69 AUTHORS INTERVIEW
- Take us through the journey of writing your book.
Answer: As a writer you tend to be deeply affected by what you observe. I came across people who faced certain social evils with such confidence and strength that I was inspired to pen down their stories. There are so many problems in our society that need to be addressed and this can be done only when each and every one of us stand with the victims in the hour of their need. And for that, people should be aware of what these problems are. And there arises a need to begin a conversation, spread awareness and give strength to the people who suffer from these social evils. My humble contribution towards this cause is through the gift I am bestowed with – storytelling. I might not be able to change the society’s prejudice overnight, but I am trying to add to the conversation and give hope for a better tomorrow. ‘Women Around Us’ is my attempt to celebrate the strength, courage, resilience, and faith that has become an integral part of our lives due to the society we live in now. The stories are about the women who continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes that hold them back. They challenge what is expected of their gender. They give us hope for a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.
- Tell us something about your book.
Answer: ‘Women Around Us’ is a collection of short stories based on contemporary women issues like the right to education, body shaming, women safety, domestic violence, dowry demands, infertility stigma and colour discrimination. Through these stories, I wish to raise public awareness, to mobilize people to do their part in preventing and ending all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls in our country. The stories have been well received by the readers, which include Actress Nandita Das, who said, “We need a diversity of storytellers telling the stories that shed light on the deep and abiding prejudices of our society… I hope that efforts by people like Hanadi Falki will take us one step closer to achieving a more equal, just and inclusive society.”
- It’s a saying that writers are another creators. Do you agree with it?
Answer: I believe that writers can weave magic with their pen. If the characters are relatable, plot is well developed, the narration is deeply engaging, and the setting thoroughly clear in the mind of the readers, they lose themselves in the story and are unable to keep the book down. The power of the words is so strong that readers begin to see the world through the writer’s eyes. They talk about the characters as if they have known them all along. It is like an alternate world created by the writer where the reader found solace for a while, losing themselves in the thrill of a crime novel, or the romance of a love story, the chill of a horror tale, or even the philosophy of a memoir and so forth. And that’s an indication of the success of the writer.
Your inspiration besides your family?
Answer: Instead of naming any particular writer who inspired me, I would like to say that I am inspired by my surroundings. The lives of people around me are excellent examples of social change and deserve to be shared with as many people as possible. Ending the injustice around us is everyone’s concern. More and more people, from all walks of life, are recognizing the need to get involved and speak up against the social evils. And that inspires me to write their stories, spread awareness and encourage the victims to come forward and report the crimes. I believe in the power of words and wish to create a positive change in our society through my books. And that’s my biggest inspiration.
- Tell us something about yourself.
Answer: I like to call myself a storyteller from around the world. I was born and brought up in Saudi Arabia and had the opportunity to live and observe life in various countries including USA, New Zealand and India. I love to observe people from different cultural backgrounds and identify the common traits in all of us. And this is reflected in my writing. Along with my career in the field of writing as an Editor, Digital Content Specialist and then a Communications Director, I have worked with various organizations trying to combat extreme poverty and polio, raise awareness on various social issues and bridge the gap between people of different faiths and income groups. Currently I am trying to raise awareness on social issues through a series titled ‘Life Around Us’, which includes the first book, ‘Women Around Us’.
- By holding your own book is a special feeling always. For you, how was that feeling?
Answer: I vividly remember the first time I saw my book, ‘The Price of Our Silence’ at Oxford Bookstore in Delhi a day before the book launch. Holding it in my hand and turning it over to spot my picture was surreal. I turned the pages and it hit me that this was the result of two years of hard work, early mornings and late nights, painful edits and the tedious process of finding a good publisher. I could not help but express my gratitude to God for making my dream come true. And after five books, believe me the feeling is the same each time I hold my book in my hand.
- Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
Answer: Ah the most dreaded question for a reader of many genres. To be honest, I try my best not to limit myself to an author or genre and keep exploring new talent along with the classic and bestselling authors. There is something to learn from each book I read. Even if it is a badly written book, I learn what mistakes to avoid while writing my own book. I might enjoy reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ one day and the next time you meet me, you might find a copy of Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ in my hand or Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’ in my bag. There is so much to read and I have a long way to go before I can decide which particular author or book is my favourite.
- Share some memories (good and bad both) of your reader’s response.
Answer: Bad memories are best forgotten and the good ones should be relived at every chance one gets. Apart from glowing reviews on Amazon for my debut book, I remember my first ever fan mail. The reader was amazed by the way I addressed so many issues in the most subtle way possible and found the ending refreshing. He said, “I was hooked on to the book till 3 am, just couldn’t put it down. I had to finish it in one go… I had a big content smile on my face when I finished the book.” This is perhaps the greatest gift one can give to an author, an honestly heartfelt feedback. As for ‘Women Around Us’, the greatest surprise for me was getting Nandita Das Ma’am interested in my short story on colour discrimination. After she read the story, she wrote, “We need a diversity of storytellers telling the stories that shed light on the deep and abiding prejudices of our society… I hope that efforts by people like Hanadi Falki will take us one step closer to achieving a more equal, just and inclusive society.” Even though I quoted only two of the responses from my readers here, I would like to add that everyone who took time out to say a few words after reading my book has my sincere gratitude. Even if it was a negative feedback, you helped me improve my art and I am obliged to you for that. As for those you continue to shower their love on me and my work, I am forever grateful.
- What are your other hobbies?
Answer: Apart from writing and reading, I love to travel, explore different places, listen to the life stories of strangers and fellow travelers, sit amidst nature and absorb the serenity of my surroundings. It refreshes my mind and I get back to writing with renewed energy. I also sketch whenever I get time. Capturing something through my pencil or expressing myself through those strokes is another hobby of mine.
- What is your next plan of writing?
Answer: I have a lot of ideas that need execution in the coming months. I am trying to raise awareness on social issues through a series titled ‘Life Around Us’. There is a half-finished novel and two non-fiction projects in line this year. Like Robert Frost said, ‘and miles to go before I sleep.’
- Do you ever feel like writing is tough?
Answer: Writing is easy, but self-discipline is tough because life is unexpectedly eventful. It is so easy to get distracted nowadays but a strict deadline motivates me to keep on writing. And it’s not the writing that’s tough, but the editing part that can be tricky sometimes.
- When did you first realize that language has some power to bind hearts?
Answer: When I recall my childhood memories of my mother who never had to raise her voice because her words were powerful enough to keep us disciplined or the local politician who ripped apart a city through his communal words, my Maths teacher who transformed her shy student into one of the school’s toppers through her kind words of encouragement or the bully who crushed the confidence of a budding musician in our class, I wouldn’t be able to point out a particular moment when I first realized the power of words. Words can be used constructively to bind hearts or destructively to break all bonds. I hope we writers realize that words are the most powerful tool in our hands and we use them wisely for the good of humanity.
- Which genre you prefer the most for writing?
Answer: I usually give preference to realistic fiction genre because I tend to weave real-life incidents into my fictional story to make it more relatable for the readers. Apart from that I would love to try writing something dark, maybe a psychological thriller someday.
- What challenges did you face while writing and getting published ?
Answer: Motivating myself to finish the manuscript on time was a big challenge, along with being ruthless while editing. Finding a publisher took me a year for the first book, but for ‘Women Around Us’ I wanted to learn the self-publishing process. Micro managing everything from editing, book cover design, printing, book launch and then marketing was quite challenging but eventually it turned out to be a great learning experience.
- Few words for your lovely readers?
Answer: Please read, read and read some more. Read to lighten your mood, bite your nails in suspense or make your mind ponder late into the night. Read different authors across different genres. Pick up classics sometime and give equal chance to new authors too. You never know whose work might impress you beyond your imagination and makes you think deeply about issues you never knew existed in this world. My best wishes for your reading journey.
And I would like to thank my readers who took time out of their busy lives to mail me about their reading experiences and also posted reviews of my books. Every kind word encourages me to write more. And for those who haven’t read me yet, I hope you do so soon. Looking forward to hearing from you all. Happy reading!