10 Questions With… Awais Khan

Hi everyone, and on the blog today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Awais Khan.

Awais’ latest crime thriller No Honour is set to be an AMAZING book so I was really pleased when he agreed to answer some questions on his writing process and how he got his agent.

Over to you, Awais…

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with a book that made you go ‘Wow!’

I loved reading Enid Blyton’s books as a child. I was a huge fan of the Secret Seven series and have read every single installment in the series. I think Harry Potter was what made me go ‘WOW’ as a child. What a book!

2) Did you enjoy English at school? What is your earliest no memory of writing?

I didn’t enjoy English until high school. Earlier, it was all about learning grammar and whatnot which I found very dry. Still, it helped build the foundation of my writing. In high school, I read books like Jane Eyre, North and South, Island of the Blue Dolphins etc and I loved it when the class teacher discussed and dissected the book. 3) For your latest novel No Honour, where did the basis of the idea emerge from?

No Honour took almost three years to write. The injustices being suffered by women in Pakistan have distressed and angered me for a very long time. There was a very high profile case of a celebrity being murdered for honour in Pakistan which got me into researching what exactly went on in rural Pakistan. What I found appalled me. That’s when I decided to write No Honour.

4) What was No Honour’s writing and editing process like?

Well, it took about three years to write. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to be writing this story, but my agent, Annette Crossland, took one look at the first few chapters and urged me to finish writing it. I initially worked with Hazel Orme on polishing it, after which it was submitted to publishers. Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books took it on in October 2020 and within weeks sent me the first editorial notes. I worked with her on the book for a couple of months after which West Camel (editor at Orenda Books) took over and helped me polish it some more. Karen promised me when she took on the book that it was a powerful and hard hitting story, but with editing, it would become immense. And it has. She and West Camel are astute, experienced editors and when I read the final version, I almost cried. It really was immense.

5) Once you got your agent, what was the editing process like before pitching to publishers for your first novel? Was this different for No Honour?

I signed up with Annette Crossland in February 2017. I had been working on ‘In the Company of Strangers’ with Hazel Orme for over a year, so when Annette signed me on, there was very little editing that needed to be done. With No Honour, it was a bit different as I worked with my publisher for quite a bit of time to help make the book as perfect as it could be.

6) If you had to choose your favourite character from No Honour that you have written, which would it be and why?

I don’t want to give too much away, but I think Abida is definitely my favorite character in No Honour. When you read the book, you’ll realize why. Her defiance in the face of her small village’s age old customs is admirable as is her courage.

7) Can you name one author that you admire and why you like their style of writing?

I have to say that I am a huge fan of Faiqa Mansab, author of This House of Clay and Water. She is the kind of writer I aspire to be. Her prose is magical and when you read her book, you’ll see how she brings the city of Lahore alive for the reader. Her writing is a feast for the senses.

8) Did you find that you struggled to write during lockdown? How have you found writing during the pandemic?

I haven’t particularly struggled to write during the lockdown. I think having deadlines helps a lot, and I had several, first with my agent and then with my publisher. It really grounded me and helped me focus. Initially, it was a bit hard because I was very used to writing in cafes, but slowly I adapted.

9) What are you currently watching on television? Have your television habits changed throughout lockdown?

I am currently watching Snowpiercer and Mirzapur on television. I am enjoying both of these shows immensely. I have found that the pandemic has given me more time to watch television. I recently finished watching all ten seasons of Friends. Yes, I was a late convert.

10) What is your music taste like? Have you been missing live music in lockdown?

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of live music. I love Indian music from the 90s and early 2000s. I also love classic Pakistani and Indian songs. YouTube has been my friend during this lockdown!

Thank you for your time today Awais. It has been a pleasure to interview you and to find out about No Honour. I can’t WAIT to read it!!

Bio: Awais Khan is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He is also an alum of Faber Academy. He is the Founding Director of the Writing Institute and has delivered lectures at Durham University, American University of Dubai, Canadian University of Dubai to name a few. He has appeared on BBC World Service, Dubai Eye, Voice of America, City42, Cambridge Radio, Samaa TV, Indus TV, PTV Home and several other radio and TV channels. His work has appeared in The Aleph Review, The Hindu, The Missing Slate etc.

He is the author of In the Company of Strangers (published by Simon & Schuster, The Book Guild and Isis Audio) and No Honour (published by Orenda Books in Summer 2021). He is represented by Annette Crossland.

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