This blog was posted on September 25, 2017.
I think the tenor of my life changed with the advent of the Iranian revolution, when as a ten year old I lost the exuberance of childhood and the warmth of my loved ones.
Urma, protagonist of my first novel by the same name, was born the moment I exited Iran – a country that was not my birthplace, and yet my home. The first sketch of Urma was etched on paper during the summer of 1989 and was lost in the vagaries of everyday life, as I jostled studies, career, marriage and later motherhood till I picked it up again many years later.
It took five laborious years for my debut novel, ‘Urma’to morph into a novel and reach the shelves and at many bookstores on the recommended and best-selling shelves.
Let me rewind a bit to share with you that the day I finished my manuscript was the most satisfying and exhilarating day of my life, well almost! Then I realized that my journey had just begun! The journey of editing, re-editing, querying and receiving rejections! The road to publication is indeed a heady concoction of daredevil mountain climbing and steep zip-lines! To survive, your own inner voice patting your back needs to be lot louder than the hundred rejection letters staring at you from your laptop screen!
My manuscript during the publishing phase reached hands of Mr. Tariq Faizi, Gen. Sec. of Urdu Press Club, India and got my permission to translate it into Urdu with the aim of inspiring many more people. It was done in a record time and a limited edition hard bound was released along with English in India and was nominated for an award by Urdu Press Club.
But my baby steps towards publication were not easy. I didn’t have only ‘ups’ and smiles…there have been many ‘downs’ as well! ‘Down’ during my writing phase, when my mind was plagued with writer’s block and I couldn’t write for weeks. And when I finished writing my novel, the next ‘down’ was the critique from my editor in California giving me a set of instructions that sounded Greek to me as I am an MBA in Marketing and not a trained writer. Writing was a need for me. So, I enrolled in London School of Journalism to make sense of my editor’s feedback and learn the craft of writing. It was a great decision, I think. I wrote the five full drafts and was euphoric when my editor gave a go ahead. Next ‘down’- set of rejections pouring from agents in UK and US with various reasons… either the project was not what they were looking for or the backdrop of Iran was too sensitive for them and requested me to change it to some other non-controversial area, which I refused. Many Indian publishers rejected as protagonist was not an Indian and they feared that readers wouldn't empathize with the protagonist.
Either way, they were rejections. And then, I decided to publish it myself because of three main reasons. First, I didn’t want to change the setting of Iran to any other country. I didn’t want to make my protagonist Indian just to appease the Indian market and publisher and I didn't want to wait another two years waiting for a top league traditional publisher. I wanted it published so I could concentrate on next projects.
After a lot of research I self-published on Amazon through CreateSpace. Meanwhile I kept querying other publishers from India and around the same time I found a rather small publisher in India, interested in publishing my manuscript but he was not a big publisher to be able to distribute worldwide. Hence, I gave him rights for India. I found a distributor locally in Dubai. So, the books reached the stores and I had a great launch in India with well-known dignitaries and in Dubai by the Indian Consul to UAE and the book was well received. Book signing and road shows were all fun to interact with readers.
For me, a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing turned out to be a great learning experience.
My debut novel, 'Urma’ was released in 2012.
Fast forward to 2017:
I feel blessed to have accomplished what I have, though there is a long road ahead to where I want to be.
I believe in ‘today’ and what fuels my drive is my fear of the line -‘if tomorrow never comes’ and this keeps me going. I try to pack as much as I can in my ‘today’.
Deeba Salim Irfan is a writer, a poet and an entrepreneur based in Dubai.
She is the founder of ‘Young Author Awards’ which is backed by industry experts from India, Middle East and UK. She has launched it under the banner of ‘The Write Scene’, her portal for aspiring writers.
Her debut novel, Urma, with a backdrop of Iranian revolution was published in India, translated into Urdu and nominated for an award. A few of her poems from her book – ‘Charcoal Blush’ have been translated into Nepalese for their leading literary journal.
She is also a ‘Brand Expert’ – with extensive experience in advertising and events She has launched multinational brands and has handled mega scale international events and awards and now uses that expertise to helps authors build their brands.