Karvan showcases Rakhshanda Zahir, author of A Nostalgic Silence and co-author of the anthology Dreams and Delusions. Currently pursuing her studies in journalism and mass communication at the University of Peshawar, Rakhshanda Zahir brings a unique perspective to her writing endeavors.

Q1. What inspired you to become a writer, and how did you begin your journey as an author?

Ans: Well, if I reflect on it, I wouldn’t say that I’ve been inspired by something or someone, but I’ve always been obsessed with this country. I have a deep love for Pakistan and always wanted to write something that celebrates Pakistan and Pakistanis. Writing has always been a part of me; I used to write short stories when I was in school. In 2021, I contributed to an anthology book called Dreams and Delusions, and that’s how my journey as an author unfolded. I would rather say that my journey began with my patriotic inclinations, as my intention has always been to tell stories from Pakistan through the power of my pen.

Q2. What themes or messages do you often explore in your writing, and why are they significant to you?

Ans: With my debut, A Nostalgic Silence, I attempted to explore themes of physical pain that humans endure in their lives, stories of deceit, and our corrupt system. As a 21-year-old GenZ living in Pakistan, I find it crucial to address such narratives because I strongly believe that Pakistan holds a lot of potential to overcome the crisis it faces today. A Nostalgic Silence offers a contemporary perspective on Pakistan, presenting both its positive and negative aspects. It delves into themes of violence, the ruling elite, poverty, broken friendships, bullying, and our overall systemic decline. However, my book also imparts a message of hope—hope that revitalizes faith in the country and fosters a sense of tranquility to persevere despite life’s challenges. A Nostalgic Silence is imbued with a message of peace, harmony, and resilience.

Q3. Could you tell us about the research involved in writing your latest book? What were some of the most interesting discoveries or challenges you encountered?

Ans: Living in 21st-century urban Pakistan, writing came as a pleasant surprise to me. My latest book, A Nostalgic Silence, reflects my perceptions, opinions, and life experiences. Writing this book has been a fulfilling journey. The research aspect of my book constitutes only 20 percent; the rest is all about brainstorming. My book revolves around two countries, as it tells the story of an Afghan refugee. Being my first book, I wouldn’t say I encountered significant challenges thus far. However, one aspect I find challenging is promoting awareness about my book and encouraging people to read it. Despite this, there have been interesting discoveries during the writing process. I’ve uncovered fascinating facts about Pakistan, showcasing it as one of the largest democracies globally. Pakistan’s historical openness to refugees, as exemplified by initiatives like the Kartarpur corridor, highlights its ability to coexist with diverse communities. Despite its challenges, Pakistan has the potential for economic, democratic, and financial independence.

Q4. How do you approach character development? Are your characters based on people you know, entirely fictional, or a combination of both?

Ans: Developing characters has been a daunting task. My characters are not entirely fictional, nor are they based on people I know; rather, they are a reflection of myself—of who I am, shaped by life experiences, reactions, and vulnerabilities. I draw influence and inspiration from my emotions and personal journey. The protagonist, Aafiya, for instance, required significant mental and physical preparation. My characters embody diversity and a nuanced approach to life, reflecting a blend of personal experiences and fictional elements.

Q5. What do you hope readers will take away from your novel?

Ans: I hope readers will relate to my characters and find enjoyment in reading their stories of resilience, strength, and fortitude. My novel emphasizes the importance of self-reliance and hard work in effecting change. I aim for my audience to connect deeply with the narrative, utilize their resources wisely, and maintain hope amidst adversity. Ultimately, my novel imparts lessons of hope and resilience, guiding readers through times of chaos with a sense of empowerment.

Q6. Publishing a book in Pakistan poses challenges. What hurdles did you face when publishing your novel?

Ans: Publishing platforms in Pakistan present significant challenges for aspiring writers like myself. While I haven’t personally faced disappointments in publishing my book, I’ve witnessed the struggles of my colleagues. Publishing entails considerable financial investment, with uncertain outcomes. As a student, I’ve realized the importance of financial stability in the publishing process. Although publishing has been challenging, I remain hopeful for positive outcomes.

Q7. How do you balance writing with other responsibilities such as studies or office tasks?

Ans: Balancing writing with other responsibilities is essential. I prioritize my academic commitments during weekdays and dedicate weekends to writing. Saturdays and Sundays are devoted to reading and jotting down ideas. Maintaining this balance ensures that I fulfill both my academic and creative pursuits effectively.

Q8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Ans: My advice to aspiring writers is to persevere and never give up. Embrace the process of writing and rewriting, and explore a diverse range of genres. Observe the world around you, as there are stories waiting to be told everywhere, especially in Pakistan. Dare to dream big, be vulnerable, and challenge conventions in your writing journey.

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