I’ve always felt as though there are three kinds of authors.
I would like to consider myself a writer. That’s just my preference. What I’m striving to be. Tobias Wolff is a writer. Knut Hamsun was a writer. Stephen King is a storyteller. J. K Rowling is a storyteller. Some authors are talented enough to be considered two out of the three. Raymond Carver was a storyteller and a writer. Charles Bukowski was a storyteller and a writer. Sarah Kane was a writer and a documenter. John Steinbeck was a storyteller and documenter as was Ernest Hemingway. Awais Khan isn’t one or another.
He’s truly a rare kind of gem encompassing facets of all three. He writes beautiful prose, within an engrossing story and he speaks about things that need to be spoken of but so few are brave enough to say. When I started this interview series at Punk Noir of my favorite writers, authors and poets, Awais Khan was top of the list of people I wanted to speak to. A constant inspiration to the indie writing community and he’s also one of the kindest fellows out there.
Hi Awais, I’m such a big fan of yours because I feel you’re writing about such important topics and you’ve been one of the people who has supported my own writing career from the beginning. It’s a pleasure to finally catch you for an interview for Punk Noir Magazine.
To start off can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got started in the Literature scene?
Sure! It all started when I took the Novel Writing Course with Faber Academy. That was the first time I realized just how important peer feedback and support could be. Before In the Company of Strangers was released, I was advised to be more active on social media – something that didn’t come naturally to me. However, looking back, I think that was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Not only have I made some excellent friends, I feel a sense of community. No matter what I might be going through, I know there are people out there who will listen to me.
You’re best known for your most recent novel No Honour at Orenda Press. How did that novel come into fruition and what were your inspirations for that story?
No Honour took a long time to write. I wrote a short story about honour killings that was published in a literary magazine. My literary agent, Annette Crossland, took one look at it and told me I HAD to write a full length novel on the subject. It was around that time that the famous social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, was murdered in cold blood by her own brother. It made me think that if someone as famous as Qandeel wasn’t safe, then what hope did other women have in a country like Pakistan. I started my research by visiting rural areas of Pakistan and conducting interviews. The picture that emerged was heart breaking. That was when I knew I had to write this book.
What advice would you give to up and coming indie authors?
My advice is simple. No matter what anyone tells you, never give up. A lot of people will make it their business to advise you on what you can and cannot do with your life. Don’t listen to them. Listen to the voice inside you. Do what it tells you. Life is too short to waste on the opinions of others. Be yourself, keep improving, keep submitting and success will follow. Don’t write just for the money. Write because you love writing.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently working on a second book for Orenda Books which would be my third novel. It’s set between Lahore and London and tackles the immigrant experience. I would love to continue writing, but who knows if people would want to keep on reading my work. So far, the feedback has been excellent, and I am so grateful for the kind of love I get from my fellow writers and followers.
What is an issue you care about deeply?
I care a lot about my country and my people. I want my country to be a safe place for its people, especially its women. Yes, this is the twenty first century and there is a lot that has been done in Pakistan. The country has progressed a lot, but it’s not enough.
I also care deeply about the state of publishing in Pakistan. Despite being a country of over 220 million people, we don’t have a single mainstream publisher of fiction and non-fiction. That is an abysmal track record.
What novel are you reading now?
I read plenty of books at the same time. Right now, I am reading:
1.The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
2.Out of Nowhere by Alan Gorevan
3.In Servitude by Heleen Kist
4.Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
5.A Trillion Trees by Fred Pearce
6.Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
7.The Appeal by Janice Hallett
What music are you listening to now?
I love listening to Bollywood songs from the 90s and early 2000s. Right now, I’m listening to a live concert that Lata Mangeshkar did twenty years ago. What a voice!
What did you last eat?
I just had yet another slice of lotus biscoff milk cake. It will be the death of me. I don’t a sweet tooth at all, but I find that I cannot resist this particular cake. Before the cake, I had Hot n’ Sour soup and some piping hot pakoras.
If you could meet 5 writers alive or dead who would you choose?
I would love to meet the following:
1.Stephen King, so I can ask him to read and recommend my books!
2.J.K. Rowling, so I can convince her to write another Harry Potter book.
3.James Patterson, so I can co-write a book with him and get rich quickly (haha!)
4.Fyodor Dostoyevsky, so I can ask him how to write beautiful books, but without the heartache.
5.John Cleese, because I am a fan.
What would you like written on your gravestone?
“He died reading, and not caring what you thought of him.”
Awais Khan is a writer and consultant based in Lahore. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario and the University of Durham, he has studied Creative Writing at the prestigious Faber Academy in London. His work has appeared in the Aleph Review, The Hindu, Missing Slate Magazine (he was also their Author of the Month), Daily Times, MODE, The News International etc. He teaches creative writing through the Writing Institute in Pakistan and has a large student base both in Pakistan and abroad. He has conducted lectures on creative writing at Durham University, American University of Dubai, Canadian University of Dubai, United States Educational Foundation of Pakistan, Kinnaird College, Hajvery University etc.
Awais has also been featured in various magazines, TV and Radio channels. His interviews have appeared in the Khaleej Times, HELLO! Pakistan and Shots Blog UK to name a few and his TV and Radio interviews have appeared on Voice of America, Dubai Eye, Samaa TV, Cambridge Radio, Luton Radio, Uxbridge Radio, Indus TV, PTV Home and City42. He has had events at Foyles Charing Cross, Waterstones Cambridge, Waterstones Durham, Hillingdon Libraries, Dubai Literary Salon and Dolcino Loughborough.
His first novel, IN THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS, was published by The Book Guild in July 2019, by Simon & Schuster India in December 2019 and by Liberty Publishing Pakistan in April 2020 to much critical acclaim. Stunning reviews have appeared in Khaleej Times, Hello!, Free Press Journal, Dawn, The News International, Daily Times, Outlook Magazine, Newsline, Daily Telegraph (India), Pakistan Today and the novel has been hailed by bestselling authors and journalists including Faiqa Mansab, Soniah Kamal, Anita Chaudhuri, Miranda Husain, A.A. Chaudhuri and many more.
Audio rights for IN THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS have been acquired by Isis Audio for publication in 2021.
His second novel, NO HONOUR, will be published by Orenda Books in Summer 2021 with a third book out in 2022, once again with Orenda Books.
Stephen J. Golds
Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.
He writes primarily in the noir and dirty realism genres and is the co-editor of Punk Noir Magazine.
He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once, Cut-throat & Tongue-tied, Bullet Riddled & Gun Shy and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.