355 Days by Deeba Salim Irfan is a crime thriller that exposes the murky judicial system of India including the terrible life in an Indian jail. The book also touches upon a man’s transcendence from a greedy man to that of going up on the path of spiritual life. It thereby establishes a link between how tough times help us to grow and refine ourselves.
In a candid chat with Bookish Fame, Deeba talked about her book, her journey as a writer, contemporary scenario of reading and writing, and gave some tips for the budding writers too. Read on!
- Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a writer always soaking up stories. Though I have been writing all my life, my first published novel was URMA, in 2012. It was a historical fiction novel with a backdrop of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The translation in Urdu followed and so did the nomination for an award by Urdu Press Club.
Next, a collection of poetry was published in 2016, CHARCOAL BLUSH, and was a finalist at the Book Excellence Awards in Canada. A few of my poems have been translated into other languages. Charcoal blush received praise from leading people including Academy Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning directors. My latest novel is 355 DAYS, a crime thriller, inspired by true events, launched in Jan 2020.
- When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Though I have been writing all my life, the realization dawned upon me only about 12 years back.
- What inspires you to write books? What are the things, which catch your attention?
Inspiration is everywhere out there one just has to develop an observant vision. I write about what touches me internally and till now all my books have been an outcome of that. I am perceptive of everything that crosses my sight. But whatever sticks for a lot longer and I am not able to take it out of my thoughts, finds a place in my words.
- Tell something in brief about your book 355 Days?
One murder. One accused and three lives are interwoven for 355 Days.
Aadesh Dixit, British-Indian business tycoon, his wife, Maya & his lawyer Nasha Singh.
Will 355 days make Aadesh Dixit lose the love of his life or win his inalienable right of freedom back? Will Nasha Singh’s interpellation be enough to shake the dust off truth? But what is the truth anyway?
- How do you organize yourself, as a writer, to keep track of the world you’re writing about?
I am a methodological writer and a firm believer in research and I build a mood board of the places and people I write about. I outline everything before I start I do in-depth character interviews and I write out chapter heads and keep a track of words I write when I am working on a project. But when I am not writing, I am totally laid back and don’t think of writing for weeks or months.
- When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or a full-time profession?
Not at all.
I hold an MBA with a specialization in marketing and advertising. I have over two decades of advertising and events background. When I started to write my first novel, I pursued courses in novel writing from the London School of Journalism and from the University of Oxford.
Today, words mean everything to me, therefore, in addition to being a writer, I also founded TheWriteScene.com, and I curate writing retreats for aspiring writers.
- How did you approach the writing process this time around? Do you have a set routine or does it vary? And how do you manage it with your full-time work?
This time it was anew turf. First of all, writing about a male protagonist was not easy initially, I contemplated for a while but then, I dived right in. I did extensive research for almost six months. I took help with a Supreme Court lawyer and had many sessions with him. It was an interesting journey. I read accounts of many wrongful incarcerations in India and around the world. I enjoyed the process and am happy with the outcome.
- How would you describe the contemporary scenario of writing and reading around the world?
This is an interesting time that we are living in. A good time for writers as there are innumerable options available to get your writings out there. But at the same time, on the other hand, there are fewer readers, there is a decline in that front. The writing style has undergone a change, as has the patience of readers.
Today, readers prefer less descriptive passages and shorter sentences. There is a shift of trend from fiction to non-fiction. Also a shift from paper books to kindle and audiobooks, but they’re always is a place for words in some format, so if one has a story to tell, this is the best time to write.
- How crucial are marketing and promotions when it comes to selling a book?
Absolutely critical. With supply heavy market, indeed marketing is the key. One has to invest in it big time, no matter which publisher you sign up with. One has to build a platform. Unless of course, your publisher is doing it for you.
- Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I am a sporadic voracious reader so there are times when I don’t pick a book at all. I lean towards fiction more, and like Franz Kafka, Orhan Pamuk, Plato, Rumi, Khalil Gibran, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen, and many more.
I consider books than authors, as not all works of all authors is great and vice versa. So let’s say I loved the book Ikigai by Hector & Francesc but have not read any other book by them. Similarly, I liked Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, but not others. Or for example, I loved Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shfak but not her previous.
- Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
My advice to aspiring writers would be to have perseverance and not get dejected by rejections.
And to never stop dreaming – dreams lead to actualization.
- Are we going to hear more from you in the future?
Yes, I am completing the novel that I had set-aside after writing 3/4th, to write 355 Days. And I am always in search of stories, so yes, you will hear more from me.
*We wish Author Deeba Salim Irfan all the best for her future endeavors.*
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