Meet Dr. Lina Latif, a university-level lecturer, a broadcaster with a prolific career, a proud mother, and now, a published author. She recently locally published her new book, Sidelines. After teaching many students the ins and outs of fictional writing, Sidelines is her own first foray into it. In today’s Featured Interview, Dr. Lina talks about her experiences going from a blank page to her first published book. Enjoy!
1. Hi Dr. Lina, please give us a brief introduction about yourself!
Hi, I’m a broadcast journalist by profession having secured a nifty job at the most prestigious television station (TV 3) in the country at that time. I use my knowledge in the field to teach broadcasting, journalism and media subjects for a span of close to two decades. A firm believer of the need to keep abreast with the latest happenings in the field of Communication, I try to incorporate the latest approach and current happenings into my teachings. Having taught numerous subjects, I recognizes my role in finding solutions for challenges within the education field as well to expand views and look at things from a bigger perspective.
I’ve authored ‘A Broadcasting History of Malaysia: Progress and Shifts’ and several book chapters locally and internationally namely ‘Crossing Boundaries in the Broadcast Media Industry in Malaysia’ for Keio University, Japan; ‘Public Service Media Initiatives in the Global South’ for Simon Fraser University, Canada and ‘Women’s Leadership Styles: A Case Study Across Arenas in Malaysia’ for the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Sidelines is my first foray into fiction writing.
2. What made you decide to write a fictional novel?
Well, I’ve written the serious stuff, so I thought why not? I teach writing at the university that I work for and have been a correspondent for The New Straits Times and The Star on occasion, was a broadcast journalist, so indeed why not.
3. Is there anything in particular that inspired your book, Sidelines?
Sidelines is a story about a strong female protagonist that goes through challenges in life where when you assume roles as mothers and wives, certain things are expected of you and somehow along the way , it seems like you’re standing on the Sidelines looking at someone’s else’s life because it’s no longer your own. So this is my version of that story.
4. What was your experience like, writing your first fictional novel?
I always tell my students that the research is already hard enough, the writing shouldn’t be but writing this story was hard.
5. How did you balance your time as a teacher, a family figure, and a writer?
It wasn’t easy but it was a story worth telling so I did it. I started writing the prologue in Greece 4 years ago but after much debate with my publisher, we took out the prologue that didn’t fit into the story anymore. The book got shelved more times than I could remember due to work so that’s why it took that long.
A wise friend always told his brother that “all Malaysian should write their own story so it becomes the tapestry of Malaysian history”, his version to me was a bit different, he said “Linaaa, everyone should write their own stories but no one writes as good as me…”. You might know my friend, his name was Rehman Rashid (google A Malaysian Journey)
Last year Rehman passed away, so after a period of grieving, I took time off from work and cleaned up Sidelines. Then I started pitching to Malaysian publishers January this year.
6. Please tell us about your experience getting your book published.
I got rejected twice so I guess this is third time lucky for me 🙂 Publishing takes time and patience but if you believe that your story is worth telling then go ahead, make it happen.
7. Please tell us what you’ve come to know about the local publishing industry?
I didn’t know much when I started out but I was determined to have a Malaysia publisher to keep the prices down. I was approached by a company across the causeway and they would have priced my book double. The price needed to be affordable so it would worth the read. According to my publisher Silverfish Books, the book publishing business in better than the print media currently.
8. What could an aspiring author do to get published?
I dunno really. There are many publishers out there that would take your money if you want to get published regards of content.
Get a reputable publisher that would support your through. It’s not easy so you need to be good and have the patience to do this. I don’t know about other writers but that’s what I did.
I wasn’t in a hurry, being ‘famous’ as my publisher calls it wasn’t the main target.
9. What were some of your biggest highlights in the writing and publishing of the book?
Highlights… current happenings in Syria, family challenges and love lost and found. In life, you cannot force someone to like you or love you but one day you’ll make them realize what they have lost… Writing all this hit home, so for some chapters, it was difficult to write.
Publishing… twice rejected, third time lucky. I trusted my publisher, I left my book in his hands when I went to Greece for a conference and a short getaway for 10 days and when I came back, it was towards completion and we were already discussing launch dates.
10. Any personal mottos?
Rethink, reevaluate and reflect – life cannot be live based on quotations alone.