In conversation with Awais Khan

Awais Khan is a Pakistani novelist, with two novels that are set in Lahore with dynamic characters. We sat down to talk to him about his new novel.

Tell us something about your novel‘No Honour’ ?

No Honour is my second novel and it will be published by Orenda Books on August 19, 2021. It is a story of a young woman defies convention in a small Pakistani village, with devastating results for her and her family.

In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.

When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.

Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.

Is writing a second novel easier than the first one?

Not really. You see, the first novel usually isn’t the first one at all. It’s just the first novel that got published. I attempted to write a couple of novels before ‘In the Company of Strangers’, but even I knew that they would – should – never see the light of day.

So, in that case, I don’t think writing a second novel is easier than the first. It’s because every novel brings its own set of challenges with it that bear no resemblance to the first novel.

One might argue that an author is more familiar with things like style, characterization and plot when writing the second novel, but for me, it doesn’t get any easier at all.

How are they different from each other?

In the Company of Strangers is a novel that looks at the secrets and lies of Pakistani high society as they get embroiled in a terror attack. No Honour couldn’t be more different.

It deals with the concept of honour killing and is set primarily in rural Pakistan after which it moves to Lahore. Although, both novels share Lahore as a setting, Mona’s Lahore is much different from Abida’s Lahore.

How is your writing center keeping you busy?

When the pandemic began, I had to shut down the physical location of The Writing Institute. It just didn’t make any sense to keep paying rent and overheads, and to be honest, I simply couldn’t afford to.

When it became obvious that this pandemic was here to stay, I started thinking of starting offering courses online. I randomly posted on Twitter in June 2020 about the possibility of starting an online creative writing course, and the response was so overwhelmingly positive that it didn’t take long for me to come with a proper website and a schedule of online courses.

Thankfully, they’re doing really well and I get a chance to interact with aspiring and established writers all over the world.

It has also given me the chance to give back to the community. I routinely organize free sessions with bestselling authors, literary agents and publishers, and also offer low-cost online masterclasses featuring the best literary agents and publishers in the business.

I’ve had people like Juliet Mushens (No.1 dealmaker in the UK) and Phoebe Morgan (Editorial Director of Harper Collins) lead masterclasses for The Writing Institute.

What do you like about teaching younger/newer writers?

I love the fact that there is so much talent in our country. It makes me very sad when I see that there are literally no avenues available for these writers to express themselves.

Sure, we have fabulous literary magazines like The Aleph Review that are changing the landscape and publishers like Zuka, Ala, Reverie and Folio, but things are still far from perfect.

I also enjoy going back to the drawing board with aspiring writers. It allows me to grow as a writer too. I feel that writing is a constant learning process and often, I find myself learning so much from my students.

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