Love is the slowest form of suicide–Fiza Pathan

(C) Copyright 2016, Margaret Langstaff, http://www.margaretlangstaffeditorial.com, All Rights Reserved

mumbai-slums

AN INTERVIEW WITH AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR FIZA PATHAN OF MUMBAI, INDIA
 Fiza Pathan, a very young self-published author, recently was awarded three prestigious book prizes, one at the London Book Festival and two at the New England Festival of Books. fiza pic
Her attentive, admiring uncle Blaise reports that “at the New England Book Festival  Amina The Silent One received an award in Regional Literature, and Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues received two awards in Young Adult, one at the above festival and the other at the London Book Festival.”
Fiza is 26 years old, a middle school teacher in Mumbai, and English is not her native language.  It has been my pleasure and privilege to edit most of her books, and to watch her rapid growth and development, as she agreeably responded to a light editorial hand.  Her skills and imaginative range have exploded almost exponentially with each new book.  She has become more daring, confident and proficient–surprisingly so to this veteran editor.  One rarely encounters a nascent writer as responsive to example, correction and new and greater challenges.
Fiza has written and published nine books and one short story to date.
Except for the short story, all are available in paperback and Kindle format. At this tender stage of her career she has already accumulated 20 awards for her titles.
Let’s listen to what Fiza has to say about all this. Her candor may shock you.  This is not a writer thrilled with her sudden notoriety, nor one in pursuit of literary fame and fortune for selfish reasons or personal gain.

Miss Fiza, as you know, an eternal question readers who are not writers have is “why write?” It is a question that can only be answered individually by any given writer.

I write because I am helpless! Everything that I have been through in my life has caused me pain and being a person who is not very vocal about her feelings, I tend to bring out my anguish in the form of the written word. When I wasn’t a writer, I used to write in my diaries.  Now since I am a published writer, I celebrate my sadness in my books.

My father and his family did not want to look after me because I was a girl, so my mother left her in-laws’ place when I was barely a few months old, to lead the life of a single parent in her mother’s house. I grew up thinking at first that every child lives with a single parent until I realized the truth at age 6…and that hurt.

Since then the lacerations inflicted upon my soul and heart have grown from tiny scratches to open wounds infested with the worms of melancholy, which gnaw at my very being, not wanting me to go on. In such a state, what could I do but write? I had no mouth to speak, for I was told that people go through worse problems, so I must push the pain back. I’ve been pushing ever since.

Writing is my way of pushing the sorrow back. I don’t write my books; I bleed on my books with the blood everyone calls ‘ink.’ I am 26 years old and my writing is my “life support system.” If I don’t write, I will die and I cannot afford to do so because I have to look after my mother and her family, my family who raised me, even though I was not their responsibility. So I have got to go on, no matter how bad the pain is. I’ve got to keep writing. The morbid joke is that, the better the books are that I write, the greater the pain involved at that point in time.

Isn’t that funny! I am a very simple person, so I can assure you of one elementary fact in my life which holds true: the day I stop writing, I will cease to exist.

Very simply, what made you want to write? All writers encounter failure and discouragement, but you were able to overcome these things. Something kept you going. Was it faith or an inner voice? Did you perhaps find your greatest joy and satisfaction losing yourself in the lives of your challenged characters?

I am a very insignificant person with simple wants and needs. Simple people like me don’t encounter the travails of the regular “writers.” I have never felt discouraged, I have never needed a ‘push’ to write. I have no idea what a “writer’s block” is nor what my inner voice says or doesn’t say. My characters don’t live in me and neither do I live in them. I’m here referring to my fiction books only. The moment I finish bleeding in one book, I go on to the next. If given the freedom to do so, I would have written a book every month, or maybe two in a month, or maybe four.

But I have got my responsibilities. I need to teach to earn money for my family and to fulfill many dreams. I would like to complete my own education, to build a school for the street children of Mumbai, to open a study centre for poor students, to start a circulating library for disadvantaged sections of the Indian society and much more. In order to fulfill these dreams I need to be alive, of course, and the only way I can be alive is to be on my “life support system”…by writing. So therefore I at least can manage to write three books in a year. Amina: The Silent One was written in a month’s time while Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues took me 50 days exactly.

If I can sit still in Church even for a moment, at least ten ideas for new books come to me with the whole story intact from beginning to end. All the books which I have penned till now have been somehow ‘sent’ to me during mass, especially during the elevation of the Host, the moment of consecration, when the Catholic priest blesses the bread and it is transformed into the body and blood of Christ; that is, during the miracle of transubstantiation.

AMINARAMAN AND SUNNY

I have never been in want of ideas to write, but yes, I had to write. I am just muffling my sobs in the pages of my notebooks, and that’s the blunt truth. I don’t like to be fake, and I dislike people who speak a falsehoods. Maybe that is why I am always getting “hurt.”

Would it be strange to say that I started writing because I have no friends, except the ones I create? Would it be peculiar to say that I wanted to write because I am the butt of all jokes because of my physical looks? Would it be novel to say that my characters are more like someone you may recognize, but whom I find hard to even fathom? I am a very simple person with a mystery within my heart to be unlocked, but you shall never have the key, for who but I know the meaning of that cliché … “love is the slowest form of suicide?”

Social injustice is a recurrent theme in your writing. Would you say the effort to defeat it keeps you writing?

To be truthful, I myself don’t know why I am often inspired to write about social issue topics. Sometimes I don’t realize it is a social issue that I am writing about until the book or story is finally over! Maybe this is because social injustice has become such a part of my life, which I see every day in the world around me. What seems like a serious social issue to some people, seems quite normal and routine to me. I’m now too used to pain to be shocked anymore. That I want to do something about it, yes, it is true, and when I say I’m going to do something about it, I’ll do it, but not in writing. That is to me another form of “witnessing” and we’ve got way too many “witnesses” here on our planet than “people who act.”

Rape, molestation, communalism, terrorism, regionalism, bureaucratic corruption, wars, child abuse, female foeticide, female infanticide, bride burning, poverty, epidemics, famines, environmental destruction, drug abuse.

Yes, Fiza, all themes that wend their way into your novels . . . .

Well, these are everyday affairs in my world, and I seriously want to stop writing about them and start doing something concrete about them. Injustice in any form has been a blood brother to me and not only me, but to hundreds of millions of people all over the world. The world needs to rehabilitate this monster before he lifts up his serpent hydra head and spits out his toxic venom to such an extent that it destroys us all. If my books help in some way towards “action” and “reaction” against this possibility, then I will be indirectly pleased. But if my writing on social issues is read for the sake of “entertainment,” well, that is for the reader to decide, not me.

I’m just a writer… as Samuel Johnson has said:
“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

Many write out of a simple “what if” curiosity about human nature and begin a book with a character or two in mind in a certain situation, desiring to see how he or she will handle the challenge, not having a foregone conclusion for a book at the outset. The writer wants to discover, given the situation and the character of the protagonist (s), how will this all play out. Haha, that’s why I write: I want to discover what people will do in certain situations. Writing is an act of discovery, solving a mystery for me. It’s for me an exercise in learning about human nature and mankind’s on again off again relationship with God. Flannery O’Connor has been a major influence on my work. Many other writers, however, are incapable of writing the first word until they have the book completely outlined, start to finish. John Irving (whom I know, author of the bestseller The World According to Garp ) writes like that.

No, Ma’am, before I write a word, I know the ending of all my stories as well as their beginning. I know which characters are going to appear in my story and what they have to do. I have got several ideas for the books which I wish to write. I want to write the Indian version of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita…I wish to write a complete study guide of the famous Indian writer R.K.Narayan’s works as he is my favourite author, and I am currently researching on this very topic. I wish to write a theosophical novel on a Vampire and a lot more.

It just comes to me…everything, but always in a church while meditating. I am an avid reader of books of all genres, yet it is strange that I have never taken literature as a subject either in college, or even now for my masters which I am currently pursuing! My pet subject happens to be History and I’m doing my masters in that subject. The only time I really studied literature was in school and in my teacher’s training college. Political science is another one of my favourite subjects along with Sociology, which I may pursue at a later date.

 

Fiza Pathan has bootstrapped her way into publication and reader and award recognition as a self-published author. Kudos and honors are difficult to acquire from such a vantage point, as we all know.  Talent, motivation and unwavering persistence are key, but then so is luck, sad to say.

Congratulations, Miss Fiza. Godspeed.

mumbai

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, editing, fiction, Literature, novel, novelists, writers, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Love is the slowest form of suicide–Fiza Pathan

  1. dgkaye says:

    An absolutely fabulous interview. I’m off to check out Fiza’s books. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fiza is fascinating, though she struggles with many obstacles (social discrimination as a woman, having been abandoned by her father’s family as an infant, her painful self-consciousness about her appearance–and more). I recommend you read Amina the Silent One and Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues.. The first is a hair-raising, searing and accurate novel about sexual slavery as it exists in India today, how women are put into it often by their own husbands! Very raw and realistic! The second is a wickedly plotted tale of twins in Middle School, betrayal, travesties in high places in the educational system–not just for kids. These are her last two books, the ones that recently won the London and New England awards, and I believe are her best yet.

      Liked by 2 people

      • dgkaye says:

        Thanks so much again Margaret for sharing Fiza and her works. I am certainly planning to get to her books eventually! The old, TBR! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thing is, the world she lives in, the deprivation, the maltreatment of children and women is day and night different to our world. She brings it vividly to life, excruciatingly, (sometimes you just want o go “ICK! NO!” and it stupefies me that such a society of degradation and disadvantage can produce such an accomplished writer. Of course the Brits were in India for so long and gave them Shakespeare’s language, moral sense and savoir faire But then look at Africa, Bangladesh, etc. To be willing to give up one’s art to storm the ramparts of prejudice strikes me as either insane or saintly!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Fiza is beautiful. The spirit of her writing is like the bright colors in your picture from the slums. Beyond luck, I hope the inspiration her books bring readers will be passed on one-to-one to all the world. Thanks for giving her a voice and helping us get to know her in this excellent interview.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Margaret! I certainly agree with your estimation of Fiza! It was my privilege to interview her, and I hope this helps spread the news that she is a very talented writer sure to gain a wide appreciative following as ever more fascinating books issue from her pen. I know how highly she regards you and am thrilled you stopped by.

      Liked by 1 person

    • insaneowl says:

      Thank you Ma’am. I value your opinion of me and will strive to live up to it. I fully concur with what my editor Ma’am has written below. I value your opinion on every written word that issues from my pen, and wait for your just opinion on every one of my published works. Thank you for that act of friendship, and encouragement you extended to me, when my non-fiction book Classics: Why we should encourage children to read them, was first published in July 2013. Since then you have been my constant support. Love and seeking your blessings on my future endeavors. Fiza

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s