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Meet Suman Mallick

Today we’d like to introduce you to Suman Mallick.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Suman. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
This particular novel was inspired by a short story of mine, which itself was inspired when Malala Yousafzai was shot in a school bus for being an activist for female education in 2012. When Malala was shot, I found myself caring deeply for her, but just as much if not more about the untold stories of many other girls like her who suffer and sometimes die under very similar circumstances, but with nowhere near the same level of coverage or outrage. My initial short story was based on a girl like that; she was sharp but ultimately a bit hapless (as a pre-pubescent teen faced with a hopeless fate.) She tries to cope with her situation in a self-destructive way. But in the novel, that young girl has survived and she is grown up, married, and in the US.

I started writing it while enrolled in my MFA program at Portland State University, in the winter of 2015 and finished it by the summer of 2016. So this novel, most of which takes place in Texas (with backstory in Pakistan), was actually written in its entirety in Oregon.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s been a long, slow journey. I started with the usual agent-querying process after completing my MFA and moving to Austin, and that takes time, as you know. The agents who expressed interest all ultimately passed, and they gave me three or four different reasons as to why they didn’t think they could pitch it to the big, New York-based publishing houses. After a year of dancing that slow waltz, I started submitting to the small presses directly. Once the novel became a finalist for an award, there was a level of renewed interest, but I failed to really click with the first publishing house that liked the book, so I waited until my current publisher (Atmosphere Press) came along.

So from the start of the process until final acceptance, it took about three years, and then almost another year from then until now, when it is about to be released. Which, I know, is not that unusual for a debut, although I must admit there were times in between when I felt like giving up on the process altogether and just writing for myself like I always have.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I set aside two-hour blocks on weeknights after my daughter and our dog go to sleep and the house is finally quiet, and two-hour blocks each on Saturdays and Sundays unless I’m traveling or have some other pressing obligation; and at the end of the week, if I have actually been able to write, revise, or edit during at least half of those blocks, then I check that week off as having been a productive one. There’s always something going on that demands a couple of hours and requires me to expend a block, but if I can do so by discussing writing or on something else writing-related, it’s always time well spent. Besides, so much of the work of writing, for me at least, gets done when I’m away from my desk, that the blocks of time are just for the discipline aspect of it. So I’ve learned over time not to fret over missed blocks.

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