In conversation with Fathima Ashab- Author of 'Hold me While I fix myself'
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
When I saw Fathima's mail one day in my inbox, to be a part of her street team, and to read her debut book, it would be an understatement to say that I was ecstatic. I left everything behind, picked up the book right away, and that literally changed my life. Being my first ever ARC copy, 'Hold me While I fix myself' is already very close to my heart and when Fathima agreed to do an interview with an amateur like me, it was a cherry on the cake!
(Image credits: Author's Instagram page)
Thank you so much, Fathima for giving me the opportunity to read your book, and for taking out time to answer all of my questions!
So, what are we waiting for? Let us begin our conversation then!
1. People know you as Fathima Ashab, one of the top book bloggers on Instagram. But, do you mind telling us more about you? Your interests, your hobbies apart from reading books?
When I am not reading, I love listening to podcasts or music, and sometimes binge-watching movies/ YouTube videos or organizing things in order. I love to have a clean and tidy space be it my room or my mind.
2. What made you write 'Hold me while I fix myself' and when did you start writing about it?
It might be cliché to say this but it was pain and loneliness, that made me put things into perspectives or specifically, into words. I started writing it around three years ago, when I thought it will only be mine, and never share it with the world. But rummaging through the old memories in this quarantine made me dig deeper into it, and helped me have the courage to put them all together, and present them to the world.
3. How did you come up with the title of your debut poetry?
I initially wanted to name it 'Najaat', but when I told a friend of mine, he said something in English would do better. And then I remember racking my brain all day until I squealed in excitement when I came across this line in one of the poems in my book, and I was like this is it. This has to be it.
4. Which is the hardest part of writing in this genre for you?
It was, I think, fighting my self-doubts and letting the emotions out even though it broke me. I knew it would mend me, so I didn't give up until I drained every last drop of pain out of my heart, and made them into sentences. Unlike other genres, poetry has to have that honesty as well as beauty to make it resonate with every person it touches. So yeah, everything about it was hard but it also strengthened me.
5. I loved each and every poem from your book, but If I ask you to choose just one which one would that be and why?
i put your name on the paper
thinking i would get rid of
you and your memories
tattooed in my heart,
scribed as an art.
but the remembrance
of the letters in your name
poisoning my head,
driving me crazy on my bed.
i am trying to stop
but it's too hard,
taking forever to discard.
what is that magic in your name
that is bringing back memories
and sending storms in my reveries.
This is my favorite because it was when I wrote this, I was beginning to understand what a "name" can do to us. How it could drive us crazy or make us complete, depending on what the person with that name has done to us. The memories it brings and the after taste of it. I cannot stop thinking about the magic a name can hold. A name is more than just a name.
6. What are some of the difficulties you faced while publishing your book, especially in this quarantine? How do you want it to get improved?
Publishing a poetry book has always been difficult in our country. There are no traditional publishing houses that accept a poetry manuscript, because their ideal notion of modern poetry is that they are trash. I strongly disagree with that. I wish modern poems are celebrated the way we celebrate books from all other genres and more publishing houses will accept them.
7. How are you feeling now that your book is published, and people are loving your work?
To tell you the truth, I am still skeptical about my work. I think it will always be that way. It pushes me to do my current projects better but nonetheless, I am feeling grateful to receive such positive, and heartwarming reviews from the reader's community. It is making me so happy and satisfied.
8. If you could go back in time to change anything in the process of writing, what would you change?
I saw the writing process of this book as therapeutic. It helped me to forgive myself, and make peace with my life as it is. The point of this book was to be raw and true to my experience from the most important, yet depressing part of my life. So I don't wish to change anything even if given a chance.
9. How was your transition from a book reviewer to a writer?
Actually, I was a writer first and then a reviewer:) I wrote this book three years ago, but never looked back at it, due to the resistance I felt towards showing it to the world, and to a point, I was exhausted. That's when I found this incredible book community on Facebook, where I started reviewing the books I owned, and slowly authors started sending me their review copies. Only much after at least six months there, I joined bookstagram, and it was a great space for me to find amazing people, and build a community. So going back to being a writer wasn't much of a transition, but the overwhelming response from the bookstagram community, was much better than what I had before. Btw, I am still a reviewer and will always be:)
10. If I am not wrong, you have been doing book blogging for more than 2 years. Could you please share your experience on the same?
From my experience, there has never been a community more welcoming and warmer than the book community. Starting it was more difficult than I expected to be, because I had no skills in photography, which I am still learning, but definitely better than before. It was also difficult to find Indian bookstagrammers, with whom I could connect with, because we weren't mainstream back then. But as time went by, I was really happy to find many of the new ones emerged, still emerging and making the place, better than it had ever before.
11. I know that you are already working on your second book, is there a chance to give us a little sneak peek?
The one I am working on is actually my third book. I am yet to go back to the second, and decide if I want others to read it or not XD. The one I am working on is a contemporary fiction with twin sisters (my most favorite part of it), queer characters in the closet, and a family saga with women-centric characters. I am yet to explore it more myself so let me stop here.
12. Lastly, do you have any tips for budding writers?
WRITE. It is the beginning that will scare you more than anything. So be scared, but write anyway until you get the hang of it, and then you can go back and edit it. Also, stay true to your gut feeling and raw emotions. You have to love doing your work if you want your readers to love it.
Once again thank you so much for agreeing to have an interview with me Fathima. I wish you all the best for your book, and I will be eagerly waiting to read your next book in line.
Until next time, have a good one everyone, and stay safe!