In this interview we speak to Now Novel member Zainul Khan. Mr Khan kindly agreed to talking about his eventful life and writing development in a guest writer interview. He has written several books, including novels and a memoir, triumphing over personal setbacks in the process. We hope Mr. Khan’s tenacity inspires you to persevere and start writing your novel.
Tell us about yourself: When did you first start writing?
I joined the Indian Army in 1966 in the lower rank . My first short story was published in 1968 at the age of 23. I showed it to my Colonel, who was very happy to see it. ‘It is God’s gift to you’, he told me, saying ‘please do not leave it and try to improve your skill.’
What was the process of writing your first book like?
In 1971, war broke out between India and Pakistan. I participated in the war as a soldier. Pakistan was divided in two and a new nation came into being, Bangladesh. I saw all the war crimes of both armies. This inspired the themes of my novel published by White Falcon Publishing in Chandigarh, India. The name of the Novel is The Dawn of the Thousand Suns.
Where did you proceed from there?
After my first stint in the army I was recruited into the lower ranks as Sepoy IN in the Corps of Engineers and received nine promotions in the course of my service. I received an appreciation letter from the President of India and finally retired as Captain. I was married when I was studying in 8th grade as per the customs of the child marriage prevailing in India at that time so I did not know love and have no love story, but i have written a lot of love stories due to zest for life.
In the army you can not have any links to the press. It is against the Manual of Indian Military Law. If you want to be published then you have to request permission or your manuscript will be held at army headquarters. Knowing that, who would invite such problems?
I retired on 1st April 1993 and served as registrar for three different colleges because my four kids were studying and I was fully depend on my army pension which was insufficient. There was no financial contribution from my wife as she was a house wife.I have struggled a lot but never accepted defeat. Now I have reached 70 years but am still fit.
To date I have written three Novels in Hindi, one humorous memoir of army life also in Hindi, one book on the struggle for freedom with the British (a history of Indian freedom fighters), one collection of short stories, and one book on American life which I experienced during my stay in Los Angeles, California.
In my later years I became blind. Not completely but one eye is totally gone and the second destroyed. I stopped driving six years ago because with my eyesight I could kill somebody and go to jail. As I told you, I do not accept defeat so I visited many eye doctors. I bought a table lamp with a big magnifying glass and there is also a magnifying glass fitted to my pen. Now things became easy for me and I am writing and have courage to write 20 more novels.
What one piece of advice would you give to other writers, such as advice for writing your first book or overcoming writing hurdles?
Writing is a continuous process. You cannot become a writer until you’ve written two to three books. Be in touch with critics for guidance.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about the writing process?
Regarding my problem I am writing in Hindi and Urdu and not in English which is a world language. Sales of books in Hindi and Urdu are fewer and publishers are working hard for their own profits. I need to grow confidence in English to write in it. Much literature in English is different to our own English.
Thank you Mr. Khan for being willing to share your inspiring story with us.
*please note this interview has been lightly copy-edited but Mr Khan’s semantics remain unaltered.
What is the story of your own development as a writer? Do you have advice to share on overcoming writing obstacles?
Image from here. Portrait photograph supplied by Mr Khan.