Today I’m pleased to bring you an interview with author Mehreen Ahmed, whose newest book The Pacifist hits shelves on May 11.
In the last couple of years, you have written a number of short stories in between your novels. Where do you continue to find inspiration?
I find inspiration in many things. My main source of inspiration is nature. From a drop of dew on a blade of grass, to any natural objects big or small – moves me. The sights, the sounds, the smells and the change of seasons make me philosophical. I am a true romantic when it comes to my source of inspiration.
How do you create your first draft? Is it a messy process, or do you have a plan laid out?
No plans. It is a messy. I feel a light finally coming out of a mass of darkness after a long process of deliberation, which is also when deliverance happens. The first draft is when I finally pour those ideas down. Following that, I have to sort out what to keep, change, and throw away.
Do you do all of your research beforehand or do you find it easier to research as you go along?
I find it easier as I am going along. Because my first drafts are typically written with very little planning, I don’t necessarily know what to research until I write something down.
Which part of the writing process do you find the most challenging? Why?
Sometimes, during the early drafts, the flow of thinking stops. That’s when my writing becomes really prosaic and stultifying as opposed to rhythmic. Slugging through those moments is always difficult.
Some writers have a preference for certain writing styles. For example, some feel that they are doing their best work writing dialogue while others prefer description. Do you have a preferred style?
My strength is in description. When I present my characters’ thoughts. What happens inside their minds take precedence over outward events in a stream of consciousness. There is something about the raw nature of that style that I enjoy.
Some authors need music or have a specific spot where they like to write. What are your preferences when it comes to putting words on paper?
There is a big picture on my desk right before my computer. It has individual pictures of 8 great novelists framed within it. The novelists are Pearl S. Buck, Hemingway, Eugene O’Neill, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, William Faulkner, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorn. I look at them. Instead of cringing, I feel elated and draw confidence from them.
Is there anything that you dislike about writing?
Yes. I hate it when my writing stalls. I feel I am being pulled down in quick sand. I feel claustrophobic. Climbing out of that abyss is sometimes difficult.
Tell me a little about the novel you currently published.
The Pacifist is an historical fiction, set in the mid to late nineteenth century. The story takes place in New South Wales, Australia during the gold rush. This story looks at wealth, love, and corruption. I felt that the setting in the book was well suited to my writing style because it gave me a chance to explore various themes that are of interest to me while writing in a genre that I’ve been toying with for some time. It was both challenging and rewarding.
The Pacifist Giveaway and Blurb
Pre-order a copy of The Pacifist and get a free copy of Mehreen Ahmed’s Snapshots. Also up for grabs, a chance to win Amazon gift cards, Cosmic Teapot sling backpacks, and bookmarks! Contest details are posted here.
In 1866, Peter Baxter’s misfortune ends the day he leaves Badgerys Creek orphanage. Unsure of what to do next, Peter finds himself on a farm run by Mr. Brown. An aging man, Brown needs help and is happy to give Peter a place to live in exchange for his labor. Unbeknownst to Peter, Brown’s past is riddled with dark secrets tied to the same orphanage, which he has documented in a red folder. During a chance encounter, Peter meets Rose. Peter cannot help but fall in love with her beauty, grace, and wit; however, he fears that his affection will go unrequited as a result of his crippling poverty. But fate changes when Peter joins the search for gold in Hill End, New South Wales. Striking it rich, he returns to Rose a wealthy man. Peter is changed by his new found affluence, heading towards the mire of greed. Will Rose regret her relationship with Peter? Meanwhile, Rose has her own troubled history. One that is deeply entwined with Brown’s past and Peter’s future.
About Mehreen Ahmed
Queensland writer, Mehreen Ahmed has been publishing since 1987. Her writing career began with journalism, academic reviews and articles. Her journalistic articles appeared in The Sheaf, a campus newspaper for the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, between 1987 and 1999. She has written academic book reviews and articles and has published them in notable peer-reviewed journals in her area of study. Mostly introspective, Mehreen also writes fiction. Set in Brisbane Queensland, Jacaranda Blues is her debut novella, written in a stream of consciousness style. A featured author for Story Institute, she has published The Blotted Line , a collection of short stories. More recently, Snapshots and Moirae were first published by PostScript Editions, UK in 2010 and a second edition by Cosmic Teapot Publishing, Canada in 2016. Her flash fiction, The Portrait has been published by Straylight Literary Magazine, a biannual magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Parkland, English Department. She has earned two MA degrees. One in English and the other in Computer Assisted Language Learning (Applied Linguistics) from Dhaka University and the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia.