Over the years, I’ve considered different occupations based on how my name, Intisar, has been mispronounced. There’s “Intistar” (Galactic Space Commander?), “Interstar” (Lowly Space Shuttle Captain?), and “Inastar” (Nuclear Fusion, here I come!), just to list a few. So how is my name really pronounced?

Pretty much how it’s written: In-ti-sar   Kha-na-ni.

Photo by J.M Studios

I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and grew up a nomad, with multiple stints living in Saudi Arabia, boarding school in New Hampshire, and college split between Minnesota and Colorado. My family is from Pakistan, and I still have extended family there. My husband, two young daughters and I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Until a few years ago, I worked with the Cincinnati Health Department on projects to improve community health, which was as close as I could get to saving the world. Now I focus my time on my two passions: raising my family and writing.

I published my debut novel Thorn in 2012, a retelling of the Grimms’ fairy tale, The Goose Girl. I planned to release a companion trilogy that I had drafted set in the same world but following a new heroine…sadly, my brain had other ideas. After spending months trying to work through the draft of the first book and getting nowhere, I set it aside and took up a different project–The Sunbolt Chronicles. Hopefully, when it’s done, I’ll come back to that trilogy project… To find out more about the series I have planned, visit the FAQ section above.

If you’d like to, you can follow me on GoodReadsFacebook, and Twitter. To find out about new releases, giveaways and discounts, you can sign up for my newsletter. You may even get a free story or two! And I always love to hear from my readers; feel free to drop me a note at booksbyintisar (at) gmail.com.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by. Salaam / Peace,


p.s. I am part of the Amazon Associates program–but only for my own books linked here on my website. Essentially, that means that if you happen to click on one of my Amazon links for my books and proceed to make a purchase, I’ll get slightly more return than if you go find the book another way. Here’s the official disclaimer: Intisar Khanani is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

  • Fami Alyas

    Wow. I don’t see much Pakistani fantasy writers in America, being a Pakistani myself. It’s great!

    • Yeah – for some reason, Pakistanis (South Asians? People from Developing Countries?) tend to go for the hard sciences when it comes to “work” and don’t let themselves enjoy the arts, humanities, and social sciences as professions. I haven’t been immune to that myself; my bachelors was in Business. Thankfully, that was a while ago.

  • Nabila Ben Slimane

    Salm Intisar,
    Wooow mashaalh you are a writer 🙂
    I am really happy for you and I can’t wait to start reading one of your books.
    which one would u recommend I start with 🙂

    • Wa alaikum assalaam Nabila!

      It’s wonderful to hear from you 🙂 Yep, I am so excited to be writing! If you’d like to check out my writing, The Bone Knife might be good to start with since it’s short and free (If you click on the picture of the cover from the homepage, you’ll be able to access all the links where you can get it). Thorn is a retelling of a fairy tale, and I do think you’ll enjoy it as well. I remember how much you and Azra used to read from my visit almost ten years ago! I do have a new book coming out this June, but that’s much more traditional fantasy. Lots of love to your family!


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  • Danish Syed Arshad

    I was skimming through google trying to look for World History revision notes, when I came across your article “The Sticky Note Approach”. Read your name, and straight away realized you’re my IG Enlgish teacher’s daughter 🙂 I use to live in Saudi Arabia, recently moved to Houston. Honestly, the skills i got to learn from Mrs. Khanani are priceless. Good luck with your career as an author! Danish Arshad.

    • Intisar Khanani

      Wa salaam! So neat to hear from you, Danish. I definitely learned a lot from my mom too 🙂 I’ll pass your note on to her–I’m sure it will make her day! Good luck to you with your studies as well.

  • Vera Fjeldstad

    I just read Sunbolt – and I can’t find a sequel, which I take to mean you haven’t published one yet? Just so you know, I’m waiting patiently! I loved Sunbolt, just wish there was more 🙂 Keep writing, you do it very well. -Vera

    • Thanks so much! 🙂 I’m working through revisions on the sequel right now… I’d meant to have it ready by this spring, but I’m afraid I got bogged down and it will likely be mid to end of summer now. If it’s any consolation, it’s looking like Book 2 is going to be a full-length novel rather than a novella. 😀 Thanks again for the note — you made my day!

  • EEL

    Have you considered audiobooks for any of your books? I think they’d lend themselves well to audio 🙂

    • Hi EEL! Sorry for the slow reply. I haven’t actually thought too much about audiobooks. They tend to be more expensive to purchase when indie produced… but that was two years ago. I think I’m going to have to do some more research! Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the suggestion!

      • just saying

        I really wish Thor was in audio! I think it’d be amazing 🙂

        • 🙂 Hmm… maybe that can be my summer project once (hopefully) Memories of Ash is out!

  • What a cool calling to have! I will definitely check out acx.com soon–it sounds like it might be quite workable now! I really appreciate the tip. 🙂

  • Ilya

    Just stopped by to let you know how I’ve loved all three of your books, so you have a fan (at least one, that is) from Greece! All the best to you and your family and keep up the good work!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Ilya! You made my day. I’m not sure where you are in Greece, I’ve actually travelled to Athens before–it’s a lovely city! Of course we did the tourist things, but we also did some wandering and I have some clay beads I bought at a little artsy store somewhere that I still love. 🙂 Thanks again, and I’m off to write now!

  • Sarah Lowry

    Hello! I nominated you for the Liebster Award 🙂 Here’s the post: http://smlowry.com/2016/02/03/liebster-award-nomination/ Have a wonderful day!

    • Thank you! Love your post and will get to work on this soon… 🙂

      • Sarah Lowry

        You’re welcome! I look forward to reading your answers 🙂

        • LOL–give me at least a week. 😉 I really have to work on my blogging…

          • Sarah Lowry

            I totally understand! I’m not very good about blogging myself.

  • Jax

    You are awesome! I’m totally in love with your style, the characters in Sunbolt and Memories are wonderfully crafted, and I love that there is a heroine in the fantasy genra that has ethics. Your books pose great questions to readers of this genre (fantasy/ya) who aren’t generally challenged with; i.e. Killing, self-defense, harming another, lying to achieve ones goals, theft, does one persons lack of humanity towards yourself negate your responsibility to behave humanly to that person. Simply put – I love a entertaining story with great characters that pose questions that encourage thought. Well done

    and Thorn is simply beautiful.

    • Thank you so much! I am so honored that you find so much in my books and enjoy them so much! For both Sunbolt and Memories of Ash, I had no idea what the themes would be–I just wrote the story and then went back to see what I could find. I literally asked my first beta readers of MoA, “What do you think this is about?” I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew there was a lot roiling around underneath. It’s in revision that I go back and tease out the themes that are already there. 🙂 So I guess what I’m saying is we can thank my characters for being who they are, and giving me the stories that they do! 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Kaamya Sharma

    I fortuitously discovered you last month and have already gone through all your books because of the strength and elegance of your writing, and the nuanced moral dilemmas you present in these superb fictional worlds! Please, please, please write the next book in the Sunbolt series soon; Hitomi haunts me day in and out!

    • Oh yay! So awesome that you have enjoyed them all so much. Thank you! And ha! I do promise I’m working on the next Hitomi book, but please don’t hold your breath. It usually takes me 3-4 big revisions before a book is ready, and that will easily take a year if the book is willing to work with me. (If it won’t cooperate, it takes longer…) But I do promise to get bring it to you as soon as I can be sure that’s it’s ready! 🙂

  • ART

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing beautiful stories with characters I can admire and hope for!! I was so grateful to find your books, as a Christian who believes in the power of stories and the truths they can offer. Your stories are wonderfully woven, your characters are true heroes (not because they don’t struggle with moral dilemmas, but because they do and have the strength and courage to do so), and your stories are clean (Hallelujah! something so sadly rare in fantasy these days). I have torn through your books this month and anxiously await the next installments!

    • Hi Art! Thank you so much for stopping by, and yay! I am so glad you enjoyed my stories so much. As a Muslim, I too believe in the power of stories and prefer to read and write clean reads! 😉 If you’re looking for more clean reads, I can recommend two sites for you to check out. The sites are open to all authors, so you’ll need to check each (read a sample before purchasing?) to make sure the writing is what you’re looking for. I’m part of both these groups, and from an author perspective they are lovely, supportive folks. 😉 Here they are:
      Clean Indie Reads: http://cleanindiereads.com/
      Fellowship of Fantasy: http://www.fellowshipoffantasy.com/
      Thank you again for stopping by! And don’t worry, I’m hard at work on my next project! 😉

      • ART

        These are awesome websites, thank you so much!! 🙂

  • Nour Austen

    a couple years ago I read your book Thorn and honestly I have read it at least ten times since then. The main character is so relatable, courageous, kind, and amazing. When I first came across your book, I honestly thought it was going to be like many of the books in Amazon which did another romantic retelling of a fairy tale. What made me decide to read it finally was the cover, the cloak and the symbolism in it. The girl is covering her hair and her striking physical appearance because once you read the book you see that the physical appearance and rank of the individual is nothing compared to what we act upon and our nature. It was such a beautiful and striking alternative to the many books Ive seen with the standard teenage girl wearing a dress.
    Honestly, I think that your book is very important for anyone to read, because you discuss such deep issues on justice and action vs. thought. I’ve not read a YA novel like it which made me think so much about human nature and what justice truly means in the world. I had a question I wanted to throw at you. What made you think that the story of the Princess and the Pauper was the perfect fairy tale to portray such as message? What made the fairy tale realm so attractive as a writer? Thank you and again I really love your book!

    • Thank you so much for your note, Nour. I’m so sorry not to have responded sooner–I’ve been on a road trip with limited internet access, and I only hope you’ll see my response now! I am so very honored that you have loved Thorn so much and found so much in it. Jenny’s cover is, indeed, amazing, and I am so grateful to be able to work with her! 🙂

      The story is actually based on a spin-off, if you will, of the Prince and the Pauper concept, which is the Grimm’s tale “The Goose Girl.” It’s a fairy tale that resonated with me when I was growing up, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I realized, as I grew older, that much of the story was about the power of a woman to choose her own destiny–princess or pauper–when her future already seems decided for her. I began writing my first draft the same month as 9/11–a few days before, if I recall correctly. I finished that draft that school year, and continued to rework the story over the following ten years, and much of my internal struggle of those years slowly bled onto the pages–the need for empathy and compassion, the gray nature of justice, the violence of the powerful against the disempowered or poor.

      I love fantasy precisely because I can write stories with deep issues and concerns, and readers will engage with them because they are fantasy–it doesn’t endanger them, or their place in their world, and so they’re more open to it. And I believe opening ourselves to stories, and building empathy with the people we meet there, influences our real and lived lives. Also, I like magic and fantastical creatures, so there’s a bonus there too. 😉

      • Nour Austen

        That is amazing! I totally got that theme, especially with the ending (alert anyone who reads this is is a spoiler) with her confrontation with the Lady. Can I ask another question? What interested me about Alyrra’s character as well is the detailed past you drew up for her. The Princess who was never really treated as one and comes from a family of neglect. Is Alyrra and her family a symbol to how human cruelty and human nature can never be contained within class and is boundless? Also I wanted to ask when regarding the theme of justice and the philosophy behind it, whether you questioned the Islamic platform taught or the general philosophical investigation of justice? Or was it just from experience? I’m just curious, because the manner in which you confront the topic of justice and revenge made me wonder on the concepts myself and whether you based it upon an ideological foundation or just the condition of questioning justice. Sorry I know I seem scrambled, my curiosity has been peaking for years. I like how you use Alyrra to deflect from any sense of romanticizing which is really unique. You make it real and powerful

        • Yes, definitely the reality that rank and class are no protection against violence are cruelty were a part of the story–Alyrra violated their code of honor by outing her peer publicly for a theft, and we all know how cruel people can be when you’ve taken yourself out of the popular (and powerful) group.

          As for the theme of justice, it was more just the experience of questioning justice, and looking at the idea of justice without mercy or compassion, especially in a timeframe where good and evil were painted with such wide brush strokes. The US went to war for justice regarding a wrong done to us, and destroyed the lives of millions while simultaneously creating a breeding ground for precisely the thing we were trying to stop. A little mercy or compassion would have gone a long way. Of course, that’s just my perspective, but I believe that empathy, compassion, and being willing to listen and learn, are really some of the the only ways we can find peace in the world we live in.

          • Nour Austen

            Thank you so much for you replies and i had another question. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to write themselves but always feels writers block or overwhelmed at the process? What, in your experience, has helped your inner story teller express itself?

          • That’s a really tough question–and place to be. I know I’ve been there myself, and not all that long ago either, so I completely understand. It’s good to take note of the things that help, and also of the thought processes that tend to get you stuck. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else, but here are the things that have helped me:

            – Daily journaling. When I was most stuck, I made myself journal three pages a day about whatever came to mind (stream-of-consciousness about everything in my life, not just writing)… usually by the third page I’d worked through the little stuff and begun to find the bigger underlying issues that I was struggling with. Over time, those pages helped me work through fears, hang-ups, and life challenges.

            – Keeping a journal (composition book in my case!) specifically for the book I was working on. I now do this regardless of whether I’m stuck or not, and will often just sit down and write *about* the story rather than writing the story itself. I might describe what I think will happen next, or what I’m worried about in the story, or what is going on with a character, or what’s not working, or whatever. This helps me both in terms of plotting and in terms of working through any emotional or mental blocks I have with where the story is going.

            – Taking breaks from writing. Really. I know some people say you have to write daily. That doesn’t work for me and I don’t guilt myself over it. I do believe it’s important to “fill the creative well” – which is to say, take breaks from making art in order to enjoy art and beauty around you. Go on “artist dates” where you go off to a museum, or take a walk with a camera, or attend an art show, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be related to writing, but it should be something that feeds your senses and creative soul.

            – And, converse to the point above, sometimes I just have to brazen it out. I was terrified of revising Memories of Ash–it had huge edits to be done, and it seemed impossible. So I broke it down into small pieces (post-it notes with single edits, organized by chapter so I was only looking at one chapter at a time), and set a base amount of time each day / week that I would work on it. Once I started working on each little piece, one at a time, it slowly got easier. The trick is to know whether you need to give yourself structure and focus, or a break!

            I hope some of these ideas help! Some authors have tried telling their story out loud and recording it (or dictating it) in order to break through it. Other have switched forms from prose to poetry. Keep experimenting, give yourself space, and know that you’ll find your way. Sendings hugs!

  • Malaika Muzaffer

    Hi Intisar! My name is Malaika and I go to BISJ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I am a student of your mother Safina Dada. She talks a lot about you and told the class about this website. I’ve read all of your books and they were absolutely spectacular! I loved every single word in all of your books. I am a huge fan and in the beginning of the year Mrs Khanani gave us each a signed bookmark from you! I treasure that bookmark still use that for every book I read! It would be a dream come true if your replied and it would make my day 92174823648726480263486238047612083460812736408172 times better! xoxo malaika 🙂

    • Hi Malaika! What a neat connection! I am so tickled that you’ve studied with my mom and even have one of the bookmarks she took to Saudi with her. 🙂 And thank you so much for reading! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my stories. It’s been an adventure both writing them and publishing them, but so worth it. You’ve made my day as well by stopping by. Wishing you a wonderful end of the school year, and a lovely summer! – Intisar

      • Malaika Muzaffer

        Oh my goodness! I cant believe you actually replied! We have an english lesson tomorrow and I cant wait to tell Mrs Khanani about this! I am such a huge fan and it truly is a dream come true that you replied. I want to become an author and write books like you! I was hoping you could give me some tips about the writing techniques you use, and how to write spectacular books like you.. xoxoxoxoxoxo malaika <3

        • That is so wonderful that you want to write and publish as well. It’s a wonderful life (even if writing is definitely harder than I used to think–ha!). As for writing techniques… lately I’ve been keeping a journal where I write about the story I want to write, working through what happens and lining up the events of the plot a bit so that I don’t get carried away while writing and end up in a knot I can’t untangle. I used to just write without plotting (but with having thought it through in my head), and I’ve found this form of plotting to work better for me. I talk about how I approach revision in an ancient but still accurate blog post here: http://booksbyintisar.com/notes-craft-sticky-note-approach-revision/

          Really, in the end, you have to figure out what works for *you.* There are so many different ways to write. What’s important is finding the way that works best for you where you are now. What works best for me has changed over time, so being flexible and keeping on writing are really what it’s all about. Wishing you all the best in your writing endeavors!