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A Conversation with Dilruba Z. Ara, author of ‘A List of Offences’

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Dilruba Z. AraDilruba Z. Ara was born in Bangladesh. Nurtured on Greek mythology by her father, and hearing Indian fairy  tales as bedtime stories from her mother, Dilruba had her first story published when she was eight years old. While in university at the age of twenty, she met  and married her husband, a Swedish Air Force officer, and moved to Sweden, where she obtained degrees in English, Swedish, Classical Arabic and linguistics. She now teaches Swedish and English in Sweden. An accomplished, exhibited artist, her paintings have been used as the covers for the Bangladeshi, Greek, and U.S. editions of A LIST OF OFFENCES.

Visit her website at www.dilrubazara.com.

A List of OffencesQ: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Dilruba.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I am multi-published.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

The first edition of the book was published by the University Press  Ltd,

Dhaka – the leading publishing house in Bangladesh.  When I was ready with the manuscript, I had sent it to a few agents in the USA. Within a few days, three called back. I chose the most passionate one – Doris Michaels. She loved the book, and sent it out to quite a few publishers in the USA, who all found the book very beautiful, relevant, etc., but too slow paced.  I had worked very hard with each word so I didn’t want to cut it down to fit their demand.  Nor did I want to self-publish it, as I was confident of the quality of my book, and I knew that someone would take it sooner or later. So, I took it to The University Press Ltd, and met the publisher myself.  Upon reading the letters from various US editors he took the manuscript from me and asked me to wait. I waited outside the closed door. After about three hours he appeared there with the contract. This is how it started. Then it was sold to Spain and Greece.  By the way, only this week I heard from my Spanish publisher (Maeva) that they would like to renovate the pocketbook and e-book rights of the title.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

One year.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

Strangely enough, I felt somewhat detached from it. It took a while before I could understand what had really happened. But I must say, the travel there was far more exciting than the final accomplishment. Perhaps one could describe it as a feeling of anti-climax.

Celebration wise, I took my family out for dinner. I also fed some beggars by my father’s graveyard.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I hired a PR firm in Dhaka, and I also started sending a copy of my book to different newspapers, as well as to people and friends I knew would be of help.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Up until the book was published, I always introduced myself as a teacher. But when the book was published, my friends began to refer to me as a writer, and I gradually grew into that new identity. My writing has not changed much ‒ I am probably more aware now of what the book market wants.

As a published writer, I have easy access to other people in the same line.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

 I was surprised that the publishing industry has so little understanding of general readers. Most of them seem to assume that average readers are not intelligent enough to appreciate a multi-layered book.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

I can make my voice heard, and thus I can work towards making the world a better place for the disadvantaged ones.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Trust yourselves. Choose a topic that you are familiar with. The harder you work, the luckier you will get.

Thank you!

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