Sabyn Javeri is in the news with her recently released book Nobody Killed Her. It is ‘inspired’ by the fictional court room drama following the Benazir Bhutto assassination. She was recently in New Delhi for the worldwide release of her book. We caught up with her and tried to find out more about her and her writing. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
Which is the real Sabyn Javeri? Is she a writer, teacher, mother, or something the world does not know about?
All three and counting!
How has your fame and success affected you and other people’s view of you?
I’m still the same in my eyes and that in the eyes of others.
Describe your typical writing day for our readers.
It is anything but typical. I can’t afford the luxury of routines for my life is far too unpredictable. I write mostly in my head. So I can be writing while cooking or sleeping, and then when the idea has been fully fermented and I just download it from my mind and onto the screen.
How do you find time for writing with kids and family responsibilities?
I don’t. I make time. I don’t look for long windows but snatches of time, a moment here, a few moments there and that’s how I get it done.
How important is discipline in your writing?
The only discipline I have is to be true to myself.
Sabyn on her books
How easy or difficult was it for you to break the glass ceiling and become a published woman author?
Not very. The difficulty was not the gender but the subject matter.
Did the fallout or reaction to your book ‘Nobody Killed her’ which is based on a volatile subject, worry you?
If you start worrying about reactions you would never be able to write.
You narrated in your interview with DAWN newspaper how your book was first accepted and then shelved. How difficult was it to deal with such an experience?
It was difficult but like all things devastating, I came out stronger.
Was Benazir Bhutto assignation the inspiration or catalyst for your book?
Both and none.
How did you research for this book?
I didn’t. I researched for my Ph.D. about women in power in patriarchal societies, combined that with an overactive imagination, and the result was Nobody Killed Her.
Was it a difficult or an enjoyable book?
What is your next project?
It’s called Hijabistan. It is a collection of short stories about the theme of the veil. Not as a garment but as a mentality.
Did the award you won for your short stories inspire you to attempt your first novel?
It gave me the encouragement.
Sabyn on Books and Writers
Which authors and books have influenced you and your writing?
That’s like asking why you love someone or how. It’s hard to pinpoint which of the many beautiful or terrible books shaped your creativity. All I can say is, they did.
How do you relate to writers like Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai?
I feel like I come from a long tradition of South Asian writers who have broken boundaries, stepped on toes, written about subjects considered taboo, even been put on trial for their creativity. I feel privileged that I belong to a tradition of South Asian literature, where women like Chugtai and Rashid Jehan were writing about feminism even before the word was coined.
You interviewed Shobha De when she visited Pakistan. How influenced are you with her and her use of the bold and no-apology approach to female sexuality in her books?
I think she is a fiery writer and a very interesting person. I read her columns but have not had a chance to read her fiction.
What is important for a writer; to write mainstream fiction like Mohsin Hamid, ChetanBhagat or Shobha De, or to write literary fiction like Vikram Seth or Amitav Gosh?
That is for a writer to decide himself or herself. I don’t believe in boxes nor do I tick them.
Harry Potter books had their fans line up outside bookstores for hours before their release. Likewise, closer home, it is said that Chandrakanta book series’ fans learned Hindi and lined up outside the printing press. How do you view this: marketing, mass hysteria or magical pen of the writers?
I think anything that gets people reading is good.
Sabyn on the art of writing
Do you plan and structure your characters, arc of the story or do you let your characters’ run away with the story?
I don’t like to lose control. If I’m in charge the characters better listen.
Do you have dreams/visions of your characters? And do they appear before you, as they did before Charles Dickens?
Not anymore. I think the more you write the more you are able to create rather than conjure.
Do you use real people and their mannerism in your books? Anything interesting to share in this regard?
Of course, we all seek inspiration from our surroundings. The character of Soldier Rahim is based on someone I know.