Monica Ali is a world-renowned author and one of the most celebrated British writers of the 21st century. Ali’s debut novel, Brick Lane, brought her international recognition and acclaim, and she has since gone on to write a number of critically acclaimed works.
In this exclusive interview, Ali speaks about the creative process behind her work, her thoughts on the publishing industry, and her own personal journey as a writer.
From her reflections on the importance of resilience to her insights on the challenges of the writing life, Ali’s words will surely provide a source of inspiration and motivation to aspiring authors everywhere.
Monica Ali’s Background
Monica Ali was born in East London in 1965. She studied English at the University of Oxford, and later worked in the City of London.
She has written three novels, Brick Lane, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel, hijab-themed novel, The Inheritance of Loss, which won the Man Booker Prize, and a third novel, Voices, which was published in 2017.
Ali also works as a tutor for the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia. Although Brick Lane was Ali’s first novel, she had been writing fiction since she was 14.
She often spent her free time reading and writing short stories, and cites her grandmother as a major creative influence who encouraged her artistic pursuits from a young age.
Creative Process Behind Her Work
When asked about her creative process, Ali explained that she begins all of her novels with an idea and a central character who becomes the driving force behind the whole narrative.
She admitted that she often has to write several scenes and false starts before she actually finds her way into the story, but once she starts, she keeps going until she reaches the end.
Ali explained that once she has finished writing a novel, she has a sense of completion of the story. Her next step, however, is to revise the text, which she said, is a rather different process.
She added that before she even sends her work to an editor, she reads it, rewrites it, and reads it again. She joked that she doesn’t think anyone, including herself, will ever be content with their writing.
Reflections on the Publishing Industry
Ali admitted that she often finds herself reflecting on the publishing industry and the state of publishing today. She noted that the publishing industry has changed dramatically since she was a young writer, which was in the 1990s, when she published her first novel.
She said she has observed that now more than ever, writers need to be resilient, because there is a lot of rejection and failure along the way.
In addition, writing is not as financially rewarding as it used to be, which is why many authors are forced to have a second job on the side. Nonetheless, Ali said that she believes it’s still possible to make a living as a writer.
She added that nowadays, writers need to be determined and relentless in their efforts to get their work published. She believes that persistence and resilience are essential for every writer who wants their work to be published.
Thoughts on the Importance of Resilience
Ali was quick to note that she believes resilience is not only important for writers, but for everyone. She said that it’s an incredibly important quality in life, because we all face difficulties and setbacks, and it’s how we deal with these that defines us.
Ali said that she believes the more we try to avoid difficult situations and circumstances in our lives, the less equipped we are to deal with them when they do inevitably arise.
She added that she thinks it’s important to be open to new experiences, keep learning, and push yourself out of your comfort zone, because this is how we learn and grow.
Her own experience as a young writer and the rejection she faced before finding a publisher only made her more determined in her efforts.
Challenges of the Writing Life
Ali has experienced many challenges along the way in her career as a writer, but she said that she has learned to embrace the difficulties and challenges that come with it.
She added that writing is a very solitary and internal process, and readers will never know the difficulties authors face when writing a novel.
The first challenge comes with the initial idea and the compulsion to write it down quickly before it disappears from one’s mind forever, which is something that happened to her during her first novel.
The second challenge is about finding the time, space, and energy to write, all of which are difficult for most people. The third challenge is about having the conviction to pursue one’s artistic and literary dreams despite the odds and the risk of failure.
Advice to Aspiring Authors
When asked about the advice she would give aspiring authors, Ali said that she believes that people need to do what they enjoy doing and what they are interested in.
She added that people should follow their dreams, but they should also be realistic about the challenges they will face along the way.
Most importantly, they should not forget to enjoy the journey and the process of finding their voice as writers. Most importantly, aspiring writers should not forget to enjoy the journey and the process of finding their voice as writers.
Reflections on Her Own Journey
Ali admitted that writing was not an easy path for her, and that she had to work very hard to get where she is today. She said that she often asks herself if she would do it all again if she knew what she knows now.
She admitted that she often feels sad about the choices she has made, but at the same time, she remembered that she would not be the person she is today if she had made different decisions.
She added that she still loves writing and the creative process, even though it is challenging. She joked that she likes challenging herself, and she loves the feeling of satisfaction when she reaches the end of a novel. Ali said that she finds immense satisfaction in creating something out of nothing.
Ali’s journey as a writer has been a long and challenging one. From her reflections on the publishing industry to her thoughts on the challenges of the writing life, Ali’s words will surely provide a source of inspiration and motivation to aspiring authors everywhere.
From her advice to aspiring authors to her reflections on her own journey as a writer, Ali has provided a glimpse into what it takes to become a published author.