Growing Reader

Tween

Exploring Furthermore, Fantastical Worlds, and Fashion with Author Tahereh Mafi

by the Brightly Editors

Photo credit: Tana Gandhi

Tahereh Mafi is the author of Brightly’s Book Club for Kids pick Furthermore, a spellbinding middle grade novel about two kids on an epic and magical adventure. We were thrilled to ask Tahereh about this fantastic new tale, how she comes up with her otherworldly ideas, and what role fashion plays in the novel and in her life.

Click here to learn more about Brightly’s Book Club for Kids, discover Furthermore-inspired activities and tips for discussion, and join in on the reading fun. 

The narrator in Furthermore isn’t a distant observer, but rather is caught up in the story, actions, and characters quite intimately. Can you talk a bit about that choice and also what impact you hoped it might have on readers?

We’re introduced to two completely foreign worlds in this novel, and it seemed necessary for the reader to have an omniscient, relatable guide upon whom they might rely as they traversed these twisty lands. I always heard him as a sort of caring, but crotchety old friend who’s come to know Alice and Oliver as adults, and finds the stories of their youth deeply fascinating.

Furthermore is so imaginative and detailed, and completely original — where do you come up with your ideas?

I always begin with a voice. I need to know the heart of my main character and only then can I build a world around them. The details are comprised of little more than … imagination.

Which of the Furthermore villages was the most fun to create? 

Honestly, I had the most fun building Ferenwood. Furthermore is such a sticky, tricky place, and I don’t particularly enjoy building merciless traps for my protagonists. Ferenwood was a place to exhale and exist; I felt most relaxed in that world.

Alice struggles a lot with issues related to identity and self-perception — like wishing her skin were as colorful as the people’s around her. What ideas or conversations were you hoping to spark with readers around these important themes? Have you ever felt the way Alice does?

Alice is an outsider, an Other; it’s a feeling I’ve struggled with my whole life — one that I still deal with on a daily basis. Alice’s experience is absolutely a metaphor for a much larger conversation; and it’s one that I hope young readers will be encouraged to examine.

Alice loves fashion — unique clothing and jewelry, specifically. Was her love of fashion inspired by your own? What is it about fashion that’s so compelling?

Alice’s full name is Alice Alexis Queensmeadow; her name is an homage not only to the quirkiness of Alice in Wonderland, but also to one of my favorite fashion designers: Alexander McQueen. The late (and great) fashion designer lived a difficult, tortured sort of life; he was always grappling with himself, his place in the world, and the fiercely bold ideas that marked him as both an outcast and as one of the most innovative designers of our time. There’s so much I could say here — but the short answer is yes, definitely. I think of fashion as wearable art, and I’m inspired by it daily.

Tahereh Mafi is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series. She was born in a small city somewhere in Connecticut and currently resides in Santa Monica, California, with her husband, fellow author, Ransom Riggs. She can usually be found over caffeinated and stuck in a book. You can find her online just about anywhere at @TaherehMafi or on her website, TaherehBooks.com.