Andaleeb Wajid, whose novel No Time for Goodbyes has just been released, explains why she started telling stories.
It took Andaleeb Wajid four years and 13 refusals to get his first book, Kite strings, published. That was in 2009. But she’s been on a roll since then. His second book, Turn signals off, written in 2010 was published the following year. In 2013, it was My brother’s wedding and 2014 saw two books: More than Biryani in February and No time for goodbye (the first in 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 farewell in 2014 … On your website you say, “I’m waiting for my editors to catch up with me. Because, well, I write faster than they can publish. How do you do?
Persistence especially. Also, I’m a full time writer so that’s my job now.
How did you react when you faced multiple refusals for your first book?
At that time I had a regular job as a technical / content writer so I didn’t really write much after Kite Strings. The constant rejections were very discouraging and it became like a stumbling block. I only started writing my second book after publishing Kite Strings.
Which book was the easiest to write?
My brother’s wedding. I didn’t have to do any research because all of the material was in my head, collected from all the many times we had gone to “see girls” for my cousins. In addition, I was writing about a typical Muslim background, an environment with which I was very comfortable, so it flowed. I wrote the book in less than two months.
My brother’s wedding
, your storytelling style is different. Why?
I like to experiment with writing styles. With the content fixed in my head, I wanted to do something a little different. Additionally, using the blog and real-time storytelling, I felt I could show two perspectives of the same situation, allowing readers to dig deeper into the story.
More than Biryani
It started out as a cookbook but I couldn’t focus on writing recipes mixed with nostalgia. So I worked to make it a sort of saga; a story of three generations of women from one family and how food changes their lives.
Also, the idea was to showcase Muslim cuisine beyond the ubiquitous biryani. . But when I made it into a fiction, the name stuck but its meaning changed. Now he was focusing on how food has an emotional connection to everyone. The book has a recipe in almost every chapter but without exact measurements because that is part of the story. Adventurous cooks can always try to make something using the recipes but in the end it’s more of a love story than a cookbook! So, to make it easier for the readers, I have 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 from Vellore who attend a crochet class led by a lonely old woman, Mariam. Their lives intersect with hers as she enters a flashback and her story gives them the courage to move forward with their lives. Much like the way 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 some sort of closure and inadvertently leads her to find her own. And then there is the Sepia series, time travel and teens …
I’m pretty excited because this is my first time trying a different genre – romantic fantasy (if there is anything like that!). Sepia is aimed at young adults and tells the story of a young girl who travels 30 years in the past when her mother was a teenager.
How do you find your ideas?
It’s subjective. I don’t even know how I understand them, but sometimes an idea can sit in my head for a long time and I end up turning it into a book. I’m working on one book at a time because, if I’m going to do a good job, I have to be fully involved and there’s no way I can handle this with two or more books at the same time. When I say involvement, I mean a level or state where I think about the characters when making tea or teaching my kids! It doesn’t happen right away. I usually need to get to at least the 10th chapter before the book gets 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 listened to him, fascinated. I think the urge to tell a story has always been there, as a result. Later, I felt constrained by 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 also wrote a number of short stories. Do you think short stories can replace novels or vice versa?
In my opinion, the two can exist independently and there is a readership for both. As a writer, I find it easier to write a novel than a short story, simply because of the larger canvas.