My name is Abda Khan. I am a British lawyer turned writer. I have worked as a Solicitor for over twenty-five years, but a few years ago I also started writing. My debut novel was published in the USA by Harvard Square Editions in October 2016, and it is available worldwide on Amazon. I also write short stories, and guest write for various publications. I live in Solihull with my husband and children.
When and why did you start writing?
I took to writing about three years ago, as a result of my work, and in particular my observations of the women in the British South Asian and Muslim communities. I realised there was very little fiction that highlighted these women, and their issues, and it bothered me.
What inspires your writing?
People! Stained is largely influenced by the women I have come across during my career, and the things that have been done in the name of family ‘honour’. I am very much an observer of humans. I just love to look at how people behave and interact, whether it be in a formal setting, such as my office, a dinner party or a conference, or in an informal place, like an airport or at a train station.
How would you define creativity?
Creativity is an outpouring of thoughts and feelings.
Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?
I like to have a cup of tea beside me. I ‘write’ on my laptop, but I need to have my favourite notebook to hand as I like to scribble ideas.
If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?
Be prepared for the fact the literary agents and publishers are not interested in ‘diverse’ fiction.
What do you believe makes for great writing?
Great writing produces an emotional attachment between the reader and the words, and in that moment in time, nothing else exists, apart from the reader and the words.
Which writers have influenced your writing?
Quite a few, but at the top of the list would be Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Agatha Christie and Khaled Hoseini.
How do you measure success as a writer?
Many people have contacted me to say they found Stained so gripping, that they ‘read it in one sitting’. For me, that equates to success. But also, women have contacted me to thank me for writing such a brave story, that tackles rape and honour issues. Many of these readers, who have suffered these problems themselves, have said they found the book cathartic. Similarly, organisations have reached out to me to say thanks for helping to raise the profile of such important issues. If the story I have written helps people in any way, or makes people stand up and think, then that is success for me as a writer.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Yes – a few of the poems I’ve written! I do try, but I don’t think I am much of a poet!
What’s your biggest fear as a writer?
That readers will get in touch to say they couldn’t get past the first chapter! Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet.
What traits do you feel make a great writer?
You must be observant, adept, concise and attentive. You have to be able to write from the heart, instead of sounding like you swallowed a thesaurus. And for me personally, I have to be able to visualise what I have written, and what I am about to write. The visualisation process is really important.
Describe your latest book to our readers
Stained is the story of a wronged young woman, and her fight for justice. The novel revolves around an 18-year British Pakistani girl, Selina, who is raped by a trusted friend of the family. After the attack, she goes to extreme lengths to prevent bringing what she perceives as shame to her widowed mother’s door, and to avoid tarnishing the family’s honor and reputation. However, this leads her down a dark dangerous path from which there may be no return.
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
I would hope that my writing touches the readers enough so as to prompt them to reflect upon what they have read.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Be very patient; writing is a lengthy, and mostly lonely, process and it can be a long hard slog (after the many drafts, proof-reading and editing) to get to the bitter yet sweet end.
Be prepared to be rejected, and allow the rejections to spur you on even more. Remember, finishing the book is only the first part; you then need to get it published.
Can you give our audience a writing prompt to help get them writing?
You are looking though a box of old letters and documents which you found hidden away in the loft. When you reach the bottom of the box, you find something shocking. What is it? Who does it concern? And why is it shocking?
What’s next for you?
I am continuing to read and speak at literary festivals and events, details for which you can check out on my website. I am also working on my next novel, which I hope to finish by early-mid 2017.
Selina, a beautiful, British-born Pakistani young woman recently lost her father, and finds herself struggling to cope with life, in particular with some aspects of her studies. Matters go from bad to worse, when a trusted family friend from the mosque offers to tutor her, and rapes her instead. With the threat of dishonour to her family at her back, Selina goes to extreme lengths to avoid scandal, and prevent shame being brought to her widowed mother’s door. It will take all the strength and courage Selina can muster when her life travels down a dangerous path, from which there may be no return…