Today we have the honor of a wonderful interview with author Ammar Habib! Along side being an award winning novelist, Ammar is also a dear friend and coworker! It is always a pleasure to speak with Ammar about his writing, and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do.
Ammar is an award-winning & bestselling author originally from Lake Jackson, Texas. Writing has always been a passion of Ammar’s since he was in elementary school. Ammar enjoys crafting stories that are not only entertaining, but also have something useful to say to the reader. Ammar presently resides in his hometown. He lives with his family, all of whom are his biggest fans.
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1) Were there any particular books/events that inspired you to start writing?
The one book that inspired me to become a writer is Og Mandino’s The Choice. I read the book when I was seven-years-old and it is what put me onto the path of becoming a writer and inspired the dream to one day have millions of copies of my books sold around the world.
But outside of books, the other main thing that acting as a catalyst for my writing was my 2nd Grade Teacher at AP Beutel, Mrs. Scott. When I was in her class years ago, she gave me a homework assignment to write a one-page story. This was the first time I ever wrote anything. That experience breathed the love of writing into me and I’ve never stopped since!
I’ve also discovered that I’m not the first author in my family. My great-grandfather was a writer after his career as a police officer in India ended. My maternal grandmother was also a writer, having some of her works published in the newspaper. Although my own mother was not a writer, she has her Master’s degree in Fine Art. So I think this artistic capability probably runs in the family too.
2) What is your writing background?
I’ve been writing since I was seven-years-old. But I’ve been doing it professionally since 2012, a little before my 19th birthday. I wrote my first full novel, Dark Guardian, in 2012. After over 300 rejection letters, it was picked up by a publisher in August 2013 and was released in July 2014 when I was 21-years-old. That novel ended up being the publisher’s second highest selling title for 2014!
Since then, I’ve had two more novels published, Dark Guardian: A New Dawn & Memories Of My Future. Along with those, I’ve had numerous shorter works published. My fourth novel is releasing November 2017 and my fifth is scheduled to release February 2018 God-Willingly. The books have been successful, my second novel actually winning a national award in May 2017. As a huge comic book fan since childhood, I am actually breaking into the comic book industry as we speak. I wrote my first comic script a couple of months ago and am working with a friend on the artwork. Thus far, my writing career has been a wild ride at points, but it’s been a blast!
3) What is your writing process? Is it a set process or more fluid? What inspires you?
My writing process always begins with a theme. I ask myself, “why should readers read this? what do I hope they get out of it?” As entertaining as I hope my stories are, I want them to hold some sort of moral lesson or theme for the audience as well. At the same time, I don’t want to slap readers in the face with this ‘theme’. Instead, I want to show it in the characters and story arc. So I take a lot of time in figuring out who my character are. As far as pre-writing goes, I probably spend more time fleshing out the characters than I spend on anything else. Many times, putting in the effort to create three dimensional characters is the separator between good and great work.
However, with that said, my writing process is very fluid. I like to try and create an outline before I go into the actual writing. But many times I find myself starting the first draft before I’ve even finished my outline. The inspiration comes in bursts so I try to capitalize on those bursts as much as I can. I find that being too stringent on my writing process can actually become a hindrance.
As far as inspiration goes, I honestly draw inspiration from everywhere. I’ve had a huge imagination since I was a child, so that is usually my biggest source. I have a hard time switching my imagination off, which can be a problem when somebody is trying to talk to you and you’re imagining a battle scene in your head! The other place I really draw inspiration is from the world around me. I try to stay observant because sometimes the best inspiration passes by right in front of you!
4) What advice do you have for new/aspiring writers?
I’ve learned a lot about the industry over the past few years. What I’ve seen is that along with filmmaking, it is probably the most subjective industry out there. A writer may spend months perfecting their story, putting their heart and soul into it, staying up the whole night working on it, only for an editor to reject it with a short sentence of vague reasoning. That’s what can make the industry very frustrating.
What I tell people who ask is that you need to write something that you believe in. Don’t worry about what others think about it. If you think it’s a great story and one that needs to be told, then write it! The other thing is that writers need to have thick skin. Editors and agents reject hundreds of works a day, so never take it personal. Even critics give bad reviews all the time. But if you believe in your work and did your best, then never let the opinions of anyone tear you down. Write stories that you’d want to read, regardless of what others say!
5) Do you draw inspiration from pop culture (TV Shows, Video Games, Movies, etc), and if so, which ones?
I do my best never to directly copy from any other source. I think working at a college has made me extra cautious of plagiarism. However, the works of others definitely do inspire me. I don’t watch TV or play video games, so those two mediums have very little influence on my writings. However, I am an avid moviegoer and reader, and have certainly found inspirations in films and books. It’s hard to think of specific works that inspire me by name, but I am very drawn to character pieces, meaning works in which a character’s arc is the driving force of the story. There seem to be fewer films like this than in the past. I am especially drawn to works in which the character starts off broken in one way or another before an event plunges them back into the fray and they go on to “find themselves” again. One of my favorite films is Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai. The story, characters, narrative, and setting are absolutely beautiful and the ending truly gets me every time. I learned a lot about characters and arcs when I watched that film as a boy.
6) If you had 24hrs to do ANYTHING you wanted, what would you do?
I’m a really big history buff. For those 24 hours, I’d be a time traveler so I could visit all the eras that I’ve read/studied about and see them firsthand!
7) You’re trapped on an island, but are allowed to bring one person, one food item, and one object. What are your choices?
If I could bring a fictional character, I’d bring Superman so he could fly me off the island. But I’m pretty sure that’s cheating!!
So the person would have to be someone in my immediate family (my father, mother, or brother). My immediate family is very close and I sometimes think of them as one person, so I think it’d be fair to bring them all! The food item would be pizza because that is the one thing I can eat every day and not grow bored. And the object would be my laptop because I could still continue writing!!
8) What drew you to your genres in general?
I don’t really have one particular genre. I’ve written everything from young adult to action/thrillers to inspirational. Right now, I’m endeavoring into comic book writing. But I am definitely more drawn to the action/thriller genre. I believe the main reason is because growing up, I was really into comic books/action movies. Without realizing it, being exposed to those early on laid a foundation for me to be more attracted to that genre.
However, regardless of genre, I do my best to keep my novels character based. I want the character’s arc to drive the story, not merely set pieces and action sequences. The action should not be meaningless, but should be a natural part of propelling the story onward.
Now stretching out into comic books is something I dreamed about for a long time but didn’t really put any thought to until two friends mentioned to me that I should give it a shot. I’ve recently finished writing my first graphic novel and have truly fallen in love with creating this art form.
9) What project have you enjoyed working on the most?
This will definitely sound like a politically correct answer, but I can’t point to one project and say that it was the most fulfilling. There has not been one novel or short story I’ve written that was more fulfilling than another. Each holds its own merits because I give each one of them a piece of me.
Of those seven novels I’ve written, three were collaborations. Each of my collaborators had very different personalities, so each was a very unique experience in and of itself. And with each of those collaborations, I learned a lot since they were so different. That’s one of the reasons I can’t point to one project as the most fulfilling.
However, one thing I will say is that an author’s first work always seems to be the dearest to them. At least, that’s what I’ve experienced. Although I’ve matured greatly since writing my first novel, Dark Guardian, and have become a much better writer, that project and series still mean a lot to me. I’ve never truly been in love, but I’d imagine it’s the same kind of emotion a person would feel about their first romance.
One thing I like to say is that my next work will be my biggest yet! That thought process keeps my head in the game and hopeful for a brighter future God-Willingly.
Thank you, Ammar, for the lovely interview! I hope you all enjoyed this post as much as I did, and I hope to have Ammar on the blog again soon.