Happy Birthday, Kamila Shamsie, born 13 August 1973
- Researching a novel is a treacherous business for the weak-of-plot. Set off in one direction with only a vague idea of where your storyline is headed and you can easily find yourself distracted.
- Writing a novel is the best way I know of exploring an idea, a place, a time.
- Your soldiers will come to our lands, but your novelists won’t. The unmanned drone hovering over Pakistan, controlled by someone in Langley, is an apt metaphor for America’s imaginative engagement with my nation.
- Character is just an invention but its an invention that serves as both reason and justification for our behaviour.
- Somewhere deep within the marrow of our marrow, we were the same.
- “Can I ask you a personal question?” Of all the rhetorical questions in the world, that is the one which irritates me most with its simultaneous gesture towards and denial of the trespass that is about to follow.
- I am deeply critical of American writers for their total failure to engage with the American empire. It’s a completely shocking failure, not of any individual writer … but it’s the strangest thing to look around and say, ‘Where is the American writer writing about America in Afghanistan, America in Pakistan?’. At a deep level, there is a lack of reckoning.
- I don’t think there’s anything like the novel for empathy … If you write non-fiction it’s as though you are from the outside looking at something. But if you write fiction, you are behind someone’s eyes looking out, and that’s the difference.
- Most people take this for granted, but it’s really important to be a serious reader, and when you read, look at how writers achieve what they do. It’s also important to get a routine going as early as you can – don’t think of writing as the thing you’d do after all of the important things in life. You can’t write in fifteen minute slots when you feel like it.
- Also remember that you get better with practice. Don’t wait until that great novel idea hits you, work with the good ideas and work towards doing better. Even if your work isn’t published straight away, don’t be disheartened, as it all goes towards your ‘apprenticeship’ as a writer.
Kamila Shamsie is a Pakistani novelist who writes in the English language. Her novels include Broken Verses, Kartography and Burnt Shadows. She won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for Home Fire. Follow her on Twitter: @kamilashamsie
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