Andaleeb Wajid, whose novel No Time for Goodbyes has just been released, talks about why she took to telling stories.
It took Andaleeb Wajid four years and 13 rejections to get her first book, Kite Strings, published. That was in 2009. But she’s been on a roll since then. Her second book, Blinkers Off, written in 2010 was published the following year. In 2013, it was My Brother’s Wedding and 2014 saw two books: More Than Just Biryani in February and No Time for Goodbyes (the first of a trilogy published by Bloomsbury) earlier this month. Excerpts from an interview:
Kite Strings in 2009, Blinkers Off in 2011, More Than Just Biryani; My Brother’s Wedding in 2013, More Than Just Biryani in February and No Time for Goodbyes in 2014... On your website you say, “I’m waiting for my publishers to catch up with me. Because, well, I write faster than they can publish.” How do you do it?
Persistence mostly. Also, I’m a full time writer, so this is my job now.
How did you react when you faced multiple rejections for your first book?
At that time I had a regular job as a technical writer/content writer, so I didn’t really do much writing after Kite Strings. The constant rejections were very disheartening and it became like a stumbling block. I started writing my second book only after Kite Strings was published.
Which book has been easiest to write?
My Brother’s Wedding. I didn’t have to do any research because all the material was in my head, gathered from all the numerous times we had gone 'girl-seeing' for my cousins. Also, I was writing about a typical Muslim milieu, one I was very comfortable with, so it just flowed. I wrote the book in less than two months.
In My Brother’s Wedding, your storytelling style is different. Why?
I love experimenting with writing styles. Once the content was fixed in my head, I wanted to do something that would be a little different. Also, by using the blog and the real time narrative, I felt I could show two perspectives of the same situation, allowing readers to delve into the story in a deeper way.
What about More Than Just Biryani?
It started out as a recipe book but I couldn’t focus on writing just recipes mingled with nostalgia. So I worked on making it into a saga of sorts; a story of three generations of women of the same family and how food changes their lives.
Also, the idea was to showcase Muslim cuisine beyond the ubiquitous biryani. . But when I made it fiction, the name stayed but its meaning changed. Now it was focused on how food has an emotional connect for everyone. The book has a recipe in almost every chapter but without exact measurements as it is part of the story. Adventurous cooks can still try to make something using the recipes but in the end it's more of a love story than a cookbook! So to make things easier for readers, I’ve started a companion blog - www.morethanjustbiryani.wordpress.com where I will feature recipes (with measurements) from the book.
On your website, you mention that Sum of All My Parts is your most intense book so far. Can you share some details?
It’s the story of four young women in Vellore who attend a crochet class run by a lonely old woman, Mariam. Their lives crisscross with hers as she goes into flashback and her story gives them the courage to move on in their lives. Much like how different strands of yarn are woven together to create a beautiful piece, the lives of these young women intersect with Mariam’s and each finds closure of some sort and they inadvertently lead her to find hers. And then, there is the Sepia series, time travel and teenagers...
I’m quite excited because it is the first time that I’ve tried a different genre — romantic fantasy (if there’s something of that sort!). Sepia is aimed at Young Adults and tells the story of a young girl who travels 30 years into the past to the time when her mother is a teenager.
How do you get your ideas?
It is subjective. I’m not even sure how I get them but sometimes an idea may linger in my head for a long time and eventually I’ll turn it into a book. I work on one book at a time because, if I have to come up with good work, I need to be completely involved and there’s no way I can manage that with two books or more at the same time. When I say involvement, I mean a level or state where I'm thinking about the characters when I'm making tea or teaching my children! It doesn't happen immediately. I usually need to reach at least the 10th chapter before the book possesses me.
How did your writing begin?
I’m not really sure. When I was a child, my father would tell my brother and I stories that he would compose in an instant. We would listen to him, fascinated. I think the urge to tell a story has always been there, as a result. Later, I felt constricted with the scarcity of career choices for a Muslim woman and, in a moment of clarity, I discovered writing as an outlet for my creativity.
You’ve also written a number of short stories. Do you think short stories can replace novels or vice versa?
In my opinion, both can exist independently and there’s readership for both. As a writer, I find it easier to write a novel than a short story, simply because of the larger canvas.