An exclusive interview of Rosheena Zehra with Ink Drift Magazine.
1. Let’s begin with a short introduction. Tell us and the readers a little about yourself.
I was eleven years old when I knew I want to be a writer. I had my first fling with published writing at the age of 17 in the form of a short story, followed by another published in 2014. In April 2016, I published my debut novel ‘Dreamcatcher’ which has repression, clinical depression and madness as its thematic concerns.
2. Tell us a little about your book.
I wrote ‘Dreamcatcher’ during my second year of undergraduate education in 2011. I sat on it for five years before finally mustering the courage to get it published. The book attempts to start a dialogue around the nascent narrative of mental illness in the country.
3. What is the first book that made you cry?
Ah, that’s really hard to remember. For the longest time, I wouldn’t let art move me the way it does now when I’ve let go of my inhibitions. But if I think really hard, the first book that I allowed to move me to tears was perhaps ‘Catcher in the Rye’.
4. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both, actually. It energizes me in the sense that once a story or idea has come to me, I cannot stop until I’ve put it in writing. At the same time, it is a very demanding process mentally, so it leaves me drained.
5. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I don’t think there is a definite answer for this. Things like these are very subjective. However, they should never get carried away in the hurry to get published. All writing should be given sufficient time to mature and to be made public by the right publisher.
6. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Ego never helps anyone in any field. Some amount of pride, maybe, might come in handy, but personally, I’m a big proponent of modesty, always.
7. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes, several times. Putting your work out there requires immense courage and sometimes writing under a pseudonym seems like a comforting prospect.
8. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
When I write, I don’t have anyone or anything else in mind other than the story itself.
9. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Why not? Maybe they will just note down their observations of the world which might work wonders for the right reader. It is quite hard to define who a writer is or what characteristics make one, therefore anyone can fall under this category.
10. If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
Read, read, and read.
11. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It didn’t actually. Like I said, when I write, it is completely independent of external factors. My writing has changed because of other factors, but getting published is not one them.
12. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
None, though having said, I’d like to add there are hardly any writers (barring one or two) that I have truly disliked.
13. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. It has received quite some attention, but I think it could do with more.
14. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Any member of the feline family.
15. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I’ve never consciously based a character on anyone I know in real life.
16. Did you edit out of this book?”
17. How do you select the names of your characters?
There is no specific, methodological process for this. Every name has a separate reason.
18. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
19. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Dreamcatcher took me somewhere between 3-5 months.
20. Do you believe in writer’s block?
Oh, the struggle is very, very real.