We reviewed ‘Kabuko – The Djinn’ by Hamraz Ahsan recently. And now we had a little talk with the author about the book and all the inspiration as well as the hard work behind it.
Q. Congratulations Mr. Hamraz Ahsan, on the success of your debut novel. What was your inspiration behind the distinctive story line and its name, Kabuko the Djinn?
As a child, and into my early teens, I was always reading fairy tales and stories about djinn. I myself also wrote many stories about these otherworldly creatures and some of them were published in children’s magazines. Then, as an adult, I began writing on other themes and, as well as poetry and journalistic writings, I wrote some short stories in Punjabi and Urdu. These were all about the very mundane issues of my society. It was perhaps the nostalgia for my childhood and those later observations that inspired me to write this novel. While I developed the character of the djinn, about halfway through, this name came to mind. I felt as if someone was whistling the name. So, in a very strange way, Kabuko seemed to choose his own name.
Q. You re-introduced the concept of Djinn. Why did you choose Kabuko who is in search of occult knowledge?
I don’t think that I have reintroduced the concept of Djinn. Djinn has always been very much there in our ancient society. Throughout my life I have observed people dealing with these sorts of entities and, even in their daily dialogue, they use the concept of “djinn” to compliment those who perform very difficult physical tasks, because generally the djinn are connected with physical power. However, my djinn character, Kabuko, is after the power that knowledge rather than brute force gives you. This is the same in our human world; some people are after mundane power and some are seeking knowledge. So why not also have these two types in the djinn world?
Q. Your protagonist Ajee Shah depicts a unique character sketch. Why did you choose Ajee Shah and Kabuko?
I wanted a character that was a bit of a scamp, who would get into the sort of interesting binds that would be of interest to a supernatural creature. To be honest, a lot of incidences are fictionalised accounts of things from my own life. In the subcontinent we have such a rich and diverse culture that you always come across things that are better than fiction in your daily life, so it is fertile ground for the imagination.
Q. Pythons and other super natural entities were an essential part of your fictional story. Any specific reason?
I think the era of the supernatural personification of those creatures has now passed, what with our modern life of computers, TV and mobile phones, smart or less smart, and I wanted to bring back some of that sense of magic that has been lost. In my childhood people were always telling stories and many strange notions were prevalent in our society. So my story is set in that era that has almost gone now.
Q. A blend of the real secrets of Islamic occult and folklore of Punjab defines your unique style of writing. Is there a reason behind this and your simple narration?
I was born in a family that has Sufi links and I had the opportunity to observe and record the whole mystic and folk scene as a journalist. For years I worked as feature writer for two of Pakistan’s reputable newspapers and I wrote more than two hundred features. I always tried to choose different, peripheral subjects. Also, as a Punjabi poet, I am interested in Punjabi folklore.
Q. What do you feel about the impact of English fiction on the youth of today?
I think it is great to have a diversity of fiction out there. I very much like the new fantasy trend for incorporating Indian mythology and folklore into the modern era – it reminds me of the sci-fi heyday of the 50s. I do think that those who are able to read in more than one language benefit from a greater treasury of stories and that is something we are very lucky with in the subcontinent. However, good English translations of Indian fiction written in native languages are also needed so that we don’t just have stories that are set in the West with western themes.
Q. According to you, what is the biggest problem that writers face in the industry?
Getting published! Self-publishing has meant that many writers who would previously not get a publisher can now get their books out there. However, it doesn’t mean that readers will necessarily find their books in order to read them – distribution and promotion can be difficult if you’re doing it on your own. I don’t blame the publishers though as they can realistically only take on a certain number of books each year and I have no doubt that there are some excellent writers out there who just don’t get published.
Q. What was the hardest and favourite part of writing for you?
I think the hardest was the editing process. The book went through several edits before it even reached the publishers and then of course it needed to go through the publishing process, which involves further edits. It can be nigh on impossible to edit your own work and so I am really grateful to my editors for making that difficult process so much easier. My favourite part is when inspiration strikes and you put a scene or a paragraph down that you know is absolutely perfect, because it feels as though you haven’t even written it yourself, your character has taken charge in some way.
Q. What can we expect from your next work?
It is a semi-autobiographical novel that I have started writing. I think I have another type of story to tell.
Q. Any suggestions for our burgeoning writers?
Write the first draft of anything you do without editing it. The temptation to re-read and re-work your drafts is high, but until you finish that first draft you must not begin editing it. I have known so many people to atrophy in their work through needing every single sentence to be perfect before they can continue. Just get it down on paper and you can tinker about with it later. Good luck!
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: