Posted on 09/26/2018 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Like many writers, Ammar Habib dreamed of publishing books from a very young age.
It didn’t take him very long, comparatively speaking, to live that dream.
Habib started writing professionally in 2012, when he was just nineteen, and has published six novels in a variety of genres since then.
First came the Dark Guardian trilogy, a superhero fantasy series; next came the bestselling and award-winning Memories Of My Future, a historical-fiction piece co-written with a surgeon friend.
That was followed by Ana Rocha: Shadows of Justice, a mystery co-written with a different friend (this one a detective), and, most recently, The Heart of Aleppo, a coming-of-age tale set in the middle of present-day Syria’s chaos.
He may have quite the resume at an early age, but there isn’t a boastful bone in his body — admire his accomplishments, along with his graciousness and humility, in our Q&A with him.
SADYE: Can you tell us about your publishing journey?
AMMAR: It actually took me over three hundred submissions before landing a publisher for my first novel, Dark Guardian.
However, when it came out, it received tremendous success and was the second-highest 2014 seller for the publisher that year (I guess that’s a testament to the power of persistence).
I also experienced several hundred turn-downs from agents before finally getting the attention of my first and still-current agent. It was worth it all in the end because the agent I got is amazing and one of the most delightful people I know. ...
One of my biggest dreams since childhood is to be a New York Times bestselling author, and I’m excited about continuing to pursue that dream.
Whenever I’m asked for advice by new authors, I always share the famous quote from Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up!”
SADYE: What inspired you to write The Heart of Aleppo?
AMMAR: I’ve been following the conflict for several years now as it’s developed.
In my opinion, it is one of the greatest humanitarian crises in modern times, rivaling the Rwandan genocide and Bosnian civil war from the 1990s.
Back in 2016, I was speaking to my agent about how nobody is writing much about it, and she encouraged me to look into writing a novel about the subject, which turned into The Heart of Aleppo.
My goal with writing the book was to bring more global attention to this crisis. Although the characters are fictitious, this novel accurately depicts the events that transpired in Aleppo during the summer of 2012.
I hope that reading this will lead readers to have a greater understanding of the plight those in Syria face, as well as those in other war-torn regions.
In an over-politicized world, my wish is for this work to humanize those we call “refugees.” This book is not about the politics of the Syrian civil war. It does not try to convince readers to support any faction or political party.
Instead, this story is about the unbreakable spirit of humanity. It is about how humanity often shows its true strength during the darkest times.
SADYE: Have you been to Syria, either recently or in the more-distant past?
AMMAR: No, I have not traveled to Syria; however, I have traveled to countries near it in recent years.
My parents are originally from Pakistan. Even though Pakistan and Syria are two very different countries, there is some overlap in cultures/traditions and especially in religion.
Therefore, I felt like I could really relate to the protagonist of the story, who is a thirteen-year-old boy living in the city of Aleppo.
To make the book come alive, I read a lot of first-hand accounts of refugees from Syria. I watched a lot of interviews and reached out to several people from Syria to try and get a better understanding as to how life in Syria was before and after the conflict.
SADYE: While working on Memories Of My Future, you made some intriguing genealogical discoveries. Can you share the best one?
AMMAR: Memories Of My Future has a major theme about family and knowing where you come from, so it prompted me to look into my own family tree.
Surprisingly enough, not long after writing the novel, my maternal grandfather emailed me some recent discoveries he had made about my ancestry.
Apparently, one of my ancestors was a king in Afghanistan and started a dynasty!
My ancestor, Ahmad Shah Durrani, lived from 1722 to 1772 and established the Durrani Dyansty, which encompassed most of modern-day Afghanistan, a part of Pakistan, and a part of China.
He is famous for never having lost a military battle and for being a poet (that may be where I get my writing genes from). He has a really interesting life story that I hope to one day write about!
SADYE: As a history buff, if you could travel to one place/time in history, what would it be?
AMMAR: This is an impossible question to answer!
However, if I had to choose one place/time, I would love to meet President Abraham Lincoln.
He is one of the American historical figures who I greatly admire. I would love to sit at his feet and learn from him.
SADYE: What has been the most rewarding part of your writing career so far?
AMMAR: There are really two things that I would say are rewarding.
Whenever I write a work and receive feedback or messages from readers who tell me that they were touched by my writing or that my book really made them think long after putting the book down, it really means a lot.
For The Heart of Aleppo, I have received a TON of messages since it came out at the end of July. These messages have come from people living all across the globe, from America to the United Kingdom to Australia.
To see how your work is really making an impact is one of the most rewarding parts of being an author.
The second most rewarding part of being an author is helping other authors.
In the arts/entertainment industry, it’s important for the “established” artists/writers to turn around and help those who are trying to make it in the industry.
I don’t think I’m a big deal, but I have had many young writers get in touch with me and ask me for advice.
I have an open-door policy when it comes to helping other authors, and I’m always more than willing to tell them my experiences or give them some recommendations or advice on how to navigate the business side of the industry.
Some of the authors that I’ve helped have gone on to get published themselves, and it’s an extremely rewarding feeling to think that I have had a small hand in helping them get their careers started!
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Categories: Author Interview