Hello everyone! Today I want to welcome you all to Abda Khan, who is a lawyer and writer from England. I got the opportunity to have a wonderful Q&A session where we talked about her debut novel Stained as well as her writing process!
Synopsis: The novel revolves around an 18-year British Pakistani girl, Selina, who is raped by a trusted friend of the family. After the attack, she goes to extreme lengths to prevent bringing what she perceives as shame to her widowed mother’s door, and to avoid tarnishing the family’s honour and reputation. However, this leads her down a dark dangerous path from which there may be no return.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think it was when I signed my publishing contract. I do not have any creative writing background or experience, and whilst I believed that what I had written was really good, I wanted someone else to believe in it too. So, when the offer for publication came, I had to remind myself that I was now a writer, as well as a lawyer.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don’t think it was the first story I read, but the most memorable book from my childhood was definitely ‘Run for your life’ by David Line. I think I was nine years old when I read it, and it was my first experience of a real page turner, a book that I simply could not put down. I got lost in the storyline, as though I were actually there, in every scene. To this day, it is still probably my favourite book, or at least in the top three. Sadly, I think it is out of print now.
When you developed characters for this novel did you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
I have a rough idea, and I have fairly fixed ideas about the character’s nature, and their role in the book, but the detail comes to me as I write; how she or he looks, thinks, feel, all develops as I progress with the storylines and themes of the novel
On your website, you said Stained was based off of your own personal experiences. How has your environment & upbringing colored your writing?
I grew up in a deprived, very culturally diverse inner city neighbourhood. My parents were immigrants from Pakistan and I was their first child born in England, and the seventh of eight children. As a lawyer, I have personally come across many of the issues that are dealt with in Stained, worse in fact. The book deals with some hard-hitting stuff; rape, honour, judgement, cultural conflicts and so on. I have observed over the years how tough life is for the women living in these British South Asian communities. Many of them put up with an awful lot, often in the name of the family honour. So, many of these themes, problems and issues are explored in Stained.
What was the hardest part of writing Stained? Were there any scenes that were difficult to write or characters that were harder to develop during the writing process?
Well, the hardest part without doubt was writing the rape scene. I didn’t want to describe a rape per se, so I concentrated more on how Selina (the main character and the victim of the rape) felt through the ordeal, rather than detailing the obvious. I found Selina’s character probably the most difficult to write; she goes through so much, and I had to document that in such a way that it captured the drama and tragedy of what happened to her but in a way that was true to her character.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
This is so hard…..living – Khaled Hosseini. Dead – Jane Austen
Who designed the cover for Stained and how does it connect with the story?
The cover is by Anna Ismagilova. The colour red has significance throughout the novel. The image is of a young woman who I think may be looks similar to how I imagine Selina to look. She is dressed perhaps for her wedding day, but with the face partially covered, you cannot really know how she is feeling. There is an air of mystery to the image which I liked.
Are you working on any new projects currently?
Yes, I am working on my next novel, which I am very excited about, although I have had to pause on that for a while as I am so busy both in the UK and USA over the next few months promoting Stained. I also write short stories; I have been shortlisted in three short story contests in the last year, the latest one being Wells Festival of Literature. One my short stories The Lonely Path has recently been published in Sister-Hood Magazine.
About The Author
Abda Khan is a lawyer by profession with her own practice. Stained is her debut novel. Khan was inspired to write this novel as a result of her experiences. The community described in the novel is similar to the one in which she lived (she grew up in a very deprived, inner city area), and one in which she has and continues to work (her law practice is based in a very working class, multi-cultural town). She has personally seen and dealt with many of the problems that are highlighted by the novel, and was inspired to write the book as a result of the women she has come across, and the difficult issues they face within the South Asian communities.
Thank you again Abda for the wonderful interview! I encourage you all to go out and check out Abda’s novel. 🙂