Chicklit Club


October 2015



Ayisha Malik read English Literature at Kingston University and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing. She is a writer and editor who lives in London. Her debut novel, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, was released last month. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

  1. Can you sum up your debut novel Sofia Khan is Not Obliged with the dreaded elevator pitch?

    Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is the story of a thirty-year-old Muslim hijabi in London who’s asked to write a Muslim dating book by her boss.

  2. What kind of heroine is Sofia?

    Sassy, flawed, a bit like Marmite.

  3. How much of the characters and situations are based on real life?

    They’re all fictional(ish), but some aspects reflect the real life Muslim dating situation.

  4. Did you always know the direction the book was going to take or was it a process of discovery as you began to write?

    Certainly a process of discovery. The plot changed about fifty pages in, which meant a lot of re-writing once the first draft was done. Happy days.

  5. Were there any particular misconceptions you wanted to challenge with the book?

    Absolutely. Several, in fact. Namely the idea that being Muslim and practising one’s religion is at odds with being a fully integrated part of society. I didn’t want a Muslim heroine who had the weight of the world on her shoulders, facing family oppression and all that nonsense. People seem to be very ready to categorise and put Muslim men – and women particularly – in this box, but I didn’t want Sofia to fit any mould.

  6. You’ve written about the lack of Muslim heroines, why do you think this is and what can be done to overcome it?

    I think UK publishers are quite risk averse and perhaps having a Muslim heroine is commercially precarious. However, I also think it’s because the idea of being creative within Asian communities isn’t, by-and-large, promoted. I feel this is beginning to change but there needs to be more encouragement from within communities and this needs to be equally supported by the industry.

  7. Do you have any suggestions for other books readers can go to to find Muslim heroines?

    Ummm…not really! Although you have books like Love in a Headscarf, but that is memoir rather than fiction.

  8. Did you face any difficulties as the author of a book that has Muslim characters at its heart in getting your book published?

    It’s very hard to tell to be honest. I don’t think any publisher will say I’m turning this down because it’s ‘too Muslim’ – publishing is far too polite for that. But I understand that with a very global shift in how Muslims are perceived it will make publishers wary. However, there are of course others, like Twenty7, who are wanting to take a chance and bring fresh voices to the fore to challenge the structure of the existing publishing world.

  9. Sofia gets annoyed by constantly being asked how the book’s going, what was the most frustrating part of the writing process for you?

    Ha! Being asked how the book’s going! (Particularly my sister who on a weekly basis would ask: ‘Have you finished your story yet?’) I had quite a deep-seated fear that I’d never actually finish a draft but once I’d done that there was a huge sense of relief. However, I’ll be honest and say that each part of it had its own frustrations and anxieties.

  10. I believe you’re currently writing the sequel to Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, what can we expect and will we be seeing more of Naim?!

    Ah, it’s a whole new scenario. I won’t divulge exactly who we will and won’t be seeing, but you never know!

  11. All of Sofia’s friends have pretty precarious love lives, do you hope they’ll all settle down in the end? And which friend do you think will have the biggest struggle?

    I think each will have their own struggle and I hope to explore the way in which marriage is not the be all and end all – how it can actually just be the beginning of life’s troubles.

  12. And finally, what is the one thing you hope readers get from the book?

    I hope they get many things, but the key thing is for them to recognise a Muslim heroine as being a part of the fabric of the society in which she lives. If they fall in love with Sofia, all the better.

Back to Interviews

Back to Home