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Sabyn Javeri (Author)

About Her

Born in Pakistan but now lives between London and Karachi, where she teaches Creative Writing at the university level. A graduate of the University of Oxford, she has a PhD from the University of Leicester. Her short stories have been published in literary journals such as The South Asian Review, The London Magazine, The Oxonian Review, Trespass, Bengal Lights, Sugar Mule and in award-winning anthologies and creative writing text books. She has also received the Oxonion Review Short Story Award and was shortlisted for the first Tibor Jones Award.

Her debut novel, Nobody Killed Her has been published by HarperCollins India.

Welcome Sabyn, I would like to ask you the following questions:

  • 1.
    Many congratulations on your first novel being published by HarperCollins India this year. We would like you to share with us your publishing journey and how long it all took from acceptance of the contract to the release of the book.
    Too long! In the sense that it sold twice but the first time, it ran into some difficulties in terms of legalities and couldn’t be published. But as they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. I reworked the narrative to make it a much more stronger story line and in the process realized that it was actually more Nazo (the anti-heroine’s) tale than that of Rani Shah’s. The first time around was a happy co-incidence when an editor got in touch over FB of all the places while the second time around it was Kanishka Gupta of Writer’s Sides’s persistence that got the book it’s right home.
  • 2.
    Was a Masters in Creative Writing a logical step towards achieving a dream, or it just happened? When was it that you first started writing? Your advice to new authors who are struggling to identify their voice?
    Actually, it was the other way around. It was my writing that got me into the programme. Coming from the background I did I was conscious that a woman must always be financially independent and the only way I could see that happening was through higher education. And so I kept applying for scholarships and kept studying despite children, my job and household responsibilities. I was interested in comparative literature but my creative writing won me funding for a Masters of Studies programme and so I went on to study writing at Oxford. It was interesting coming from a background of critical theory where I was used to deconstructing a writer’s work to be in a position where it was all about putting it together. And so I began creating words instead of taking them apart.
  • 3.
    Your top five favorite books and authors? What are you currently reading?
    I always read multiple books at a time as I find it very difficult to stay with a single story for a long time. So I’m swinging between Dozakhnama by Raksinder Bal brilliantly translated by Arunava Sinha and What Belongs to You by Gareth Greenwell which is a lovely sweet queer love story about loss and longing. I don’t really have any constant favorites. I feel that books are like friends and at different times you seek comfort in different ones. I also have a fear of attachments and so the word favorite disconcerts me. I find it very difficult to let anything even a book become a constant.
  • 4.
    I read in one of your interviews that you consider yourself as an intuitive writer, can you share with us your process of writing?

    Intuitive in the sense that I can’t always explain why I feel a certain story will work if told in a specific way. I feel I have a sense or a longing set off by an image or a sound that I instinctively know can be translated into words. I love dreaming and sometimes I intuitively feel that an idea will makes a great story though at the time I find it hard to be logical about why I feel that way. Like with Nobody Killed Her, I had intuition that it will develop into a cracker of a story. I couldn’t explain why I was sure at the time but the feeling was very strong... and I always listen to myself. Because if I don’t, who will?

  • 5.
    Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you handle it? How long did it take you to write ‘NoBodyKilled her’?

    I think Writer's Block is the luxury of privileged writers who can afford to indulge in it. Working class professionals like me who also happen to be parents with a multitude of responsibilities rarely have the time to sit about waiting for the muse. And so whatever time I get I sit down and utilize it effectively. I think another reason I don’t get writer's block is I because I avoid the blank page. I always try to face the blank screen or the blank page only after I have dreamt up the story in my head while I was cooking or ironing or whatever I was doing before. For me dreaming up stories is a delicious way to distract myself from the harsh realities and often mundane chores of daily life. And so while you may think I’m chopping onions, in my head I may be planning a sequel to Nobody Killed Her….

    The very first draft barely took me three or four weeks to bash out. However I did multiple revisions over the years. Till the very last day that it went into print, I was reworking it, rewriting it….

  • 6.
    On a personal front, what does a weekend mean to you? Your favorite pastime?

    Weekends in Karachi come and go before I even realise they’ve begun. Mainly because the pace of live is so fast here. In London of course, Friday night meant party time! Art galleries and museums on Saturday and family time on Sunday. Here in Karachi I find the exclusion of women from public spaces especially jarring on weekends for I feel I’m very limited in my choices…This makes life monotonous and devoid of any interesting experiences such as meeting new people or discovering new places….

  • 7.
    You are a short story writer and have just released a full length novel – which form of writing do you prefer and why? What are you working on next?
    I think the short is my first love and as they say you never forget your first love!
  • 8.
    There is one question that I throw at all my guests, what is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
    Idrak aur elachi ki chai (Ginger-Green Cardamom Tea). I love tea so much I actually get caffeine hangovers.
  • 9.
    What strategy would you recommend to aspiring authors of ‘The Write Scene,’ who are working on their manuscripts to get a leading publisher?
    Treat your writing as a craft and not just an art. Writing is like any other sport. The more you practice, the better you get at it. I would advise you to do character dossiers to really get to know your characters before you start writing their stories. I am also a big fan of structural charts to help keep the plot on course. Basically I'm a planned writer rather than a discoverer. I believe in revising and editing and rewriting to make your work the best it can be.
  • 10.
    Can we have your views on our new initiative of ‘Young Author Awards’ to recognize the next generation authors under the age of 30?
    I think it’s an absolutely wonderful initiative and I think it’s great to see you bringing back a culture of reading for pleasure in young people - as it seems to have gone out of our ever increasing utilitarian educational culture. Great for young people to have this opportunity. Though I personally believe that authors are young in books and not in years, I think it’s a great way to encourage young people to write.

If you want to know more about our guest, please visit below:

Facebook Page : Nobody Killed Her

Twitter and Instagram:  @sabynjaveri

Sabyn Javeri (Author)