Journey So Far

The original title of my Work in Progress during my MFA creative writing at Kingston University London, was Qalander. I changed it at the suggestion of my tutor Dr Paul Perry, who was most helpful during my journey as a beginning writer. Paul is a poet and one-half of the crime writing duo Karen Perry. He even offered to read the first draft of my novel, which is a HUGE favour that any established writer can do for a new one, and I hope to be as helpful a teacher to my students, as Paul was for me. I’m so grateful to him.

So I started thinking of other titles, and the ones I really liked were ‘Creatures of a Day’ from the Sophocles play, Oedipus Rex; and the second one was ‘The Great God Life’, inspired from the poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Great God Pan. But I chose ‘This House of Clay and Water’ over the others, because well, it’s a natural title considering the story. It is the first line from a verse of Shams Tabrez:

The original title of my Work in Progress during my MFA creative writing at Kingston University London, was Qalander. I changed it at the suggestion of my tutor Dr Paul Perry, who was most helpful during my journey as a beginning writer. Paul is a poet and one-half of the crime writing duo Karen Perry. He even offered to read the first draft of my novel, which is a HUGE favour that any established writer can do for a new one, and I hope to be as helpful a teacher to my students, as Paul was for me. I’m so grateful to him.

So I started thinking of other titles, and the ones I really liked were ‘Creatures of a Day’ from the Sophocles play, Oedipus Rex; and the second one was ‘The Great God Life’, inspired from the poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Great God Pan. But I chose ‘This House of Clay and Water’ over the others, because well, it’s a natural title considering the story. It is the first line from a verse of Shams Tabrez:

In this house of clay and water,

My heart lies waste without you…

I believe book titles should have an organic connection to the story and shouldn’t follow trends (A Girl…can stop. Please.) And sometimes I feel Shams Tabrez wrote this verse for this very story I had to write hundreds of years later. Well, I’m just a little mad about words and the connections they can make over time and space.

I finally submitted my manuscript after working and reworking on it for three years. I sent it to UK and US agents first, and after every email that said ‘I loved it but…’ I thought it was time to take a realistic look at the publishing industry. This is a story about Lahore, about women and hijras, and gender parities, and Islam as power tool, so where does a story like that find a home? I started looking closer to my own home.

The rejection letters did not deplete my hopes. After all some of them did say they loved it. I just chose to disregard the ‘but’ and not take it too personally. In 2016, I submitted it to Siyahi in India. The fabulous Mita Kapur offered to represent me after their designated eight weeks of reading were done. It seemed like forever though. I could hardly believe it when she emailed that they wanted to represent me. I knew of Mita’s steller reputation as an agent and her taste is immaculate, especially in saris and books. I’d like to thank the Siyahi team here as well for their help and efforts.

I signed up immediately. A month later Mita emailed that we had an offer from Penguin Random House. It was an incredible feeling, fabulous and surreal. Ranjana Sengupta is just so amazing. I mean she picked my book, she must be. Duh!

So thank you Penguin Random House and Ranjana Sengupta and Mita Kapur for being such fabulous guardians of the threshold.

I’m working on my second novel these days and enjoying myself but I’m very anxious about my upcoming book. I think writers write the kind of books they want to read, so this is a serious book, but with irony and humour, and I hope my readers will see that too. Happy reading, and reviewing!