The perfect ten: In the hot seat with Nasreen Akhtar

1) In your quest for love did you ever think that it was going to be such an emotional rollercoaster?

Never could I have imagined it to be so. The depth of human emotion is amazing!

2) Did you write the book as you went along, or did you write it later?

In its entirety, the book was written over a period of just over 4 months. Some of the instances were vivid in my mind simply because they are unforgettable. Ultimately with each encounter, each experience, I grew as a human being; as a woman, so it wasn’t too difficult to recall.

3) Was writing the book a painful journey in itself, and what made you share your story?

The actual writing of the whole book was a great journey and carries on being so. There were some parts that were painful to have to relive. I remember when I wrote chapters Seven to Ten, I fell ill and I discussed it with Varsha, telling her unwell I had become all of a sudden. ‘Nasreen, that was a difficult time in your life,’ she said to me.
The human mind is such a remarkable mechanism. It controls us in ways that we perhaps never know and if we do, we never can fully comprehend.

I wanted to share this story because if we are to aid understanding cross-cultures and break down the barriers that exist in contemporary British society, there needs to be access to people’s realities. Stories provide the best access to the minds and lives of others. This book is about the world through one woman’s eyes and if it can add to knowledge of people, of love, of faith and of the soul, then that hopefully will bring people together, irrespective to who they are.

4) You worked with Yasmin Ali Brown, and she’s very supportive of you and your work in the foreword, what was that experience like?

People touch us in different ways. Sometimes without ever knowing us. About seven years ago, I read Ms Alibhai-Brown’s column in the Independent and there were a few lines that settled in my heart and mind. From then on, I would ensure that I read her column without fail. I thought she was wonderful.

And then fate made us cross paths. I remember the first day that I went to work with her, she was on the way to dropping off a family member somewhere, and she asked me to wait until she got back. I headed towards the door as I was going to wait outside the house until she returned. She wouldn’t hear of it and left me to sit on that infamous red sofa of hers (!). She left me alone in her beautiful house; me – a total stranger. This I can never forget. Ever. The acknowledgement to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown at the back of the book says it all.

5) And how is your quest going now? Have you found Mr Right?

I am not looking. There is an extraordinary guy but I do not know if he will be mine. Time will tell if my boat will make it to shore or if it will sink in the water!

6) You published this, using your own imprint Greenbirds. As a writer, what made you decide to set up your own publishing business?

It was actually the other way around. I started as a publisher who took a financial risk on her own work. Sometimes all you need is a chance; what can be better than giving yourself a chance?

7) What can we hope to see from Greenbirds in the future?

All will depend on how this current title does.

8 ) And is there a sequel to this book? What are you working on now?

There may be a sequel, I haven’t decided for sure. I keep being asked for the next book, it’s unbelievable! I am not sure if there should be a sequel to this book. I have thought about it but there is a big question mark over whether I will ever publish it.
(What am I working on now? – the sequel!)

9) What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist, as well as someone on the quest to find their one true love?

Believe in yourself, know yourself, respect yourself. Because if you cannot do any of these, no-one else can do it for you.
This advice applies to both aspiring writers and hopeful lovers.

10) Good luck on being nominated for the World Book Day Read, what do you hope to get out of it?

(So kind, thank you.) I hope to show that anything is achievable with a little hard work, determination and inner drive. That if one wishes to touch great heights, there is no reason why that should not be within reach.

Nasreen Akhtar holds a postgraduate degree in Linguistics from Goldsmith’s College, University of London. She is the proprietor of the publishing imprint greenbirds. She was born in 1974 and came to the UK with her Pakistani parents when she was 4 years of age. Her book Catch a Fish from the Sea (Using the Internet) has been long listed for The Book to Talk About Award 2009 for World Book Day, the biggest annual celebration of books and reading in the UK.