Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Sabina Khan here to share about her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali. It is set in Bangladesh and sounds like a poignant story about family and being true to yourself.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

Hi Sabina! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

First of all, thank you so much for having me. So a little bit about me: I’m an immigrant from Bangladesh and I’ve now lived in North America for 26 years which is longer than I’ve lived anywhere else which includes Germany, where I was born and lived until I was 8, Bangladesh, where I spent my childhood and teens and Macao, where I completed my first 2 years of university. I live in British Columbia now with my husband and daughters and a puppy who is the centre of our world. I’m an educational consultant by day and work with students who are struggling with Math, Chemistry and other subjects at school. I became a writer because I was tired of never seeing characters who looked like me in all the books I read and then seeing that pattern continue as my daughters became readers.

2. I bet that you'll be able to really get inspiration from all the places you lived in your writing. Where did you get the idea for the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali?

When my daughter came out us a couple of years ago, we had a lot of conversations about other teens who were struggling about coming out to their families for fear of rejection or even worse, for their safety. I wanted to write a story about a Muslim teen who goes through all of the pain and difficulty of trying to stay true to herself but comes out stronger while also changing the hearts of the people she loves along the way. I wanted to highlight the many different mindsets within a single community and how there is much work to be done but that there are also many allies.

3. Your story is partially set in Bangladesh, and I know that you lived there once. How much did you rely on your own experiences and how much on research in using this as the setting for your story?

I relied mostly on my experiences growing up there. I lived there from the time I was 8 until I was 25 years old, so I have many meaningful memories that I cherish. I also have a lot of family still living there, so it’s easy to keep up with the changes that have occurred in the 25 years since I left.

4. That's great you could draw on your own experiences and those of family. Your story tackles some heavy issues, like being gay, dealing with traditional Muslim family values, and being forced into an arranged marriage that was not happy. How did you incorporate this all into your story in a way that was accurate, compelling, but not preachy?

I have some personal experience with being on the receiving end of discrimination and judgement for whom I decided to spend my life with, and a lot of those feelings made it into the story in some way or another. But I also wanted to make sure that readers were aware that no culture or religion is a monolith. Rukhsana finds unexpected allies within the Bengali Muslim community and struggles to make her American friends open their minds to try and understand her circumstances. A lot of the emotions are ones I and my family have felt living both here and in our respective homelands and I think it goes a long way towards being compelling if you’ve actually lived through something similar.

5. Share a bit about your main character, Rukhsana. Did her character development come easy to you or was it a struggle? Why?

Rukhsana’s character is based heavily on both my daughters, although her experiences are quite far
from anything my daughters have ever been through, so it wasn’t too difficult to write her in a natural way. And thankfully, my daughters gave me a lot of valuable feedback as I was writing her story. Some parts of her character are based on my own younger self, especially when she lashes out at the way she’s being treated by both her family and her friends.

6. Your agent is Hillary Jacobson. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like? 

I entered Pitch Wars in 2016 and was paired with an amazing mentor, Natasha Neagle, who helped me polish my manuscript and get it ready for the agent round. I had offers from several agents afterwards and after careful consideration I decided to sign with Hillary. It was undeniably the best decision of my writing career. Hillary is a highly intelligent, savvy and incredibly supportive advocate and I rely on her valuable insight every step of the way.

7. I've been hearing lots of good things about the pitch wars. Your book was released on January 29, 2019 in the United States. How did you promote your book both pre-release and when it came out both in British Columbia where you live and the U.S.?

I did an international pre-order campaign, giveaways, interviews and event appearances. I am fortunate to be working with a publisher like Scholastic, who have done so much to promote this book. I know that this is not always the case and I am immensely grateful to them for their unwavering support and incredible promotional efforts.

8. What do you think worked and what you do differently in the time from signing your contract with your publisher until your book’s release in terms of building your social platform and getting the word out for your book? 

I honestly can’t think of anything right now that I would do differently and even though it’s too soon to quantify, I’m sure every little bit helped in different ways and to a varying extent. I was already pretty active on Twitter when I signed and in the two years since then I’ve been fortunate to find a very supportive online community. We support each other and promote each other’s work as much as possible. I’ve relied on the encouragement and wisdom of my fellow debut authors as well as those who have already been on this journey.

9. What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on another YA Contemporary which deals with Islamophobia and immigration. Hopefully I’ll be able to share much more soon.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sabina. You can find Sabina here:

Sabina has generously offered an ARC of the love & lies of Rukhsana Ali. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through March 30th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, March 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Uplinger and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, April 3rd I have an interview with debut author Gillian McDunn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary CATEPILLAR SUMMER and my IWSG post

Monday, April 8th I have an interview with debut author Swati Teerhadla and a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT

Wednesday, April 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Mary Cummings and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 15th I have an interview with author Tanya Drecker and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MUSIC BOXES

Monday, April 22nd I'm off

Monday, April 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Devin Ross and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

Excellent post Natalie. The interview was wonderful to read also about the giveawys,
Have a wonderful week.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Write the books you want to see and read - that sounds familiar. Congratulations, Sabina!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It sounds as if you're excellent in the sciences as well as the arts (writing). Congratulations to you on the new book!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like a powerful book!! Definitely have some readers in mind who will enjoy this one!

Greg Pattridge said...

Such an interesting story line and one that many young readers will connect with on many levels. Thanks for the super interview. I'll back away from the giveaway with the enormous pile of MG lit staring at me.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Scholastic is the biggest children's book publisher - they better do a lot to promote the book.

Congrats, Sabina.

Brenda said...

The experiences she drew from when writing the book, both personal and her travels, make this sound very interesting. Have a lovely week Natalie.

Danielle H. said...

I'm so excited to read this book! It's one of my highest anticipated reads. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/183548472917/sabina-khan-interview-and-the-love-and-lies-of

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I'll have to add this to my to-read list. I love learning about new places from an insider perspective.

jean602 said...

Sounds like an interesting read.

jean602 said...


jean602 said...


Megan said...

This book sounds so wonderful! I'd love to enter :)
GFC: Megan S.
Tweet: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1107949418752458753
Email: megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com

Jessy Yarrell said...

It sounds like a great book.

Sherry Ellis said...

Sounds like a really good book. Scholastic should do a terrific job in promoting it!

Tonja Drecker said...

Interesting interview and the book sounds like a wonderful read.

Unknown said...

Can't wait to read this book! carrolla@sw1.k12.wy.us

Samantha Bryant said...

Sounds like a great book! @mirymom1 from
Balancing Act

Angie Quantrell said...

Sounds fascinating! Thanks for sharing this with us. Congratulations!

DMS said...

This sounds like a powerful book. Such an interesting interview. Wishing Sabina the best of luck!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Nice interview. And, yeah, I can draw a lot from my children too.

Gipsons said...

I want it all

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a fascinating story, one that seems to speak to young people today. Best wishes to you. Thanks for sharing about your work.