Let’s be honest, we all think we have ONE novel in us. Buy the laptop, head out to a coffee shop, open up Word and off you go. Sounds relatively easy? But even if you do finish a manuscript — what then?

Today’s publishing world is more confusing than ever — ebooks, self-publishing, online publishing, Goodreads, Amazon, ISBN, to pay or not to pay? Matthew Reilly and Fifty Shades of Grey — all have taken non-traditional publishing paths. As the world of publishing keeps changing, we thought we would chat with an experienced 4101 writer, Mehreen Ahmed, about her story.

Mehreen is ‘everywoman’. She has brought up a family, had a career and decided now it is her creative time. She commandeered her hubby’s computer with an idea, okay several ideas, and no publishing experience. A vociferous reader, she says she is inspired by James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Eimear McBride. She now has published several pieces. She has written a travel book (Snapshots 2015), a short story collection (The Blotted Line 2013), two novellas (Jacaranda Blues, 2011 and Moirae, 2015) — not to mention book reviews and academic pieces. Each showcases a different genre/voice/length/style. Clearly, Mehreen is not a one-trick author.

But writing is not merely a creative outlet. These days a writer needs to be a businessperson. Publishing requires patience, research and promotional skills. The Blotted Line (her collected short stories) took five years to write and one year to publish. Once the writing was done, then she needed a publisher. Mehreen decided a Print-On-Demand publisher worked best for her; the process is “fairly easy” and her books are readily available as either paperbacks or ebooks. Thank goodness for the internet; she meets with her publishers online and information is exchanged via email. Speaking of the internet — it is now an invaluable tool in the third step of the publishing process.

Mehreen warns that an unexpected and time consuming task is promotion. She spends approximately 10 hours a week promoting her books; she organises reviews and remains active online at sites such as LinkedIn and Goodreads. Such promotion pays off as her books are available in Australia, the UK and USA. So why are her books on library shelves in Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge libraries? Because she writes about Bangladeshi-Australian cultures; and The Blotted Line embraces European cultures too.

Mehreen’s success has given her the writing bug. At the moment, she is busy writing a full-length novel, Carpenter’s Daughter (working title). She is also developing a play script that she hopes to sell to Hollywood. So what prompts Mehreen to keep writing — clearly it’s a lot of work? “Books are a national heritage of the countries where they were published. They become a part of their precious collection. Writers make history every time they publish and their books become a part of that literary history. Just imagine 400 years later someone will discover a book from a library and use it in research. That in itself is a romantic feeling.”

This should be reason enough for people to write.
That’s her opinion anyway.

Words by Toni Johnson-Woods |