Friday, February 03, 2017

An Undying Affinity for Writing

Priya's Lit Blog: Sara Naveed on her Undying Affinity for Writing

February is here and love is already in the air. Sara Naveed, my dear friend and writer from Pakistan is releasing her second novel Our Story Ends Here, a contemporary romance, and is joining us on the blog today to talk about her writing journey and more. Read through till the bottom for a bonus!

Priya's Lit Blog: 'Our Story Ends Here' by Sara Naveed

Our Story Ends Here

Author: Sara Naveed
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
Terrorists are not born to love
Sarmad was trained as a terrorist to be ruthless, to be fearless and to take away innocent lives. He has caused pain that he can’t undo. For years, he has been living without a heart, without a soul, without her.
Mehar is an army general’s daughter. After losing a loved one she decides to go to the Swat valley with her college friends to revisit the place that holds all her childhood memories.
While Mehar is looking forward to her adventurous trip, Sarmad is working on his upcoming deadly mission.
Unwittingly, their paths cross and they are forced to stay together in the same room for eleven days. Fate brings them together, but destiny has planned something else.
Does their story end here? Or has it just begun?
Hi Sara. Firstly, congratulations on your latest publication!

Could you give a brief introduction to Our Story Ends Here with just as much as what can be revealed at this point?

Our Story Ends Here is a story quite close to my heart. I wasn't attached to the characters of Undying Affinity as much as I am to the characters of this book. It's a story of two contrasting people who are forced to live together for 11 days only to find out that their bond is inseparable. The book is an intense romance fiction coupled with lots of thrill and suspense elements. It comes out in February and will be published by Penguin Random House India, which of course is another milestone that I have achieved. I hope and pray that readers all across the globe love this book! 

You started your own book subscription service & self publishing company - The Book Shook recently and it has become quite popular in a short period of time. What was your inspiration for this idea? How difficult was it to get the company up and running? 

I started off The Book Shook as a self-publishing company because a lot of budding writers kept contacting and asking me how they could possibly become a writer and get published. To cater to their needs, I, along with my sister, came upon an idea of starting a small self-publishing firm. We were thrilled to receive so much love and appreciation from the readers and emerging writers. We also received numerous manuscripts. Hopefully, we are planning to publish a few titles this year.
I was highly inspired by the idea of a book subscription service, therefore wanted to try it out. The Book Shook then started its monthly book subscription box service. It's been running for the last 7 months now and I'm quite pleased with the way it is growing. 

What led you to writing Undying Affinity?

I always knew I had to write something but never took it seriously. After I underwent a dark phase of my life, I finally realised that it’s time for me to achieve my dream, that is to write a book and get it published.  
The backdrop of Undying Affinity was quite apparent to me. I knew I had to write something that involved a professor-student romance. 
Having grown up in the UAE, how was it like to write the story set in Pakistan? How much of research did you do for the same? 

I moved back to Lahore in 2002, therefore it wasn’t complicated for me set the story of Undying Affinity in Pakistan. Since I was living here, it was comforting to describe the historic and beautiful locales of Lahore in a couple of scenes. 

What kind of audience was on your mind while writing the book?
For some reason, I always knew who my target audience would be; female readers because the tendency of female readers towards a novel written by a woman is generally more as compared to men.

Priya's Lit Blog: Sara Naveed, author of 'Undying Affinity'
Sara Naveed at the Author Meet & Greet session at Cafe Page 102, Lahore. Photo by Da Artist.

You have studied Banking and Finance and work as a business analyst, apart from being a writer. If you had always wanted to become a writer, why didn't you take up language or literature for your higher studies?

I went ahead to pursue my master's in business studies because I had graduated in the same field. It was only after completing the degree that I realised I should have studied literature or perhaps linguistics. 

How common is to study arts or literature compared to professional courses in Pakistan?

When students are not aware of the opportunities and have not set any career plan for themselves, the easier route is to pursue studies in arts or literature. The ratio of getting enrolled for these courses and passing them out is more as compared to the other professional courses. 

Talking about Undying Affinity, the protagonist Zarish Munawwar belongs to the elite class and has everything in life she could ever ask for. Was this an attempt to juxtapose the parallel realities of the classes in Pakistani society?

I wouldn’t say it was an intentional effort to show the difference of the classes in the Pakistani society, but I did want to show a rich spoilt, impatient and stubborn young girl belonging to an elite class who doesn’t understand the realities for someone leading a normal life. She lived around people who were exactly like her - careless, filthy rich and ignorant. It is only when she meets her finance professor that she gets a completely different perspective of life.  A fine line has been drawn between the upper and lower class of our country which doesn't seem to diminish.

Zarish is educated and like her, many women from the upper strata of the Pakistani society are highly educated and successful in their careers. Don't you think the new wave of educational activism in Pakistan needs more exposure?

Absolutely! Had you asked this question a long time back, my answer would be different. Times have changed now. Today I can proudly say that my country is working hard to promote women empowerment in every sector. 

Although “love-marriages’’ are increasingly being accepted, how are romantic relationships before marriage seen in the modern Pakistani society? 

I would say times have changed. Gone are the days when parents used to object to their children’s choices and paid no heed to their preferences. Now their thinking has broadened and they are quite ready to consider options put forth by their children.  

Today, the youth of Pakistan has more opportunity than ever to contribute to the image of the country, especially through arts and media. How responsible do you feel writers are, while portraying your home country? 

Writers try to show the genuine side of their homeland. I feel they have the power to describe their country in better words rather than foreign writers, because they’ve grown up in that soil and they understand their country better. Whenever writers have to write about their homeland, they need to be vigilant as they are going to show the real side of their nation. For instance, when I read Khaled Hosseini’s books, I had envisaged Afghanistan quite easily because Khaled had described his home country in a true sense. Whatever I have learned about that country, I owe it to Khaled. This way, writers can be influential for readers to a great extent. 

Pakistani literature in English has emerged in the last two decades with literary masterpieces from writers such as such as Fatima Bhutto, Mohsin Hamid and Kamila Shamsie receiving international acclaim. And Pakistan has always had a remarkable and renowned tradition in Urdu Literature. What is the present scene of contemporary writing in the more common native languages such as Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto and Sindhi? 

There is a need and demand for Urdu books in Pakistan which I have come to realise only with time. I consider myself pathetic when it comes to writing in Urdu because I was always comfortable with English. I might be a good Urdu speaker but definitely not a good writer in Urdu.

Priya's Lit Blog: Sara Naveed, author of 'Undying Affinity'
Sara Naveed is as much a reader as she is a writer. 

Had you considered writing your novel in Urdu? 

I have received a lot of queries from readers who want to read my book in Urdu. Due to increasing demand, I might consider having my books translated into Urdu soon. 

Today when Pakistani TV dramas are becoming increasingly popular even outside Pakistan, would you like to turn your book into a TV drama?

Definitely. I’m already considering this option but I will not make a hasty decision because I don’t want to see my gook get wasted for nothing. I will wait till a good option reaches out to me.

What do you think about making movies and TV dramas based on novels? 
Screenplay writers and production teams are adapting novels for their movies/dramas because the process becomes quite easier for them. With production teams running out of good stories and scripts, this seems to be a better surviving option these days.

Your latest novel Our Story Ends Here is published by Penguin India. However, your first novel Undying Affinity was self-published by you. 

How was your experience self publishing your debut novel and getting it to the market?

The journey has been endlessly tiring yet fruitful. In self publishing, you can play around with the ideas all by yourself. A writer does not have to restrict himself in any of the departments whether it is writing or marketing the book. After getting rejected through hefty number of publishers, I decided to pick self publishing mode for my debut book. The self publishing experience has been good enough as it has taught me a lot of things. Createspace by Amazon offers excellent platform for the aspiring writers to publish and showcase their work on a global scale. I had to re-publish Undying Affinity exclusively for my Pakistani readers through a local publishing company in Lahore.

What would you like to tell aspiring writers who look up to you for inspiration?

One thing I would want to tell all aspiring writers is to work hard with sheer patience and write a story which you believe only you can do justice with.

Sara Naveed is the author of Undying Affinity and Our Story Ends Here. She is based in Pakistan and runs The Book Shook, a self publishing and book subscription company. Visit her blog and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected.

And, the bonus!

Thank you very much for taking out the time for this conversation, Sara. It has been a pleasure talking to you and I wish you the best for your writerly journey ahead. 

Have you read any book by Sara Naveed? Have you read any Pakistani writing in English? Let me know in the comments.