Sunday, August 2, 2020

My Unexpected Author Journey: Guest Post by Khurrum Rahman

Khurrum Rahman:
My Unexpected Author Journey 

Authors are supposed to be worldly, well-spoken and able to hold court on various subjects with a firm grasp of the English language. I’m none of those things. I achieved an F grade for GCSE English and English Lit. Maybe achieved isn’t the right word. Becoming an Author was clearly not on my radar.

My failure in the subject never stopped me from writing. It was for my own entertainment and I enjoyed the process of spilling my fantasies onto a blank page. Similar to patting a toddler on the head, my wife, and the few friends I would show would come back to me with a glowing report. I knew it was biased. In the back of my mind there was doubt whether my stories were actually any good, but who cares, I was in the zone and enjoying the process. I never once believed that the character and world I was creating would have a wider audience.

I wasn’t expecting what happened over the next twelve months. At the time I was reading a lot of books by Stephen Leather, an author whose work I hugely admire. Like any fan would, I started to follow him on social media, not knowing how that simple action would change my life.

One day, out of the blue, Stephen sent me a direct message. He wrote that he was working on his next book which involved a Muslim character and he wanted to know if I would read over his first draft and advise if this character rang true. He chose me, possibly, because I was one of a few Muslims that were following him. It didn’t matter, I was buzzing with excitement. Stephen Leather! This best-selling author whose books I’ve devoured, is asking me, me, for advice.

Stephen emailed across the first draft and I spent a week going through it whilst making notes upon notes. I typed it all up, read over the notes a hundred times and then sent it back to him. A day or so later he replied back telling me how helpful it was. I was glowing in the knowledge that when his book is published, it would have a very small part of me in it. And that should have been that - But somewhere knocking around in my head was a thought. Maybe, just maybe Stephen Leather could return the favour.

I got back in touch with him and told him that I’m somewhat of an amateur writer and would love to know what he thought about my work. His reply was no nonsense but fair, telling me in no certain terms that everyone seems to think they have it in them to write a book, and in almost every case, they’re deluded. I could feel the incredulous shake of the head and the eye roll in his reply. But as his back had been scratched, he kindly agreed to look at my work.

The reply from Stephen came a week later.

I stared at the screen, reading and rereading his words, laughing to myself like a mad man. He told me that he loved it. That my characters felt real and my writing style was unique. He said that I had talent.


If that wasn’t enough to send me in a spin, Stephen informed me that he’d passed on my work, my shaky first manuscript, to his agent, who also loved it, and who wants to set up a meeting with me.

Seriously, what?!

Things moved quickly. Somehow I had myself a literary agent, and the book which I imagined would be for my eyes only, was bouncing from publisher to publisher. My friends and family, I think, were just as mystified as me. It was a strange time, exciting and nervy, wondering how far my luck would take me. I was turning up to work with my head in the clouds, but I dared not tell my colleagues in fear of jinxing it. I remember getting the call. Yeah, that call.

I remember meeting with HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins UK. Sitting in a large meeting room with views over the London skyline. In front of me was a glass of water which I didn’t dare touch in fear of spilling it. Around the table was my agent, editor, publicist, marketing and the executive publisher. Every eye was on me as they laid out the plan to promote my book. I honestly don’t think I heard a word of what they were saying, because for the first time, in my hand, was the first edition of East of Hounslow.

I couldn’t make sense of it and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I’d been riding the wave blindly allowing it to take me places where I never expected. If things weren’t already beautifully bizarre, East of Hounslow is now being published in the US, and I cannot wait for you all to meet Jay.


KHURRUM RAHMAN is a west London boy and he now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two sons. East of Hounslow is his first novel and the first in the Jay Qasim series.

1 comment:

HonoluLou said...

As a C and D student throughout my career at St. Bartholomew Elememtary School, this is very uplifting...great post!