The Interview

A writer has been asked to sit down for an interview process following his meteoric rise to popularity by a local journalist.

The following is the captured text of the conducted interview whereby the journalist is referenced as ‘J’ and the author as ‘A’.

J: Thanks for taking the time to sit with me. I understand you don’t really tolerate going out in public or talking to people in general.

A: Uh-huh.

J: Tell me about your book. How did you get the idea to write something so gritty and raw? I took the liberty to ask some people who know you and have read it and they said it sounded nothing like you. Usually you strike them as calm and collected – some would even go on to say shy – but never as deranged as the characters you describe in your story.

A: The first thing you should know about writing is that it comes with a personality. A character. A bunch of traits. You can’t write as the person you are. You write as the writer that’s camping inside of you. Sometimes – most of the times – these two people are very different. Hence the shock some readers get when reading a novel by a person they know.

J: You mentioned the word novel – why exactly did you choose to write a novel? Some might argue it’s the toughest kind of writing there is.

A: It is the toughest type of writing. It’s grueling and excruciating. But after you sit down and start typing the first few sentences – after the words really start to click and you can hear them tapping wildly in your mind like a frenetic tap-dancer – then you’re hooked. The rest becomes easy from there.

J: And what about the sales? We know nowadays that most people refrain from reading – whether it’s books, newspapers, journals, even magazines. Aren’t you worried your book won’t do well on the market?

A (chuckles): It’s not about selling. It never is. The writer writes for the same reason the painter paints or the composer composes. If it were to make money, then we’d all be taking up high-paying jobs and enrolling in lengthy careers like lawyers and doctors and engineers. But an artist doesn’t care about money – at least, any decent one wouldn’t – the ones who do often spend more time marketing their work than actually concentrating on getting a good piece finished. You can never have both. You either go for the money and glory or you bask in the art.

J: And yet you’ve made it. You reached some form of glory now and you’re even getting coveted and paid by a couple of literary magazines to get your work published.

A: I didn’t make it yet. I’ll never make it as long as there are still words bottled inside of me. When the well dries up and the pipe is as dry as the Sahara desert, then that’s when I’ll have made it. When I’ve used up all the words and there isn’t a single one of them left for me to put down on paper, then that’s when I’m done.

J: You’re starting to acquire a fan base – and some of your readers would like to know what gets you going. What really inspires you to write.

A: Life. Anything we observe or see can be put into words. A writer’s greatest asset is his ability to observe – it doesn’t matter if he’s divorced, a transvestite, drunk – what matters is his ability to perceive everything around him. He doesn’t really need to fully understand them to write about them. These things can range from the simplest to the most complex. A butterfly can become a poem. A heartbreak can be told in a lengthy essay. The road to redemption can be traced inside the pages of a novel. Whatever the thing, no matter how brutal or naïve it is, if the writer has discerned it somewhere in the pockets of life, then he can put it into words.

J: A final note to end things. Perhaps a funny story you could share with us?

A: Uh-huh. I was down at one of the bookstores in Gemmayze. It’s actually one of the nicer places I’ve visited in recent times – a sort of complex coffeehouse with a few library shelves in the backend where people can buy brand new or used books. They’ve set up a nice collection of books and I’ve picked up a couple of them. Anyway, one time I was there probing the shelves when I notice a woman next to me. She was very pretty and she was carrying a book. I observed her closely and recognized the book in her hand. It was my book and she’d picked it up from one of the shelves in the bookshop. I approached her and told her, ‘Nice book you got there.’

‘Oh,’ she says with a timid smile and blushing cheeks, ‘have you read it?’

‘Actually, I wrote it.’

Her eyes dilated. I picked up my coffee, paid my check (left a 2000 lira tip) and exited the place. I don’t know if she ended up buying the book. But it was the way she looked at me – with amazement and praise and respect – that caught my eye. A way any contemporary writer living anywhere in the world would have been surprised by. They are often used to scorn and disdain and reproach from the working folks whose sole interests are paying their bills and then venting about them.

J: Thank you for your time.

A: Uh-huh. Now where’s that beer I was promised?


Be sure to check out my debut novel, A Road Away From Home, now available on Amazon and in paperback.

A Road Away From Home – Hanna Abi Akl


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