Writer’s Block: Premee Mohamed

Today marks the launch of Premee Mohamed’s highly-anticipated followup to The Annual Migration of Clouds, We Speak Though the Mountain. In our interview, Premee tells us about the book she returns to again and again, where the inspiration for her characters comes from, and what a perfect writing day might look like.

A photo of author Premee Mohamed. She is a medium skin-toned woman with medium length dark hair, standing in front of a cinder block wall.


Share It:

Writer's Block

All Lit Up: Which writers have influenced you or had the most impact on your own writing?

Premee Mohamed: I find that as I’ve gone through phases of writers who write in unusual or experimental form or voice, my writing has been influenced by those books much more rapidly than others (whether I liked them or not seems to be irrelevant).

Definitely reading William Faulkner right around the time I started writing longer fiction (about 12-13 years old) had an enormous impact on my writing. I recall thinking “You can DO that?” not only about his syntax and use of dialect, but tense and point-of-view shifts in the same book, sometimes the same chapter, and the repetition, the odd structure and timelines braided together and going backward and forward without any effort to orient the reader… the lesson I took was that an engaged reader will keep up, and you aren’t required to condescend to unengaged ones.

As I got older, Umberto Eco, William S. Burroughs, Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, and Italo Calvino became major influences, reinforcing the idea that a writer doesn’t need permission to write outside of the box; you can just do it, have fun with it, choose how far you want to go, and do it again and again and in different ways for each of your books if you want. What I like about their writing is what I want to eventually achieve in mine: if you read a passage they’ve written, you generally cannot mistake it for something by any other writer.

All Lit Up: Do you have a book that you’ve gone back and read several times?

Premee Mohamed: Tons, I am a huge re-reader and am always re-reading something as well as reading several new things. Probably the one I’ve re-read the most is Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Every time I read it I ask myself what I would do to be the sole possessor of secret knowledge, and whether the answer is different from the last time I’ve read it. Every time, I also find something new to enjoy—a phrase that strikes me differently or that surprises me even though I’ve read it a hundred times before, or suddenly becomes relevant specifically to what I’m reading. Eventually I expect the book to be one solid mass of highlights.

The cover of We Speak Through the Mountain by Premee Mohamed.

All Lit Up: What are you working on now?

Premee Mohamed: Several short pieces, including some new climate fiction, and the sequel to this year’s novella We Speak Through the Mountain, which will be coming out with ECW Press in 2025 (if I hand it in on time). I’m also working on a novel that’s been contracted but not announced yet!

All Lit Up: Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

Premee Mohamed: Generally, the idea generates the inspiration—my usual joke (not really a joke) is that after I come up with the story premise and setting, I ask myself “Who would have the WORST time in this plot?” and then I create those people. I guess I find misery inspiring? More specifically, I’m inspired by creating characters—especially in longform work—who fall all along the spectrum of “Actually I’m having a GREAT time in this world” to “I wish I could fix this world” or “I wish I could fix myself to fit in better with this world.” For me, the friction and discomfort between where people are and where they want to be makes for the most interesting characters.

All Lit Up: Describe your perfect writing day.

Premee Mohamed: Owing to some miracle, I wake up after a full night of sleep; I have an enormous breakfast and make a cup of tea and head to my office. The cat is (quietly) entertaining himself instead of going “Wehhhhhhhh” at the top of his lungs because I only played with him for 15 minutes instead of 17. I don’t have any meetings, nobody is nagging me to hand in anything right away, I have a specific project to work on, and ideally it’s snowing heavily and kind of grim outside, so my house seems like an oasis of light and warmth that I’m not tempted to leave. My squishy wireless headphones are all charged up. I put them on, hit ‘play’ on some background music, and start to write. Eight or ten hours later, I’ve written some scenes I’m happy with, didn’t fall down any research rabbit holes, probably don’t need to toss the entire thing when I think of some plot hole later, and am ready to eat a late supper and plan for a future, imperfect writing day.

A labelled photo of Premee Mohamed's work area, including a window-mounted squirrel feeder, several drinking cups, and an "employee lounge" for a cat.
Premee’s desk, helpfully labelled.

All Lit Up: If you had to describe your writing style in just a few words, what would they be?

Premee Mohamed: Voicey, ambitious, ambiguous.

* * *

A photo of author Premee Mohamed. She is a medium skin-toned woman with medium length dark hair, standing in front of a cinder block wall.

Premee Mohamed is a Nebula-, World Fantasy–, and Aurora Award–winning Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the author of the Beneath the Rising series of novels as well as several novellas, and her short fiction has appeared in many venues.