Thursday, May 23, 2013

Straight From the Mouth of 'A List of Offences' Dilruba Z. Ara

Dilruba Z. Ara was born in Bangladesh. Nurtured on Greek mythology by her father, and hearing Indian fairy  tales as bedtime stories from her mother, Dilruba had her first story published when she was eight years old. While in university at the age of twenty, she met  and married her husband, a Swedish Air Force officer, and moved to Sweden, where she obtained degrees in English, Swedish, Classical Arabic and linguistics. She now teaches Swedish and English in Sweden. An accomplished, exhibited artist, her paintings have been used as the covers for the Bangladeshi, Greek, and U.S. editions of A LIST OF OFFENCES.
Visit her website at

Thanks for letting us interrogate interview you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

It is a force that drives you from inside. You are born with it.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

It is positive in the sense that the book has opened up many doors for me.  People take my words more seriously. The downside of it is that I am expected to produce more similar work, even though I would like to try something else.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I had sent the finished manuscript to a few literary agents in the USA. Within a few days, three of them called back. I chose the most passionate one Doris Michaels. She loved the book, and sent it out to quite a few publishers in the USA, all of whom found it very beautiful, relevant, etc., but too slow-paced. I had worked very hard with each word, so I did not want to cut it down to fit their demands. In the end, I took it to The University Press Ltd, the leading publishing house in Bangladesh, and met the publisher myself. Upon reading the letters from various US editors, he took the manuscript from me and asked me to wait, outside the closed door. After about three hours he reappeared, with a contract. That was how it started. Then it was sold to Spain and Greece. In parts of South America it even hit the top ten list, along with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Even though only a few English copies were available, the book was reviewed in different newspapers and magazines, including The Chattahoochee Review.  A review of it can even be read on the homepage of the Law Faculty at Ecuador University. Although I have been pleased with all this attention, at the same time I have been concerned that the English version had not been available to general readers outside Bangladesh. Hence, I decided to have my rights back. My publisher is a kind man, and understood me. Now I have published it independently.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

Well, as I was working on my first book, they had very little understanding. I had to find time when my family went to sleep. During the years when I was writing the book I slept five hours every night. Now they are very proud of me.

This is for pet lovers.  If you don’t own a pet, skip this question, but do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

I had goldfish.  All died.

This is for plant lovers.  If you don’t own a plant, skip this question, but if you do, are they actually still alive?

Some of them survived. Now I am more into cacti.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner, or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

It was a tremendous pressure, because I often felt guilty. My family complained that I was always sitting by the computer, although I never neglected my duty as a mother or wife. My husband was away three days every week, so I had to do the chores, along with all other things that come with raising kids, driving them to different afterschool activities, checking their home-work etc., and taking care of the household.  Once my boss pointed out that I was late five minutes, and that never happened again. I am disciplined, so it worked out in the end. I had no social life at all during those years and, as I mentioned earlier, I slept very little. Every morning, I would run five kilometers to keep my brain fresh before going to work. Now when I look back, I really don’t understand how I managed…

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

When I got the contract within three hours of meeting my first publisher.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

Facebook. Red Room and Goodreads are helpful. I am not sure about others.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

Mouth to mouth. Giveaways. Blog tours.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

Hahaha! What a funny question. Each time I finish a book or a painting, I feel like screaming and jumping.

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

Thanks. Yes, you are right, in the end I was born to write, and it has been my mission ever since I started. Now it feels incredible that my dream to be a published author has come true, that I have written something that people across world can pick up and read. It is simply wonderful! I wouldn’t change this for a million bucks.

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