Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Naim Haroon Sakhia about his new book, In WoMen We Trust, his career, and what inspired him to write this book.
Tell me a bit about who you are
By profession, I am an Attorney-at-Law representing client’s interests under the law in various legal forums, administrative agencies, and courts. I published multiple Urdu language short stories in the early ’90s in Pakistan’s leading magazines, before moving to the USA. After a long hiatus from writing, I wrote my debut English language novel ‘In Women We Trust’ inspired by real & unfortunate events that keep occurring in the name of the informal and corrupt parallel justice system, serving the whims and interests of the powerful at the expense of their dominated subjects, in many places across the globe. I am a frequent guest on talk radio shows all over the US with appearances on Fox News, iHeart Radio, Cable News Network Newsy.com, NBC LX, Yahoo News to name a few.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
It is hard to pinpoint an exact date & time. Urdu is my native language. Living in Pakistan, I starting writing (and publishing) fiction starting at the age of 16. My very first short story was published in a children’s magazine with very wide circulation (Taleem-o-Tarbiat). I submitted it to them without any expectation that it will be picked up. I was surprised and encourage when that happened. I continued to write in Urdu and kept getting published in Weekly Akhbar-e-Jehan and monthly Jasoosi Digest, both Urdu language publications with massive circulation.
Writing a novel in the English language occurred to me first in the year 2000 when I started pitching some story ideas to US Literary Agents in the year 2000. Almost all of them responded with encouraging words on the story ideas but declined representation without assigning any reason. My interest in writing was re-ignited in 2012 for no particular reason. The actual serious work of coming up with a story, writing an outline, developing characters, and putting them on paper started happening in 2015. Writing the book was a long process and then getting it ready for publication took several years before it became reality. So, it has been a long time coming.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Towards the end of 2015.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Started writing it in 2015. Completed in about a year. Found a publisher back in 2016 who opted for the book. However, they ran into financial difficulties & decided to not pursue the option. In 2019 found another publisher and now anxiously awaiting release on September 21, 2021.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write In WoMen We Trust?
As a practicing attorney in the US, I see the benefits of a functioning justice system. A courtroom is where an individual with limited resources can theoretically be on a level playing field in the eyes of the law against someone as mighty and resourceful as the US Government. This can happen despite vast differences in the resource available to each party.
I see quite the opposite in societies where the justice system does not serve its citizens well and that leads to a feeling of despair in its population in general and especially in those sections of the population who are marginalized anyway. Incidents of sham justice, if you can even label it as ‘justice’, are delivered on an informal basis in many societies where the formal justice system either does not exist or is very slow to respond to the need of the hour. People turn to these parallel mechanisms hoping to get justice. However, these informal systems can get manipulated by those who have power and resources.
Such parallel justice systems are easily corruptible and get subjugated by the powerful. One horrible example of such misuse came to light in Pakistan in early 2000. Unfortunately, that was not an isolated incident. Exposing the pattern and continuous recurrence of similar incidents all over the world was the motivation behind writing this book. Injustices done in the name of justice, even in developed societies occur and this book draws attention to the miscarriage of justice which can occur anywhere in the world.
What were your biggest challenges with writing In WoMen We Trust?
Writing characters who are real, keeping the focus on the story rather than the purpose behind writing it, keeping the flow of events fast-paced, and making them relatable to any reader who may be located anywhere in the world, even though the setup of the book is in a particular geographical location.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
The protagonist is a young female in a patriarchal society who was perhaps not treated equally to her male sibling by her parents and is now being asked to sacrifice herself for the alleged misdeeds of the very same brother who is facing the wrath of a powerful person in the society she lives in.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The antagonist in this novel is representative of anyone with power over others filled with the desire to dominate them and keep them subjugated.
What is the inciting incident of In WoMen We Trust?
Reading the actual book will be an excellent source to get this question answered.
What is the main conflict of In WoMen We Trust?
The dominance of those with power over those who are less fortunate. The imbalance of societal standing and possibility of abuse by one with the capacity to inflict harm and injustice unto those who are helpless.
Society at large has to stand up for the principle of equality and human rights, now that humanity has formally accepted and ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To be free from oppression and having access to a functioning justice system if one’s legal rights are trampled upon is the main subject of the book. The conflict is between those who are out there to trample upon this right and those who are willing to stand up for the preservation of this right.
Did you plot In WoMen We Trust in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
It was a mix of both. General outline was developed in advance of writing. Within the general outline the writing was It was a mix of both. A general outline was developed in advance of writing. Within the general outline, the writing was done without restrictions to provide extra footage which can then be chopped on the editing floor
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did In WoMen We Trust need?
The editor did provide a great deal of support by making it concise and by working on the flow of the events.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Find a passionate purpose as a reason to write. This will keep you motivated and steer you in a meaningful direction.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Will share with you when the right time comes.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It’s premature to say.