Elisse Sophia Ahmet in the spotlight Lucent Dreaming interview

Elisse Sophia Ahmet in the spotlight

Tonight we put the spotlight on Elisse Sophia Ahmet, whose story ‘Lost in the Waterpark’ is published in issue 10 of Lucent Dreaming. You can watch and listen to the author read the piece on YouTube.

So, what inspired your piece ‘Lost in the Waterpark’ in issue 10? Can you tell us a little more about what it’s about?

I wanted to write a story where a woman steps outside of an acceptable version of heteronormative femininity. For Luna, motherhood is imbued with a sense of an ending; the symbolic death of the self, yet turning her back on it is also punctuated by the notion of regret. I recently wrote a dissertation about how mapping the female body and its biology against the cultural constructions of female identity and expectations surrounding motherhood ensures women continue to have a different temporal experience to men. That’s the reason I played around with time and reality in this piece. Women in the 21st century are navigating a clash between capitalist expectations of them as ‘genderless individuals’, while cultural expectations of the female body continue to expect women to fulfil a biological destiny, bearing children as their ultimate purpose – and by a certain age. While female identity continues to be constructed in terms of a narrative timeline for women’s bodies – and tropes such as the ticking biological clock persist – the idea of women’s freewill and choice remains illusory. This clashing of new and old roles and the double bind it creates ultimately comes down to ideas around what a woman is and what she should be using her body for. Until these ideas are dismantled, women will continue to bear time and a sense of lack around whatever choice she makes.

What are some of your favourite books and art (including shows, videos, music) – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?

Miranda July has been a huge influence. I think everything she does is marvellous. Her novel The First Bad Man is one I thrust on anyone who lets me recommend a book to them. The way she uses language is so uniquely specific and bizarre, whilst being wholly relatable and hilarious. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is another huge source of inspiration, it’s heart-breaking and full of soul. Zadie Smith for all the obvious reasons, and Sheila Heti for providing a refreshing perspective on motherhood. I thought White Lotus was a tightly written, darkly funny tv show about the different layers of privilege and the intersection of class and race, and I loved the film Lucky for its unexpected protagonists. Anything that bucks the trend when it comes to female characters acting out of sync with perceived expectations of their age is a winner for me. 

What, if anything, are you looking forward to right now and are there any writing/creative projects you’re currently working on?

I’m currently editing my first novel, The Other Side of the Island. It’s the story of three generations of British Turkish Cypriot women – a grandmother, mother and daughter – and spans a time period from 1955 to 2020. Slowly untangling the knot of memory that binds the Osman women together, it’s an uncovering of family secrets and the painful private and public histories that lead to the discovery of the truths that lies beneath. Set against North (and South) London’s racial and cultural tapestry, it follows the joyful, uncomfortable, always compelling story of Nene Fatma, Meyrem and Ayla as they navigate urban life and their relationships to each other. As brimming with joy and grief as the city itself, it interrogates the connection between identity, mental illness, motherhood and the legacies of trauma born from displacement. I’ll be searching for an agent to represent me and this project later in the year – can you tell!?

Can you tell us about how you got into writing and art? Is there anyone whose support or encouragement really inspired or motivated you?

My route to creative writing has been somewhat protracted. Growing up, I was taught to seek out a viable vocation; ‘author’ didn’t quite fit the bill. I’ve always loved the power of words though, and ended up studying English Literature and Journalism. I found my way into copywriting through a career in PR. Eight years into speaking on behalf of brands, I was restless to find my own voice. I embarked on a short creative writing course at City Lit with the Canadian author Sarah Leipciger, a woman who taught creative writing workshops in prisons and published novels. She helped me realise being a fiction writer wasn’t entirely out of reach. I did two more short courses. Then, the pandemic. I was made redundant but used the money I received to pay for a masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, where I was taught by Dr Anna Whitwham – another huge inspiration for her patient and considered approach, and who I’m hoping will supervise my PhD. Of course, none of this would be possible without the love and support of my partner, Dr Nathan Ashman. As a lecturer in crime fiction at UEA perhaps I was always destined to find this path eventually, but he was hugely encouraging nonetheless. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without him cheering me on.

Where can people see more of you and your work?

My work has been published by LitroBetween the Lines, and of course, Lucent Dreaming. I doubt anyone cares to see it, but my portfolio of copywriting work is also online here [on my website].

Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine of surreal writing and art, and publisher of emerging authors and artists worldwide. Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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