Fractured Threads – Book Launch Q&A

My new book, Fractured Threads, will be releasing this Saturday and is now available for purchase! I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the book throughout its journey- in regard to both its imminent publication and its overall production. Therefore, I thought it would be a neat idea to collate all of those questions and answer them in one place. Hopefully, everything you need to know about the book you can find out here. 


When will Fractured Threads be released? 

The book releases on August 27th, 2022! 


Where can I purchase it? 

At the time of writing, Fractured Threads can be purchased from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s.  


What format is the book in? 

Fractured Threads is available only in paperback, specifically B-Format (which is the industry standard for trade paperbacks). 


How long is the book? 

Fractured Threads is approximately 60,000 words in length, across 232 pages. 


How many stories are in the book? 

There are 10 stories in the book, of varying lengths. 


What genre is the book? 

A bookseller would categorize Fractured Threads as “General Fiction”, which is a broad term that encompasses pretty much every type of fiction that isn’t “Genre Fiction” (Fantasy, Crime, Horror, etc). How a bookstore arranges their shelves, however, does not necessarily reflect the categories that are used in theoretic discourse, book clubs, classrooms, or the many conversations readers have both online and offline. A more accurate term for my book would be “Contemporary Fiction”, which is a branch of Realism that takes place at the same time it was written (as opposed to Realist stories that take place in historical settings). I consciously wrote Fractured Threads as a Contemporary piece, because I wanted to capture the modern world as it exists right now, and have it as a kind of literary time-capsule of the past two years. I’ve done this by including many specifics from the 2020-2022 time period- be it references to popular culture, technology, politics, or current affairs. Some writers like to write stories that are deliberately vague in their setting, perhaps to give it a more timeless appeal, but I knew that for this book I wanted to saturate it with concrete details, brand names, all that stuff. You could also consider my book “Literary Fiction”, which isn’t a category you’ll typically see in a bookstore, but it’s another way of distinguishing a book from Genre Fiction. It’s less vague than General Fiction however, and often refers to books that are more character-driven than plot-driven, especially books that reflect on the human condition. 


What is the meaning behind the title? 

I knew early on that I didn’t want this book to be named after one of its stories. I wanted it to have a unique title, in order to convey that the whole is more important than the sum of its parts. All of the stories in Fractured Threads form a part of, and are in service to, that organic whole. It’s very much a singular narrative, and it was my intention from the beginning to have it occupy this gray area between a novel and a short story collection, blending the two so that it’s neither one nor the other. There’s no “lead story” here- all of the stories come under the central narrative, which is a thematic narrative of human connection. I felt that if I chose a lead story for the book’s title, then it might imply to the reader that the book is a collection of disconnected stories. For example, if I called it “Hamza’s Loon & Other Stories”, it might be seen as a “collected works” or “selected works”, which is where a bunch of stories are compiled together into a single book, joined only by the fact that they have the same author. 

The challenge I ran into, however, is that I soon realized I would have to name the book after something abstract, because what ties the stories together is thematic in nature. There’s no place, character, or event that unites them, which could then give me a much more concrete, vivid title. It could be said that the pandemic is a unifying event, but I thought that if I referred to it directly in my title, then I would be implying that the virus itself is the focus, or that this is a medical drama of some kind. The pandemic is more of a setting than a focus, with the book’s focus being the emotional lives of the characters during that time. 

Therefore, I settled on Fractured Threads. The “Threads” in this sense refers to the lives of the characters, based on the motif of the “threads of fate” in Pagan mythology, where a trio of goddesses known as Fates weave threads on a loom that decide the destiny of each person. My book is all about the direction each character’s life takes, and the forces that might affect a change in direction. The “Fractured” part of the title simply refers to the way society becomes fractured by the COVID-19 pandemic, with social distancing, lockdown mandates, and quarantine measures suspending communal or public life and leaving people isolated from each other. My book aims to explore how the suspension of that shared existence affects the individual lives (or fates!) of the various characters. 


What inspired the idea for this book? 

Well, as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by narratives with multiple, overlapping points of view. It goes back to 2 episodes of The Simpsons I watched as a kid that always stuck with me: “22 Short Films About Springfield” and “Trilogy of Error”. Ever since then, I’ve tried to write something in the medium of fiction that has a similar style. 

Another inspiration for me was a comment one of my American Literature professors made when I was studying abroad at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire in the fall of 2012. As we were getting ready for class, another literature professor poked his head in the door and asked our professor what we were studying. Our professor answered and then posed the same question back to him. The other professor answered “Winesburg, Ohio”, to which our professor quipped “Ah! But is it a short story collection or a novel?”. The two men grinned knowingly at each other and left it at that. My professor’s remark intrigued me, so I read up about Winesburg, Ohio and added it to my TBR. I bought it on Kindle when I returned to the U.K., but I ultimately never got around to reading it. I dug up my Kindle recently and now it won’t turn on, even when I plug in the charger. I’ll get around to Winesburg, Ohio someday, preferably in a lovely print version. So while I haven’t read the book, you can find traces of it in the DNA of Fractured Threads, due to the impression of it I got from my professor. 

Hopefully, you can see how between this remark and those 2 classic Simpsons episodes, I arrived at my idea for Fractured Threads


Who designed the cover? 

My cover was both illustrated and designed by Jasmine S. Higgins- a poet, designer, and close friend of mine (referred to as “Emily” on this blog). Jasmine holds a BA in Fine Art and an MA in Publishing, both from Kingston University. She has self-published two volumes of poetry, both of which she has illustrated and designed herself. She has also designed book covers for other projects, such as university assignments and publishing internships. You can check out her portfolio here

I commissioned Jasmine to provide me with the cover illustration as well as the designs for the front cover, spine, and back cover, and the praise for her work has already come flooding in! Before I hired her, Jasmine had already been involved in the development of Fractured Threads as a beta reader and consultant, so she already knew the book quite well. Aside from being a distinguished designer, she is also a poet, and was working on her second volume of poetry- Mermaid Lungs– at the same time that I was writing my book. The two of us would meet up regularly at The Press Room café in Surbiton and work on our books together, and so I like to think of Fractured Threads and Mermaid Lungs as being cousins. Jasmine’s book released last week, and you can find it here if you are interested. 


What does the cover represent? 

I asked Jasmine to provide me with an illustration that would reflect the themes of the book- chiefly the theme of human connection. I wanted an image that evoked loneliness or emotional distance, hinting that things are out of sync in some way. The scene depicted on the front cover is taken from one of the stories in my book- though you’ll have to read it to find out which one! I think it represents the themes of the book as a whole quite well. The bridge in the illustration is inspired from a real-life bridge in the city of Eau Claire, WI, that connects the UWEC campus across the Chippewa River. After finishing her work on the cover, Jasmine said to me “I think I need to visit this bridge now,” and I liked the idea that she suddenly had a connection to this place halfway across the world, even though she hasn’t been there. 


What was the biggest challenge in writing the book? 

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write a book about the lives of various people during the pandemic. The biggest challenge I encountered with this was deciding how wide or narrow I wanted the scope to be. The COVID-19 pandemic is a global event, so my initial idea was that this book needed to reflect that by having each story take place in a different country. I felt that that would best reflect the themes I wanted to work with- that this a shared trauma that is happening all across the world. 

The problem I had with this approach, however, was that it would be quite difficult to write. If I was going to have one story taking place in Iran, another in India, another in Brazil, et cetera, then I would have to do a monumental amount of research in order to make those stories work. I felt that if I didn’t write a story that reflected the problems unique to each country during the pandemic, then the choice of setting would be arbitrary. Why set my story in a country I don’t know very well, when that same story could easily take place in any setting? I’d just be running the risk of it coming across as inauthentic. I also thought that, if I did somehow conduct enough research to write about all these different places, then the stories might be implied to be the definitive narratives of each country’s pandemic experience. There would inevitably be countries left out as well, unless the book were 3000 pages long or something. It just felt overambitious and not really within my capabilities to pull off. Something like that might work better if it were an anthology that compiled stories from multiple writers, one from each country. 

I also realized that that wasn’t the book I wanted to write. I didn’t want the pandemic to be front and center. I wanted to focus on modern people- their lives and their relationships- with the pandemic in the background. The stories I enjoy writing- and reading- wouldn’t really make sense in a book where the characters play second fiddle to an event or setting. 

At the same time, I was worried about the scale being too narrow. If all of the characters were straight, white, British men in their 20s, then I felt like it would undermine the themes I wanted to work with- sonder and interconnectedness. Not that such a book couldn’t be good, as there could be something interesting about examining very similar characters in a sorta narrow-but-deep way, but it didn’t feel right for what I envisioned. I wanted the stories to have some variety, and still maintain that this is a global event affecting different people in different places. 

So during the planning stages of the project, the book was constantly expanding and contracting in scale, until I found a balance that felt right. Ultimately, I chose settings I’m mostly familiar with, but are still varied. As for the characters, while I’ve tried to make them each feel distinct, I decided to make them all young people. I thought that would prevent the book from feeling too wide and too shallow. I’m very interested in protagonists that are at the beginning of their adult lives (people in their 20s) and especially how they might be affected by something like a global pandemic. 


What was the biggest challenge in producing the book? 

The thing I was most worried about was typesetting. I can accept that there will inevitably be a few typos, as there are in every book that’s ever been published, but what I really wanted to avoid were glaring design errors that the eye would instantly be drawn to. I had done some typesetting and page design in class, but I wasn’t confident in my skills. Luckily, I had a great introduction into the craft of typesetting and book design by the late Dan Newman, who was a lecturer here at Kingston University. I also received some invaluable help from Professor Emma Tait, and regularly consulted David Blatner’s InDesign course on LinkedIn Learning. 

It took some getting used to, but I eventually fell in love with typesetting and even enjoyed it. It was quite satisfying to just listen to music and make the text look neat. In the end, I was proud of the work I did. 


What are the major themes of the book? 

Interconnectedness, isolation, coming-of-age, sonder, mental health, youth, image-vs-reality, grief, and desire. 


How can I help support the book? 

While buying the book obviously helps, the best way you can support me is completely free- and that’s simply by raising awareness of the book. Leaving positive reviews or ratings on places like Amazon or Goodreads will boost the chances of people finding it. No book is for everyone- the challenge of marketing is connecting the right readers with the right book. The more exposure the book gets, the greater the chance of finding that match. It’s a numbers game; the algorithm responds to engagement. Other than that, you can share my posts on social media, which would also be greatly appreciated! 


What writers served as figures of inspiration for this book? 

Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Sally Rooney, Elena Ferrante, Lily King, Laura Moriarty, Richard Powers, and Anne Tyler. 


Why should someone read Fractured Threads

I think that if you like any of the following, then my book will appeal to you: 

  • Character-driven fiction 
  • Coming-of-age narratives and young protagonists 
  • Realistic, mundane settings (think Anne Tyler or Sally Rooney) 
  • Short fiction 
  • Stories about interpersonal relationships and domestic drama 
  • Timely stories that reflect current affairs (this being the COVID-19 pandemic) 
  • Stories with flawed characters 
  • Stories grounded in a specific time and place, featuring vivid details 
  • Multiple points of view 
  • Themes of loneliness, youth, mental health, and the need for connection 

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