I have released a few books, but I do not claim to be an author: Huma Tanweer
At 29, Huma Tanweer is counted as one of the youngest writers in the country. She has penned seven books so far. These include some of the best sellers. To name a few: `The Social and Controversial Issues; How to Become Rich; Women Entrepreneurship- In the Age of Globalisation; Body Language- A microcosm of our self and soul; Art of Loving- How to refine and define your personal style of Love and Commitment; and `He loved me enough to let me go’.
Born in Varanasi and married to a Kashmiri, Huma worked in the IT and Digital marketing industry in New Delhi before switching to writing.
A motivational speaker, Huma has given pep talks to students in different colleges universities. From women empowerment to pursuing non-traditional careers, she has delved into subjects that have been alien to some.
In a tete a tete with The Kashmir Monitor, she bares her heart out on different subjects. Excerpts
Your first book was published when you were 20. Was it a career by choice or just a hobby?
I have always been a reader, and I used to blog quite a lot earlier. So, writing a book was the next logical step. Every blogger was trying to do that. I was one of the lucky ones who got published and things have never been better. I love writing and derive an unhealthy amount of pleasure from the process. I never thought that my work would get published, not to talk of penning a second book.
How long did it take you to write your first book and how was the experience?
This question makes me chuckle because there’s no real answer. I suspect that most authors will say the same thing. It’s relatively easy to say how long your second book took to write. Or your third. Or fourth. And so on. For your first? It took forever! Absolutely forever! Because your first book is a learning experience. You write it. Or maybe you just write part of it. Then you decide that’s wrong, so you tear it apart and write it again. And again. And again. And again. When the thing is finally finished, you have no idea how long it took. Only that it took over your life and your imagination and more time than you’d ever have thought possible.
How many books have you written so far?
I have written seven books. I am currently working on my eighth.
How has been literally journey so far?
I wish there were a heart-wrenching sappy struggle story but there isn’t. Since I never looked at writing as a career or looked to earn money out of it. I didn’t see anything that happened as a struggle. Everything that happened was a bonus in my head. I liked to write, and that the books were selling was an incredible fallout! My writing process isn’t fancy at all. I just sit in front of a laptop and crank out the words. I started writing when I was in college and then continued to write through jobs. So I never had the luxury of developing a process.
From where or how did you get inspiration to write your books?
There are many things that inspire me to write: the life of the people surrounding me, a good book, a good article, and sometimes my own life. Well, I had this dream to be recognized as an author since childhood. Now that I have grown up and released a few books, I no more claim to be an author or writer. I call myself a scribbler. As I am never too vocal about what I feel and what I think, I prefer to write it down when something gets clouded up in my mind. I did this during my childhood days too. Giving these thoughts, imaginations, and stories a physical get-up in the shape of a book is an achievement itself!
Can you name one book which is closest to your heart?
It’s like asking a mother who her favorite child is. I do not have any book which is closest to my heart. I do believe I get better with every book I write.
A lot of authors have told me that it is difficult to survive as a full-time writer in India, how do you respond to that?
There’s nothing truer than that. There are only a handful of authors in India who can sustain through what they earn out of books alone and that can shrink any moment. People don’t read in droves as they used to so it’s tough for writers to survive on royalties and royalties alone.
Which Indian author inspires you?
Jhumpa Lahiri. As a person and as an author she is someone I have always looked up to. Amitav Ghosh, whom I had the fortune of meeting at Raj Kundra’s book launch in New Delhi and we discussed the environment which was a part of his book (The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable)
Have you ever written a similar book inspired by your favorite Author? What do you feel?
I truly believe that writing has to be original. You have to find your voice, your style. I am somehow against a ‘copy’ or a ‘similar style’. Be original! Be brave! Be proud of who YOU are!
Nowadays most budding writers are going for self-publishing instead of waiting for the call of the publisher. What according to you is the better way?
I think a traditional publisher is the best way to go. But then again it depends on what your aim is. I have written in detail about getting published in India and abroad through my articles. You really do not need an agent in India to get published. A traditional publisher will never ask you to pay any amount. If a publisher is asking you to pay, then it is probably ‘Vanity publishing’, It is really not worth it in my opinion. Chiki Sarkar, an editor-in-chief of random house India (The topmost publishing house in India) told me once, “There aren’t any rules to write a book but some people just go rush in and start writing. I know other writers who make a fairy tale chapter plan.” So, you see there is a difference. A traditional publisher is always a better option.
Is blogging your first love?
I keep doing it in fits and starts and I want to be a more regular blogger. But I don’t think I’m up to it. Earlier, I was just a blogger, so I wasn’t that self-critical. But now, when you’ve turned into a writer and your books are out there for people to give criticism for, it becomes a little tough. Dealing with it once a year when your book is released is still okay, but dealing with criticism on every post you turn out is daunting.
What thought process goes for writing a book? Do you pick ideas from the daily lives of people or you create one?
I guess it is a subconscious process. I get story ideas all the time. A conversation overheard, a news item I found interesting, or even something that a friend says sparks off ideas. Once I have a story idea in my head, I then plan the entire plot out. I find that after doing that the writing flows naturally. I also research a lot before I begin to write. My blog on the other hand is very different. It is spontaneous and less time-consuming.
What kind of writing do you want to do in the future?
Eventually, everyone’s goal is to write a book that he or she will be remembered for fifty years down the line. That is the definition for literary fiction and nonfiction: the only definition. I will not stop writing until I write that perfect book, though. Every time I see an author whose book is getting reviewed left, right and center, I check to see how old they are. ‘Oh, they’re forty-two, and then I have twelve years!’ So that is definitely the dream, to write something that endures the test of time.
A message for budding authors?
Read at least 100 books, before you attempt to write one! Read, read, read a LOT! And write every single day. Join a creative writing course. If you are outside India, just google it and many colleges and universities offer you courses. If you are working, look at your company newsletters if they have one. Try to write for local newspapers and magazines. (Study first what kind of articles they publish and see if your writing fits in their style.) If you write as a hobby and want a wider audience for your work or want to see your work published, consider taking part in short story competitions. Write and
read as much as you can and this is the way to bump into the field.
What do you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for such an insightful question. A writer puts a lot of effort into creating a product. It could be a book or it could simply be a blog post. But the thought process, the planning, the various hurdles the writer overcomes, all stay in the background. Any kind of feedback on the written piece helps the writer in seeing the flaws and understanding the fact that people acknowledge his/her work. I am humbled and honored that people are reading, loving, and engaging with my work. I appreciate every read, every clap, and every response. I take absolutely nothing for granted. I have also learned to embrace constructive criticism, so much so that I seek it out from people. Your messages and feedbacks are the gifts you give to me of your own free, generous will. I cherish them. Thank you.