Thursday, January 25, 2018

Author Interview: Sahana Ahmed

Sahana Ahmed is a fiction writer from Gurugram. Her short story 'Zeenat Aman is not a Soldier' was a finalist of the inaugural Juggernaut Love Story Contest. She is an alumna of University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing India Workshop and ‘Combat Skirts’ is her debut novel.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
My story ‘Zeenat Aman Is Not a Soldier’ was a finalist in the inaugural Juggernaut Love Story Contest. It was based in a military Special Train, and Juggernaut Books liked it. When they asked me to write a novel with a similar setting, I decided to write about life in an army girls’ hostel. That’s how it started.

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
My writing process is haphazard. It’s not even dependent on inspiration or motivation. I write when I need to. Otherwise, I don’t write for days. I don’t believe in writing daily. Writing is not a chore.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Writer’s block, apart from being an upshot of mental/emotional/physical exhaustion, also happens if you try to force your will on your characters. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, you need to set aside your ego sometimes and listen to your characters. They always pull me out of dead ends.

What are your current/future projects?
Currently, I’m committed to taking Combat Skirts to as many readers as possible. I would like to write a children’s book someday.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
Combat Skirts is romantic fiction. I didn’t choose it; the book chose me. Juggernaut had commissioned me to write it for them and I must say writing love stories is very difficult. I find it easier to write what is called “literary” fiction. To balance different genres, I write flash stories. They are intense and quick, and act as palate cleansers.

Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
Combat Skirts is traditionally published. The process, like I’ve told you, was very interesting. I got the offer to write a book first and I learned on the job.

What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
Usually one has their phone with them. I just send myself a message. If I don’t have my phone, I make up a quick mnemonic.

What is the intended audience for you book?
My book can be read by anyone over 10. I say that because I’d have loved to read Combat Skirts as a ten-year-old. There is no upper age limit, I think; no gender bar either. I know of retired Colonels and Brigadiers who are enjoying the book as much as their wives are.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Yes, I’m curious about what people have to say. If it is a good review, I’m grateful. If not, I try not to justify my work.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
I’m somewhere in-between at the moment. My book is traditionally published, so there’s that crucial validation, but since it is available only digitally, exclusively on the Juggernaut app/website, I’m not able to reach a certain section of people. There’s an overwhelming demand for hard copies from various battalion libraries but I’m not able to do anything about that at present.

Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
I’m a writer, I want to write everything.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
I’ll answer that in the words of a friend. “This is brilliant on so many levels…your writing is too intelligent for this genre” It’s a compliment but I see no reason why romantic fiction shouldn’t be sharp.

Combat Skirts is a novel about falling in love and knowing when it's real. Written in a crisp, peppy tone the writing transforms you into a world of cantonments and may queen balls, and of course, college! If you grew up in an army background you'll find yourself thinking back to your own past experiences; if you didn't, you'll get a glimpse into that life. College is all about many mini-crises, crushes, friendships, tensions and a whole lot of unforgettable memories. And notch up the drama if you happened to be in an all-girls hostel. The short novel packs in all of this and much more. 

It is a witty, unputdownable, fast-paced read that is sure to leave you with a smile and asking for more.


Thank you, Sahana for this amazing interview! I wish you success for all your future works. Keep writing!

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