Fact and fiction can’t easily be divorced. Especially, when it has to do with characters in a novel, responding, reacting as the author would in real life. One novel down the line, Bangalore-based author Andaleeb Wajid found it easier to concentrate on her characters as people in their own right. Three novels later, she finds it difficult to pinpoint the success mantra of authoring bestsellers. “Being in the right place at the right time and bringing out the right kind of book could just be the ticket to success,” says Andaleeb, adding, “Of course, my guess is as good as yours when it comes to what this 'right' kind of book is.”
Over centuries, the ‘write’ kind of novels, with plots crisscrossing mundane and fantasy worlds continue to be relevant. Will Andaleeb’s stories stand the test of time?
She tells she writes, “Stories that talk of love, human endurance, people facing struggles and emerging stronger, endure according to me. With my novels, I'm not thinking that far ahead. If someone picks them up, enjoys them, smiles while reading, can't wait to see what happens next and feels good when putting the book down, I think my job as a writer is accomplished,” she explains.
The job of writing is a solitary one and at the same time it’s all encompassing. We talk of the people in Andaleeb’s life – at home, and outside. Her husband, children, parents, in laws and the vegetable vendor.
“We're a small family and my children have understood that when I sit at the computer, I'm probably doing something important. That doesn't dissuade them from disturbing me all the time. My husband is supportive but there are times when he does get a bit irritated. My mother-in-law, alhamdulillah (by the grace of god), is the most supportive of all,” she says.
Is she affected by the world outside when she’s writing? “When I'm in the middle of a book, I'm in a sort of cocoon. Most of what I see around me doesn't really register instantly, but probably filters down somewhere into my subconscious where it will wait until I draw upon it to fuel my writing,” she says.
Straight from the subconscious, Andaleeb’s third novel, My Brother’s Wedding scrutinises the protagonist Saba's endeavour to make her own mark, in her own world.
“Saba, is trying to find her feet in the world, making sure her space is niche,” says Andaleeb, adding, “It takes time for an average woman to find what she's good at and yet, there are all these interruptions in life like marriage and children that take up all our time. Every woman needs to find something to do in relation to herself, and not just as an extension of her father, husband or children.”
There’s more coming. Andaleeb’s emotional saga titled ‘More Than Just Biryani,’ will be released this August. “It's a book about three women in one family, at different times in their lives, and how food is the emotional crutch that helps them cope with the different curveballs that life throws at them,” she says.
Food for thought.
How does she write, we ask. Paper? Computer? It’s often a fine balance between putting pen to paper and the keys of her notepad. “A balance of the two works for me with the scales weighing heavily towards the computer,” says Andaleeb, adding, “Before I start writing a book, I try to put down my ideas in freestyle, stream of consciousness on paper. Once I've got the basic story sorted, I open Word and get started. If I feel stuck, I go back to pen and paper, trying to unravel the problems in my head by writing about them as I see them.”
In writing what she sees, how integral is Andaleeb’s religion to her dialect of storytelling, we wonder.
“I am religious. I do my namaz and read the Quran and went to Hajj last year. But my writing doesn't have any bearing on my religion because it's a job like any other. Religion and storytelling are integral to who I am,” she emphasises.
As with authors everywhere, also integral to Andaleeb are pens, notebooks, books she’s reading, wires, cables and her laptop, crowding her table. Classics, romances and mysteries dot her bookshelf.
Andaleeb can’t be separated too long from her cocoon where fact and fantasy merge.