I met Andaleeb Wajid for the first time at Bangalore Lit Fest 2015. I'd just signed up with Harper Collins and was waiting for my book to be launched. Then all I knew about her was that she had multiple titles to her name. That was enough to put the yet unpublished author (that's me) in awe of her. I'm still very much in awe for her prolific pen. She writes fast, publishes across mediums and writes different genres with equal elan.
Here's my conversation with her about her pen, her books and writing schedule.
Q1. The series of stories that you are doing with Juggernaut, how did you come up with the idea? What's the duration and how many stories are you doing?
A. To be honest, the idea was from my editor Trisha actually and I jumped on it. She wanted me to write a set of short stories set in a Muslim milieu, something that was second nature to me when I started my writing career. I hadn't written short stories in a long time and the entire process has reawakened the joy of writing short fiction for me.
Q 2. Is there an underlying theme you are adhering to?
A. No theme as such. As I mentioned in the above answer, they are just set within a Muslim milieu.
Q 3.Typically, how long do you take to write these stories?
A. It depends on the idea really. Sometimes an afternoon, sometimes a couple of days at the most.
Q 4.When you write, what comes first to you; the plot or the character?
A. In a novel, it's always the plot. In short stories, an interesting character acts as a trigger to write the story.
Q 5.You started with Young Adult fiction, then moved on to romance. You've done a brilliant horror story, and quite a few romances. Any particular reason you moved away from YA?
A. I love writing. Period. I don't want to be confined to any genre but I realise there may be practical reasons why I cannot choose a certain genre like maybe crime fiction because I wouldn't be able to do accurate research. Young Adult fiction is my first love. I haven't moved away from it completely. I am going to return to it soon in fact! I'm so glad you enjoyed the horror story! There's a series of horror shorts coming out on Juggernaut as well as a horror novel that's coming out next year.
Q 6. Which genre you enjoyed the most and which did you find the most challenging?
A. I love writing romance. Despite being a very cynical person, I love writing about the chemistry between two people, what makes them tick, that first glance, that unspoken thing that only the two involved know. But then, I've realized writing horror is just as fun. So I try and bring a little bit of romance inside the horror as well, as I did in It Waits.
Q 7. What's your writing schedule?
A. It's like a proper job. However, I used to write whenever the mood struck me. Now I'm more organized and write only in the morning. The rest of the day I take off for editing and other work that comes up as part of my life of being a 'jobless' writer.
Q 8. Do you wait for inspiration to strike? Give us a few examples of how some of the stories you have written have come to you?
A. Fortunately, I've never had to wait for inspiration as such because there are multiple ideas crowding in my head and I can give space to only one at a time. But there have been instances when an idea would come in just because of the way I've seen something and it gets stuck in my head. Examples, okay. I got the idea for When She Went Away when I saw this man and woman having a very intense conversation while I was at a tailor. I couldn't help but keep looking at them even though I couldn't hear what they were saying. I couldn't forget the expression on that man's face. That somehow evolved into the story of a girl whose mother leaves her family and goes away with the man she had loved when she was in college. Then, for Asmara's Summer which is set in Tannery Road in Bangalore came about with a 'what if' scenario. What if a girl from an upper middle-class family is forced to stay here for a month. How would she manage? Tannery Road is the very opposite of posh and clean.The main story of It Waits with the bracelet causing the transformation came to me in a dream!
Q 9. You're one of the most prolific writers, I know of. Have you experienced a block? How do you stay energized to write so much?
A. Thank you. It's all thanks to Allah that I've never experienced a block but I deliberately gave myself a year off from writing in 2014. I had finished writing When She Went Away in December 2013, and it was officially my 10th book. I felt like I needed a break although to be honest, I couldn't wait for 2015 to begin so I could start writing again. Also, I've decided not to take such breaks in future. I hope I can write as long as Allah wills it. I remember being rather worried when at a book launch, Kamila Shamsie mentioned what her aunt Attia Hossain had said, that writing is a muscle, if you don't use it, you lose it. I don't intend to lose my writing muscle!
Q10. What's next from the pen of Andaleeb Wajid?
A. Okay, where do I begin? The romance short stories on Juggernaut will come to an end in August but there will be horror short stories coming out soon. I don't know the frequency they will be published though. There's a somewhat slow paced, old school romance coming out later this year with Amaryllis, which has taken a very long time to publish. It's called The Sum of All my Parts. Next year, I've got a contemporary romance/chick lit type book that Penguin is publishing, and then there's the horror novel as well. That's it, I guess.