For writers, inspiration can strike at any time, from any place. For Lori Goldstein, the idea for Becoming Jinn began after the 2011 earthquake in Turkey, in which a two-week-old infant named Azra was found alive, despite being exposed to the elements for 48 hours. The infant’s mother and grandmother also survived, against all odds. The story – and name – stuck with Goldstein.
“It was hearing this beautiful name and picturing this world she would live in that sparked the idea of writing a book featuring Jinn, which for some reason I knew was the term for spirits derived from North African and Middle Eastern lore.”
Goldstein, a fan of contemporary, decided to merge fantasy elements with a contemporary setting to create a book that would stand out from all the other genie and Jinn books – something she didn’t realize at the time.
“When I started writing the book and even when it sold – way back in early 2013 – genie and Jinn books were unique to the market, so I couldn’t know that setting my book in the present day would differentiate it,” said Goldstein.
All she knew was that she “wanted to do a modern spin on the traditional tale of wish-granting genies.” And that modern spin means Azra has to face many challenges when she begins to grant wishes.
“Everyone with a cell phone has the ability to out her and her powers. She can’t grant someone’s wish overnight without risking exposure. If a guy’s suddenly flush with cash, the IRS will come a’ knocking. Granting wishes is less a glamorous, snap of the fingers thing and more of a gradual, research-based task,” said Goldstein.
Going into Becoming Jinn, Goldstein also knew she wanted the book to be told from the genie’s perspective, which not all genie stories do. “I wanted Azra to be the focus, not the sidekick.” She also “wanted to explore what it would be like to be the one granting the wishes of others while your own remain unfulfilled.”
Despite Azra’s supernatural heritage, Goldstein believes teens can still relate Azra’s journey.
“I wanted to write a strong female character, who, though not on the run from the government or some evil corporation, has her own battles to fight from within herself as she struggles to discover where she truly belongs. As a teen and even as a young adult, this was something I dealt with, and though I didn’t have to learn to use magic on top of it, the emotions are something I can identify with—something I think most readers, especially teen readers, can identify with.”
Goldstein added that, “Whether a character is a genie, a vampire, or a ‘normal’ person, every good story is about that character finding themselves and their path in life.”