I recently read a historical fiction, Dark Diamond written by the beautiful and talented writer, Shazia Omar. The book not only amazed me but also imparted many unknown facts about Bengal that were deeply hidden inside the crevices of buried forts and palaces. To read the book’s review click here.
In spite of being such an exceptional author, Shazia Omar is a really down-to-earth and friendly human being. Her affectionate persona was an inspiration to me and by the end of the interview I gained a lot of insight into the genre of historical fiction.
She was intrigued by my blog’s name as her kids (two lovely little ones) and she love Matilda. Let’s get to know this amazing person.
Aritri : Which was the first book you read?
Shazia : My first novels were in grade 7 – Little Women and Godfather. Before that I read lots of Enid Blyton and Narnia.
How has reading shaped your writing and thought process?
I have always loved reading. I would carry books with me to parties. Even now I would rather curl up with words than go out. But for this book, Dark Diamond, I chose specific books (about 30) to read for research purposes and read lots of Sufi poetry to get into the sort of language style I wanted. I am fascinated to see how books build up our collective conscience and curious to know what will happen when people have so many other elements in the collective conscience thanks to Internet.
Tell us more about your book Dark Diamond.
I wrote it because I wanted people to have a glimpse into the glorious past of Bengal. But what I realized half way through was that all the enemies Shayista Khan faced are the same enemies we still face. So it felt like I was writing a commentary on our contemporary situation as well as a historical fiction. It took me 5 years to write, out of that 2 years were basically research. I really enjoyed learning more about Bengal, Mughals, Sufism.
The research must have been intense. To write a historical fiction what are the things one has to keep in mind?
I guess talking to people helped a lot. I spoke to the head of the history department at a couple of universities here, spoke to other writers who have written about the period, got book recommendations. Because there are many people out there who have studied these periods for many many years. At first that can be intimidating, if you forget that you are having fun. Then you sort of forget your ego and lose yourself in the wonder of learning. But it was mostly hard work. A lot harder than pure fiction. At times I felt like I was doing a PhD.
Your book has a lot of strong female characters. Be it Champa, or Shayista’s daughters, Pari and Miri.
It was fun to tell the story from their different perspectives. When I write male characters I find I try to use my imagination more and when I write females, their emotions end up sounding like mine. So this time I created several female characters and forced myself far from my comfort zone.
Are these whispers of dark diamond based on any reality or is it just a myth?
Reality. There are few accounts of a mysterious dark diamond in our folklore and also a pink diamond.
How did your journey of writing start?
When I moved to Bangladesh a few years after University, I began writing a sort of diary of my experiences. But it wasn’t very structured. I, then, did a masters in social psychology and in a way, writing the thesis made me understand the architecture of plots and structuring. After masters, I returned to Bangladesh and found a story I wanted to write. This time I had the patience of both the creative flow and the structuring tools. I also did a lot of research. Research is something that I found critical to both my novels which I sort of didn’t realize was so critical to fiction writing before.
From the issues of drug abuse to yoga and spirit of living and now this amazing account of Bengal’s history, what can we expect next from Shazia Omar’s quill?
I am exploring enlightenment. I want to learn more about tantric mediation rituals and also more about Buddhism. I think these will play a role in my next novel.
Current Read: Kafka by the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Genre– Magic realism
Author– Arundhati Roy, Roald Dahl, Hemingway, Bob Dylan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Books– Hundred Years of Solitude, God of Small Things, Everything by Tom Robbins
Contemporary Works– Tom Robbins, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami
To buy her book visit Amazon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shazia Omar is a Bangladeshi novelist. Her debut novel, Like a Diamond in the Sky, was published by Penguin India and Zubaan in 2009. The novel dealt with drug abuse. She studied at Dartmouth College and the London School of Economics. She currently lives in Bangladesh. She is also a social psychologist, a development professional and a pilates instructor. Her recent novel, Dark Diamond, is set during the times of Mughal ruled Bengal.