I want my stories to remain with my readers for a long time

“I want my stories to remain with my readers for a long time”, says Heena Jadav Sunil; a Karachi based Pakistani author who has just published her debut novel by the title of Equinox. In conversation with Nidhi Shendurnikar-Tere, she speaks her heart out on life in both India & Pakistan; her love for writing ‘fantasy romance’ and the individual transformation that she seeks through it.

Heena ji, your journey spans from India to Pakistan. Tell us something about this journey, your life in India then and now in Pakistan. How does it feel having lived in two countries that have been engaged in conflict since long?
My life in India was very adventurous; I went to an ‘all girls’ convent school. I was into lots of sports like skating, horse-riding, cycling, dancing (classical, garba), singing, harmonium classes, stage dramas, annual tours, learned how to ride a bike … you name it and I did it as a typical teenager. Here, in Pakistan I have my own family which keeps me busy. I feel my heart being conked out into two parts; I cannot belong to any one of these nations, I cannot claim my place anywhere. Whenever there is a cricket match between the two, I wear yellow. On every 14th and 15th August I sing “God save the queen ...”

What motivated you to take to fiction writing? How does the trio of fiction, fantasy and romance find space in your writings?
Fantasy romance is my absolute favourite genre; I love reading books under this category. And now, I just find it amazing to create illusions for my readers, tinkle them with a unique buzz and bring the unimaginable romance to reality. The thrill of developing scenes with spookiness, wantonly exhibiting the physicality and connection between two characters and taking it to an extreme edge combined with creating characters with incredible yet believable powers is in itself an inspiration, a drive. I want my stories to remain with my readers for a long time, even after they’ve put the book away.

Is fiction writing popular in Pakistan? How do you view yourself among the many Pakistani authors who choose to write about the realities of Pakistan’s society, culture and politics instead of delving into fiction?
Actually, No! I didn’t know about this earlier but when I wrote ‘Equinox’ (my debut novel) one of my friends pointed this out, informing me that I happen to be the first Pakistani (living in Pakistan) author to acknowledge the fantasy fiction genre in my writing. I view myself as a helmsman, slowly steering the masses to ‘writing’ rather than ‘ranting’, which has a completely different vibe to it. Hitting ‘publish’ (worldwide) for my book ‘Equinox’ (a young adult fantasy romance) has been a small step taken by me. Becoming a trendsetter is an amazing feeling!

What does your writing convey? Is it a medium for social and individual transformation?
Social transformation carries a very deep meaning to it. I didn’t know I was conveying any message through my writing when I started writing ‘Equinox’. I began writing because I love it. I wrote to entertain and provide a kind of thrill to my readers. I write because I want people to read about my characters, and fall in love with them the way I have. But, when I started writing short stories to free myself from the writer’s block, I realized they do sometimes carry a strong message, however, that is not intentional.  I don’t focus on the message and then script a story, the message involuntarily presents itself. I find my balance, tranquillity, happiness and peace in no other as much I do in writing. Can that be called ‘individual transformation’, I’m not sure!

What sort of issues do your writings deal with?
You have hit home with that question. I’m too blatant in approach; I don’t hold back anything in my writing and that most of the times triggers extreme behaviours from some. Other than that, being a mother, the only woman in the house, taking care of two and a half men & working full time drains me out completely which affects my writing immensely. But, mostly I try to shut down the world around me. Close everything; be immersed in my writing world.

Your debut novel ‘Equinox’ is quite popular on social media. Readers would like to know more about it.
The Equinox journey was overwhelming! ‘Equinox’ is still not acceptable by so called traditional publishers in Pakistan. It has some snippets of adult content, so that was a major matter of worry for me, but thanks to my friends who believed in my work and encouraged me to get it published. Thanks to the ‘sisterhood of Sophians’ across the globe that I was able to make it as a published international author. I met Ami Gandhi Sharma in my school’s Facebook group and when she learnt that I had written a book and was going through some hard times in getting it published in Pakistan, she very easily stepped in as a fairy godmother along with Avani Gautam (also from Sophia), Hitesh Budhappati and Tasneem Sara (author of One night stand) and made my dream come true.  Rest is history. Equinox was an educative experience for me.

Your take on the present scenario of fiction writing in Pakistan? How do you envision its future?
Fiction writing is not much popular in Pakistan. Let me also say that English Fiction writing in Pakistan is mostly underground-not exhibited to the masses, simply, because the world doesn’t want to read stories on fantasy, romance, or a chick flick written by Pakistani authors. I fear we have been stereotyped, hence, I don’t see much happening at present. I have tried my bit though. So waiting to see how it works out in the long run.

Your upcoming writing projects.
Presently I’m working on multiple projects which are in the pipeline and each one is absolutely unique. One of them is ‘Thunder and Lightning’, which is a work of fiction and an adult read. The sequel of Equinox series, ‘Explosion’ is also due to be released by mid next year. I’m also re-releasing a revised version of Equinox hopefully by the end of this year. Meanwhile, I have written two short stories as well, one is ‘Stay awake for me’. This story was also published earlier this year in eFiction India’s magazine under the title ‘A night to remember’. The other short story is called ‘Invasion’ that majorly focuses on issues such as child marriage, religious extremism, intolerance and violence against women – all concurrent issues that the world is concerned about.

What are your dreams for Pakistan? Do you see it as a multi-cultural, diverse and secular state in the future?
Pakistan started as a multicultural state (that is the reason why our grandparents stayed here after partition in 1947) but unfortunately the religious extremism in some has ruined it. The youth of Pakistan are very much liberal in their approach and I do see it becoming more diverse and multicultural ... although, it is a long journey as yet.

Check out Heena Jadav Sunil’s Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/heenajadavsunill?ref=br_tf


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