Shabnam Mahmood interviews H. M. Naqvi for the BBC:
How does it feel to be shortlisted for the DSC Prize?
It feels wonderful – I have been writing since the age of five and will continue to do so until I die. Although it's lovely to be acknowledged, I write because it allays my anxiety. I write 300 words of prose a day so I can contend with myself. I guess my reasons for writing are very personal.
Homeboy is your debut novel – tell us a bit about the story?
It's based around three Pakistanis from different regions of the country. It's set post 9/11 because I wanted to write about the changes in the US after the attack on the twin towers. The events take you from Karachi to New York. It's a coming of age story of a young male trying to blend into a new and different world – a world removed from his life in Karachi. So it deals with grave issues yet there are comedic elements to it. The idea was to fuse different genres and styles so there's Punjabi, there's Yiddish, Spanish and even Urdu in the texture of the language.
Is your own personality reflected in this novel?
I think all novels, especially debut novels, are autobiographical. I was in America in the wake of the tragedy. It was an unsettled time. And as a writer, one writes to make sense of one's self and the world. But Homeboy is not a memoir. It is fiction, a permutation of reality. If I am compelled to assign a percentage to the autobiographical component of Homeboy, it would be 14%.
I like to think the three main characters are facets of my persona. At the same time, they are amalgams of people I know, people I care about. I could conceivably introduce you to AC [character in Homeboy], who in the flesh is also larger than life.