In Conversation With Iman Hariri-Kia



I'm thrilled to welcome Iman Hariri-Kia to AD's In Conversation With today. Iman is an Iranian-American New York-based writer and nationally acclaimed journalist, activist, and musician. Her work has been published by Vogue, Bustle, Man Repeller, Elite Daily, and other leading publications.

We're celebrating the release of Iman's debut, A Hundred Other Girls, a brilliant and whipsmart novel for fans of The Devil Wears Prada

Featuring a Middle Eastern-American writer and blogger called Noora who lands an assistant job at a coveted magazine called Vinyl. It's a job that a hundred other girls (and guys) would kill for. 

With my background in the fashion industry to working as a blogger and writer — I felt that Noora and I have so much in common. Do you ever connect with a book so much and feel it's been written for you?

Iman and I caught up ahead of pub day to talk about the inspiration behind A Hundred Other Girls, the writing process, and her ultimate summer read.

Iman Hariri-Kia by Louisana Mei Gelpi

One Middle Eastern–American writer climbing the ranks at a Vogue-esque magazine to find the world she aspired to live was nothing like she expected. I feel like I've lived Noora's life.

Tell me more about her and the inspiration for your debut. 

My debut was inspired by every job I've ever worked in media, from entry level assistant to top editor. I wanted to give readers an update on the world of The Devil Wears Prada, since the digital media boom has completely transformed the industry.

My hope was to highlight the generational tension between print and digital teams and lead young people to question their own toxic workplace experiences, all the while reminding them of their own self-worth and the value of storytelling. It was very important for me to write a Middle Eastern mc who was messy, authentic, and real, without a plot line that felt predicated on her race or religion. The world of A Hundred Other Girls is filled with characters from different marginalized backgrounds, but none of their arcs are exploitative of those identities. It's my hope that, as Noora is navigating the difference between representation and tokenization, the reader will, too!

How would you describe A Hundred Other Girls in five words?

Juicy, dramatic, funny, inclusive, and insightful. 

From writing short form articles for Bustle and Man Repeller to writing a book. Talk me through the writing process. What surprised you along the way?

Oh my god, so much! I wrote the first draft of the book over the course of three and a half months in late 2019. At the time, I was working full-time as an editor and part-time as a freelance writer. I'd write about 6000 words — about two chapters — a week, late at night. It was so incredible to finally have a project that was all my own, to look forward to exercising my creativity.

A few things that have surprised me about the process are how quickly references and language dates itself, how slowly publishing moves (this is almost three years in the making!!!), and how many people touch a book before it goes to print. Luckily, I am surrounded by the greatest team. I'm so grateful.

Who has guided and inspired you most in your career? 

I've always really looked up to the YA authors who made me fall in love with reading and wrote main characters who quickly became my best friends. Meg Cabot has long been my hero — I even used to write her fan mail. I love the way she infuses her writing with voice and personality, and she's the queen of pop culture and technology references. I always promised myself that, if I were ever lucky enough to write a book, I'd want to emulate her style of realistic fiction. Now, decades later, she's in the acknowledgements of my own book. 

What's one book you would recommend to my readers and why?

One?! That's impossible. I've already read 85 books this year alone! I think Carley Fortune's Every Summer After is the book of the summer. Does that count?! If you love childhood nostalgia, second chance romance, and aquatic backdrops, this is the book for you. 

I'm curious, is there a job you've ever dreamed about that perhaps a hundred other folks would never even think about?

I wanted to be a songwriter more than anything! I pursued music for years before pivoting to writing prose full-time. I still sing and play the guitar, but nowadays, my music is just an outlet. I miss performing more than anything!

A Hundred Other Girls is available for order in paperback from Indigo and in e-book format from Kobo.