Interview with International author, Mehreen Ahmed

TS. World Traveler, Mehreen Ahmed’s new book The Pacifist stirs the imagination and the heart. Come with me while we peek into her writing and traveling life.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

MA. I enjoy bustling street-side style cafes, preferably with lilies and gardenias hanging over walls but I usually write in my bedroom. My dream workplace would be sitting on a beach with the waves crashing in, or a mountain resort where I could see the impressive Himalayas spread their majesty across the mysterious land. But enchanting cafes are also good working places.


Q. Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

MA. I’m very messy and so is my desk. I have books scattered all over the place. My tea mug is a permanent feature on my desk, alongside the laptop and little notebooks. Sometimes I try to arrange scraps of rolled papers that spill over the laptop before I write. I suppose that could be considered a ritual.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MA. I also sing. I took singing lessons as a child, something  my family encouraged me to do. I started singing when I was five. I had a private tutor who came to my family home once a week to give me lessons.

Q. Could you tell us more about the places you have lived?

MA. I was born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I had a very happy childhood. I come from an aristocratic old family in Dhaka. Because of
this, I had the good fortune of going to private schools, which is a huge advantage there. However, during the 1971 civil war, we became 
refugees for a while. We were in Khulna then, and I was in grade 5. As  a child, I saw some of the worst atrocities imaginable. Still, Bangladesh is incredibly beautiful and I loved it there. But after I received my first degree at the University of Dhaka, I decided to continue studying abroad. That’s when I decided to move to Canada.

I lived in Ottawa and Saskatchewan between 1980 and 1992. Saskatchewan was very cold. But I loved the snow. I could appreciate, “The big sky” of Canada and the northern lights from the flat prairies more so than anywhere else. However, I’ve also visited other places in Canada namely, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto. Walking through the snow was never easy and I fell down frequently, slipping on treacherous slush piles. Once I remember, I lay there on a blanket of snow, just watching the night sky from that angle. I was in no hurry to get up as I didn’t want to miss looking at the sky from this perspective. The good Canadians looked over 
me in concern as they passed by. But I reassured them, smiling, that I was just fine. I have visited Italy, Vienna, France, Switzerland, and Spain as well.

Presently, I live in Australia. By contrast, the landscape of Australia is rugged. The grass is not greener but much scruffier here compared to the tame Canadian lawns; the ones that I saw, at least. The weather much hotter, Australia can also be quite cold in winter, though not as cold as Canada. I have heard that it snows in some parts of Australia, but I’m yet to see it here. I really missed the snow when I first moved away from Canada. But Australia compensates with its warm climate, suitable for swimming and surfing.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

MA. I usually write when I have a thought. Otherwise, I’d just be staring at the screen. If a thought comes to me, I usually pen it down almost straight away. If I get an idea in a dream, then I would jot it down in the morning. I have many dream-like scenes in all my books. A lot of these ideas were conceived in my own dreams.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MA. Procrastination is harmful as a writer. Would-be brilliant writers sometimes get nothing out because of it. I think it’s important to write something creative each day. Even if it’s just a few lines, instilling a habit of writing is important. I have a difficult time giving advice, though. Every writer is different and each one has his or her own process.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MA. I discover characters as the story is penned. I have a vague idea of who this person is but I don’t necessarily know how they are going to react until they are faced with a situation in the plot. It’s like I’m getting to know them through writing, not that I have imagined them beforehand.

Please join us June 16th for Part II      To order “The Pacifist” click here

MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?     Johan Thompson (South African author)  joined us in April.   June: Mehreen Ahmed.  July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter and in August we say ‘hello’ to Cheryl Hollon.
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