British-Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif walks us through his creative space
And his process
Mohammed Hanif: “I don’t have a fixed schedule, but I like to write in the morning and edit in the afternoon. After dropping my son to school and walking our dog, Paco, I go through my notebooks, browse the Internet—Like some posts, retweet stuff…things like that. Then I pick up one of the many Rizla ball pens on my desk, only to realise it (like all the others) doesn’t work, and go through the house looking for one I can use to scribble something. Then it’s usually another school run, followed by lunch and a nap. When I surface, I start looking for the piece of paper I was initially scribbling on.”
A cardboard trophy called Portrait Of A Goat.
His reading glasses.
Some of the books Hanif is currently reading.
A cupboard containing various editions of Hanif’s books
Sharjil Baloch’s portrait of Paco looks over Hanif’s writing desk.
“I write in longhand; notes, pages after pages. Once I suspect I have something going, I move to the computer. Then come printouts, rewrites, and more time in front of the screen. I can’t really edit on a computer though, and I confess that I go through a little forest before I get to the final draft.”
“Here, in Karachi, I do have a room at home that I like to write in. It has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and an old dining table that now serves as my desk, on which lie books I intend to read, more printouts, half a dozen notebooks and to-do lists. On the wall are two portraits of Paco, done by the artist Sharjil Baloch. There’s also a cupboard full of junk. I like to move from room to room as I write, before ending up at a library or coffee shop. I find it hard to stay in one place. Take A Case Of Exploding Mangoes—I wrote it in London, hopping between pubs and cafes, with short stints at home. And while I did shut myself away for a few days as I worked on the edits, I usually like to be around family and friends when I am working.”
“I also constantly read. It’s taken me seven years to write Red Birds; I must have finished hundreds of books in this time. Writers who don’t read while writing say they don’t want to be influenced by anyone. I go down on my knees and thank my stars if I get influenced by something good.”
Red Birds (Bloomsbury India) hits stands this month
Photographs: Tapu Javeri