Sunday, 17 April 2016

'Despite the Falling Snow' Blog Tour Stop: An Interview with the Author Shamim Sarif

British writer and director Shamim Sarif is an award-winning novelist screenwriter, and feature film director. Shamim latest feature as writer/director is 'Despite the Falling Snow', which releases theatrically in the UK in April 2016. 

The movie stars Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible 5, Girl on a Train) and Charles Dance and is an epic story of love and betrayal in cold war Russia based on her second novel, published by Hodder, Headline, and St Martins Press to universal acclaim. 

Her first feature film 'I Can't Think Straight' won 11 awards. Her follow up movie 'The World Unseen' had its debut at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival before going on to garner 23 awards internationally, including 11 SAFTAs (South African Film Awards). Her third film, a documentary called 'The House of Tomorrow', was shot on location in Israel and Palestine.'The World Unseen' book won the Pendleton May First Novel Award, and the prestigious Betty Trask Award. It was selected for inclusion at all the major UK book festivals, including Hay-on-Wye, Cheltenham and Edinburgh.

An accomplished speaker, Shamim has spoken at TED events worldwide, at the INK Conference in India and DLD in Munich. Her corporate speaking events have included Deloitte, Goldman Sachs and Citibank in London and Viacom in New York.

A very warm welcome to you Shamim, and can I thank you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today. For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about the part of the world that you are currently resident in and why do you like living there?

Thank you for having me on the site! I am based in London, England where I grew up and specifically in Wimbledon. I love it! It’s the perfect combination of green space and close enough to the centre of town.  And in our small garden I have a beautiful cabin where I write.

Can I ask what sort of books did you like reading as a child?
I loved books with characters I could identify with – as a child I think you sometimes look for books to explain the world to you and that identification helped with that. I also unconsciously gravitated to strong girls and women in books – so ‘Little Women’ and ‘Nancy Drew’ were early favourites! I also loved ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ which transported me to a world that is almost unfathomable now.

Do you think the books that you read as a child have influenced your writing in any way?
Perhaps the influence is in the tendency to lead women protagonists but I think I might have found that anyway. I also learned a lot in my teens from the spare prose of writers like Hemingway and learned that you can say a lot with a little.

Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?
I tend to be always developing, writing or in post production or marketing on a film as well as writing, so there is no such thing as a week where I have nothing to do but write my book. But I try to work on novels in the mornings especially. That’s a good time for me. A run, breakfast, shower and then into the cabin. That time of exercise is a good time for the subconscious to start chewing on the book so that by the time I sit down, I have something to write.

Where do you do your writing best?
In a quiet place or, at least a place where I feel alone. So the cabin in the garden is ideal but I also do a lot of writing in cafes when I am travelling. There’s an anonymity amongst strangers that just works for me.

What helped you decide to actually write novels?
I was encouraged by having a few short stories published, and by the idea I had for ‘The World Unseen’ – to re-imagine my grandmother’s world of patriarchy and hardship amongst the Indian community in South Africa. She never felt she had choices but ‘The World Unseen’ asks – what if she had found out that she did?

When you are writing a novel, how do you place yourself into the time period that you are actually writing about?
Research is important. For ‘Despite the Falling Snow’ I read a lot and travelled to Moscow to meet people who had lived through that period of the Cold War. But even more crucial in placing myself in the period is in the imagined details. Conjuring up a smell, a view, the feel of an old piece of machinery and then describing that and using it as a starting point for being transported.

How do you go about imagining, developing and give real lives and personalities to the characters that we read about within in your book?
It is incredibly important to me to feel what my characters feel as I am writing. I rely less on physical characteristics to bring a character to life than interior thoughts and emotions. Creating memories for characters often works for me to bring in a depth of history and layer of detail. If you know that a particular song pulls Katya back to her childhood and the scent of her mother, that’s powerful. 

Did you encounter any difficulties in getting you book accepted and published?
By the time ‘Despite the Falling Snow’ was completed I had an agent and he found a publisher in Headline almost immediately, so it was a smooth experience. But for my first book, ‘The World Unseen’, it took a little longer. I was lucky to find an agent who loved it quite quickly, but it felt too niche for the larger publishers at the time and it found a home with a very supportive editor finally at The Women’s Press and went on to win two awards including a Betty Trask award. I think the key for writers who are starting out is to take on board the notes of anyone who spends time to give you criticism and to be persistent. Books are subjective and manuscripts plentiful and something that works for one agent or publisher might not be right for ten others.

Did you have to undertake any research for your novel?
Apart from the bedtime reading about Stalin, the most helpful part of my research was taking a trip to Moscow. It was 2001, but there were still strong vestiges of communism around and I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of people who had lived through that Cold War period and that was incredibly useful in providing a lot of the detail I needed to write the novel.

What is your favourite book and why?
That is an impossible question to answer! For now, ‘I will Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Evocative, delicious prose and a love story that spans generations.

Are you currently reading a book at the moment, and if so what is it?
‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle’ by Murakami. I recently read Patti Smith’s latest book and she mentioned it so I thought to try it. A young Japanese man encounters some very odd people and begins to get caught up in a world of stories that (so far) seem to bear no relation to his. It is pleasingly strange and has a sense of mystery slowly unravelling too.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you enjoy in order to give you a break from your normal routine and your writing?
I have very few hobbies that are not somehow work-related because being a film director as well as a screenwriter and novelist mean that I am always finding more to learn about each art and craft. It sounds like work but I love it so it doesn't feel that way. We also have two teenage boys, so time with them is precious. We tend to entertain friends at home a lot too, so if I can get some cooking in, I do. I am obsessed with good food and wine!

Can you give us a hint about any other books that you may have in the making at the moment?
I am working on my new novel (and developing a film) called ‘The Artemis Protocol’. It follows a rogue organisation of women who decide to make a difference by using female agents to deal with human trafficking. Once they cross the line, there are all sorts of moral issues about how far you can go when nobody knows you exist.

Shamim, I have been absolutely delighted and very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed for my literary site. I would also like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today.

You can find out more about Shamim and her work by just clicking on the following web link:

Just Released:-

Despite The Falling Snow - Official UK Film Trailer

Copyright: Midaspr.

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