Writing a book is not an easy process. It requires time, skill, diligence and a lot of hard work. What’s equally hard – if not more – is trying to get your book published, especially if you live in a location where options are further limited. Alishba Khan, a 17 year old student residing in Balochistan, is familiar with the difficulty that accompanies such an experience. However instead of letting it deter her, she decided to self-publish the book she wrote at the mere age of 12. Life Of A Millionaire Girl is a commentary on the society’s obsession with money, and how intangible assets should be given more relevance. Currently, Alishba is working on getting her second book, The Rattles Of Catastrophe self published. To learn more about her and her self publishing journey, read our interview with her below:
What was your moment of self-discovery as a writer?
As a student, I always struggled to keep my stories and essays within the given word limit. I could never shorten any given text as I always wanted to elaborate everything further. Secondly, due to my inclination towards writing, I would wait the whole day for my english language class in school – that was when we did creative writing.
We know you wrote your debut novel at 12. But what’s the story behind it?
I realised that I enjoyed writing early on, but as a student, whatever I wrote was according to school guidelines. It was not until my winter vacations in 7th grade that a plot came to my mind. It was my own creation and so I took a week simply brainstorming. Afterwards, everything was uncanny because the incessant stream of words came pouring in and eventually a whole story developed within my mind which I penned down on one of the diaries my parents had gifted me.
How come you decided to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
As a resident of Balochistan, being visionary isn’t enough! To do something extra, you need to pave your own path and that’s when your struggle starts. I was done writing my novel at the age of 12, but I never knew that the next 4 years were going to be so hostile that they’d make me into a self-made author. I had dreamt of publishing my novel from one of my favourite publishing houses but because I had no mentor or guidance on how to go about it, I accumulated courage and after 4 years, decided to self publish my book.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Self-publishing means you are both the head and employee. After deciding to self-publish my book, I didn’t have to work hard in writing query/cover letters and confusing manuscript submission proposals.
What’s the best review you have got for your works?
The review by my English teacher who said that these achievements were just the beginning and now because I had paved my own path, I had crossed the first big hindrance, all alone.
What was your favourite part, and your least favourite part, about your self-publishing journey?
Although self-publishing was a completely new and tiring process, every experience leads to the formation of memories. The thought that after I edited my novel and designed the cover page, I had completed the major formalities and now finally the novel would be available to the readers, was my favourite part. But as a minor, the whole process took longer because I couldn’t sign a contract or be part of the legal decisions – my guardians needed to be involved.
You are passionate about writing for/about Balochistan. What drove you towards this?
Being born and raised in an area where the world is afraid to come and settle, leads to discrimination. Terrorism and external conspiracies weren’t our fault and in fact we have suffered terribly, but even then observing negativity and pity cements our grievances so I needed to play my part.
As a writer, what part do you think you can play in changing the situation in Balochistan?
Words have more power than bullets – they hit you harder. I have written another book on the political scenarios of Balochistan and Islamophobia in general because I want to tell the world what is happening in our province. We might be victims, but we are progressive individuals. I want to narrate and portray the originalities.
As a young and unconventional writer, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Before deciding to self-publish, I couldn’t really gain the confidence of influential people or organisations as no one paid heed to a young writer who didn’t have any solid achievement. Also, by the time my high school started, I had a lot more things on my plate than my classmates – there was my self-publishing journey, plus I had to work on my 2nd book as well.
What’s one book you would recommend to aspiring writers?
J.K Rowling – a biography by Sean Smith. Every author struggles, but what J.K Rowling went through makes her an example to motivate authors and make them realise that hostility strengthens one’s determination.