Why is it that some writers only daydream of publishing a book while others actually publish multiple books, within the same time period?
I personally know 5 writers who dreamt of coming out of the quarantine as the next ‘Kafka of Pakistan’ but most of them got too distracted by Netflix and potato chips (as you normally do in times of a pandemic)
So as a gift to my fellow ‘Eddie-Morras-before-he-discovered-NZT’ I decided to interview accomplished writer Moni Mohsin to find out the method and madness to her craft, with the hope that her guidance would propel many to use their fingers for typing rather than munching.
Mohsin is a British-Pakistani writer who is most famously known for her comedy novel, “The Diary Of A Social Butterfly” where she takes jabs at the society aunties of Lahore who love to be seen with the ‘kream dela kream’ of town sporting their favourite ‘Luis Veeton’ bags.
Her other books include “The End of Innocence” and “Tender Hooks” AKA “Duty Free”. Her writings have also appeared in “The Times”, “The Guardian”, the “Washington Post”, “Prospect”, “The Nation”, and other publications. So how did Moni finish three novels that too while having a busy family life. Lets find out.
What inspired you to write a book?
I was living in London and had had a baby. I wanted to write a little bit about my own childhood so that my daughter could understand what sort of world I’d inhabited and the kinds of experiences that had shaped me. I did not set out to write a novel but only some disconnected fragments encapsulating my impressions of places and people. But as I wrote, the fragments began coalescing into a narrative, which eventually took the shape of a novel.
Writing a book is quite challenging, how did you keep yourself motivated in the process?
I had small children, I wasn’t working at a job so the book became a place I went to in my head and where I could exercise my creativity. Nevertheless, it took me five years to finish my first novel and there were times when I was seriously tempted to chuck it in but luckily, I had a good friend who read everything I wrote and gave me feedback and encouraged me to keep writing. He made me feel it was something worth doing, so I did it!
What challenges did you face in writing your book?
I had two small children who I was raising, so finding time and mental space was difficult. In addition, I didn’t have a degree in creative writing so I had to learn on the job.
What was your writing pattern like?
Bapsi Sidhwa once said that she wrote ‘in the cracks and crevices’ of her life. I, like most women writers, did the same. I wrote when the kids were asleep, when they were in the park with my husband, when they were at nursery — sometimes I’d sit in the car and write on my laptop, because going home would slice off a valuable half hour from the three hours that they were at school. Basically, in those early years, I wrote whenever and wherever I could.
What should a writer write about?
Whatever they want to write about.
How important is the role of the publisher?
Good publishers are very important because they are the ones who send your book out into the world and their reach, resources and faith in your work determine, in large part, the success of your book.
Where does Pakistan stand in terms of freedom of speech?
Very low, I think. And getting lower all the time.
Any advice for writers?
Read. Read. Read.