Ruminating on Butterflies: Interview with Author Natasha Ahmed

Natasha Ahmed is a pen name. In real life, Natasha is a graphic designer, a businesswoman and occasionally writes art and book reviews for publications within Pakistan. She created the pen name to avoid awkward questions of morality and religion (since her book advocates sexual freedom for women) from her close but extremely large family.

She works in a small office at home, not far from Sea View, Karachi. From a tiny window, she can see the Arabian Sea sparkling in the distance, and small fishing boats trawl up and down the water throughout the day. When she’s not writing books, she’s dreaming of setting sail towards the horizon and never looking back. Great adventure, she believes, starts with great daring.

Butterfly Season is her first novella, though not, she hopes, her last.

In her chat with the Roasted Coffee Bean, Natasha shares her dynamite thoughts on her book, her protagonist Rumi, her views on the society, and opens up interesting perspectives with her thoughts of one’s intellect and emotions. Read on…


R C Bean

Hello, Natasha! Welcome to the silly world of the Roasted Coffee Bean…

Natasha Ahmed

Hi Roasted Coffee Bean. Thank you for having me.

R C Bean

Let’s start with your state of mind over the past few months… in the days panning towards the release of Butterfly Season, the actual release time excitement and now the post-release euphoria… How would you say your frames of mind have been in each of these phases?

Natasha Ahmed

You know, it’s been very weird. On the one hand, I have been dreading the release of the book – what if no one likes it? What if it’s not as good as I think it is? What if it turns out I shouldn’t be writing at all?

Doubts have plagued my mind for many, many months

And it’s been overlaid with the euphoria of just knowing that I will be a published author

But I’ve started getting feedback and reviews now from total strangers

Because, you know that friends and family will NEVER tell you that your book sucks!

And the reviews have been good – better than good, they’ve been great. One fan recommended the book onwards to his entire Goodreads friend list. And this had added to the euphoria.

So I’m on a high, basically, ever since the book was launched.

R C Bean

That has been an honest recapture of the whole journey… it’s humbling to know that even acclaimed authors get those pre-release jitters…

Natasha Ahmed

I’m not an acclaimed author, though – this is my first book!

R C Bean

True, but the first one has brought you a lot of laurels – evident from the book reviews and fan messages…

But now that you have been through the grind of this, would you expect your next release, which I’m sure you’re already working on, to be any smoother?

Natasha Ahmed

I really hope so, and thank you. I do think fan feedback is better than any award.

I think I will still have doubts – every work is unique, every book is different, and if a first book does well, expectations are raised, and it just gets harder and harder to live up to them.

So, while I hope for a better ride next time around, I doubt it!

R C Bean

Hmmm… makes me wonder if writing and publishing a book is like preparing for and writing an exam afresh…

Natasha Ahmed

Apt analogy – every exam gets tougher as you rise through the ranks, so yes, every release of a book will get tougher as I progress.

R C Bean

And now letting go of the cloak of an author, would you say you’re a person that gets the jitters whenever you try something new? Is Natasha the person any different from Natasha the author?

Natasha Ahmed

No, I don’t think so. I like stability but I also like trying new things. I’ve never been jittery before.

It’s just with this book, which, now that you mention it, is weird. I guess this is far more personal than I thought it was.

And no, Natasha-person is the same as Natasha-author. 🙂

R C Bean

Well, the book being personal is understandable. When one writes a book, I believe that one strives to put in so much life into his or her characters, that developing a book-bond is inevitable…

Okay, so that clarifies things, because the questions then don’t have to be different for Natasha-person and Natasha-author! 🙂

Natasha Ahmed

‘Book-bond’ – I like that.

R C Bean

And how similar is Rumi to Natasha? [For the benefit of some of the readers unaware of Rumi: Rumi is the protagonist in Natasha’s Butterfly Seasons mentioned in the author bio above]

Natasha Ahmed

Rumi is my first protagonist, and she is me in her ideas and her opinions. But she’s also who I want to be. Basically, she has the courage to break from tradition and to live life on her terms in a way that I never did. I admire that about her. So, she’s not really Natasha, she’s the Natasha I aspire to be.

R C Bean

The Natasha you aspire to be – powerful!

Natasha Ahmed

That’s the luxury of creating a character – they go places and do things you never did or would never do!

R C Bean

And is that why your website, dearrumi.com, has an “Ask Rumi” section, and not an “Ask Natasha” section? Will Rumi’s answers and solutions be a lot more rebellious than her creator’s?

Natasha Ahmed

Not necessarily more rebellious, but certainly braver solutions than I would have provided.

You’re one of the few people, by the way, who’s picked up on that.

R C Bean

Ahh right. While you were sculpting Rumi’s traits, was there ever a point that made you wonder if Rumi is slightly ahead of her times, or maybe question her fitment into the society you made her for?

Natasha Ahmed

No. Pakistanis in general are far more progressive than they’re given credit for. We have a terrible media and our rulers are among the most corrupt leaders in the world, so the majority of us lack the opportunity to take Rumi’s stand.

A number of Pakistanis picked up Butterfly Season and all of them have loved it – male and female alike. I was expecting censure, shock at what I was advocating, but it hasn’t come, yet. It’s possible as the book gets more notice there will be some backlash, but none so far.

I think Rumi represents a larger population of Pakistan than we are aware of. Not necessarily in the case of sexual freedom, but certainly in terms of independence, progress and change, she’s right on the nose.

R C Bean

I see…

Moving away from the sphere of the society and coming back to the literary front then, how much of an influence has Susan Napier had on your inspiration to write and in your writing itself?

Needless to say, I couldn’t help but notice that she is your favourite romance author from your journal… 🙂

Natasha Ahmed

🙂 You’ve been reading my blog!

R C Bean

Of course, I have been, for the past week or so and that’s why I wanted to hear your views – over a cuppa… 🙂

Natasha Ahmed

I love her style of writing. She’s bold, she’s not afraid of making her protagonists diverse and she makes you fall in love with all of them! That’s the mark of a very good writer.

Susan Napier should have written literary fiction (and she may have, though I’m not aware of any). She weaves in little details and her dialogue is incredibly smart. She was the first intelligent romance writer that I read. I stopped reading romance after I found her.

As in, I stopped reading other romance writers after I found her.

R C Bean

Got it… but if I may ask, why is there an emphasis on the intellect of the characters in the works that you read? Does intellect play a more important role than emotions in your world? And would you say Rumi is an intellectual or an emotional person?

Natasha Ahmed

Because I do value intellect more than emotions, I suppose. I always hated books where the reactions were always completely visceral, though I believe it plays a strong part in writing the book.

The reviews I have received so far have been emotional (with one or two exceptions). On THAT front, I value emotions far more 🙂

I think Rumi is a nice balance, which is what I was striving for.

R C Bean

🙂 interesting perspective, that…

Natasha Ahmed

Lol!

Yes, I see the irony of my position. 🙂

But the people the world admires most are the intelligent ones, so why would we write characters who are purely emotional?

R C Bean

No I don’t see an irony, really. It’s just the perspective differs when one’s a reader and one’s an author – different hats of the same person

Well, I wouldn’t want to sound like I’m picking up a debate, but then I’d say that the people the world admires most maybe the intelligent ones – in aspects that rely on the intellect, if you know what I mean… Like science, discoveries, and so on… I wonder how the world looks at people who are purely emotional…

Natasha Ahmed

Movie stars, musicians, artists – all admired from an emotional perspective

But all of them are incredibly smart, which is why they reach the heights they do.

R C Bean

Right… I see what you mean now… What they are, and what the world likes them for, needn’t always be the same thing…

I was wondering about the balance myself… It’s not that hard to notice many people who have high intellects are emotionally child-like and can be crushed easily… I have no clue if there is a scientific explanation, but then the intellect and emotion are definitely two different things…

Natasha Ahmed

Yes, I know what you mean – but normally that’s a result of being pushed into certain situations that they are not emotionally equipped to handle, especially child geniuses who race through school and are in college by the time they’ve turned 12.

Lack of proper socialisation, no friends, none of the normal mistakes and bumbling that a regular person goes through, which tends to stunt emotional maturity.

R C Bean

Hmmm… Got to agree on that…

Speaking about the intellect, does it have an effect on one’s tastes? 🙂 I’m wondering because I absolutely love the look and feel of your website – totally minimalist and beautifully clean…

Natasha Ahmed

Well, I’m a graphic designer and I like minimalism – that may have more to do with the design than anything else. 🙂

But yes, intellect has a huge effect on one’s taste. They’re not always minimalistic like mine are (which is more about my character than my intellect). But your tastes are influenced by books, art, movies and music.

And all of those affect your intellect!

R C Bean

I get it…

Although I’d love to keep talking you and pestering you with a million more questions, I’m sure there is a cap on the time you’ve kept aside for the chat.

I won’t want to keep you from your “rumi”nations 🙂 (cliché pun, I know)

So, thanks, N, for being here and I hope you had at least half good a time as I had with our chat, because I sure had a great time

Natasha Ahmed

🙂 Your questions are very engrossing.

This was the best hour of the day for me!

These aren’t the standard interview questions, which is just refreshing

R C Bean

A bbbbbig THANK YOU for that! You made my day with those words!

Here’s to a lot more writings from you and a lot many more success interviews! 🙂

Wish you the best

Natasha Ahmed

Thank you, RCB. Good luck with your own writings, and have a great evening.

 

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7 comments

  1. Not only was it an engaging and very interesting interview, it was, I think, an interview that said in more than a thousand words, about a reviewer whose time has come! Thank you Natasha and RCB – what a review!

  2. Yeah! I think i too start loving RCB. It’s the second time when i am visiting it. Love to come over and over again. Nice interview indeed!

  3. It appears that I have stepped into a world that I have seldom visited. Both your interviews are extremely informative providing insights to the writers mind that is perhaps due to your unique style. Loved it! Thank you!!

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