Thanks to @Hearourownvoicestour for having me as a host. In addition to recording my 15 Thoughts while reading, I had a chance to send some interview questions to the author Syed M. Masood. He replied to the questions in great detail. So, let’s get on with it shall we?
Q1: Did any true events from your life inspired you to write this YA story?
Not really. I mean…well, that’s not exactly true.
Let me put it this way: some of the relationships between some of the characters mirror my experiences. I think that is pretty much all I’m willing to say. As a poet once wrote, it isn’t necessary that every veil be lifted.
Anyway, fiction has to stand on its own, and I think this book does.
Q2: You mentioned on your website that you are practicing as an attorney. What was your motivation towards choosing these two different paths i.e. Writing and Law?
I’ve always loved literature. I started writing stories when I was in grade school, but I never thought I’d actually get published.
Anyway, after I graduated from university, I wanted to be an English Professor. My parents were not onboard. It’s a long story.
Let’s just say that I stumbled into the Law and ran towards writing.
Q3: In the beginning of the story, you’ve mentioned about getting married is important in Islam if you like a person and later on have sex and that’s it’s a long process. I feel like this a sort of problematic line where readers will react to it. Can you please explain your point of view?
It is not my point of view. It’s Danyal Jilani’s point of view.
Thank you so much for this question, by the way, I really appreciate the opportunity to discuss this. I’m going to take my time answering this because I think this is very important. I hope that’s okay.
It is sometimes—often, in fact—incorrect to assume that the views of the first person narrator are the same as the views of the author. The narrator and the author are very different people. They do not believe the same things or act in the same ways.
For example, I don’t swear in public (though I sometimes do when I’m by myself, to be honest). I was taught a Muslim doesn’t swear. But Danyal does. I have to let him be his authentic self, to have his own voice, otherwise we might as well all write autobiographies.
So, I may disagree with the things Danyal does, but they are true to his character and his level of growth and maturity. He is, by his own admission, not very bright. He’s a teenager who wants to be funnier than he is. He thinks he is being edgy. Having been a teenage boy, I can tell you that they sometimes confuse crassness with wit. But he grows. That’s the point of the book and his journey. I think readers will see that.
When he is confronted with serious problems—in his personal life and in his academic life—he silliness gets toned down, his better qualities start to shine through, and he becomes a more complete person.
I hope and assume that Nabakov was nothing like his protagonists and I can see from other things he has written that Mohsin Hamid is not entirely like his. The views of the author, if that is what the reader is looking for, are more often found in the overall themes of the book, not in individual lines related by a first person narrator.
In fact, speaking more generally, you should mistrust first person narrators.
Anyway, great characters evolve. They are confronted with irony even if they aren’t aware of it.
So, Elizabeth Bennet of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE says that no woman would turn down a proposal in the hopes that it would renewed later, but that is exactly what she ends up doing with Darcy. It’s a sign of her growth.
In MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE, by the time the end of the story comes and Danyal is dealing with the issue of marriage, he isn’t thinking about sex at all. His journey has changed him and his views, which is excellent in my opinion. I’m happy for him.
Q4: How do you deal with negative book reviews?
I’m not too bothered by them, to be honest. They sting sometimes, but the reception for MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE has generally been very positive. Most of the negative reviews that have been called to my attention are from people who think that books about Muslims are books about Islam. That’s just not true, in my opinion. They are about people who happen to be Muslim, but Muslims are different everywhere and they are all flawed in their own unique ways.
The point of fiction is to entertain people, not to educate them. If readers happen to learn something, that’s great, but I hope no one comes to a rom-com about Muslim teenagers to learn about Islam. That isn’t their purpose.
So, when someone comes to me as says “you didn’t do X right” and I was never trying to “X”, why would I be upset about that? You can’t define your success by the expectations of others or you’ll never be happy.
Aside from that I realize that people’s tastes are different. I’ve been handed tons of books that are supposedly awesome, and I couldn’t get past the third page. I’ve seen people give Oscar Wilde’s work one star. It’s not personal, so I don’t take it personally.
Q5: Will you enlighten us readers regarding your writing process?
It’s messy. Seriously messy. I don’t plot. I just write. This means that the story is pretty organic, and I’m sometimes surprised by how things happen or why they’re happening. It’s sort of hard to explain. The story grows as I write it and I just trust it will work.
What this does mean is that the first revision is often brutal. Lot of loose ends, lots of parts that don’t work with how things really turned out, and all that has to be polished and ironed out.
I just want to also mention music. Coke Studio Pakistan has been instrumental in my writing process! Music can really provide a source of inspiration, and what Coke Studio has done—taking classics and reinterpreting them or making them accessible—has been a boon.
Q6: What kind of books do you read yourself?
I read contemporary YA and adult lit. I read a bunch of non-fiction–mostly about history, politics and religion. Sometimes I’ll read books deal with modern technology and such, though usually in service of a book I’m writing myself.
I also read a lot of poetry—most Sufi poets or Urdu poets. Urdu poetry was my first literary love.
Q7: What are some of those few important lessons you learned while travelling? People are the same everywhere. They generally just want to be safe, to have food, to take care of their families, to be loved and to be happy. They may define these things differently, but soul of humanity is something we all have in common. It’s a beautiful thing.
15 Thoughts While Reading:
- Weird thought, but this is the first thought I had while reading. Why is the female character named kaval? I’ve only ever heard the name with this spelling, kanwal.
- While daniyal was having thoughts about virginity and how Muslims are being backwards about this, I was pondering upon the authors’ answer regarding a question I asked related to this.
- Daniyal was trying to be funny about zombie apocalypse thing and how they’d identify a virgin. It will be hijabis …oh well this is a little disrespectful thought. I hope he matures later in the book and realizes this.
- Parents do worry about what society thinks…like it’s so relatable.
- I read Biryani and my mouth started watering instantly 😋
- Hahahaha …He said Daniyal biryani 😆
- At the mention of a coffee shop….Now I want mocha…yup, am addicted to coffee
- I don’t like Ahmed jilani’s opinions 😒
- At this point, I’m totally hungry and craving spicy food. Thanks to Daniyal’s cooking love.
- I can definitely relate to this part of dawat where males discuss politics or cricket or what not.
- Even I was clueless about chemistry in school.😆
- I like that Daniyal is sort of expressive but on the other hand, what’s the deal with kaval. 🤔
- It’s not always about winning, the thing even when you try your best at anything, that’s your own inner victory.
- Daniyal may not be a top student but he is talented, these classmates of him are being jerks.
- It’s sad that Mr. Jillani does not believe in his own son.
Hope you all enjoyed this blog post and let me know in the comments if you found the authors answers helpful. Please do support Hearourownvoicestours. I’ve linked it in the beginning of this post.