Celebrated author Andaleeb Wajid, who flew from Bengaluru to grace the latest edition of SheThePeopleTV's Women Writers Fest 2023, offered a close insight into her world of writing. The author who is creating a buzz with her three-part book series 'Jasmine Villa' engaged in a constructive conversation around books, methods of publishing, the power of choosing her own timelines, and more.
Whether it is 'House of Screams', 'Mirror, Mirror' or 'All Drama, No Queen', Wajid's dive into writing relatable stories works wonders for her loyal readers, one of the prominent reasons why her readership has significantly grown over the past decade.
In an exclusive interview later with SheThePeople, Andaleeb Wajid talks about her writing process, her inclination towards genres of romance and horror, maintaining a balance between traditional and self-publishing, and what inspires her to write with the speed of light.
Andaleeb Wajid Interview
How did your first book or publishing your first book change your writing process?
I was clueless when I wrote my first book; to an extent, I didn't even know what a 'plot' meant. I was writing the story as it came to me. Each day something new would happen and I would say 'oh, what an adventure let me take this to a new place.' By the time I reached my second book, while I was still intuitive, I started planning a little. If you ask me now, everything is structured and planned. I earlier used to think that planning takes the joy out of writing but it's not true, there's so much joy in planning, too.
Where do you generate ideas from?
So, ideas are ongoing. The source for me is the world around us. So, I see something and something might strike me in a certain way and I make a note of it somewhere and eventually come back to it and make it into a book.
From when you started writing to now, how have readers' reactions to reading about romance changed? As you mentioned earlier that there's still shame in reading romance.
There's definitely resistance and hesitation when people read about romance but I think things have changed considerably over the past few years. People are becoming open to some extent, they're reading more on the genre and, although, it's taking time for them to fully accept that they love reading it, the overall change in society is positive.
The genres of romance and horror
Most of Wajid's books teach romance in some form or another. Her storytelling explores various shades of romance, nuances of relationships and the work it takes to keep them alive. She adds, "Jasmine Villa was my first proper foray into romance where I was trying to write something a little more relatable, something that's more homegrown, something that people can enjoy and also feel. So, there's a lot of shame associated with reading romance. So, I wanted to write something that people would feel okay about saying that 'Yes, I read it and related with it.'"
Wajid's who is working on yet another genre of horror shared that although she, sometimes, does get scared by the shadow of a cloth on her wall suddenly in the middle of the night, she loves writing everything that horror entails. Asked why, and she responds, "There's a difference. When you're writing horror, you're in charge of the narrative. And I don't get scared by writing because I take breaks in between."
Wajid, who switches between romance and horror from time to time, added that it's integral to not feel monotonous with writing and therefore exploring new ways to write stories and maintaining a balance is a must.
Have you ever experienced writer's block?
So, I'm always asked this question, and I always tell people that rather than a block, I'd say I am sometimes stuck. But I plan extensively beforehand so I don't have to experience it. I give myself breaks between books and recharge myself. So, writer’s block as such hasn't been something that I focus on because, again, I plan out so much.
Do you worry about whether your audience would not like a certain book if there was infidelity involved in the story?
Yeah, I mean, I do take it into account when I'm writing. I don't just write positive things, there are negative emotions also. And as I said earlier, those books are high on drama and melodrama. So, there is a lot of stuff happening over there. I think at the end of it, what readers want is to be entertained. That's my primary job as a writer, to make sure that someone who picks up my book gets entertained. I do think about it and I try not to write about things that would make people too uncomfortable. I think there is a sort of in-built censorship also in certain ways for myself, which I also feel is very relevant, considering I'm an Indian Muslim woman, therefore, so many things come into play. So, those are things I keep in mind when I'm writing.
There are so many young writers who want to adopt this career but often get confused and lost. Is self-publishing financially empowering too?
Writing is not always financially empowering, not for everyone, and Wajid rightly explains why. "I always tell people, if you want to be a writer, don't quit your day job. But when you're self-publishing, to a certain extent, you can make money out of the book, but only if you write often. That is the kind of speed which is considered typical if you want to self-publish and you want to make money. So, whenever people ask me if they should self-publish, I always ask them, what are your goals? Why do you want to publish? If you want to publish to make money, fine. But be prepared to put in a lot of work."
Suggested reading: Janice Pariat: Women Need The Space To Tell Their Own Stories