Published June 9, 2017

Welcome back to a new blog series from the Virginia Center for the Book, in which we highlight the work of one Virginia writer each week. This week’s spotlight is on Sofia Samatar, author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories. She also writes short stories, poetry, and essays. Her most recent work is a collection of short fiction, Tender, which was released in April.

How did you get your start as a writer?

I started writing on discarded paper my mother brought home from her secretary job. It was a kind of recycling program. As for publishing, I got my start with Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press: I walked up to him at a convention and said: “I’ve written a book. It’s a love story, but one of the lovers is dead.”

Describe your work in three sentences or less.

My work is about being transported: to a mysterious elsewhere, an imagined future, a scarcely recognizable past. I speculate. I’m a futurist, a fabulist, and a memoirist.

How does living in Virginia influence your writing?

My youthful obsession with Edgar Allan Poe has returned with a vengeance.

What’s your favorite part of your most recent book?

The novella about an Anabaptist colony in outer space.

What are you working on next?

A hybrid text combining fiction, history, and memoir, based on a true story: a migration of Mennonites from southern Russia to Central Asia in the 1880s.

To learn more about Sofia Samatar, visit her website at

Through this series, we hope to showcase the depth and breadth of our state-wide literary community while also encouraging readers in the Commonwealth and elsewhere to challenge themselves to read more books by Virginia writers. If you have an author you’d like to suggest for this series, please email with details. Our focus is on writers with books that have been published in the past two years (self-published is welcome as long as the writer’s most recent book is held in at least one public library in the state).

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