Interview with Zamil Akhtar

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
In 6th grade, I wrote a story about how the world got its color. A boy and his friend climb a giant tower, and at the top they climb onto a rainbow and pop out the colors with a sword. My teacher loved it and sent it to some magazine to be published. I knew then that writing was something I should pursue.
What is your writing process?
I can only write when I feel I've done everything else important that day, so I usually write at night. I need to be in a quiet space with a cup of tea or coffee nearby. The first thing I do is visualize the scene I am trying to write for five minutes. I close my eyes and try to inhabit the POV character, seeing what he sees, smelling what he smells, and feeling what he is feeling. It is a rather intensive process, so I can't write too much each day without getting burnt out.
How do you approach cover design?
Rather than focusing on detail, I want my covers to embody symbols from the story and be simple yet striking. I want them to be artistically unique rather than the same cartoony designs I see in other fantasy books. Each aspect of the cover should have a deeper meaning in the story.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read nonfiction for pleasure. I have a deep interest in international relations and in general about the way the world works, so I tend to read books about that.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My smartphone, whichever one I have at the time. I always buy a smartphone with a 5 inch screen or bigger to make reading easier. Nothing beats having 200+ books in your pocket all the time, ready to be pulled out whenever you want. Right now I use an LG G3.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It has had a huge influence on my writing. I love to write books with a Middle Eastern setting because I know how to capture it authentically. The Middle East and its conflicts are big themes in my stories.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I am an entrepreneur at heart, and the question about whether to go the traditional route or indie route was a no-brainer. Traditional publishing is dying, and I don't want a publisher to own my content and have reign over my artistic direction. It's incredibly fun to be an indie author, and it's great fun to market my book myself by approaching readers directly.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Being able to convey strong emotions through story-telling is an incomparable joy.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are everything to me. They share in the worlds and characters that I've dreamt up.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love to travel and play videogames in my free time. I also manage my own business, which is how I pay the bills. Life is busy, but writing gives it all meaning.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Song of a Dead Star, an epic science-fantasy adventure, is my first book. I've been writing and editing it for 8 years. I've been conceiving it for 14 years. I poured every ounce of creativity I had into it. As it is my first book, it will always be special to me.
Published 2015-05-02.
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