Exclusive - Mustafa Abubaker Interview
It's rare to come across a talent like Mustafa Abubaker. The young author completed his first novel, The Surrogate, at just sixteen years of age. We got an exclusive interview with him to talk about his process, his influences, and what the future holds for the young writer. If you don't know him yet, you will.
It would be hard to start this interview without bringing up your age. You're only seventeen and have a published novel. When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
For me, it wasn't about when but moreso about how...I always saw myself as someone who enjoyed writing, and more importantly, someone with something to say which is necessary in the literary world. I wrote constantly; short stories, poetry (which I admittedly hid from my male peers at times) even social critiques on issues I felt needed to be addressed. I will say that I became a writer with serious and concise intentions around the age of twelve, partly due to me seeing the world in a different light than most kids my age.
What is your creative process like?
I usually start with the characters more so than the actual story. An important thing for me to consider is the realistic nature and plausibility of the characters. So I usually draw from personal experiences with people I know or briefly met and expand on those ideas because there is no better character than one who already exists. Creatively, diction is a big part for me and I have recently begun having a dictionary/thesaurus near me or even just around my room as a way to expand my vocabulary in a way that the diction is duly noted and stands out. I also play music whenever I'm typing something up; the artists range from Kid Cudi to The XX to 311 to Odd Future. It helps me think in a clearer fashion and allows me to draw inspiration and ideas from songs I've never heard.
Who are your favorite authors?
This is tough because I'm influenced by many. Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorites; the way she writes is simply beautiful and she has the ability to take a common theme - Indians assimilating to life in America - and expand on it in so many ways and is the prime example of sticking to what works. Another one of my favorites is J.D. Salinger. He embodied the teen spirit and introduced a whole new style and tone of writing and bended the rules to the point where I consider him a literary badass. Holden Caulfield has been a relatable character, one who serves as inspiration and a model of how not to live life in high school. Both of these authors heavily influence my style in that I try to write material that is both socially aware yet aggressive. Another one of my favorites is Mohsin Hamid, an American-Pakistani author with two novels - Moth Smoke & The Reluctant Fundamentalist - that have showed me there are others like me. His writing is unconventional in its approach; he experiments with form a lot but it works out wonderfully and is another example of bending the rules.
Your novel The Surrogate begins with the main character suffering from a terrible loss. Is that inspired by loss in your own life, or was it brought about because of an interest in how people cope?
With literature, especially with a novel, the main point is to evoke emotion. Whether that emotion be happiness or anger or sadness, I felt if I opened up with a scene that set the tone for the novel in a powerful way, it would attract more readers and have the reader thinking why did this happen? How does Faraz cope with this? Will he be a good father or let this effect his judgement in raising the child? So, yes, this stemmed from the everlasting question every person on this Earth asks themselves: "How am I going to get through this?" Struggle is a very relatable thing; not in terms of severity but in terms of occurrence.
How long did it take you to finish the book?
About two years; I started the book early in my freshman year of high school, closely following the passing away of my grandfather to whom the book is dedicated. Lots of rewrites, lots of changing around, lots of alternate endings and then once I was satisfied with the work, I found myself at 16, midway through my junior year, with a complete novel.
Do you currently have anything else in the works?
Currently I'm a senior at Woodward Academy in College Park, GA and am taking the Creative Writing course at an honors level. In this course, we choose one area of interest and work on it the entire year under the guidance of the teacher and several speakers. I chose fiction (surprise) and although future works are often subject to change, my idea for a novel entails four high school seniors who attend different schools coming together at the same school. Each character has a internal struggle; one is a Pakistani adopted by rich American parents, one struggles with girls and fitting in, etc. All characters have not had substantial success in the school system; all their traits and qualities that contribute to society are incapable of being judged by the SATs or final exams in May. Thus, the novel is titled Intangibles. Everything these kids have to share and offer cannot be given a grade. In addition to this main project, a short story anthropology is also in the works as well as the idea of a poetry collection dealing with the theme of rebellion. Often times people ask me when are the times that I'm NOT working on anything or why I'm always putting notes up on Facebook. It's simply because I have the heavy inclination to write and express myself in my own personal fashion. Like Kid Cudi says in 'Mr. Rager' - you never see birds too long on the ground.
Stay up on everything Mustafa by going to http://www.facebook.com/mustafaabubakerbooks
See ya Space Cowboys...