“Young adults can spot ambiguities as easily as adults can”

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Says Sheba Karim, an author of YA fiction in conversation with Varsha Verma.

Q: Tell us something about your book ‘Skunk Girl’ and the response it has received so far?

Sheba Karim: Skunk Girl is about a Pakistani-American teenager in small town USA, trying to forge her own path in life, with a lot of humour and occasional despair. It has received a positive response from readers. The other day, someone sent me a YouTube video of two young students acting out the book!

Q: How was the character and storyline created, is it inspired from the real life?

Sheba Karim: The inspiration from the novel came from a monologue I wrote for Yoni ki Baat, a South Asian version of the Vagina Monologues. While I drew on my own experiences in writing it in terms of challenges and emotions, it’s a work of fiction.

Q: When did you “know” you wanted to write professionally?

Sheba Karim: I always loved writing, but decided to pursue it professionally when I started practicing as a lawyer.

Q: In your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing a book? Why?

Sheba Karim: Undoubtedly revision. It takes a lot of patience and courage to take what you’ve written and make it better, again and again, even if it means rewriting some of it, or even all of it, from scratch.

Q: What factors are kept in mind while writing for young adults?

Sheba Karim: Be honest to your story and your characters. Young adults can spot ambiguities as easily as adults can.

Q: What writing/publishing advice do you give to aspiring writers of any age?

Sheba Karim: Write, write, write. Show your work to a few different people whose opinions you trust and be open to their criticism. Revise, revise, revise. Be prepared for rejection. And, of course, read.

Q: What are you reading right now? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?

Sheba Karim: Right now I’m reading The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon and War Horse and Elephant by Simon Digby. Honestly, I’d say almost every half-way decent author you read has some sort of influence on you, whether you realize it or not.

Various books have influenced me in their own ways. One that comes to mind in Karen Armstrong’s wonderful biography of Prophet Muhammad, which eloquently depicts a man revered by many as the embodiment of perfection, he is not only extraordinary but also fallible.

Q: Which is the next book that readers can look forward to?

Sheba Karim: I’m working on a historical fiction novel based on the life of Razia Sultan.

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