It’s June and that means it’s time for another year of Pride Month spotlights! I’m so excited to spotlight The Chandler Legacies by Abdi Nazemian and share the interview with the author!
Welcome Abdi! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
I’m Abdi Nazemian. I’ve been writing and producing for film and television for two decades now. Halfway through my career, I started writing novels because I realized how hard it was to get my more personal screenplays produced. As a kid, I moved a lot – going from Iran to France to Canada to the United States – which made it hard to make consistent friendships until high school. I spent most of my free time immersed in stories, from books to Archie comics to movies. As someone who knows firsthand the power of storytelling, I feel profoundly honored to be a storyteller now.
How would you describe The Chandler Legacies in one sentence?
The Chandler Legacies is a novel about how the honesty and creativity of five writing students challenges the long-standing culture of their boarding school.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of The Chandler Legacies?
The five writing students the book focuses on are Ramin Golafshar, who comes to Chandler to escape the dangers of being gay in Iran, Amanda Priya “Spence” Spencer, the daughter of privileged elites, Beth Kramer, a “townie,” Sarah Brunson, Beth’s former roommate, and Freddy Bello, an athlete who is questioning who he is.
What representation will readers find in The Chandler Legacies?
A lot of queer representation. Four of the five writing students I focus on are queer, as is their writing teacher. Ramin is from Iran. Freddy’s family is from Brazil and Cuba. Spence’s mom is from India. Boarding school is a diverse, international place, and I wanted to reflect that. It’s always important to me to represent the true diversity of the world as best I can. I know how it feels not to be represented. I wish that there were stories that helped me feel seen when I was young, and I hope my books make at least some readers feel that way.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
I don’t even know how my books will begin, or who will be in them. I begin my writing process with little more than a world I want to explore, or an unresolved conflict in myself I need to write about. I don’t plot out my books. I try not to self-edit along the way. I do all the structuring in revisions. My writing process is largely about creating conditions that allow me to express myself spontaneously and without fear. And to answer the second part of your question, it’s all about allowing the characters to speak through me instead of about me leading them.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
I love the quote “We make our own legacy.” The idea of legacy must consume me, because the quote that means the most to me in my previous book, Like a Love Story, is “Love is our legacy.” There’s something important for me about the idea of taking a dark legacy, one of shame and secrecy and violence, and taking control if it, turning it into a legacy of love and honesty and creativity. The Chandler Legacies doesn’t shy away from true and brutal descriptions of hazing and abuse, but ultimately it’s about how a group of students find their way from darkness to light through friendship and creativity. They don’t accept the legacy that the institution they belong to has handed them. They transform it.
What is something readers will find in The Chandler Legacies that they may not realize based on the synopsis?
One happy surprise is realizing that some readers are using the book as a writing reference book. I love that. Every writing workshop scene has little writing tips inside it. I love the idea that readers are pulling those tips out of the book, and using them in their own writing practice.
What’s something you hope readers will take away from The Chandler Legacies?
I hope readers come away from the book feeling hopeful and empowered. It’s a dark book, but it’s about how we come through the darkest parts of our lives through creative expression and true friendship. Turning the messiness and pain of life into art helps me make sense of it all, and helps me find a more honest and empathetic way forward. I hope readers go on that same journey with me. Perhaps they’ll think about the power and responsibility of creativity when they put this book down, and perhaps feel compelled to create themselves.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed The Chandler Legacies?
Adib Khorram’s Darius books, E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
I have a short story I’m very proud of (my first published short story) in an anthology that will be released in June. The story is called Concerto, and it’s in an anthology called Out There: Into The Queer New Yonder. I wrote the short story in early pandemic days, and it’s an ode to the power of love and art to triumph over everything, even time. And I’m currently working on my next young adult novel, which I’m very excited about. I think it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written, but maybe all writers always say that about whatever they’re immersed in at the moment. If we don’t feel that way, how do we keep going?
ABOUT THE BOOK
A novel about the enclosed world of privilege and silence at an elite boarding school and the unlikely group of friends who dare challenge the status quo through their writing.
Beth Kramer is a “townie” who returns to her sophomore year after having endured a year of judgment from her roommate, Sarah.
But Sarah Brunson knows there’s more to that story.
Amanda Priya “Spence” Spencer is the privileged daughter of NYC elites, who is reeling from the realization that her family name shielded her from the same fate as Sarah.
Ramin Golafshar arrives at Chandler as a transfer student to escape the dangers of being gay in Iran, only to suffer brutal hazing under the guise of tradition in the boys’ dorms.
And Freddy Bello is the senior who’s no longer sure of his future but has fallen hard for Spence and knows he has to stand up to his friends after what happened to Ramin.
At Chandler, the elite boarding school, these five teens are brought together in the Circle, a coveted writing group where life-changing friendships are born—and secrets are revealed. Their professor tells them to write their truths. But is the truth enough to change the long-standing culture of abuse at Chandler? And can their friendship survive the fallout?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abdi Nazemian spent his childhood in a series of exciting locations (Tehran, Paris, Toronto, New York), but could usually be found in his bedroom watching old movies and reading.
Abdi’s first novel, THE WALK-IN CLOSET, was awarded Best Debut at the Lambda Literary Awards. He has written three young adult novels, all published by Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins: THE AUTHENTICS (2017), LIKE A LOVE STORY (2019), and THE CHANDLER LEGACIES (2022). LIKE A LOVE STORY won a Stonewall Honor and was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best young adult books of all time.
Abdi has written for three television shows: NBC’s ORDINARY JOE, Fox’s ALMOST FAMILY, and NBC’s THE VILLAGE. He has written six produced films including THE ARTIST’S WIFE (Strand Releasing, 2020) MENENDEZ: BLOOD BROTHERS (Lifetime, 2017), and THE QUIET (Sony Pictures Classics, 2006). He also wrote, directed and produced the short film REVOLUTION (2012). He is proud to say that his words have been spoken by the likes of Carmela Soprano, The Nanny, and The Girl With The Most Cake.
As Head of Development for Water’s End Productions, Abdi has been an executive producer or associate producer on numerous films, including CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, IT HAPPENED IN L.A., THE PRICE, THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW, and LITTLE WOODS.
Abdi lives in Los Angeles with his two children and husband, and holds dual citizenship between the United States and Canada.
Abdi is not the inspiration for Madonna’s children’s book “The Adventures of Abdi,” though he will forever insist that he is.