Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest-Shah Husain



Please welcome my new guest, Shah Husain, a writer of myth’s, legends, and fun stories from India, Africa, and other Ancient worlds. Her books are quite a few to list, but they are full of insight, intrigue, and information about a time in our history almost all but forgotten in this modern age. And, since my series touches on the Genie, or Djinni lore, I was fascinated about her work. I first became attracted to her books when I saw the one about the history of the Goddess—the oldest known religion to the human race. It is 25,000 years old. Right now, Shah is not promoting a new book, but instead is working on a new pilot series in the UK where she lives, one that I would love to know more about. I hope that all of you enjoy the interview and don’t forget to leave her questions and comments.
 
Thank you Shah for letting me interview you for my blog. I am looking forward to getting to know you better.
Tell us a little about yourself and back ground: Well, thank you very much for inviting me on to your site, Lisa.  I’m pleased to be here.  My first memories are of London, UK,  where my father was completing his studies to practice at the Bar.  Then we returned to Pakistan.  It was a very educated, literary household, so we breathed books, stories, writing and reading, along with the oxygen.  It was an idyllic childhood in many ways.  We were surrounded with gardens, greenery, hills and an amazing verve and vigour.  Pakistan was not even 10 years old when we returned to live there.  It was country full of hope – everyone had a purpose and a place and it was a brave new world, specially for women.  Who would have thought we’d look ahead 30 years to such catastrophe.  But as I grew up the sheer vitality and optimism of people around infected me.  My mother worked hard to rehabilitate refugees and her general attitude was, yes, some things are not so good YET, but we’ll fix’em.  That attitude didn’t really allow the self-doubt writers feel -   I’m afraid I’m going to repeat that writers’ cliché about writing since I learned to hold a pencil. I never doubted even at 5 that one day my scribbling would be in a story book. I started freelancing, interviewing and writing short stories for magazines when I was in my teens – wrote for children’s pages when I was much younger.  I did radio programmes from interviewing to weekly diaries– and then finally, started to write books.  My first book was published in the early 80s.  I write for children and for adults.  Fiction is my passion though I’ve written a fair amount of non-fiction too and I enjoy writing screenplays. 
I would love to know about your pilot series, what’s that about?:
These are two TV series: one’s an adapatation from ancient Indian myth and the other is a contemporary story centering on the paranormal.  A high profile director approached me for a collaboration about the first and as we worked on that I mentioned the second idea and she was very taken with that too, so she took my proposal to the network’s drama department and they went crazy for it. Both proposals are in the early stages of development.  We have a fantastic broadcaster backing them.  But these things take time and there’s many a slip in the world of film and TV – I’ve been around long enough to know these things can disappear into thin air at any stage.  I’m still confident about these, though. So far everything seems to be progressing well. There are actually signatures on dotted lines and all submissions have been approved to date.
Your writing takes us into a time long since passed, what has been your motivation?:
Indeed.  Many of my books are set in the land of never-never and magical, mythical worlds that still survive in our unconscious minds.  I grew up in Pakistan and India listening to stories.  As children we were rarely told off or given instructions without a story to demonstrate the point.  Some of my mother’s relatives in India lived in a deliberately un-modernised way in places where TV did not penetrate until the 1970s.  This meant my siblings and cousins and I spent a lot of time amusing ourselves in inventive ways.  One of my favourite pastimes was exploring wooded areas, orchards, gardens and scrub and fantasizing about magical worlds within them.  One of my favourite pastimes was to listen to stories wherever I could find them.  Ghosts, jinns, witches, fairies and demonic beings.  I read the stories too, of course, voraciously: all the tomes of European, English and American fairytales I could find as well as Russian, Chinese and Japanese and Middle Eastern ones.  I found out many things that influenced my later writing choices.  Firstly, I realized I liked listening to stories even more than reading them. Secondly, that most myths and fairytales and legends fall into certain patterns and contain similar motifs and themes no matter where in the world they come from.  So I chose to retell fairytales in a colloquial manner and all my story collections for adults (Virago Press) tend to be around a single theme – eg. Witches.  Traditional tales demonstrate a universal tendency, a oneness about humanity, which greatly appeals to me and which is very unifying.  According to Jung, these stories come from an unconscious reservoir of story and we all share it.  That was why I was thrilled when my recent children’s book about a popular character Mulla Nasruddin was selected as one of only 9 recommended reads by Chautauquan Institution for its Young Readers Programme.  (link to interview in Chautauquan Daily
 …. interview
Do you have any ideas for a new book in your future?:
I am always exploding with ideas, Lisa.  It sounds ungrateful but I kind of wish they’d pause a while and allow me to write what’s already churning around in my head.  I’ve got a novel coming out next year, set against sectarian violence in India and am two-thirds of the way through a modern reinterpretation of an ancient Indian myth. It looks at Multiple Personality Syndrome.  I’m really enjoying it.
I am writing a fantasy fiction series and based my world on the Djinn. Not the Djinn in a bottle, but a race of beings in another dimension. I named the world Djenrye and the people are the Djen, (different spelling) but I wanted them to be a people, not a typical trickster with wishes. What kind of lore can you tell us about the Djinn?:
You’re on to something there, Lisa.  In Middle Eastern tradition Jinns there are races of Jinns distributed into tribes much like humans, with their own motivations and activities. Interestingly, I’ve been thinking about Jinns recently in connection with an episode for my TV project but I have been fascinated with them since I can remember.  I grew up in a world where people freely believe in Jinns and speak as casually about them as people in the west may speak about astrology or psychics.  They take them for granted and take appropriate precautions as a matter of course. When I visit Bangladesh people regularly refer to some precious object being found through the aid of a ‘controller’ of Jinns, in India they speak of Jinns inhabiting mosques and wild places.  In Pakistan, too.  Apparently they love sweet-meats, shift shape and sometimes live in mosques or in trees, love flowers fall in love with human women, specially those with long hair and beautiful voices.  When they do, they become very possessive and prevent them marrying or having romantic relationships even if this means making them mentally or physically ill.  They can be cast out, of course – but it’s hard because they are apparently religious beings and so prayer is not an antidote.  Of course the Arabian Nights stories – the real ones, not the sanitized western versions for kids – reveal much of this lore.  I had a great uncle who spoke of seeing them in the late 19th/early 20th century when he travelled far and wide in India as a District superintendent.  There are loads of tales about them transforming into snakes - in oral tales and the Nights, so in a country like India at that time, where there were lots of snakes, there was always the worry that one of them might be a Jinn!!  The Quran describes them as beings of ‘smokeless fire’. It tells of many races of Jinns, good and bad, and names some of their significant leaders.  They are not immortal but they seem to be somewhat invincible.  I remember fairytales in which they would hide their heart inside a bee, inside a fruit, inside a parrot. 
I really look forward to reading your book, Lisa.  Best of luck with its progress.

Thank you so much for answering my questions. I would love to sit with you and talk about these stories. First I love history, and second, I love fables. If you would like, please leave us with your thoughts and anything you wish to promote about your pilot, or your books. Also, don’t forget to leave your links so everyone can check out your work. Thanks again Shah, you’ve been wonderful and I appreciate you and your books!

You can find Shah's works on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble sites, or go to her website-http://www.Shahrukhhusain.com You can also reach her on FB and Twitter.

Thanks for joining in my wonderful blog followers and leave Shah a comment or question. she will be checking in periodically to answer. Until Thursday, have a great week!

Love, Lisa

12 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I am excited to pick up a few of your books. I've sent the blog to my daughter, but unfortunately, she will not likely read it until later this afternoon (She is a teacher and is at school). I'm also interested in picking up the original Arabian Nights. Is there an English version you would recommend?

    Keep up the amazing work and good luck on all your endeavors!

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    1. Hello Toni, thanks for your kind comments. (I write under the name Shahrukh Husain - Shah is the short form).

      My favourtie translation of the Nights remains the children's retelling by Andrew Lang. Also, Michael Foreman's lavishly illustrated and lyrical version. I was surprised to discover that the 'orignals' are narrated in a very robust and lively way and I've never found one in English that has the same voice. But there are some good ones around.

      Thanks for your good wishes,
      Shah

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  2. Hello Shah,

    What a diverse and rich culture you grew up in. It sounds so full. My parents encouraged my reading, but I don't think they understood my imagination.

    I would love to hear more about your series pilots. I'm very curious about them and best wishes for both.

    My daughter is in the UK doing her masters in theatre design (she is a lighting designer). She was recently introduced to a gentleman who works on BBC and HBO projects as a production designer and he's involved with one being filmed in Cardiff where she attends school. She is interested in diversifying into the world of TV/film as well as theatre and hopes to shadow him at some point.

    I can only imagine the worlds and creatures that abound in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. So much history and myth that we can only read about in the US. I envy your wealth of knowledge. Congratulations on the Chautauquan honor! I am looking forward to reading your work.

    I so understand the issue with ideas. I'm just trying to get through revisions on my first novel and other ideas keep popping up to distract me. Other than discipline and saying no, do you have any tricks to keeping them at bay? Some of my characters are rather insistent at times, lol!

    Lisa's saga is amazing. As her critique partner, I've seen a lot of this first book, but I'm looking forward to seeing it in print and reading it cover-to-cover. I believe she's done the Jinn proud and I applaud her for the spin she's put on it, the different spelling (Djen) and building a rich, parallel world to our own.

    Thank you for guesting on Lisa's blog. If you have any words of wisdom for those of us hoping to publish our first works, I'd love to hear them.

    Robin
    RG Calkins
    http://rgcalkins-author.com
    https://twitter.com/RGCalkinswrites
    http://www.facebook.com/RGCalkins.Author

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    1. Hi Robin, I was very fortunate to have so many influences around me. I took it for granted at the time but every time I think about it now, I appreciate what bounty I had.

      Lighting design is such an essential part of thetarical production. I was commissioned to write a play for the Unicorn Theatre for children about Shehrazade and her telling of the stories. I had a scene in which shehrezade's younger sister goes to find the ancient storyteller to get more stories for her sister. She steps through a curtain into a desert - the lighting designer on the sets created the most spectacular effect with dazzling sunshine and the shadows falling in such a way that the rolling dunes of the desert were right there on stage with us and the scene seemed to extend far beyond the limits of the theatre. It was spectacular. so, good luck to your daughter - I hope she gets the chance to shadow this professional and gain contacts in the film and TV world. They're always in need of top level technical and creatuve help.

      As far as ideas are concerned, the only way I manage to keep them quiet is by jotting notes down and putting them away. and I, too, have characters standing at my elbow asking when I'm going to write about them. Same trick - write down the ideas and tell yourself you'll get round to the project in time. I currently have 18 in my development file.

      My only words of wisdom, Robin are keep writing - past the hard moments and the painful decisions and the endless distractions of life and don't give up until you've produced the best you are capable of. Get expert help where you can in terms of editing, advice and critiques and never let anyone tread on your dreams.

      Keep writing and may the Muse be with you, skittish as she can be!

      Shah

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    2. Thank you, Shah, for the reply. And yes, I write down my ideas as they come. You have me beat though. I only have 5 or 6 novel ideas and a couple of short stories at present.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. It is such an effort to get past those moments, decisions, and the people who would pass my dream off as a flight of fancy. I'm so blessed to have people like Lisa who are supportive and will give me honest feedback. She, and the web of writing friends and acquaintances that I've made, are helping me keep my dream on track.

      Thank you again,
      Robin

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    3. I look forward to hearing more about your progress, Robin. Are you on Writania?

      You're very welcome,
      Shah

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  3. How interesting. I can see that upbringing has a great influence on this writer. Because I am interested in folklore, I plan to look for Shah's books. Thanks.

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    1. Hello, bbb - I love to hear people are interested in folklore and other kinds of traditional tales. I hope you enjoy the books. You'll find me under Shahrukh Husain - Shah's a short form.

      Happy reading.

      Shah

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  4. Your books sound very interesting! Congratulations on the beginnings of your books into television! How every exciting. I have enjoyed my moms (Lisa) story so far and think that your writing is in the same fantasy realm as hers. I look forward to reading some of your work

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    1. Hello Brandie, so good to hear from you. I feel Lisa and I are already friends even though we've never met. Do your write, too?

      Be well and happy,
      Shah

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  5. Thank you again for coming on my site Shah! It's been wonderful having you and I appreciate you taking the time to answer the comments! I hope you have a wonderful holiday and keep in touch!

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  6. Linda now that I can sign in and have tested it, I look forward to reading the above article it sounds really interesting. Thanks,

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