Emirates Festival of Literature: interviewing Cassandra Clare, Holly Black and more! #DubaiLitFest

{Such a dream come true to meet my “Mortal Instruments” author idol, Cassandra Clare today}

Never in a million years could my 9th-grade self in Oakland, CA have ever imagined that one day I would get to meet and interview my author idol, Cassandra Clare on behalf of Emirates Airline’s Festival of Literature in Dubai. The universe truly works in mysterious and beautiful ways.

Had the honor of interviewing Cassandra Clare on behalf of Emirates Airline

My school friends, Jolene Won, Spencer Showalter and I were obsessed with the series. Jace Wayland remains one of my (many) literary crushes along with Kartik from “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray and — I know this is v. #basic of me — Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen‘s “Pride and Prejudice.”

Nikita Taimni interviews Holly Black for Emirates Airline at the Festival of Literature 2019 in Dubai

The Emirates Festival of Literature just completed its 33rd Annual event this week in Dubai, with an astounding round up of 172 authors from thirty countries. English, Arabic and even Mandarin speaker sessions drew international crowds since translators kept the programme accessible for all. Moderators for the sessions were equally distinguished acclaimed journalists or political, historical or literature professors. One evening in the programme even included the Desert Stanzas: a night of Arabic and English poetry under the stars of the Arabian Desert — accompanied by tons of food and Moroccan tea of-course!

#nikitalyfe at Literature Festival!

While there were authors and subject experts on titles from “A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice,” (Chitra Soundar) to “All Birds have Anxiety” (Kathy Hoopman), what interested a dreamer like me the most were my fellow fantasy adventure authors (check out my novel, “Talisman: Realm of Souls” on Amazon.) With a line-up stacked with Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Ian Rankin, Daniela Tully and Rehan Khan, I got to explore titles I hadn’t encountered yet as well as meet authors I looked up to.

With Tasmanian author and fashion designer, Alannah Hill

As part of the Emirates public relations and social media team, I was fortunate enough to have access to the authors’ lounge, where I had the joy of watching authors such as Chris Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness), Alannah Hill (Butterfly on a Pin) and Jeff Kinney (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid) prepare for their sessions, meet their moderators and later be whisked away for book signing engagements by their media teams.

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Flanked by inspiring American fantasy-fiction writers Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Our media crew began the day by filming at interactions at our Emirates sponsorship kiosk (who doesn’t love a coloring wall?) before we dove into capturing snippets of author sessions and their engaged Dubai audiences. Throughout the day, the media room upstairs buzzed with a flurry of wires, laptops, and fluffy microphones for radio, TV and sponsors’ coverage. Honestly, it was more videography gadgetry than I wanted to interfere with, so I kept clear to the brightly-lit author lounge instead….

…Where I happened to bump into Cassandra Clare and Holly Black just before their “King and Queen Tour.” Cassandra Clare was kind enough to give my sister, Devina and I a video shout-out that brought my sister to very, very happy tears all the way in San Diego ❤ Seriously, a magical moment that we’ll treasure forever.


Cassandra and Holly’s session was packed with readers of all ages who clearly were passionate about their series’ vivid characters. The best-friends-turned-author-collaborators indulged us with a fabulous Q&A after explaining how their friendship began in their small hometown in New England. I really wish my high-school friends in the US could’ve been with me in Dubai in that conference hall filled with discussions about Simon, Jace, Clary, Magnus and the various spin-off series into Victorian times and how everything still laced together. I was amazed to learn that Cassandra plans out her character for seven years before writing them into her novels!

Later that evening, our media crew got lighting, mic check and cameras rolling for my senior colleague to interview acclaimed author, Jeff Kinney and for me to interview Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. While you’ll have to check out the full interview on Emirates’ social media, I can say that it was incredible to speak with these ladies.

Nikita Taimni interviews Holly Black for Emirates Airline at Literature Festival 2019

We discussed a variety of questions including what they think impact of literature festivals and books is on empathy and tolerance in societies, how their key advice to aspiring authors is to find a critique partner to go over each other’s manuscripts, and finally what they had to say about Dubai and other travels’ influencing their imaginations and as Holly put it, “giving everyone a sense of representation and belonging in the fantasy world.”

I can’t wait to find out next year’s line-up for Literature Fest! 😀 I saw a long list of really interesting author workshops and I hope to attend some of those too next year! I would definitely recommend this event for book lovers, authors, aspiring writers and people looking to learn new writing and editing skill sets. Until next time, keep exploring! ❤ xoxo #nikitalyfe. P.S. Here are some more lovely moments from #LitFest!

My Emirates PR colleague, Rula interviews Jeff Kinney, author of “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”
Nikita Taimni interviews Cassandra Clare for Emirates Airline at the Festival of Literature 2019 in the Author’s Lounge in Dubai
At the Emirates Airline kiosk at LitFest!


Author: Nikita Taimni

A Dubai-based blogger, I write about travel, theatre and lifestyle in the cities I explore around the world. Follow me on Instagram @nikitalyfe and follow via email if you enjoy reading my posts!

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