Baby Steps – My Journey To Publication

Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life –  Robert Louis Stevenson

I think the tenor of my life changed with the advent of the Iranian revolution, when as a ten year old I lost the exuberance of childhood and the warmth of my loved ones.

Urma, my protagonist was born the moment I exited Iran – a country that was not my birthplace, and yet my home. The first sketch of Urma was etched on the paper during the summer of 1989 and yet lost in the vagaries of everyday life, as I jostled studies, career, marriage and later motherhood.

It was yet another life changing moment that drove home my father’s advice of following one’s dreams, aspiring and working towards achieving them. Urma, again rose like a phoenix from the tangle of my everyday existence, nurtured by a lot of love, labour and sacrifice.  And not to forget the frustration that seemed to stretch till eternity as words eluded me. After five laborious years, the Urma that lived in my mind metamorphed into a novel.

Before delving on the novel itself, I would like to answer a question that I have been often asked i.e. why Iran of all places. My answer is…

I remember walking with my dad, mom & sisters on Pehlvi Street, Tehran eating my favourite – bastani falioda.

I remember our Iranian friends, so very cultured and yet extremely modern.

I remember huge sacs of fresh pistachios that landed at our doorstep by happy patients of father.

I remember the lazy coastal town of Chaloos that I had fallen in love with – one of the most beautiful places with green mountains on one side of the road and caspian on the other.

I love Iran and I have extreme adulation for their culture. That was Iran as it existed and Iranians as I knew them. I wanted people to have a glimpse of that Iran which is only a history today.

Coming to the book, my protagonist Urma Behdad is a strong woman whose life gets unwittingly changed by the course of history.  People love and lose yet love again. Only, Urma is different. Her emotional clock stopped with the revolution of Iran as she fled the country without her love.  The book traces her life in the backdrop of the revolution.

All my women characters are strong and successful. I believe, strength is inherent to women and I always celebrate being a woman myself. But the world is rife with women who are overburdened with troubles, unfavorable circumstances, lack of opportunities, oppression or external forces like wars etc. I truly believe that a woman has the power of rising above her circumstances. She only needs to reconnect with her inner strength and sometimes one needs a catalyst to do that. Urma, is written with the perspective of providing that inspiration. This book is dedicated to all those Urma’s who have loved and lost and have never found love again!

The manuscript during the publishing phase, reached hands of Gen. Sec. of Urdu Press Club, India and her got my permission to translate it into Urdu with the aim of inspiring many more people. It was done in a record time and a limited edition hard bound was released along with English in India. Urdu Press Club has nominated it for an award to be announced in November.

This is today. But my baby steps towards publication didn’t have only ‘ups’ and smiles.… there have been many ‘downs’ as well! ‘Down’ during my writing phase, when my mind was plagued with writers block and I couldn’t write for weeks. And when I finished writing my novel, the next ‘down’ was the critique from my editor in California giving me a set of instructions that sounded Greek to me as I am an MBA and an advertising professional and not a trained writer. Writing was a need for me. So, I enrolled in the London School of Journalism to make sense of it all and learn the craft of writing. It was a great decision, I think. Then I wrote the drafts again. And was euphoric when my editor gave a go ahead too. Next ‘down’- set of rejections pouring from agents in UK and US with various reasons… either the project was not what they were looking for or the backdrop of Iran was too sensitive for them.

Either way, they were rejections. And then, I decided to print myself. So I did research and self published on Amazon through CreateSpace. Meanwhile I kept querying other publishers from India and around the same time I found a publisher in India, interested in publishing my manuscript but he was not a big publisher to be able to distribute worldwide. Hence, I gave him rights for India and Middle East. I found a distributor locally. So, the books reached the stores and I had a great launch in India with well-known dignitaries and in Dubai by the Indian Consul to UAE and well received. Book signing and road shows waiting in September. For me, a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing turned out to be a great learning experience. Being a control freak, in publishing also, I am taking baby steps – so, I am focusing on local market and India for now. I gave up looking for a publisher in UK and US as the markets are out of reach for me. I am still querying for an agent, and unless I find a good agent to represent me, I will not touch other markets. I will visit Women Fiction Writers conference in Matera to find agents for publishing it in Italian.

I believe in ‘today’ and what fuels my drive is my fear of the line -‘if tomorrow never comes’ and this keeps me going. I try to pack as much as I can in my ‘today’.

Deeba breathes advertising during the day and writes at night. She lives in Dubai, UAE with her husband, three kids and one hyperactive Maltese. She spent her childhood in Iran, where her father worked as an ENT surgeon. She has first-hand experience of the Shah’s reign and the Iranian revolution. This gives her a unique sense of perspective into the events that unfolded and of course having lived in Iran, she has had the chance of closely observing the Iranian society and its culture.