J.C. Ahmed’s Girl at the Well Author Interview

M.A. Greene: Hello. I’m M.A. Greene a YA writer reaching for publication. You can follow me on my writing journey on Twitter @MAGreene996.

  • M.A. Greene: Girl at the Well is a novella about a sheltered teenage princess who learns her parents rule several lands with a cruel authoritarian rule. How did you come up with  this idea?

          J.C. Ahmed: I don’t know how I came up with it originally, but for months I had this idea about a girl coming out of a well with a warning. I loved the idea but didn’t know what to do with it. When I read an article about wealth inequality, it provided the spark and the rough outline of The Girl at the Well came to me over a few days.

  • M.A. Greene: That’s so interesting how to completely different topics came together so well.  How long did it take you to write Girl at the Well from start to finish?

          J.C. Ahmed: Probably 6 to 8 months. Writing a rough draft usually takes me a few weeks, but I edit over and over.

  • M.A. Greene: Wow, I think anyone who can write a rough draft in a few weeks has a special type of talent! Do you edit in stages for one topic at a time such as going over characterization, plot etc. or several different things at one time?

          J.C. Ahmed: Well, I should clarify, I spend weeks developing the story in my mind. Then when I’m happy with where I want it to go, I start writing it down. So, that first draft is usually very fast and very rough. I think The Girl at the Well first draft was around 20k words, but the final book was around 65k, so I add on a lot. Initially I focus on plot. Then I focus on characters. Then on dialogue. Then I do a lot of fixing things up. Reading it over and over again. I also go through it once working backwards from the last chapter to the first. I also use a text to speech converter and listen to it as well to catch problems.

  • M.A. Greene: Ok ok. Do you consider yourself an underwriter, someone whose first drafts are shorter than their following drafts?

          J.C. Ahmed: Yes. First drafts are always very short. Then as I read through, I get more ideas and start adding on. If things aren’t clear, I’ll add onto the story, so that everything makes more sense.

  • M.A. Greene: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

          J.C. Ahmed: I didn’t really decide that. I often suffer from insomnia, so when I would lie awake, I would make up stories. I often spent weeks forming stories in my mind. One day, I came across something about self-publishing, and I thought maybe I should write down one of my stories and give it a try. Writing has become a fun hobby for me since then.

  • M.A. Greene: What age range were you when you came across something about self-publishing that made you pursue your hobby? Were you a teenager? A college student? Working adult?

          J.C. Ahmed: Working adult. I always read a lot but writing a book seemed like something really difficult and challenging, and not something I thought I could realistically do. But then I started reading some how-to books, and watching how-to videos, and went from there. The process has become easier with each book. I’m working on two right now, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from struggling through the first two books I have out.

  • M.A. Greene: Writing a book can be difficult. Did you ever attempt to write books before the ones you have published? Or was your first attempt at writing completing finished works?

          J.C. Ahmed: The first one I tried to write is called Io Hunter and the Guardians of Aldernar, which I did publish. But then I put it through a rewrite last year because I learned so many things and came up with ways to improve it. I’ve had a couple of books that I started, but then gave up on.

  • M.A. Greene: I was curious. I know I started several novels that I never completed as a child, teenager and adult before finishing the first draft of the book I’m revising for publication now. You mentioned you saw the article on self-publishing. Did you ever consider traditional publishing? And if so, what made you decide to self-publish?

          J.C. Ahmed: I haven’t considered traditional publishing. I like being able to do what I want with my stories and have control over everything. It would be great to have a company that could promote my books for me, but then I would have to give up some control to get that.

  • M.A. Greene: What type of research did you do for this novella?

          J.C. Ahmed: I did some research on wealth inequality because it was the central theme. I also researched different kinds of landscapes for the setting, read some history of royal families, and how portals have been used in stories. And of course, I did some research on wells. I’m sure there were other things, but that’s all I can remember now.

  • M.A. Greene: Girl at The Well has a blend of politics with fantasy. How did you decide what the right amount of each should be so the politics did not bog down the story?

           J.C. Ahmed: It’s tough because I didn’t want the story to come across as preachy. I’m not sure if I accomplished that or not. I would have to leave it up to the reader to decide. I think by having characters the reader could connect to, along with problems to be resolved and some romance, that I hope it’s something people can enjoy without being too overwhelmed by the message.

  • M.A. Greene: What is your favorite genre and your least favorite genre and why?

J.C. Ahmed: Sci-fi and fantasy are my favorites. I love books set in space. I don’t read horror or anything very violent because I’m a wimp.

  • M.A. Greene: What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

          J.C.Ahmed: Read a lot of books on how to write. There are also courses available online that aspiring writers can take. I didn’t do enough of that before I wrote my first book. That’s why I had to go back and rewrite it. I still thinks it’s a good book (of course, I’m biased) but it could have been a lot better if I hadn’t jumped into the writing process so quickly. Learn and prepare, then write.

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