Thursday, March 20, 2014

Writer's Window Thursday - Khalid Muhammad

Hello! Welcome to Writer's Window Thursday. Today we get to meet author Khalid Muhammad and learn about his debut book Agency Rules - Never an Easy Day at the Office. Khalid was born in Pakistan's troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, he returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country. His debut novel, Agency Rules - Never an Easy Day at the Office, is a journey behind the headlines about Pakistan, the world's most dangerous place, to deliver an intense story that will challenge the reader to question what they have been told. Let's take a peek into this writer's interesting world.
Tiffany: What is the title of your book and what  message does it convey to readers?

 Khalid - The title of the book is Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office. It’s the first in a series of 4 right now, but if people like the story, I will probably expand it.The message behind the story is quite simple – the Pakistan that you hear about in the media is not the real Pakistan. We struggle with everything that citizens of other countries struggle with, but we have it compounded with ineffective governments and terrorism. I wanted to introduce the readers to the Pakistan that I love, the one that you will find on every street and home of Pakistan. The characters are embodiments of the people that I see everyday. There is so much more to the country than what the media would like to tell you, and this is the first step in understanding it all.

 Tiffany:Give a short synopsis of your book.

Khalid - Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office takes you behind the headlines into the events that created today’s Pakistan. It is a tough look at a nation in conflict from the eyes of a young man, Kamal Khan, who is looking for his own identity and place in society. Kamal is raised in privilege, but leaves it all behind as a man to serve his nation. Once in that environment, finds himself embroiled in a complex narrative that shifts with the fiery speeches of their anointed political and religious leaders.

Tiffany:Why did you write this particular story?

Khalid - I think the motivations were multiple on writing a story, and series, like this. There are a number of motivations behind my story. First, and probably the most important motivation, was to share the Pakistan that I know with the world. The narrative that has become commonplace about my country is that it is a failed state with many players in the power corridor, but that is not all that Pakistan is. My Pakistan is a country that struggles with inept governments more interested in themselves rather than the people who elected them. It is a country whose people are extremely talented and patriotic but unable to take advantage of any opportunities because the country is run like a fiefdom rather than a nation. It is a country in search of its identity, much like Kamal, that is trapped amidst power plays from internal and external forces.

 Secondly, I grew up reading spy thrillers filled with the exploits of CIA, MI6 and KGB agents. While reading all of these stories, I always wondered why no one had ever written about Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI, and the challenges they face everyday. Geopolitically, Pakistan is host to numerous intelligence agencies working within its borders, a public secret here and the ISI holds it’s own against all of them. Its routinely demonized by foreign nations, and much of that is because it is so good at what it does.

Tiffany: Are there any characters in your books that are modeled from people in your daily life?

Khalid - Definitely! Every character in the book is either someone that I know, have met or mixture of people. It’s so much easier to take the people that you interact with each day and write them into the story because they make the story real, which is something that I really focused on with this book.

 Kamal Khan, the lead character, is heavily influenced by my background and those who have influenced me. He is flawed, damaged and confused, but he is also strong, dedicated and driven – what I like to call the typical Pakistani. He is someone that I want readers to feel, experience and cheer for because he really is the “every man” in the story.

Tiffany:How do you come up with your story lines?

 Khalid - When you live in a country like Pakistan, the story lines play out each day on the streets, newspapers and dinner tables. We are a country that is at war with itself but not willing to accept it because it means having to make very difficult decisions that will change lifestyles. We have had 70,000 Pakistani souls killed by terrorists, damages to property in the billions and a citizenry that is unsure whether to run, fight or surrender. It makes it easy to write when you live the story each day.

Tiffany:What was the point you realized that being an author was no longer a dream but a reality?

 Khalid - I don’t think I am there yet. This is my debut novel, but I don’t think I will call myself an author until I have a few of them in the market and achieved some success with the stories that I write. I’m not looking to become a bestselling author overnight, I know that is a long, hard road, but I would like to see some sales and people talking about the books before I don the author cap and say that it’s not a dream anymore.

Tiffany:What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

 Khalid - Never give up – if you have a story to tell. I started writing short stories, which I never published. They spanned genres from crime to mystery, until I found my niche in spy thrillers. It’s always a learning and growing process, but you have to keep writing to learn and grow. Don’t give up, no matter what anyone else tells you…. and make sure you have a day job to pay your bills, otherwise things will get tough fast J

Tiffany:What warning(s) would you give them?

 Khalid - Don’t write for anyone but yourself. Tell your own story, your own way. Of course, you will get feedback from editors once the book is done, but make sure that you develop the story from inside yourself. The mistake that I made early on was trying to write the next bestseller, based on what was selling big, that doesn’t work. There is no formula for a bestseller, other than getting a story that touches people and makes them want to tell others about it. If you get it right, you’ll be happy and the book will sell. If not, there is always your next book. Keep plugging away at it.

 Tiffany:What do you enjoy the most about the writing process?

 Khalid - The cigarette when its over. It’s a hard process to write a book from the storyboarding and research to the drafts and revisions. Working with editors made me want to pull my hair out at times, but it’s all worth it in the end when you get to hold that book in your hand.

Tiffany:How did you go about getting your book published?

Khalid - I harbored the dream of getting a big publisher on board, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make this a personal journey. When you work with a publisher, you lose your identity in the story to make it commercial, I didn’t work as hard as I did to write Agency Rules to lose myself for sales. So, I did it myself.

 I built a beta reader group and gave them the ability to provide feedback without sharing their names or contact information. I sent almost 100 copies of the final manuscript out to friends that are writers, reviewers and readers to get their feedback on the story so that I could make more revisions. Then, went back to another beta reader group to have it evaluated again. The whole time this was going on, I was working with two editors to clean up and improve the story line and characters. When I was happy with the story, I published.

Tiffany:If you were given one day to live, what would you do that day?

 Khalid - Honestly? Settle scores. There are some people that have really hurt me in my life that I would want to tell the negative impact that they could have had on my life. There are some people that have been so supportive that I could never thank them enough for all they did, prayed or said, so I would want them to know the positive impact they had on me. I’ve lived a life without carrying regrets, so when it comes time to leave this planet, I don’t want to carry any with me into the hereafter either.

Tiffany:If you could meet one of your favorite authors, who would it be and why?

Khalid - There are actually two authors that I would want to meet. Stephen King because he writes fantastic characters and scenes. His books have taught me so much about how a story is crafted in the reader’s mind. The other is John le Carre. le Carre is a master of the espionage genre. He creates stories that draw you in and bury you within the world that he has created. That is masterful for any aspiring writer. I would want to pick his brain.

Tiffany:Who inspires you?

 Khalid - People inspire me. From the fruit seller in the market to the shopkeeper fighting to support his family. From the policeman that has justified his petty theft to the soldier that gives his life in defense of the country he loves and everyone in between. I try not to focus on a single person for inspiration because they disappoint you when you learn more about them and how they got to where they are. But if you focus on the people around you, you find more inspiration in them than you will in any single person.

 Tiffany:If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self?

 Khalid - It gets better. I had a hard childhood. We didn’t have financial problems, but we had interpersonal problems in our home. Those problems really hampered me through most of my college years. Then, one day, I wrote a 15 page letter and let it all go. Life has been much better since. I don’t hold back anymore, I don’t let my past haunt me. It’s the past, sure mistakes were made, but that is not who I am anymore. If people want to live in their past memories of me, let them, I have moved on to better and brighter things.

 Tiffany:What’s next for you?

 Khalid - That’s easy. I think I will be spending the next few months marketing Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office, while I research the next book in the series. I have a day job running a marketing and brand management company, so that keeps me quite busy as well. The future is what you make of it, so I plan to make something awesome.


Thanks for letting me share with your audience, Tiffany! It’s always fun to answer questions about what made me write this story and why the reader should pick up a copy. It’s a great read and will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.
If you wish to learn more about Khalid and his book check out the links below.
Author Website –
Amazon –


KMuhammad said...

Thanks for the great interview Tiffany!

KMuhammad said...

Thanks for the interview Tiffany! It was great fun sharing my story with you and your readers :)