Mona Arshi: A quiet and poetic book that lends itself to be heard

‘Somebody Loves You’ is Mona Arshi’s debut novel, the audiobook of which is being released next week. We met up with the author while she was recording the narrative for the audiobook to discuss the experience with her. 

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See below for transcription.

While this may be her first novel, Arshi is no stranger to the written word. In fact, her debut collection of poetry ‘Small Hands’ won the Forward Prize in 2015 for best first collection. Her impact in the world of poetry has been immense, from being published in The Times and The Guardian to judging the National Poetry Competition and appearing on BBC Radio 4.  

With her debut novel Arshi introduces readers to another side of her writing, while keeping her signature poetic style in mind. In the words of poet Roger Robinson ‘Somebody Loves You’ is “a sharply drawn world of wonder in elegant and lean prose. A fresh, innovative novel that is an ode to families, coming of age and sisterhood.” 

Tell us about the experience of recording Somebody Loves You.   

“Recording the audio of ‘Somebody Loves You’ has been such a joy - it means I’m connecting back into the character of Ruby, the protagonist” explained the author. 

“It feels like the energy that brought me to writing the book in the first place – reconnecting back into that for two days. It’s been such a wonderful experience,” Arshi says as she looks back on her time spent in the London recording studio.  

Was this your first time narrating an audiobook?  

“I have actually recorded audio poems before, but they have been very short and sharp things.” explains Arshi.

“This is the first time I’ve done a longer piece, and it’s been sort of exhilarating and sort of terrifying at the same time.” says Arshi as she describes this new experience. 

What do you think the audio version of your book brings to the listener that they don’t get just from the text?  

“I think there’s so much more that’s brought by the audio version of ‘Somebody Loves You’” says Arshi.  

“The book is quite a quiet & poetic book and I think it lends itself to be heard because there is something about listening in and quietly leaning into the character of Ruby and her interior voice.” Arshi explained while reflecting on the soft tone and narrative of the novel and its protagonist. 

How did you feel reading your own book, in a studio for 2 days?  

“It’s been quite surreal actually going into studio and recording the book ‘Somebody Loves You’ – I found it really quite hard” Arshi says honestly.  

“I found it harder than I thought it was going to be, I have a lot of respect for actors that go in and do this on a daily basis”, explains Arshi, who found the experience to be a lot more difficult than she initially anticipated.  

“It’s so intense - you have to take such care with the words that are in front of you and you’re trying to communicate something about the energy of the book that’s really important” the author contended when considering why voicing narrations is more complicated than it seems. 

Are you a fan of audiobooks yourself?  

“I’m a big fan of audiobooks, particularly over lockdown I just discovered them. Now I’m often travelling, I actually have them on my phone. I’m addicted to listening to books in that way”, Arshi said looking back at how the pandemic has impacted her reading habits. 

Was there any character you particularly enjoyed bringing to life?  

In her answer Arshi highlighted the main character Ruby saying that “she’s the protagonist and it’s the interior voice that you hear mostly.”  

Arshi continued “There’s another character that I hope listeners really connect with – that’s Eena, and *spoiler alert*  Eena we hear in heaven and that’s a different sort of participation for the reader  and the listener as well.  So, I’m really hoping that she’s a hit with people.”  

‘Somebody Loves You’ is being released on the 16th of November 2021. See below for more information. 

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