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One thing that really struck me about Ahmad's answers to my interview questions was how similar his journey to publication was to that of people I know here in the United States--being a vigorous fan, joining writing groups, participating in NaNoWriMo, going through the pain of rejection, and then at last publication--in his case, with a new small press. But I'll let him speak for himself:

You are a student. What are you studying? Will you pursue work in the field when you graduate? Or go on to postgraduate studies? Or are you contemplating something entirely different?

I’m currently taking a master program in forest and wood technology. For a long time, I’ve been aiming to work in ministry of forestry, or CIFOR, or WWF, or other NGOs. I like forestry, environmental science, and I want to write more on the science of ecology and natural resources.

You're also a writer. How old were you when you began writing? How have balanced the demands of your studies with the demands of your writing life?

I was . . . I don’t know. 16 and 17? It’s probably around high school, right when LiveJournal started becoming a trend in my country, and Facebook begun replacing Friendster and Myspace. It was a chaotic, but totally interesting time. I started by writing my daily activities, blogging, you know, and straight into fanfiction when I graduated high school (the last Harry Potter movie was approaching, and all HP fans were. . . I don’t know, in frenzy? Making incredible fan arts, fanfics, stories, theories, and everything else. It was a great period. I feel fortunate enough being able to participate in all of those awesomeness).

Balancing demands of my study and writing life is actually a bit difficult. I manage by trying to be able to write anywhere I am. I started using my phone to write. I write in notebooks, in classes, in commuters, buses. I write before I sleep, after I’ve finished my homework.

What writers and works have had the biggest influence on your writing?

J.K. Rowling is the first. She literally introduced me into the fantasy genre. And I also learned a lot from her, on how building plot, mystery, thriller, and so many more.


Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game introduced me to science fiction.

Enders Game

Stephen King and Neil Gaiman taught me a lot on how to use poetical, lyrical, dreamlike plot and narrative in a story. Their description and narration is top notch. Lovecraft and Junji Ito showed me how to make a twisted horror even more twisted. And so many more.

Stephen King Junji Ito

What novels or short stories did you particularly enjoy in 2014?

Bird Box by Josh Malerman is probably the best Lovecraftian horror story I’ve ever read. The Shadow King by Jo Marchant is just amazing--one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read, second only to How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova. Stories, a short-fiction anthology by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, is great, with my favourites being "Wildfire in Manhattan" by Joanne Harris and "Juvenal Nyx" by Walter Mosley.

Bird Box shadow King Stories

Can you speak a little about your novel, Spora? What is it about?

Spora is a pseudo-lovecraftian horror story about a boy who faced an ancient monster who spreads diseases, making zombies, and planting nightmares by using its spores. It’s also a bit gory. Telling you more than that would be giving a lot of spoilers away, though, sorry!

How long did it take you to write? Did it change very much while you were writing it, or did it stay close to your original idea?

Surprisingly, it didn’t take a lot of time. I remember started writing it in January/February, and sending it to publishers in late March. It’s short, less than 35k words, and it was cut here and there in the editing session. There are changes, some of them make the novel a bit different from what I intended it to be, which is a pure lovecraftian horror, but I don’t really mind it.

What was your publishing journey like? How did you find your publisher?

My publishing journey is a bit difficult.

I’ve sent drafts to a lot of publishers before, and all of them were rejected (ten times, at least). I found my current publisher, Moka Media, by a bit of a fortunate event. In 2013, I participated in NaNoWriMo 2013 (oh yeah, there is a NaNoWriMo community in my country), and I met so many published authors and professional editors in that event. I talked and chatted with them, and one of them told me about this ‘new, rising, and highly-qualified publishing house’, and that I should try to send my draft to them. I hesitated a bit in the beginning (the phrase ‘highly-qualified publishing house’ didn’t give a good acceptance vibe for an unpublished, ten-times rejected author like me, I think), but I sent my first finished draft in 2014 to them anyway.

And you know what? Three months letter, I got an email from their editor. While reading it, at first I thought it was just another rejection letter (“Oh, saying that my draft is quite good? Sigh. . . in the next paragraph they’re going to say ‘BUT WE CANNOT PUBLISH IT HAHAHA’ anyway.”). But the more I read it, the more I realised that the editor was actually, truly expressing her interest in my novel, and at the end, she wanted to meet me in person. I was thrilled, exhilarated, and felt like in a dream.

The true publishing journey was begun there. I met the editor, I met the other editors, we edited my draft, I rewrote several chapters, adding and cutting some scenes, crying in deadlines, drinking a lot of coffee, and preparing for book launch. The book was printed, I attended some meeting, launching, and interviews.

It’s amazing. And sometimes confusing. Even now, I still feel like in a dream. Like this is all just a figment of a very long dream in a very long evening that will finally end, and I’d wake up and realising that, “Oh, yes. I am still an unpublished author. Okay.”

It’s probably a bit strange for you, but where I live, it’s hard to be a writer if you’re not published through a major publishing house. The book market is still small, the platform is very limited. There are no any equivalent of Amazon Kindle here. Most readers here are young; they don’t have credit card to purchase ebooks, so digital publishing is almost out of question. Almost every writer, blogger, and online artists’ dreams are to be published through major publishing channels. I hope it won’t be that hard in the future here.

What are your plans for 2015?

I’m currently writing two books, one of them has been signed to a major publishing house. I’m also doing a bit of translating works to help sustain myself while waiting for the royalties to come. I plan to publish more books, at least three, in this year. I plan to start a sci-fi series and write a horror novella. And I hope I can still balance my study (which is getting crazier by each day) with my equally maddening writing life.

What about you?

Me? I'll be writing too! And enjoying the adventure of finding new and interesting people to talk to online.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 13th, 2015 12:46 pm (UTC)
Interesting. forest and wood technology - neat choice, fascinating field. I'm not a fan of Stephen King but I have more photos of the Stanley than almost anyone.
Jan. 13th, 2015 12:52 pm (UTC)
I'm not actually a horror fan myself, but I know lots of people who have been very influenced by Stephen King. And you do have a lot of photos of the Stanley!
Jan. 13th, 2015 01:34 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed the interview!
Jan. 13th, 2015 03:09 pm (UTC)
Glad you did :-)
Jan. 13th, 2015 02:28 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad your path opened up!
Jan. 13th, 2015 03:09 pm (UTC)
(I'll let Ahmad know your comment is here--I'm not sure he's following all the comments.)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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