Saturday, April 7, 2018

Weekend Dhamaal: Interview with a Fauji wife: Sahana Ahmed

We, our phenomenal tribe of Armed Forces wives are a force to reckon with!!
We are enterprising, strong, connected, and extremely versatile.
We are ready to face whatever challenges that life throws at us with a "Bring it on" attitude and a fierce smile. These challenges may be career oriented, or vague postings to unknown, untouched back of beyond areas, or the upheaval that our children face with each new move every couple of years, long separations where we are virtually bringing up our children like a single parent, or the unsettled feeling that we get (which I am going through, these days) where we see our life pass us by and we feel that we are capable of soooo much more, if only we were posted to a better/bigger city with more opportunities...
And then we shake our head, shrug our shoulders and make the best of what we have.

I don't do interviews on my blog, though I have been contemplating doing a series on Army wives... authors(you wont believe how many published authors we have among us!) and  creative enterpreneurs, esp woman who have defied the odds and moved on from being just a Mrs. so-n-so.

And made an independent identity of themselves.

So when Juggernaut (a fantastic ebook website that functions as an app on your phone) approached me to do a write up about their upcoming author- Sahana Ahmed, on my blog, I jumped at the chance!

Not only because she is a fellow Army wife (though her husband is retired now) but I have had the opportunity to do some work for her, and I found her to be very warm, relatable and and extremely nice human being with a fabulous smile!
And when I read her ebook The Combat Skirts, (which by the way has been one of the most purchased books on Juggernaut, second month in a row since its debut!!!) I was enveloped in the same warm, fuzzy feeling that her persona exudes.
Sahana's style of writing is witty, charming and very relatable. One is immediately enveloped in the fun and tamasha of a girls' hostel and the trials and tribulations in the love life of the main protagonist, Saba. A fauji kid with a no nonsense approach to life.
Once I started, I read the book in one go, it was so much fun, like watching a well made rom-com!

So I sent her a Q&A, for all who aspire to have thier books published (even an ebook) can take some tips from her and learn about her inspirations and trials!


So here's my conversation with Sahana Ahmed:







1-   Tell us a bit about yourself… where are u from, your background+education.

I live in Gurgaon.

My childhood was typical of an Army kid of my generation; completed my schooling from eleven different places, then went on to study Hotel Management.

2-   So Sahana when did u realise that you had a writer inside you? Moved from writing school essays to writing a full fledged story?

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t write but it was always a hobby, never a career option.

3-   You are a defence kid… what was it like growing up? Did your childhood shenanigans influence the stories whirling inside you?

Oh, totally! Army kids are exposed to so much, it makes them natural storytellers. And there’s a market for our stories. Case in point, when Juggernaut read my story set in a Special Train, they loved it so much, they asked me to write a novel for them. They wanted a love story with an Army backdrop. That’s how ‘Combat Skirts’ was born.

4-   You have married an Army man, did you always want to marry an Army man and why or why not? and how different is the life of an army kid to an army wife? Did you come with some expectations as a wife, and how did they add up?

No, that wasn’t something I had ever actively thought about. I met my husband during Operation Parakram, and by the time we got married, he had retired: an option he exercised as a Short Service officer. Having said that, we are extremely close to his unit and I have never felt we aren’t in the Army anymore.

5-   Your main protagonist is a Army kid, what edge do you think army kids have over civilian kids in terms of outlook towards life, confidence and the hardships/separations they endure while growing up?

I had written an article about this, years ago, called ‘The Soldier and the Beauty Queen’. I used to own a training institute at that time where we had a wing for SSB coaching as well. I had written how Army kids did so well in beauty pageants, and also the hospitality industry, because soft skills came naturally to them. Growing up in the Army, with its challenges and its privileges, a child spontaneously imbibes what are called Officer-like-qualities.

In fact, this is a conversation that happens in my book more than once, most significantly in the climax.

6-   Any particular Indian writer whose books or style of writing really appealed to you or influenced you?

So many! Satyajit Ray, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan... I would love to build my own Malgudi someday.

7-   Any particular routine that you follow when you write… as in when is the best time that you get the most output, and what timings do you follow, seeing that you are a young mother?

With ‘Combat Skirts’, I was writing under a deadline, so I had no choice but to cut myself off from everything. I constantly felt guilty about not spending enough time with my daughter, who was just five then. Thankfully, I have an extremely supportive husband who took care of everything, from lunchboxes to birthday parties to parent-teacher meetings.

As far as timings are concerned, I use my days for research and for the structural work, and at night, I write.

8-   Do you think for newbie writers its important to attend the writers workshops/seminars or take writing classes?

It has helped me. I was part of the 2016 Fiction batch of University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing India workshop. And even though I was pretty clear about what I wanted from my writing, the validation I received from my mentors was a shot in the arm for me. Actually, that is an understatement. The writers I met there continue to be my support system, and I cannot be grateful enough for them.

9-   A lot of Army wives and Army kids are becoming successful writers and bloggers and really creating a mark in the publishing world. Any particular book, blog that you like by people in your fraternity?

Well, Anuja Chauhan and Chetan Bhagat are Army brats too…

One book I would like to mention here, one I loved, is ‘Everyman's War’ by Capt Raghu Raman. And I love your blog, especially the illustrations.

10-  Thank you! What is next in your writing agenda? Do you have another book/story lined up?

I do have something in mind but that’s just a vague idea right now. I’ll spend a little more time with ‘Combat Skirts’, I guess.

11-  What according to you is the best route to take for a newbie author who has no publishing house connection… Take a risk and self publish? Or keep to the traditional way and approach the established publishing houses even if you get rejected time and again?

I would choose traditional publishing for a first-time author. Self-publishing or vanity publishing is easier but there is so much to learn from working with an established publisher.

12-  What do you think is the future for e-books?

I am all for books, regardless of the medium. I was one of the first writers to sign up with Juggernaut, which pioneered mobile publishing in the country, so I can speak from experience here. Today, other publishers are looking to create a digital platform for their books and there is huge money being invested, so the future is bright. However, a few things need to be looked into. Publishers need to ensure that the technology is stable. They need to ensure that e-books get marketing support beyond social media. Writers themselves need to treat e-books with more respect. And readers need to be more open-minded. E-books are as much books as emails are letters.

13-  Any parting words of advice for struggling writers who dream of making it big some day?

Send your writing out into the world, and by that, I do not mean social media. Submit your work to literary journals and magazines; keep an eye out for contests. Work hard, learn the craft, and hang in there.


So people, just head onto Juggernaut already, grab the Combat Skirts and have a warm n fuzzy weekend read!
Her website is: www.sahanaahmed.com




3 comments:

  1. A lovely interview on the author's book about army life and family. Once, I read Army kids have this ability to adapt in the toughest situation. Best to the author. Both the interviewer and interviewee gelled through the discussion. Superb!

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  2. An interesting and insightful interview indeed.Congratulations for your new endeavor and all the very best.

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  3. Interesting read. Looking forward to more interviews. Is this series for Army wives or fauji wives in general?

    ReplyDelete

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