My First Time... with Haroun Khan
Haroun Khan is a writer proud of his South London roots. His background is in tech, having graduated from Imperial College with a Computer Science degree. He then consulted extensively in the sector across the US and Europe, and has published two technical books for his industry. Currently he is the owner/founder of JRPass.com, an online retailer specialising in travel in Japan.
The Study Circle is his debut novel and is based upon his own experiences growing up on a council estate.
We are delighted that Haroun will be joining us at The Riff Raff on Thursday 7 February. Come and join us to hear him read and mine him for wisdom.
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.
I’ve had the itch to write for many years, but never had enough time or financial stability to devote myself to giving it a go.
Growing up with the media obsession with Muslims, I was waiting for someone to actually write something that would bear some credible resemblance to our lives which are far away from tabloid headlines. Year after year, nothing did get published and this, along with the biting urge to write, forced me to give it a go. I thought it would be a massive failure in my life if I didn’t at least try.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
I don’t know whether it would have changed my writing but I was naïve to the market forces behind publishing. It’s not good enough just to write something special (although that is a prerequisite), but you are subject to the whims and fancies of agents and publishers.
Networking is a lot more important than I realised, and generally the industry is risk averse. They ask themselves: Where can I place this book? Has anything similar been successful before? However good it is, where is the demand? Ultimately, they normally err on the side of caution, and make the best choice for their own specific job/position.
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What did you enjoy most about writing it? Bringing something to life that hasn’t been seen/exposed in our current writing scene. It feels like you are breaking new ground and is very gratifying.
And the worst part?
The inevitable downside of the upside, in that you are writing something at great pain to yourself that is very close to the bone, that you know will be an uphill task to get seen in the current climate.
Also, the isolation can be really difficult especially when you are a new writer with no link and are trying to create something different.
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
As with other writers, my flat tends to be spotless whenever I am avoiding writing. Also in-depth google research on the most incidental subjects.
I once spent a week researching how to build an orrery (yes, look it up, I didn’t know what it was either when I started!)
The book that changed you?
It didn’t change me but Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, and other pieces of that era’s Russian Lit, really struck a chord. Some of the issues seemed very familiar and I wondered why we weren’t producing pieces of that work that examined similar issues in our current complicated context.
Your pump up song?
I pretty much need monastic silence. Even when working in a café I take noise cancelling headphones along with me.
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get published?
Write with integrity and as bravely as you can as any holding back will show. The odds of getting published are so slim that you need to give it everything you have and create the best piece of work possible.
Also, once you are done I would give yourselves a couple months away from the work so that you can come back and see it with fresh eyes before you decide to submit. It’s easy to get lost in the woods.
Why do you write?
Writing is a compulsion, a need whether that makes me happy or sad, I just know that I need to do it.