My Interview with First-Time Novelist – Khalid Muhammad – and a Featured Author of the Dreams, Fantasies, Nightmares, and Visions Event

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This is my first real chance to talk to Khalid about his book and some of the events in his native Pakistan that has impacted his life. We’ll also talk about his debut novel – Agency Rules –  and he’ll answer a few of my usual provocative and humorous questions. Here’s the Bio from his Amazon Author Page.

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Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid 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.

Find out more about him at http://agencyrules.com, @AgencyRulesPK (http://twitter.com/AgencyRulesPK) or the Agency Rules Facebook page (http://facebook.com/AgencyRulesPK).

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He’s also going to participate in the upcoming Facebook Mega-Celebration – Dreams, Fantasies, Nightmares, and Visions Event on June 18th to the 22nd. Fun, Freebies, and Rafflecopter Prizes you won’t believe.

https://www.facebook.com/events/293612200816670/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

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Now, without further ado, the sit-down between me and Khalid.

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INTERVIEW

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Hi Khalid, thanks for dropping by.  First Question — What’s your novel about, in three sentences?

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It’s the story of a young man that leaves family wealth behind to serve his country and fight the terrorists that threaten to take it over. Kamal Khan is a highly-trained sniper and commando in the Pakistan Army, but when he achieves his dream of joining the intelligence services, things change inside him. He becomes what he needs to be to survive in the dark dens of terrorist training camps and leaders.

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What do you listen to when you’re writing a novel – music, ambient noise, or silence?

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I love my heavy metal and hard rock. I spent the bulk of my youth growing up with Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime, Pantera’s Cowboys from Hell. The music became part of my psyche and a driver when I wanted to craft specific emotions. My tastes have grown with me, so there is an occasional Top 40 song in my playlist, but the bulk of what I write is done with the thundering drums of hard rock and heavy metal.

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Tell us about your main character and who gave you the inspiration for his physical/mental features?

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Kamal Khan is the protagonist in my series. He, when I was crafting him, is the true Pakistani – patriotic, hardworking, honest, and looking to make his country better. He leaves the comfort of an upper-middle class landlord family to join the Army in the hope of finding his identity.

I didn’t base him on any particular person, but there are pieces of myself in him, pieces of people I have met and am honored to call friends, and the rest of him is imaginary.

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You live in Pakistan. Has the constant warring there touched your personal life in any way?

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I don’t think there is anyone in Pakistan that can say that the war has not affected them personally. We see such horrific images on our evening news and in the papers that I am starting to fear that the nation may be becoming desensitized to the horror. It’s almost like we have mentally accepted that this is going to happen in Pakistan for the time being.

In terms of my personal life, yes we have been directly affected. When the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan invaded the Swat Valley in 2009, they set up suicide bomber and training camps on our family orchards. My uncle’s home was hit with a missile from a Pakistan Air Force F-16 on a bombing raid. One of my cousins was shot in the leg and their driver killed when their vehicle came under attack from the Taliban. When my cousin’s family left Swat for Islamabad, their home was looted and then burned to the ground, like many other families in the district.

What we saw, I should say the lesson we learned in Swat, was that when the public stood shoulder to shoulder with the Army, the Taliban didn’t have a chance. The Army is still stationed in Swat even though the new Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf government wants to remove them. Hopefully, that will never happen because the Taliban will move back in to fill the vacuum.

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From idea, to conception, to reality – how long did it take for your book to be completed?

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If we add up all the research, movies, videos, shows, it was about four years of preparation. The book itself took me about one year to write. Granted, part of that time was spent writing a novella that was going to be the first book of the Agency Rules series. I didn’t like the final product so I tossed it and spent the next seven months writing Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office.

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Do you plan on keeping to the same genre, or branching out into another?

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I am going to stick with the espionage/spy/military thriller genre for a while I think. I personally enjoy reading this genre and would love to have my series included as respected reading. I do have plans to write some crime/mystery books as well, but I am focused on Agency Rules for the time being.

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What’s your favorite American television show, and which Pakistani show would you like American’s to see?

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My favorite American television show? I don’t think I can put my finger on one in particular. I am a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin’s writing for television. From Sports Night to The West Wing and Studio 60, he elevates the conversation to a different level, helping people understand that there is more to the story than what the nightly news tells us. I think one fantastic show of his, sadly this will be the last season, is The Newsroom. It really opens your eyes to what goes on behind the cameras and lights.

In terms of Pakistani shows, I could recommend a lot, but I’ll stick to two for now. There was a show that aired on state television back during General Zia’s martial law called 50/50. 50/50 was a sketch comedy show that was just amazing because they had to operate under the watchful eye of an extremely fundamental and restrictive Army General. The humor is dead on and makes fun of everyone with such subtlety that the military couldn’t shut it down. The other show is Humsafar, which took Pakistan by storm. It’s a love story of two people that just can’t seem to come together because of society and family beliefs. You’ll have to find the ones that are sub-titled because both shows are broadcast in Urdu, Pakistan’s national language.

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Thank you for an insightful interview, Khalid. I wish you success with your novel, and health, happiness, and safety for you an your loved ones.    Be sure to pick up a copy of Agency Rules very soon. Read on for a more in-depth look at it.

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Image AGENCY RULES

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SYNOPSIS

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Celebrated as a ragtag force that defeated and broke the Soviet Union, no one predicted the Mujahideen would bring with them a plague that would spread like wildfire through Pakistan in the years to follow. When the battle-worn fighters returned with no enemy or war to fight, they turned their sights on the country that had been their creator and benefactor.

From the same battlegrounds that birthed the Mujahideen, a young Kamal Khan emerges as a different breed of warrior. Discarding his wealthy family comforts, Kamal becomes a precision sniper, an invincible commando and a clandestine operative bringing intimidation, dominance and death with him to the battlefield. Ending the plague is his prime directive.

Shrouded in political expediency, hampered by internal power struggles, international espionage and doublespeak that makes Washington’s spin doctors proud, Kamal’s mission is a nightmare of rampant militant fundamentalism that threatens to choke and take Pakistan hostage. For him, the fight is not just for freedom, but the survival of a nation.

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BUY LINK —  http://www.amazon.com/Agency-Rules-Never-Easy-Office-ebook/dp/B00HUZOED2

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RANDOM REVIEW

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Excellent thriller January 15, 2014

Format:Kindle Edition
“Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office” by Khalid Muhammad is a truly great spy thriller. Set in a modern day Pakistan it tells the chain of events set in motion by a terror attack in Karachi. Politicians, the army and the state secret service agency all have their own ideas as how to respond or retaliate for the offence. But it is our hero Khamal who goes in to do the work.

Pakistan is a perfect setting for this gripping thriller full of action and suspense. The country’s complex history and fractured political landscape provide an excellent ambience for the players of this novel. Gangs, Sheikhs, terrorists, politicians…    A comparison to works by LeCarre has been made by a fellow reader and while I would hate to imply that there are obvious similarities I will say that the two authors have certainly the same admirable competence in strong plotting, vivid characterisation and atmospheric style.
Pakistan and its people are often mis-represented in the Western world and I loved how the author managed to bring in a whole spectrum of characters, showing again a complex picture instead of resorting to simple stereotypes or clique; all the while also highlighting outside interests in the country and the internal struggles. While the story moves at a fast pace with compelling writing the author also raises many points about the country’s current state of affairs. It shows a writer with a sharp and thoughtful mind who knows also about diplomacy and international politics – just like any good spy thriller writer should in my opinion.
A good thriller with substance. Very recommendable.

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LINKS
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11 thoughts on “My Interview with First-Time Novelist – Khalid Muhammad – and a Featured Author of the Dreams, Fantasies, Nightmares, and Visions Event

  1. Such wonderful comments here. Please do share your thoughts on the book once you have had a chance to read it.

    John, a special thank you for the interview. It was a great deal of fun and I hope we can do it again in December when books 2 & 3 are in the market for Christmas!

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