In October last year, I was lucky to be invited to read The Language of Secrets, the second book in the Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty mystery series. I had ADORED the first novel and was over the moon to read the next adventure of two of the best-crafted characters ever.
Today, I am just as happy to be part of the blog tour with a guest post from the author, the very talented Ausma Zehanat Khan!
Thank you Anne for letting me stay on this great journey with you, Exit Press, and Ausma!
Find my review of The Language of Secrets here
And the review of The Unquiet Dead here!
AN UNDERCOVER INFORMANT HAS BEEN MURDERED… BUT WHOSE SIDE WAS HE ON?
TORONTO: A local terrorist cell is planning an attack on New Year’s Day. For months, Mohsin Dar has been undercover, feeding information back to Canada’s national security team.
Now he’s dead.
Detective Esa Khattak, compromised by his friendship with the murdered agent, sends his partner Rachel Getty into the unsuspecting cell. As Rachel delves deeper into the unfamiliar world of Islam and the group’s circle of trust, she discovers Mohsin’s murder may not be politically motivated after all. Now she’s the only one who can stop the most devastating attack the country has ever faced.
HOW I APPROACH A BOOK
People often ask me what a typical writing day looks like and how much research I put into my books. To begin with: research, truthfully, quite a lot. What’s funny is that things I may have read and researched eons ago may end up in books I’m writing now because they’ll have left these powerful echoes that resonate over the years. One thing I’ve discovered is that though I may have thought about a particular theme for a while, it’s quite possible that I won’t be ready to write about it for some time. With The Language of Secrets, I’d long been considering the question of how we readily invest humanity in some individuals or groups, but steadfastly deny it to others. Who is the Other? And by what process are they Otherized? I had to finish law school, and spend a significant amount of time considering the notion of our inalienable human rights to get to the place where I was ready to write this book.
And interestingly, also for The Language of Secrets, there was a whole corpus of poetry I had first read in my twenties that ended up coming to life for me as the central motif of this very contemporary book. I try to read widely, both for pleasure and for work, but when I’ve decided on the story I want to write, I start to concentrate my reading for several months before I begin a book. In the case of Secrets, I set myself the task of learning everything I could about the foiled Toronto 18 terror plot of 2006. This included reading the actual case dossier compiled by the Toronto Star newspaper, dozens of news reports, background reading on key locations in the city of Toronto, and then I did a fair amount of reading on the process and language of radicalization. That research helped me have a sense of the motivations of my characters and to invest them with the nuance and complexity I felt they needed. And then once that part of my process was complete, I was free to tackle what came next: outlining and structure.
I am definitely a plotter. I need to know where I’m ending up before I begin, if only so I can lay my clues with a bit more subtlety and make sure they all add up at the end. So once I’ve begun the process of writing, I spend two weeks just trying to organize the structure of the book, fleshing out the characters, and then developing a comprehensive outline. However, I usually don’t stick to that outline. I’ll move things around, cut things, or find another way to make them work that usually takes me by surprise. But without it as blueprint, I wouldn’t know where to start and I’d quickly go off the rails.
So a typical day for me begins with an hour spent addressing my email and tending to my social media. And then I’ll spend roughly the next six hours writing without interruption. Except for endless cups of tea. Each new day, I’ll edit the previous day’s writing before starting again. I’ve gotten faster at this process, which really helps. When I’m not on a tight deadline, I take the evenings and weekends off, though I’ll keep my eye out for new information or material relevant to my book. And so I keep at it until I think the book is finished. Even though I’ve plotted it all out, I often find endings the hardest part to write. Research may take years, but an Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery usually takes me between four and six months to write. And then the process of editing begins, which I think of as the book’s second life. It gives me the breathing space I need, before I’m ready to immerse myself again.
Ausma Zehanat Khan
This is a brilliant guest post, thank you so much, Ausma! I feel like immersing myself in your novels again and feel those powerful parts of a puzzle come together at the right time.
I CANNOT wait to read the next book!!!
If you don’t know the series yet, I urge you to try it, you won’t regret it!
Please follow the blog tour and learn more about The Language of Secrets!
Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a specialisation in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She has practised immigration law and taught human rights law at Northwestern University and York University. Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine, the first magazine to cater to young Muslim women. Her debut novel, The Unquiet Dead, won the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. She is a longtime community activist and writer. Born in Britain, Ausma lived in Canada for many years before recently becoming an American citizen. She lives in Colorado with her husband. The Language of Secrets will be followed by Book 3 in the series, Among the Ruins, in early 2019.