Posted On November 30, 2011 by Print This Post

The Advice that Helped Me Get Published by Mina Khan

I had the great fortune of meeting today’s visiting professor when we were both members of an online critique group six years ago. Mina Khan was one of the early readers of my debut release Man Law and as I write this intro, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. The road to a publishing contract is not an easy one and I’m thrilled to welcome Mina to Romance University to share her journey.

My debut paranormal erotic romance, THE DJINN’S DILEMMA, published earlier this month by Harlequin Nocturne almost didn’t get written.

I have been writing since third grade and the dream of being a published author has been in my heart for a long time. In my quest to find my writing voice I have written poetry, screenplays, literary short stories, news, food writing, chicklit, and mysteries. My non-fiction started earning money and it would have been easy to let go of the fiction-part of my dream, but the stories refused to leave me alone.

Despite many people shaking their heads at my stubbornness, I kept writing, reading and taking classes to grow myself as a fiction writer. And along the way I gathered three pieces of advice that focused me as a writer and helped me get published.

I’d always heard the advice “Write what you know” and resisted it. I didn’t want to write about the ordinary reality I knew, I wanted to write about fantastic adventures and larger-than-life characters.

Fortunately for me I attended a live session with writing guru Donald Maass and he said: “You have to bring your authentic experience to the page, to the characters. The more you put yourself out there, the more readers love it.”

The phrase “authentic experience” clicked inside my head. What could I, as an individual, bring to the page? For my novella, THE DJINN’S DILEMMA, I delved into stories of djinns and ghosts from my Bangladeshi childhood, brought in my experience as a journalist in Texas, and added a liberal dash of what I love about men as a grown woman.

The second advice, also from Maass, is make your characters care about something you care about. For most of my life I have defined and redefined myself as life changed. So besides being a love story, THE DJINN’S DILEMMA is also about identity and acceptance – accepting oneself and others for our strengths and weaknesses, for who we are.

The third piece of advice that worked for me: “Write the book you want to read.” Throughout my life I have been mistaken for Hispanic, Filipina, Chinese, Thai etc. and that’s okay. Being an Asian with freckles did make me hard to classify, and for the most part I consider myself a global nomad with an American passport.

So I wanted to write characters who straddled different worlds. My hero, the assassin Rukh, is part human and part djinn (genie) and can pass between the two parallel dimensions. My heroine, Sarah Jasmine White, is of Afro-Caribbean and Caucasian origins. And the two of them meet in Austin, Texas –one of the most diverse and eclectic places I know.

As a result, my debut story ended up with an Eastern djinn mythology and mixed-race characters – some naysayers reacted by saying the story was too exotic and would appeal to too few. Wouldn’t sell.

Well, it did sell, and yes, I have had to explain a few times that djinn (pronounced gin) is the same as genie. But do I regret writing the story the way I did? No. Here’s a bonus for you – the best advice I ever got and it’s from Cookbook Author Nancie McDermott: “When people say it can’t be done, what they mean is they can’t imagine it…the way you can.”

 

***

RU Crew, have you received great advice you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.

Join us on Friday when Heather Webber joins us to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of being an author.

 

BIO: Mina Khan is a Texas-based writer and food enthusiast. She daydreams of hunky paranormal heroes, magic, mayhem and mischief and writes them down as stories. Between stories, she teaches culinary classes and writes for her local newspaper. Other than that, she’s raising a family of two children, two cats, two dogs and a husband.

She grew up in Bangladesh on stories of djinns, ghosts and monsters. These childhood fancies now color her fiction.

You can find her at:

http://www.facebook.com/Mina.Khan.Author
http://minakhan.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/SpiceBites

 

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Discussion

34 Responses to “The Advice that Helped Me Get Published by Mina Khan”

  1. This post is simply lovely, Mina. Congratulations on your debut. THE DJINN’S DILEMMA sounds like my kind of rich and wonderful reading delight. Best of luck with it!

    Posted by Katharine Ashe | November 30, 2011, 12:13 am
  2. Hi Mina,

    Welcome to RU! So nice to have one of Adrienne’s pals joining us. And congrats on your debut — really exciting!

    Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

    Thanks,
    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | November 30, 2011, 5:47 am
  3. Welcome to RU, Mina! Congratulations on your release. I’m so thrilled for you.

    How wonderful that you followed your heart and wrote this book. It makes me downright weepy! :)

    I wish you a ton of sales! I have my copy.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | November 30, 2011, 6:47 am
  4. Morning Mina…

    Congratulations on your debut release! Sounds like an exciting read….=)

    My favorite piece of advice? “Just finish the damn book.”

    =)

    Still working on that one…lol

    Nice to have you here today Mina!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 30, 2011, 8:03 am
  5. Hi Mina,

    Imagination is the key. I don’t know much so if I followed that advice, I wouldn’t write at all.

    Good luck,

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 30, 2011, 8:07 am
  6. Wonderful, touching article. I’m so glad you followed your heart and the good advice you’ve received. I’ve written an “ethnic” story as well and have been worrying about its appeal-but after reading about your experience I feel much better.

    Posted by Juliette Springs | November 30, 2011, 8:31 am
  7. Hi, Mina –

    Welcome to RU!

    I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron’s books on creativity (The Artist’s Way and others). Tons of her thoughts and advice has helped me the past couple of years. But the one that really resonates with me is “Take the next right step.” Basically just put one foot in front of the other and don’t worry how much more you have to go.

    I noticed The Djinn’s Dilemma is a Nocturne Craving. Can you tell us a little about the length of you story and the details on writing for that line?

    Thanks so much!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 30, 2011, 8:57 am
    • I’m a total fan of Julia Cameron too. Have you read her THE RIGHT TO WRITE? Excellent book!

      Cravings is Harlequin Nocturne’s new paranormal erotic romance line. Nocturne stories were always very sensual (that’s why I LOVED them!), now they turned up the heat :D

      The novellas are 15,000-25,000 words.

      Posted by Rashda/Mina | November 30, 2011, 10:11 am
  8. Hi Mina,

    Congratulations on your debut!!! It sounds right up my paranormal alley.

    Before I was published, I was also confused by the “write what you know” advice. I did (horses, horse shows, hunky horse trainers) but it was kind of boring.

    And then an author friend gave me the same piece of advice you got—write the story you want to read. I did and it sold.

    I wish you the very best of luck!!!

    Laurie

    Posted by Laurie London | November 30, 2011, 9:06 am
    • Hi Laurie!

      Thanks for your warm congrats :)

      When things –advice, ideas etc.–click into place, it’s like unlocking a new part of ourselves. It’s an amazing moment.

      So glad you wrote what you wanted and sold! Happy writing!

      Posted by Rashda/Mina | November 30, 2011, 10:16 am
  9. Mina – Thanks so much for a wonderful post!

    I love the quote you shared:
    “When people say it can’t be done, what they mean is they can’t imagine it…the way you can.”

    I want to frame that!

    I’m intrigued by your book – I’ll definitely add it to my to-be-read pile. Congratulations for persevering until you reached your goal. I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more books from you!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | November 30, 2011, 9:32 am
  10. Thanks Adrienne & RU peeps for inviting me to your wonderful blog. I have visited RU before & learned so much from all the insightful posts for so long…it’s awesome to see my post here today :)

    Posted by Rashda/Mina | November 30, 2011, 9:50 am
  11. Mina – First, congratulations on what sounds like an amazing book.I can’t wait to read it!

    My best piece of advice came from my friend and Harlequin Intrigue author,Carol Ericson. She told me early and she says it often “Keep writing. Finish your book, polish it up and then start the next one. Don’t spend forever getting caught in the loop of editing.Learn when it is done and then use what you learned to write an even better book.”

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | November 30, 2011, 10:22 am
  12. Great post, Rashda. I loved THE DJINN’S DILEMMA. Thanks for teaching me how to pronounce Djinn. I never knew. Congrats on a spectacular, fast-paced story. :)

    Posted by Joya Fields | November 30, 2011, 11:35 am
  13. Rashda–This was a wonderful post! I loved it, and hearing about the parts of you that went into it, I’m interested all the more! Congrats on your new release!

    Posted by Laura Kaye | November 30, 2011, 11:40 am
  14. Hi Mina!

    I subscribe to the theory of writing what I’d like to read. Congrats on your debut!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 30, 2011, 2:36 pm
  15. Hi, Mina.

    I love it when one of my CPs is famously successful. The Djinn’s Dilemma is a great book that resides on my keeper shelf. Can hardly wait for the next book to be released.

    And if anyone is looking for a special holiday recipe, just ask Mina. Love her tomato pie!

    Posted by L. J. Charles | November 30, 2011, 3:08 pm
  16. I’m still doing the happy dance about Djinn’s Dilemma because it’s fantastic. Also, I love that you quoted Donald Maass, his writing the breakout novel is one of my big inspiration points.

    My favorite writing advice has nothing to do with writing, it’s from the movie a League of Their Own: “There’s no crying in baseball!” I think that works perfectly for romance writing too. :)

    Posted by Avery Flynn | November 30, 2011, 3:23 pm
  17. Hi Mina,

    I know I’m ridiculously late. But as someone who is trying to sell Bollywood Romances, I had to tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your experience, and your advice.

    Good Luck with your book, I can’t wait to read it.

    Sonali

    Posted by Sonali Dev | December 5, 2011, 11:00 am

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