by accident and yet most certainly intentionally—lays the foundation for the King to find her. It’s a story, at heart, about choice, and about the power of a woman to choose her own fate when so many of her choices have already been made for her.

That said, I decided to re-tell the Goose Girl as a challenge to myself, to see if I could write a novel-length manuscript. It was my senior year of university, so I paced myself at a chapter a week and just looked at it as a writing exercise. Except that I fell in love with it, and spent ten years revisiting it and revising it until it finally became the story you have now—which, at it’s heart, is still the Goose Girl, but is also so much more.
4. S: Any spoilers about the creation of the magical covers? I have just noticed that there is another cover for Thorn! Really amazing work for both of them! Ps: I really love the Neuscwanstein castle in the background (since I am fascinated with it haha)!
Intisar: Wow! You are the first person to recognize the castle 🙂 I think it’s a beautiful castle.
The cover design was a really challenging process for me. For the first cover, I used a graphic design services called 99designs that allowed me to spend a week working with a group of graphic designers to develop a “winning” cover. That ended up being a really difficult set-up, and not one I’m planning to repeat! For the first cover, I was striving for an aura of mystery and danger, and I also wanted the cover model to look like the main character, Alyrra. In the novel, she’s relatively plain but pleasant looking. Unfortunately, a number of people gave me the feedback that they nearly skipped the book precisely because the cover model didn’t appeal to them, and the cover was so unassuming… When a fellow author and graphic designer wrote to me about how much she enjoyed Thorn, we got to talking and she offered to make a new cover for Thorn. This time, we focused on the fairy tale aspect (thus the castle!), the sense of action (the flying hair), and I had to compromise a bit on having a pretty cover model. I really like both the covers too, even though they are very different from each other.

S: Ha, ha! It is really nice to hear that I am the first one to recognise it! I am glad that you have finally created the cover you wanted!


5. S: Any songs you relate your books with? I think I can imagine a few but I am not sure if they would really fit the story.
Intisar: I tend to write in silence, so I don’t have any connections, but I’d love to hear what you’re thinking of!

S: There are a few but I can only mention one of them since I can not find the rest. It is  called “Downcast Spirit”. I found it on a very very long time ago.


6. S: What are you favorite books/book series? You can make a top 5/10 if you want to!

Intisar: This is such a tough question! I read voraciously (at least for a mom with small kids), but I’m not sure about favorites. I’m a hard core Jane Austen fan, with Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion at the top of my list. I also really enjoyed Chime by Franny Billingsley, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (ha ha! That’s a Persuasion retelling, so go figure!), and The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth M Pope (and I’m not sure why that one is so high on my list, but it just resonates). But, ask me again in a year, and that list will probably change.

7. S: Which authors do you consider to have been your inspiration?
Intisar: Probably Robin McKinley; I love her fairy tale retellings (especially the earlier ones), and they were influential around the time that I first kicked around the idea of writing a novel, and settling on retelling a fairy tale.
8. S: Where do you use to write your works? Any place that helps you concentrate and relax?
Intisar: I wish I had a writing place! Our house is pretty full, with my husband and I, our two little girls, and his mom. I often end up writing on my bed or on my corner of the couch. I used to be a desk person, and if we could have a desk in a quiet room, I probably still would be one, but the couch works pretty well in the meantime.
9. S: What country would you like your books to be popular in?
Intisar: Anywhere people want to read them. Though I’d love to visit fans somewhere I’ve never been before (like Romania 😀 ).
10. S: What do you think about Romania, the country I live in? Would you like to visit it one day?
Intisar: Absolutely! Romania has a fascinating history and a very rich heritage of folklore and stories. I’ve also heard that it’s a beautiful country, with lovely architecture, gorgeous mountains, and friendly people. 🙂 I hope I’ll be able to come visit some day.

S: Romania has, indeed, really many wonderful things. You just need to know where to look for them!


11. S: As an ending, you can say anything that comes to your mind to those who are reading! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
Intisar: I would encourage readers to check out independent / self-published authors; there are so many amazing new books coming out by writers who haven’t signed on to traditional publishing houses. Book blogs and GoodReads are both wonderful places to find out about new indie authors. And, if you find something you like, don’t underestimate how important writing a review is to indie authors—often, that’s the best way we have of sharing our work with more readers, and also the thing that makes us smile at the end of a long day.

Thank you so much for the interview!

S: You are very welcome, Intisar! Really glad that you accepted it! It is a really good advice for the readers out there. Authors really appreciate reviews from their readers.

Find Intisar on her:
Intisar Khanani’s first book is Thorn, a young adult fantasy novel inspired by the Grimm’s fairy tale The Goose Girl.


  1. Ralu February 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    What a lovely interview! I am also a hard core fan of Jane Austen. ^^ And the idea behind Thorn sounds really interesting to me, since I still enjoy reading a beautiful fairytale.

  2. Intisar Khanani February 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Hi Simona –

    Thanks again for having me here. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview as well 🙂 I just listened to Downcast Spirit–what a lovely piece of music. It certainly feels like it suits so much of the story (especially the sad bits). I also thought of one musical composition that I also associate with Thorn: "If" by Peter Rudenko

    What do you think?

    And Ralu –

    Thank you! What isn't there to love about Jane Austen, right? I hope you get a chance to check out Thorn; I'd love to hear what you think of it!

  3. Simoncello February 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    @Ralu: Thank you, Ralu! 😀 Glad that you liked it! I would also love to read Thorn and related fairytales in my free time.

    @Intisar: Hi ~~ Glad that the song I recommended somehow fitss your story!
    I also liked the song "If". It sounds really lovely! I love piano pieces.

    I will try to listen to it in the background when I will be able to read "Thorn"!

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