Friday, 16 March 2018

Girl Zero - Amit Dhand

Phoebe Shanahan writes:
Amit Dhand
Photo: Richard Wilcocks
Attributing his continuing career in pharmacy to his love of meeting people, it should have come as no surprise that author Amit Dhand easily captivated the room, taking us on a journey from his parents’ corner shop in Bradford through to his decade-long struggle to be published. 

Punctuating his tale with anecdotes that had us laughing out loud, Dhand provided an immensely helpful insight into the world of novel-writing and publishing. From practical techniques to emphasising the importance of authenticity, Dhand encouraged the audience to ‘not quit’ in their writing. Dhand inspires not only though skill but in his love for storytelling. I couldn’t wait to dive into Streets of Darkness, and am intrigued to read the work of Tess Gerritsen, an author whose influence provided a wonderful arc to Dhand’s story. 

Learning from his father’s decision to ‘change the narrative’ and engage with a local gang who were targeting his shop, the primary theme of Dhand’s talk was one of engagement and resistance of segregation. He explores the battle of cultures; why divisions exist and what happens if you have changed your narrative and your family has not. In a fracturing world, Dhand wishes to remind us that ‘the things that scare us are all the same’.

Confirming to an enquiring audience member that he would not be tempted to make a run at politics, Amit Dhand epitomises the author who ‘has a lot to say’ but feels it is best to do so through fiction. With a third novel and TV drama on the way, watch this space.

Megan Fowler writes:
Working in a pharmacy by day, Amit Dhand admits that he sometimes writes through the night to get down the plot that has now fully formed in his head. Getting the book published once is written isn’t easy, however – Amit talks us through the ten years and 1.2 million words that led to the publication of his first novel, Streets of Darkness, in 2016. Girl Zero, the second book about the protagonist, has since been published, and a third is on the way.

One of my highlights of the event was the anecdote that Amit opened with, about the influence of his father telling him to ‘change the narrative’ in his life – a lesson which he later applied to his books. Amit was a wonderful speaker and the audience were very enthusiastic, asking lots of questions at the end to try and learn even more about him. I enjoyed hearing the reasons why Amit wanted to create this story, in particular – he says he wanted to give the world a brown superhero, as this is something we don’t get to see that often.

Another piece of information I found very interesting was the fact that all of the chapters in his books are very short – around 1,700 words – specifically so that they become impossible to put down! The reader thinks that reading another chapter is feasible because they’re so short, Amit says, and the audience appears to agree.

I’m now really looking forward to reading the books – I’ll make sure to set aside a good amount of time, as I know that I won’t be able to put them down!

LitFest is very grateful for the support from Leeds University students  Megan Fowler and Phoebe Shanahan.

Audience Comments
A fascinating literary journey engagingly told.  Persistently putting early rejections behind him, until finally landing his first book deal.  Great story

First time I've been to a LitFest event – I'll definitely be back (and bring friends).  Excellent evening

This event gave me an insight into the writing process and makes me realise just how difficult it was for A A Dhand to publish his books.  He also inspired me to read more fiction books

Change the Narrative.  How he got to where he is today.  Very interesting personal journey.  Informed about race, identity, India, Pakistan, Bradford

Fascinating account of Amit's patience and tenacity iin dealing with agents and advvisers while he was experimenting with writing first drafts.  His colour-coded plan for his successful final draft was really impressive

Excellent event, thought-provoking and candid.  Amit Dhand was as much of a pleasure to listen to as he is to read.  Well done, Headingley LitFest

Excellent evening – good talk by author and interesting questions (but he needed to speak up a bit!)

Last year's talk inspired me to buy/read a book.  This will make me buy the next one.

Very engaging talk from an impressive young man

Fascinating insight into what drives someone to get their story published, the problems they face and the determination to succeed.  Really interesting personal views

Very inspirational speaker.  Exactly what a local lit festival should be about – talking about writing an local issues and solving world problems

Reading a Lee Child novel at present, so I had to come along to meet Amit.  I'd disagree with him, of course – he would be a breath of fresh oxygen that UK politics really needs

Ed: Lee Child gives Amit a very strong recommendation on the cover; the audience suggested Amit would make a good politician

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