Friday, February 11, 2011

"Writer’s block is a euphemism for laziness" - Haider Warraich


Ever since its inception, Us Magazine has served as a platform for budding writers, helping them hone their skills and establish a presence along the way. One such writer is Haider Warraich. Long term Us readers might remember Haider’s stories and articles that were printed in this magazine; he is now a regular contributor for various other publications, and has also written a novel, titled Auras of the Jinn. We recently got a chance to ask him about his association with Us and his new novel. Here’s what he had to say:

Us: Please tell Us a bit about yourself.
Haider Warraich:
My parents both belonged to the army, so much of my childhood was spent moving from one place to another. I did my O’ Levels and AS levels from Saint Mary’s and my final year of A Levels from Roots, both in Rawalpindi. From there I went to the Aga Khan University to study medicine, graduating in 2009. After a stint as a research officer in AKU, I then moved to Harvard Medical School, where I am currently working as a research fellow.

Us: When did you start writing? How did you first get your break in writing?
I have been writing since as long as I can remember. I used to own a notebook when I was in Murree and was about nine or ten years old when I wrote an entire series of stories, conjuring adventures from the Amazon to the Karakoram. My byline first appeared in the newspaper when I wrote a poem that appeared in The Nation in 1999.

Us: Tell us about your association with Us Magazine.
I first wrote for Us Magazine in 2001, when my article about the distortion of Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of Pakistan was printed. I then followed that up with two 8-issue short stories, called Brighter Pastures and War of the Worlds. War of the Worlds was particularly popular. I also wrote two articles that appeared as cover stories, one was an article on hostel life, and another was about my experience at the national students’ convention.

Us: How do you feel about Us as a forum for aspiring writers?
I believe, and I can say this from experience, that Us is a tremendous platform for young writers in Pakistan. It caters to an age group that really has no representation in the print media of Pakistan. I actually believe that if Us had never published those short stories, many years ago, I might never have had the confidence to pursue my dream of writing on a bigger stage.

Us: What prompted you to write a novel?
Everybody has stories brewing inside them; it is almost a human condition to find heroes, villains, themes and plots in the world around us. As a writer, I was able to translate those ideas and stories into words on to paper (or text on a screen). By the time I wrote the novel, I could feel that there was a large story that I had to tell, one that could not be restricted to a few thousand words.

Us: Tell Us about Auras of the Jinn.
Auras of the Jinn can be described in many different ways, and I am sure people will have much to make of it. However, I think what describes the story best, is that it is a ‘Pakistani’ story, which is to say that it is as comic as tragic, as absurd as cerebral, as warm as it is cold. Just like the country which it is borne out of, Auras of the Jinn is far from perfect, but it wouldn’t be right if it were.
Readers can ‘like’ Auras of the Jinn’s Facebook page to receive regular updates on reviews, media coverage and launch updates, as well as communicate with the team and myself.

Us: How did you come up with the plot of Auras of the Jinn (AOTJ)? How long did it take you to write the novel?
I came up with the plot of AOTJ when I was studying in medical school. My interaction with disease, in theory and practice, greatly affected me. Our frequent visits to community health centres in different slums of Karachi, such as Sultanabad and Rehri Goth, were some of the big stimulants. The plot and themes naturally followed and it took me about six months to write the book.

Us: What do you hope people will get out of Auras of the Jinn?
AOTJ is less like a full stop and more like a ‘...’ (ellipsis). There are many different characters, many different themes. Much is implied, but less is said. It leaves a lot of room for the reader to draw on their own experiences and their own life. The book has not been necessarily written for people to agree with; it has been written though, to prod the reader, at times gently, and at times, rather harshly.

Us: Did you face any difficulties while writing the novel or getting it published?
Writing, as some writers might attest, can be emotionally draining. It also requires a lot of discipline. This is only my first novel so I don’t have much experience in that department. As far as publishing a novel is concerned, it is certainly much harder than writing it. In Pakistan, most people who write novels either have a background in journalism, as I partly did, or have plentiful financial resources, as most published Pakistani authors do. Having said that, however, no barrier is big enough to stop true talent from flourishing.

Us: Who are your favourite authors? And your favourite books?
Before answering that, I must say that my single greatest failing as a writer is my poor grasp of Urdu literature. However, from amongst those whom I have read, Albert Camus and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, two very different writers with very different worldviews, have affected me the most.

Us: Are you currently working on anything? How soon can we expect another novel from you?
I am currently working on a lot of things, but most of them are abstracts, research papers, institutional review board protocols and the likes! I am, however, writing for newspapers, but am certainly not as prolific as I would like to be. Work on this novel, however, has certainly not ended, and only after this novel has been settled, can I look forward to the next one.

Us: Any advice for aspiring writers?
Discipline is the key and writer’s block is a euphemism for laziness. Don’t play the game just to avoid defeat - nothing trumps persistence and perseverance. Best of luck!

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 11th February, 2011

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