Farhana Khalique: Pretty Prose You Can Drink

Sunetra Senior Monday 25th January 2016 14:17 EST

A powerful fusion of the lyrical and the sparse, the evocative and the silences, the regional and the grand, emerging writer Khalique’s short stories effuse the sort of tight talent that subtly but surely addicts: ‘As we set off, splitting into smaller groups to better navigate the narrow space and passersby ’ reads one of her pieces, detailing an otherwise typical day trip to Southend – it was published as one of a handful stories in The Asian Writer’s debut collection Happy Birthday To Me, in a celebration of contemporary British-Asian fiction -  ‘the winds renewed their attention, licking at hands and coattails, breathing in our ears (...) we watched them make snaking mists on the water’s surface; ghost water’. 


“I do love the brevity of the short story form,” Khalique told us. “It really packs a punch. You can convey so many big ideas and feelings in one, magnificent burst. It also feels more natural compared to modern life; that sort of fast-paced, social media-influenced lifestyle is a common experience.” Indeed part of the artist’s charm is her own multi-dimensional milieu. Also working as a regular voice over artist for the Channel 4 Group (a continuity announcer on Channel 4 and More 4), while teaching further education level English and making use of her 1st in English Literature from Queen Mary University, the spirited young wordsmith challenges the age-old writer’s paradox of trying to live a diverse life and finding the time to draw from it: “playing with and re-discovering language and feeling the pull of endless possibilities is important, and I’m excited to see where it all takes me.” Feeling inspired long after our time was up, the curiosity of wanting to explore an inner world seemed worthy of pursuing for all professionals, and not just for those producing art.

  Have you always been interested in fiction writing?

Yes since Primary School! I have been picking it up more seriously recently, and am feeling more galvanised as a writer. There are so many ways to develop your craft. For example, last year at a workshop chaired by The Asian Writer’s editor Farhana Shaikh, there was this great idea of passing around a bag full of objects – I picked out a small, single packaged Mint Imperial – and what you do is create a quick 6 word story which you can then delve into later.

Does your writing have a central theme?

 What I find fascinating are moments; slices of life. My time frames and descriptions revolve around that. I am inspired by people’s inner conflicts and these particular colours. Life is so busy and it is precious when you can capture that. I am of course still working on and developing my themes as a growing writer. I hope to collaborate with others in the future too, and hopefully down the line compile my own book. However my main priority right now is to focus on honing the craft.

  In your brief story ‘Too Soon’, you’ve managed to balance description and dialogue: with this it is possible to become too obvious, or too understated. How did you tackle this?

It is different to some of my other stories because it actually has more dialogue v description, but conveying meaning through speech is a great way to quietly but clearly express your character’s feelings. It is tempting to think that what makes good writing is lots of flowery description, but toning it down and only communicating what you need to is good practice. Ask yourself what clues can I give to stoke my reader’s interest? It’s also more fun to read a story that encourages you to piece the plot together.

 What genres do you enjoy?

I like drama and literary fiction, but also chick lit and thrillers. I do enjoy what has been crafted and well-written. Writers who do that really grab my attention e.g. I enjoy early 20th century Modernist fiction: James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Jean Rhys, and Chekhov’s short stories. In terms of new literature, there is a new novel by Ayisha Malik, Sophia Khan is Not Obliged, which has been described as a Muslim Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Do you want to experiment with form?

I would definitely keep to the genre of drama/ literary fiction, but I would love to experiment with time and with space: for example flashbacks, dream sequences, elements of Magical Realism. The writer Haruki Murakami, for example, portrays modern day life in Japan often with a lot of pages that simply (but beautifully) describe a chap making a bowl of pasta, but then you also have these David Lynchian moments with characters going through walls...

What are some of your favourite creative tricks?

 I enjoy using visual prompts, sometimes even with fantastical monsters and creatures, but as I tell my classes at college, the most important technique is to keep it personal. The first story I wrote that was published had fairly generic characters. I had names such as Jane and Lydia, very Pride and Prejudice! But then as you become more confident, the nuance of your own experience comes into it. I started to draw more from my own cultural background and this makes it more original.

Finally, what would be your advice to other young aspiring artists?

 Don’t give up and surround yourself with positive people. 


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