Interview: Manaam Fatima, a Self-Published Author at the Age of 19
Manaam Fatima is currently pursuing an English Literature degree from Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University. In 2019, she self-published her debut novel, Thirst with Blue Rose publishers. She is a voracious reader and a slam poet.
Thirst is available on Amazon, Flipkart, Shopclues and the Blue Rose publication site.
Q1. You published your book, Thirst at the age of 19. What is the peculiar advantage and disadvantage of being a published author at such a young age?
Getting published at a young age has mixed blessings. Being titled as a published author is itself a big thing and to gain the same at the age of 19 is even bigger because people start to view you as a more determined dreamer and a resolute person. These are the characteristics that professionalism demands in one’s personality. So, my books speak very loudly about these aspects on my behalf.
But at the same time, you’re viewed as more vulnerable and naive. People tend to think that as a young writer you don’t have much knowledge or much exposure to the business world. You tend to get exploited easily.
Q2. Myra Neyman, the protagonist of your novel is a psychologically ill patient who dreams of becoming an author of a best seller. Are there any ethical challenges in writing a character suffering from mental illness?
When I decided to make my protagonist suffer from Hallucination, I knew from day one that I have to research a lot about the disorder. This is because you can’t write or speak about a Mental Disorder or any illness for that matter without complete knowledge because not only does it make your story less credible but also it pushes it towards a negative stride. I feel you can fantasize a story but not an illness because it can have a huge impact on the audience and your book will be blamed for it. So, if you’re struggling to comprehend a particular illness, it’s better to chuck it out than to fabricate it with your imagination.
Q3. How did you stay self-motivated while writing your book? What is your creative process?
I believe in having a vision board with inspirational quotes or even words that can help you stay self-motivated. I remember painting the cover of Thirst and framing it against my wall so that each day I passed through my room, I told myself that I have a bestseller to write.
I am a travel fanatic so there is no other source for my imagination than a good long drive at night. It really helps me visualize the scenes in my novel as a movie playing in my head.
Q4. What attracted you to choose self-publishing over the traditional route of a publishing house or a literary agent?
As mentioned above, one of the disadvantages of being a young writer is that you don’t have much experience. I didn’t have it either. I just remember that the impatient child in me wanted the story to come out of me soon. So, I couldn’t wait for the response from the traditional publishing houses (which usually take 6 months to evaluate your manuscript) and went with self publishing instead. I realized the importance of patience then. Patience is THE MOST important part of being a writer.
Q5. Rupi Kaur who self-published ‘Milk and honey’ in 2014 has said, “…people would tell me the moment you self-publish you’re just locking the doors and no one is going to take you seriously.” Did you receive similar reactions from your family and friends?
I didn’t receive the similar response from the outside; but I did realize it myself eventually. My family and friends were very supportive and I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from them. But it was my internal feeling that made me realize, later in the process, that to be taken seriously, you need to be accepted; to be taken seriously, you need to be differentiated from others and that can only happen if you’re accepted. Again, patience is the key ingredient that can push you towards acceptance.
So, you might get rejected once, maybe twice, but if you have patience, you’ll be accepted once which will supersede all the times you were rejected. As Paulo Coelho likes to put it : “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
Q6. How much independence did you exercise as the author in the self-publishing process? Is that independence a benefit or a curse?
I fear I might end up breaking this myth that the self-publishing process gives you more independence. I feel that the reason why it’s an age old myth is because most of the Self-publishing Houses have this tagline ‘You Write. We Publish’. But the question we need to ask is how much autonomy does the writer have in the publishing process. Everything in the platter is served so presentably that you can’t help but believe ‘you will have the autonomy’. But once you get on board, you realize that the ‘will’ you had thought earlier of was a mere assumption which is proved wrong at the end. For instance, you think that you have the full autonomy to decide your cover page but at the end, it’s the Self-publishing house that becomes the creator of your idea.
Q7. Does the self-publishing company take responsibility for the editing and cover design of the book or Is that the work of the author?
They do ask the author what he/she has in mind regarding the cover. But again as stated above, they are the creators. Even if you like the cover suggestion that they created, it is NOT the replica of what you had in your mind.
Regarding the editing, they take up the editing and formatting work. But it’s advisable to proof-read your book again after they have edited to make sure your idea wasn’t changed in any way.
Q8. Is self-publishing cost-intensive on the part of the writer?
I feel like shouting a big YES. The reason why I am saying this is because it seems you’ll get all the services favourable to your wallet. But the real question is not whether you get all the required services but whether these services have quality. So, was the high cost you bore worth the services?
Q9. What is the most unexpected aspect about the self-publishing process?
I think I’ll append a beautiful metaphor used in Gone With The Wind to answer this question.
“I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it. And when Ashley came riding along, so handsome, so different, I put that suit on him and made him wear it whether it fitted him or not. And I wouldn’t see what he really was. I kept on loving the pretty clothes—and not him at all.”
Q10. Is there any myth or misconception about self-publishing that you would like to burst?
Self-publishing definitely eases the complex task of getting a book published by offering all the services required in the process. But choosing self-publishing entirely for this reason would be wrong. As mentioned above, the author doesn’t enjoy as much independence as is perceived by most of us in the self-publishing process.
Q11. What advice do you have for an author attempting to self-publish their book?
My only advice is to be alert and choose the self publisher extremely wisely. I am saying this because most of the companies make use of the digital world and end up duping the authors by presenting themselves as credible. Go for a self publisher only when you have heard positive reviews about them.
Q12. For your next novel, will you choose a traditional publishing house or continue with self-publishing?
I’ve learnt from my experience that being patient is the ultimate goal to being a successful novelist. So, I aspire to go for traditional publishing for my next novel, maybe to get an experience of it as well. Then I would be at a better position to judge which is better.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the author and her projects, check out her Instagram account: