Bradford-born author and lawyer Abda Khan’s debut novel Stained is set in her hometown and tackles some challenging issues. Yvette Huddleston reports.
“I had always thought it would be fantastic to be a writer but never imagined myself doing it,” says first-time author Abda Khan whose debut novel Stained is being published by an American publisher this autumn.
Born and raised in Bradford, Khan studied law at Manchester University and spent her early legal career in Keighley and Bradford. In 1997 she set up her own high street law practice in the West Midlands where she is now based. “The book, which is set in Bradford, deals with many cultural and social issues that affect women in the British Pakistani community in particular,” says Khan. “I have seen and dealt with many of these matters personally and professionally so the inspiration for the novel was all the people I had come across over the course of my legal career.”
The novel’s protagonist is Selina Hussain, a bright young British-born Pakistani woman who is studying for her A levels and struggling to cope with her studies following the recent death of her father. When a trusted friend of the family offers to tutor her, she is glad of his help but then things take a very dark turn. He rapes her and Selina’s life is severely disrupted as she goes to extreme lengths to avoid scandal and prevent shame being brought to her widowed mother’s door.
Selina is an engaging central character, a focussed and tenacious young woman who refuses to be broken by her traumatic experience and ultimately determines to shape her future herself. Through the compelling plot and carefully structured narrative, Khan gives voice to women whose stories are rarely heard and raises a series of complex and challenging cultural, social and moral questions. Khan says that these are issues she has been very aware of in her working life and that she was spurred on to write her book partly in order to raise awareness of them in the wider community. “A lot of the issues I have dealt with in my career have been quite heart-breaking and I don’t feel they are reflected very much in literature at the moment,” she says. Khan’s love of reading and writing has been a constant throughout her life and around five years ago, she began to think seriously about becoming an author herself. “One day I found an old laptop at home and I just started writing,” she says. “Then I started submitting to a few agents. I had some really nice feedback – and in America I got snapped up really quickly.”
The book is being published there in October and as a result of that, Khan now has a literary agent in London and a small UK press is interested. It took Khan around two years to write Stained – which is pretty quick, given the fact that she has a demanding full-time job and five children. “I write in the evenings and if I get a spare few hours, at the weekend,” she says. “I would rather stay in and write than do anything else.” She has already started work on a second novel and says she definitely now has the writing bug. “I love it,” she says. “Something just clicked inside and I thought I really want to write about this because I felt so strongly about it.”
Stained is published by Harvard Square Editions on October 3, available on Amazon.