Interview with Fazayal Shabbir, The author of City Under Curfew
Fazayal has followed the traditional route of mechanical engineering topped with a post-graduate diploma in business management on the academic front but is unconventional in other aspects of his life. With a black belt in Judo and accomplishments at the state level, he continues to keep sports close to his heart. Various marathons and half marathons that he participates in, complement his sedentary corporate career, spanning sixteen plus years. With expertise in training and development, Fazayal loves to travel and observe people around him, a trait that augments his training skills, borrowing from real-life experiences and people to develop people in the most relevant way. Residing in Mumbai, he shares his passion with every other Indian for cricket and Bollywood.
Ravi: What’s your favorite short story?
Fazayal: I have many favorite short stories. “After Twenty Years” by O. Henry, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” by Leo Tolstoy, “Khol Do” by Manto, “Lihaf” by Ismat Chugtai, “A Career” by R K Narayan. However, my most favorite has to be “Kafan” by Premchand. I was shaken to the core after reading it.
Ravi: The Best piece of writing advice?
Fazayal: Read, read and read more. You need to read at least 100 pages to write one.
Ravi: Where do you write?
Fazayal: Mostly on my study table.
Ravi: Where do you get your ideas?
Fazayal: From observing people around me. Whenever I see an interesting person, I try to imagine what their “back story” would be.
Ravi: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Fazayal: It actually exhausts me. It takes lots of mental energy to write a story. Many of my stories have sad endings. I used to be mentally drained after finishing those stories, as I used to be very engrossed in them.
Ravi: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Fazayal: I have twelve short stories in my book. It took my two years to write ten of those stories. Other two I had written much later. Since I am not a full-time writer and do not have any deadlines, I write at my own pace.
Ravi: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Fazayal: Read much more. I started reading books other than my course books and comics only after college. Wish I had started reading much earlier in life.
Ravi: What is your favorite childhood book?
Fazayal: I read only comic books in my childhood. Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha were my favorites.
Ravi: What are your favorite literary journals?
Fazayal: I don’t read any of them!
Ravi: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Ravi: What was your hardest scene to write?
Fazayal: Many of my stories have death scenes. They are the hardest to write. You are emotionally attached to the character and it is very difficult to “kill” them.
Ravi: Do you Google yourself?
Fazayal: Yes I do! I do get surprises at times!
Ravi: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Fazayal: Many incidents in my stories are inspired by my true-life events. Therefore, people who were witness to them would find them in the book.
Ravi: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Fazayal: Yes I do. I try to learn from both good and bad reviews. Continue the things due to which I get good reviews and try to improve on things due to which I get bad ones.
Ravi: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Fazayal: When I read “The Godfather” by Mari Puzo. I thought one can learn more things by reading fiction than non-fiction management books!
Ravi: What did you edit out of this book?
Fazayal: I had written two more stories but I was not 100% happy with them so did not include them in the book.
Ravi: How many hours a day do you write?
Fazayal: There is no pattern. I might not write anything for months and I might write for hours at a stretch.
Ravi: How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Fazayal: I am still a part-time writer. My day job is working for a telecom company.
Ravi: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Fazayal: Good thing about fiction is that you can even write without any research. If your story is based on the past, you need to get the facts about that period correct. My next book is going to be a novel where the protagonist has a terminal illness. I would have to research so that I get my medical facts correct.
Ravi: What’s the best way to market your books?
Fazayal: Nothing better than word of mouth. Either through social media or otherwise. Nothing works better than happy readers who would recommend the book to others
Ravi: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Fazayal: I am working on my next book.
Ravi: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Fazayal: I do not think it has. I would not change my process. Maybe, I would mature as a writer as I write more.
Ravi: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Fazayal: Actually nothing. My younger self was a better writer than my older self! I would like to take some tips from him.
Ravi: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Fazayal: When I started writing, there was a group on Orkut called “Indian Amateur Writers”. There were very helpful people in that group. Members of that group used to read your work and give genuine feedback without expectation of any rewards. Those feedbacks really helped me a lot. There used to be some good stuff available to read and there were some high-quality writers. In addition, there used to be short story writing contests and stories with maximum votes won. Many of the stories of my book were originally written as an entry to those contests. One of my story had even won! I really miss that group. Things are not the same in Facebook groups. Most people are there only for their selfish reasons. Yours truly included!
Ravi: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Fazayal: I try to be original and that is what the readers want. They are bored of reading books the same type and style of books.
Ravi: What advice do you have for writers?
Fazayal: Be patient. Read, read and read.
Ravi: What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
Fazayal: I do not follow any of them. Most are nothing but paid advertorials. Don’t think they would help writers in any way. I would rather recommend writers to read more and more books. That is what would make you a better writer.
Ravi: Tell me about your recent book to our Ravi Reads Blog Readers?
Fazayal: The book is a collection of twelve short stories about normal people stuck up in abnormal situations. “City Under Curfew” is a story about an honest police inspector who has been asked to patrol a highly sensitive area during curfew imposed after riots. The next story is about a bus cleaner who dreams of becoming a bus driver. One story is about a man who is a failure and wants to end his life. He attempts suicide six times, but fails every time. Another story is about a joint family and their astrologer. All stories are about everyday people we meet in life and how even seemingly normal people can have life changing incidents.
Thanks to Fazayal for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to email me at the address on my contact page.