{Blog Tour} Interview with Dilruba Z. Ara, author of 'A List of Offences'

Dilruba 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.

About the Book:

Daria, the heroine of the book is born under unusual circumstances that cause the people of her small village to gossip; yet as she grows she becomes an intelligent, sensitive and spiritual beauty that one feels is destined for a perfect life. After a flood, a boy is found on the bank of her river. Daria’s parents adopt the boy, and Daria befriends him. As they grow Daria begins to inhabit Mizan’s dreams and thoughts, but a sudden meeting with anglophile Ali Baba brings everything crashing down around Daria. She forgets her upbringing and falls madly in love with him and after her hasty wedding, she moves to Baba Lodge and is brought into the suffocating life of Ali Baba and his family.

Here she lives a life unloved and psychologically abused until she gets pregnant. Now she begins to hope that finally her potential for love, luck and happiness will be realised through her new-born child. Yet relations between Daria and her in-laws deteriorate further. Daria finds herself torn between the religious mandate of Islam to stay with and obey her husband and the call of her intellect and instincts to flee and forge a different life for her daughter.

Purchase your copy at Amazon.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

When you are inside your society you tend to be blind to realties, but when I moved to Sweden I started to look at my society with other eyes and began to evaluate it, and also question myself why Bengali/Indian girls allow themselves to be black-mailed into accepting their lot. One of my friends from Bangladesh was in love with a Hindu boy, but her family forced her to marry her cousin. Ultimately she stood up, divorced him, and now lives in Sweden with another man. Her family has disowned her. When Fadime, a Kurdish girl, was murdered, by her father in Sweden, it occurred to me that the main problem is the inherited mindset of traditional families, which follows you wherever you go. This perverse trend is becoming a global illness. Girls from traditional families are bullied, beaten and, in the worst cases, even murdered if they try to break with accepted family patterns, no matter where they are. But it’s more severe in third world countries, where the state doesn’t vouch for your welfare. But it’s more severe in third world countries, where the state doesn’t vouch for your welfare. That welfare depends on your family, and very often families misuse their power. I wanted to highlight that through the story of Daria.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

It was difficult at times, as I wanted to write about a serious social problem, but still retain the allure of a fiction. I think my experience as an artist and poet  has helped me in the process. As for your second question – the best advice is to read, read and read similar books.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

The first edition of the book was published by the University Press  Ltd, Dhaka- the leading publishing house in Bangladesh. In terms of finding a publisher, when I was ready with the manuscript, I 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.  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.  In parts of South America, it even hit top ten list together with Kite Runner and  A Thousand Splendid Suns... Quite a few English copies made abroad, and the book was reviewed in different newspapers and magazines including in Chattahoochee Review - USA. It also has been used as project material and studied at different universities. I have felt very happy about that, but at the same time I have been feeling restless as the English version has not been available to general readers outside Bangladesh . So, I decided to have my rights back. My publisher is a kind man so he understood me.  Now I have published it independently.  By the way, only this week I heard from my Spanish publisher ‒ ­ they want to renovate the pocketbook and e-book rights of the title.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Yes, that there are publishers like mine, who still believes that the world needs all kinds of books – not just fast-paced ones.

Q: Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?

 Strangely enough, I felt somewhat detached from it all. It took a while before I could understand what really had happened. I must say, the journey was far more exciting than arriving. Perhaps one could call it anti-climax.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

The manuscript of my second novel, which is a love story set against the liberation war of Bangladesh, is now being read by a traditional publishing house in Dhaka. I have no idea when it will be published. I have drafted two more novels, and hope to be ready with at least one of them in 2014.

Q: Fun question: How does your book contribute to making this world a better place?

Hopefully, this will make people aware of this global trend whereby girls are  being bullied into silence and coercion in the name of family honor. If at least one girl can find her voice by reading this book, the book will have made its contribution to a better world.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

After thousand years of humiliation and degradation, many women have forgotten that they have the power within them to fight against injustice. Daria’s story proves that anyone can take a stand and fight back.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you for inviting me!  I hope this interview will make people curious about A List of offences, for even though it deals with a disgraceful social problem it also comes with a powerful story and at the same time shows the beauty of Bengal. It’s a book full of refreshing images, sounds and smells. 

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