As a predominantly online publication, REORIENT needs no introduction, as it’s made a mark on the international arena with all of its innovative content celebrating Middle Eastern arts and culture. Award winning founder and editor of REORIENT Joobin Bekhrad is widely acclaimed for his written works, and with a resume that runs high with literary experience, it comes as no surprise to see him publish his first novel.
The Iranian-born author of Coming Down Again claims that his relationship with the pen is a surprising one. “There was a time when I could never imagine being a writer. My high-school teachers had effectively turned me off of anything having to do with the written word, and I absolutely hated things involving reading and/or writing.” He tells us, but it didn’t take long for him to discover his talents “I soon took up the pen again and began writing like there was no tomorrow. I must have been around 23 years old when I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I’d thankfully discovered literature in my first year of university.” With piqued interest, we delve deeper into Joobin’s literary mind, inviting him to turn the tables and hand over the pen, surrendering himself over as our subject.
We absolutely love everything about REORIENT, can you please introduce the publication and website to our readers?
Thank you! REORIENT is a predominantly online publication that celebrates contemporary Middle Eastern arts and culture. Our areas of focus are visual art, literature, film, and music, and we’re supported by a network of amazing contributors from around the globe. I launched it in 2012 on a whim (as with most of the other things I do), although it really assumed its identity and character in 2014. Our Instagram account has become very popular, although what troubles me at times is that many don’t know we’re actually a serious publication. If I had a dime for every time someone approached me at a gathering and said, ‘Oh! You’re the Instagram guys!’ … Woe is me.
From REORIENT to your new novel, Coming Down Again, tell us about your journey as a writer and content producer.
Well, in the early days I was writing completely different material. I don’t write reviews anymore, or even articles; I only write stories. That’s what really interests me; I mean, anyone can just write a review of a film that will be irrelevant in a few months’ time. Stories last and don’t have an expiry date; they’re also more challenging to write. Even if I’m writing about, for instance, history (as I did with the pieces Of Bandits and Popinjays and Ramblings of an Iranian Wino), I try to tell a story. There’s always a bit of me lurking in everything I write. Really, I’m writing my autobiography as we speak: it’s all there.
Coming Down Again was begging to be written. I always wanted to tell this story, and it had gotten to the point where I was feeling physically ill because of not getting anywhere with it. I’d written two drafts that I scrapped prior to releasing what you have in your hands, as I didn’t feel I was conveying what I’d initially set out to. It began with a series of images: a red electric guitar, the mountains of Tehran, flowers, a boy with shaggy hair and blue jeans. I knew I wanted to (or rather, had to) do something with them. It was just a matter of gluing myself to my seat and knocking the book out.
What should readers expect from Coming Down Again?
Don’t expect a standard novel. The first two drafts were plot-driven, and I decided to scrap the idea of a plot entirely. The book is about a feeling, a mood, a whirlwind of emotions. That being said, it’s also about heavy doses of rock and roll, vitriol, and eyeliner. On another level, you could look at it as a love letter to Tehran and London. The Tehran I’ve written about is the Tehran of my heart and soul … Just add chai.
What are some of your goals in 2017?
Well, aside from not being lazy and finally going on the greatest Iranian road trip of all time I’ve been dreaming about for ages, there’s the book of essays and stories I mentioned and the poetry book I hope to finish in time for the Iranian New Year (Norooz). Hopefully more people will discover Coming Down Again, as well. Additionally, I’d love to find more inspiring artists to speak with for REORIENT’s podcast series (REORIENT Radio), as well as continue churning out material that strikes chords within our readers. Really, the goal is to just write, write, and write. And get filthy rich and famous in the process.
‘Coming Down Again’ is available online through www.amazon.com. Book cover art by Melodie Hojabr Sadat. For more about Joobin and his latest book, head to joobinbekhrad.com. For more on REORIENT, visit www.reorientmag.com.