Every writer’s journey is different. When a book deal is announced, a lot of noise is made about the book and how wonderful it is that the author has secured a publisher. What most people don’t see is the long road travelled to reach this destination. So, while every writer’s journey may be different, to make it to publication most face many of the same difficulties.
I’d always been an avid reader, but it wasn’t until I was done with my studies and had started working that I felt a persistent tug – a need to write. I took a few short courses, but still had a certain hesitation about actually writing; I had an idea in my head, but couldn’t put it to paper. Around this time, Faber Academy announced its first online novel writing course, and it seemed like the answer to all my problems. There was only one catch – it was very expensive, especially when converted into Pakistani rupees. I didn’t have that kind of money, so I contacted the people at Faber and asked if they would take my money in monthly instalments. To my delight, they agreed, and I joined the course that changed my life. I began writing what would later be In the Company of Strangers, a commercial literary novel about the secrets and lies of Pakistani high society. I went on to take Faber’s editing course as well.
I also began to work with an editor on my manuscript, and they advised me about literary agents. I had already submitted my book to several agents, but with no success. After the editor gave me the green light, however, I started submitting to agents again. And this time, I received a few requests for the full manuscript. Annette Crossland was the first one to offer representation. I signed up with her and haven’t looked back since.
A lot of writers like to take a break after the exhausting process of getting their debut published. For me, it was different. The idea for No Honour had been in my head since 2016, but it wasn’t until I saw the critical acclaim for In the Company of Strangers that I found the incentive to finish writing No Honour. It is no secret that honour killings carry on unabashed in Pakistan, and I wanted to write about them, but it was only when my debut was so well received that I had the courage to venture out of my comfort zone and felt I could do justice to such a sensitive topic.
It is estimated that every year, hundreds of girls are killed for honour in Pakistan. As most crimes go unreported here, the actual figure could be much higher. The murders are illegal, but it appears the strong arm of the law doesn’t extend to rural Pakistan, and honour killings more or less carry on as they always have. This is where the inspiration for No Honour came from. I was sitting in Starbucks, and Abida just came to me – a sixteen-year-old girl bursting with life and confidence, but who lives in a rural Pakistani village, where such traits wouldn’t just be frowned upon, they’d be unacceptable. With Abida fully formed in my mind, I felt that I could now write a work of fiction that exposed the ugly practice of honour killing in Pakistan, but that also spoke about family, relationships and the power of love. I wanted to write about how strength could be found even in the darkest of circumstances, and how love could stand up against all kinds of evil. Fiction can shine a light on what’s happening in society, and that’s what I wanted to achieve with No Honour.
No Honour went out on submission in the summer of 2020, and by September we had an offer from Karen Sullivan, publisher at Orenda Books. Not only is Karen a seasoned professional, she understood the novel in a way very few people had. She saw the story behind the horror and thought it deserved to be published. I had already met her in London in February 2020, but when I read her email in which she detailed why she loved No Honour, I had a hard time keeping the tears at bay. Finally, here was someone who understood my work.
There has been no looking back since, and under the expert guidance of Karen, the book has transformed into something I could only dream of. I still remember how I could barely conceal my excitement when I saw the cover for the first time.
No Honour is now published as an ebook and will be out in bookshops in the UK, Pakistan and other major territories in August 2021.
(c) Awais Khan
About No Honour:
A young woman defies convention in a small Pakistani village, with devastating results for her and her family. A stunning, immense beautiful novel about courage, family and the meaning of love, when everything seems lost…
In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.
When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.
Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.
Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.
Order your copy online here.