Big Book Little Book welcomes Shuhin Ali to discuss his debut novel, Lost Reunions. Shuhin Ali was born in 1983 in Chester, England. Shuhin graduated with a degree in Accounting from the University of Liverpool and later qualified as a chartered accountant. After spending his days working with numbers Shuhin pursued his desire to work with words and began to write in his spare time. Shuhin currently lives and works in London. Shuhin speaks English, Bengali and conversational Spanish. When he’s not writing Shuhin spends his time trying to improve his Spanish, keeping fit through running ten kilometre and half marathon races , trying to stay on his feet in Muay Thai training and watching movies, reading books and listening to music. What inspired you to become a writer?
I have always been a fan of storytelling whether it be in the form of books, movies or music. For as long as I can remember I would spend my time reading books, watching movies or listening to music. I always seemed to have a story running in my head and I guess writing just became a way for me to digest those stories. Tell us about your book?
Lost Reunions is a contemporary tale of friendship, self-discovery and redemption. It explores the nature of staying true to your dreams and ambitions in the midst of the pressures and temptations of modern society. It charts the story of two friends, an investment banker and a doctor, who face very different challenges in staying true to themselves and the promises they’ve made. It’s set between the UK and Bangladesh and I’ve tried to transport the reader to those settings to give it a real world feel. What research did you do for this book?
A large part of novel is set in Bangladesh. I spoke to friends and family who had recently visited Bangladesh to describe their experiences whilst there; the food, culture, landscapes and cities. Additionally, I already had some knowledge of the country myself as well (see below).
I also took up yoga to carry out the research in developing one of my characters, a yoga teacher. This was certainly painful to begin with but got me fit and nimble in the end. Are any elements of your book based on real life experiences/people?
My parents are from Bangladesh and I have spent one year living there (two six month stints) when growing up. I used some of my memories and experiences to draw inspiration in creating the setting and atmosphere for that element of the novel. What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my second novel. Set between the time when India was partitioned during it’s independence from Britain through to present day Britain. It tells the story of how one man sacrificed true love to save the life of his friend and his family’s fight to help him find his true love again. What is your writing process?
As I have a day job I write in the evenings, normally for a couple of hours before I go to bed. I find this works well for me as I spend most of the day conjuring up ideas, dialogue and sub-plots and this is the perfect time for me to get them out of my head. I’m not really a pen and paper person so will spend my time in front of my laptop. Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
Yes. Coffee, chocolate and music. When writing I find it important take breaks and reward myself when completing a chapter or resolving a particular conflict within the novel. A fifteen minute coffee, chocolate and music break (not always in that order) helps me to stay focused without over thinking or burning out. What prompted you to self publish?
The same as most aspiring writers I was sending the usual letters and three chapters of my manuscript out to agents and publishers only to receive rejection letters, and at times no reply at all. I was fully aware that the publishing houses would only publish a finite number of books and so competition was fierce for their attention, but I had faith and confidence in my writing and the novel I had written. After meeting a few authors who had self-published their novels successfully this gave me the impetus to embark on the self-publishing journey, it was either that or let my manuscript languish on my laptop forever. I am happy to say that I believe I made the right choice. Can you tell us about the challenges in writing and publishing your first novel?
The biggest challenge with the writing was staying disciplined. I already had the story in my head and remained driven throughout my writing and I knew if I remained disciplined I’d get it done. The main challenge in self-publishing was that I had to go from being a writer to a publisher and project manager. When I began writing I just wanted to be a writer but I soon realised that I’d also have to learn how to do all of the things publishers are expert at. I had to make sure that I would produce a novel to a highly professional standard, in particular the cover art and editing. The process was challenging and took up most of my spare time; I spent the best part of a month working through to midnight after getting home from my day job. This only made it more rewarding when I finally published the novel. Do you ever experience writers block? How do you overcome it?
So far I’ve been lucky enough not to have experienced writers block. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Forget about perfection and just write. Sometimes the fear of not churning out the perfect line can leave you staring at a blank page whilst trying to get the words perfect in your head. Get the words onto the page you can do the editing afterwards. The more you write the better you’ll get. How did you choose the genre you write in? What inspired you to write it?
I chose to write in the genre that I like to read. I wanted to write the kind of novel I would read myself and something that I felt wasn’t out there. What books have inspired you?
I’m a fan of contemporary fiction and literary fiction with strong characters. Books that have inspired me include White Teeth, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and One Day. Just for Fun!
Paper, Audio or eBook?
Paper. I love the feel and smell of a paperback. Tea or Coffee?
Coffee. Shower or Bath?
Shower. Marmite: Love it? Hate it?
Love it. Email or postcard?
I love the romance of a postcard but have to say that email is just so quick and convenient. Hot-shot 29-year-old investment banker Max Turner is handsome, wealthy and at the top of his game. But he is dogged by an overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame. What happened to the bright-eyed graduate determined to make the world a better place? Why does he fail to show up to the annual reunions of his closest friends from university? As the banking world is plunged into the financial crisis a chance encounter with one of his old university friends, Neela Ahmed, propels Max on an unexpected route to Bangladesh, where Max finds an opportunity to find redemption and Neela has the chance to keep a promise she made to her father.
For more information check out Shuhin’s Website, Twitter or Facebook page.
Lost Reunions is avaliable now from Amazon and Smashwords.