Tamim Sadikali was born in Sidcup, Kent. He read Mathematics at Warwick University before entering software, in which he now works, as a freelancer. Visit him here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, Dear Infidel. What is it about? How did you get the idea for it?
To quote the back cover blurb, the novel is ‘…about love, hate, longing and sexual dysfunction, all sifted through the war on terror.’ It follows members of a British Muslim family as they prepare for Eid (the day that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month). Variously, they attend the mosque, break up with a girlfriend, rekindle an illicit flame, and watch porn.
At heart, the novel is about those trying to reconcile two identities – British and Muslim. To the wearer, those same identities, in isolation, fit perfectly. But when combined, the protagonists are, to some degree and in various ways, left terribly compromised.
I wanted to tell the story of my generation of British Muslims (I’m 41). We not only experienced the harsh end of racism, but also lived through the disintegration of stock identities – such as ‘Asian’ – before reconstituting others. Some formed for themselves a vacuum-sealed Islamic milieu, whilst others threw out every ‘vertical’ (i.e. inherited) identity, in order to blend in. Most however, couldn’t – can’t – deny the irresistible pull of each. And that’s left some disorientated; like a compass needle spinning round and round, searching endlessly for magnetic north.
NAW- How long did you take to finish the book? How did you decide the title?
Start to finish was ten years, and en-route I bootstrapped my writing skills from almost nothing. Whilst I never threw the towel in, I put the project on-ice several times, as I lacked the know-how to improve earlier, flawed versions. But then I’d attend a writers’ workshop, or talk to a more accomplished author, and another piece in the puzzle would reveal itself.
Re. the title, think of the novel as a ‘Dear John’ letter, with a twist…
NAW- Dear Infidel tackles very relevant topics, that of race, identity and extremism but did you also carry out any research for the book?
Forget research – I’ve lived and breathed this since Valentine’s Day 1989, when the Iranian cleric Ayotallah Khomeini put a death sentence of the British-Indian author, Salman Rushdie. I vividly remember going into school the next day, and everyone suddenly bombarding me with all these questions. Looking back, my interest – obsession – with the subjects of identity and extremism, began on that day. Thus whilst I didn’t explicitly carry out research, I have, organically, debated ‘identity’ with Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Atheists, black people, white people, Northerners, Southerners,…over a twenty five year period.
NAW- Tell us about your publication journey. How did Dear Infidel find its publisher?
Dear Infidel has been through innumerable incarnations; as I learnt more about the art (and science) of writing, I kept refining the manuscript. My mistake though was to send it off to major agents and publishers, whilst it was still raw. When I finally decided that ‘It’s ready’, it got accepted immediately by Hansib – a medium-sized independent outfit.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
By day I’m a freelance software developer and business analyst, specialising in the investment management sector – hedge funds. (I know, I know…) What time I have left, I give to my young family – I have a three year old girl and a one year old boy. Beyond that I like to squeeze in the odd swim, and I love playing squash. And if I have an hour or so in the week remaining, I shut the door on the world, and write.
NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
I can’t name any ‘inspiration’. On the contrary, as I began writing I read something that was so good, it made me doubt whether I should embark upon my own journey at all – David Benioff’s The 25th Hour.
I love Irvine Welsh – the rawness, the honesty of his writing really appeals to me. And that his characters are so variegated – i.e. able to evoke love, hate, disappointment and awe – gives his stories real depth. Marabou Stork Nightmares is my favourite novel of all time. There aren’t any other writers whose body of work interests me, but some novels have really left their mark – The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson and The Fattest Man in America by Christopher Nicholson.
NAW-What are you currently reading?
NAW- Where can readers find your book?
It came out on 1st August 2014, so (as of the time of writing) it’s hot off the press! As it’s a traditionally published work (as opposed to self-published), it’s available nationwide in the UK i.e. ‘all good bookshops’ (…and I’m sure some rubbish ones too). And, of course, internationally through online retailers – both as a paperback and an e-book.
For a bit more information, people can visit my website, where there are extracts of other fiction and non-fiction works of mine.
NAW- What will you be working on next?
I’m sitting on a collection of short stories that’s about 60% complete. I’d love to see that project through.