In conversation with Rabeeta Abbas

Rabeeta Abbas is a 16 year old, published writer from Karachi, Pakistan. She is the author of Dead By Sunrise. She has also co-authored two internationally published anthologies. As a writer, she firmly believes in the strength of words and strives to contribute in bringing a positive change through her work.

Rabeeta Abbas

What sparked your interest in dystopian fiction and led you to write on the same genre?

Dystopian Fiction is a genre that I truly enjoy reading and writing. It has always captured my heart. That’s probably one of the major reasons why my stories tend to gravitate towards or stem from dystopias. Apart from that, The Legend Series by Marie Lu, Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Giver by Lois Lowry and 1984 by George Orwell sparked my interest in this genre. Moreover, dystopian fiction is something I feel naturally inclined towards. Dystopia, as we know is a counter response to Utopia. It shows the harsh aspect of reality rather than the sugar coated version portrayed in Utopia.

“In dystopian fiction, the narratives take dark turns and offer a different lens to readers to witness present day world issues. And once readers develop a different worldview, it calls for action, evoking an emotional response within them which then inspires change.”

Can you introduce us to the major characters of your stories?

Dead by Sunrise is a compilation of post-pandemic urban thriller novelette and two mystery-thriller flash fictions. The main characters are Heather Rodriguez (Picture Perfect), Lily (Product Specifications) and Ukiyo (Hit and Run). 

Heather Rodriguez

Heather Rodriguez is a journalist. She is closely related with the government. Even though she comes from an influential background, she despises it. For her family harbours dark secrets. She cares deeply about the people she loves. Heather is portrayed as a person who seeks truth at all times. Her character will remind people of those who stand by truth no matter how hard the circumstances get.

Lily

Lily is a high school student. People always mistake her for a fragile and weak girl due to her selflessness. However she displays qualities like bravery and wisdom. Lily has a clear vision and knows exactly when to prioritise something. Her character is reflection of all those souls who are risk takers and would go to any length to help people.

Ukiyo

Ukiyo is a 17 year old orphan. The name Ukiyo has a Japanese origin. It means the floating bird, symbolising detachment. Ukiyo’s character is inspired by a real life person. I remember watching a show in which the journalist visited a prison. One of the prisoners there, was a victim of harassment and it led me to write Ukiyo’s character.

Which story was your favourite to write and why?

My favourite story to write was “Hit and Run”. Despite the complexity of the plot, I enjoyed writing it a lot. It was also the story from “Dead by Sunrise” that took the longest to complete. For I had to condense the backstories of three characters in limited words. Another interesting thing about “Hit and Run” is that I hit upon the idea for the characters first and plot second. All of these interesting elements put together, made “Hit and Run” the most interesting to write.

Rabeeta Abbas

Which character was your favourite to write & why?

When it comes to who was my favorite character to write, there are two. Ukiyo from Hit and Run (the protagonist) and Robert Gonzalez from Picture Perfect (the antagonist). Since I’ve already told you why Ukiyo was my favorite, I’ll let you in on why Robert was my favorite to write. So Robert again, is a round character. Round character is a one that has a lot of layers to it. He is a public figure who always manages to make the public believe that he only acts in their best interest. Although he controls a large portion of the government, he also has someone who is superior to him. Robert is a true reflection of most “wretched” people in the society who have no fear of the End.

To quote an excerpt from the book, “He is a tamed beast, and a tamed beast left alone in the wild often fears messing up. But he is trained well. In front of people, he is the unopposed leader; no-one dares to challenge his authority. And that is how the different masks he wears keep him safe.”

His villainous and complex persona made him an interesting character to write and undoubtedly, one of my favourites.

The themes of your stories cater to real world issues. What do you believe is the role of storytellers in shaping the narratives regarding such sensitive topics?

Stories play a significant role in shaping the way we think and the way we view the world. As a storyteller, it is crucial to realize the fact that our words will have an impact on the reader. An effective story will not only educate the reader about the issue, but will also move the reader. Meaning, it will invoke action.

That’s because narrative forms are more relatable and have more capability to diffuse into the reader’s mind than simple every-day statements. When approaching a sensitive topic, storytellers must carefully articulate their words and narratives so as to create a positive impact on the reader rather than an antagonistic one. Also, we must take care that our words do not cause offense to the feelings and morals of readers.

During the pandemic, the whole world experienced a new ‘normal’. One of the themes in your book is also pandemic. Tell us more about it.

One of the primary themes for Picture Perfect is the pandemic. It portrays a future in which we’ve adapted ourselves to the new normal and involves politics, conspiracies, etc. I originally wrote this as a short story for the Six Feet From Tomorrow: What Happens Next anthology. In that anthology we explored the possibilities of what could happen next. It talks about the atrocities of the Pandemic and how it left some families with irreparable damage. With rumors of a new surge of Covid rising despite the vaccinations, Heather finds out there’s more to the Pandemic than what’s being conveyed. So, it paints the picture of a world after the pandemic.

Speaking of pandemic, what is your opinion on the strain pandemic has put on people’s mental health?

The pandemic definitely caused an increase in mental health issues, especially during the lockdown. The situation worsened for those who lost their loved ones. And those who lost their jobs also faced the indirect atrocities of the pandemic. That’s another reason why I strongly advocate people to get out of their comfort zone to help those in need.

Coming to another brave theme in your book – Human Trafficking, would you like to enlighten the audience on the horrors of this reality with reference to your book?

Did you know that the majority of trafficked persons include women of the ages 18-24? And it’s not something that’s limited to any specific country. Unfortunately, it is one of the most horrific realities all over the world. Product Specifications is about that, where four highschool students get kidnapped by their school janitor. However, the janitor is not just a kidnapper but a professional human labor trafficker. He stalks them well before kidnapping them, so he knows more about them than they think he does. This shows how easily traffickers disguise themselves as normal people. Thus, reinforcing the importance of staying cautious and keeping your guard up at all times. The story educates the readers about the realities of Human Trafficking, in a subtle manner.

If you had to describe your book by a feeling, a season, a place, a vibe – how would you describe it?

So, this was a very interesting one and I came up with two answers. Firstly, Comfort – letting you know that no matter how hard life gets, there’s still hope for a better future. God is the Greatest of all planners, and He has planned everything to work out perfectly for you. Secondly, Lo-fi – a chill and calming beat, that leaves you comforted against chaos.

Author-Reader Relationship

Readers and writers are bonded by the words in a book. They share a connection of mutual respect by absorbing a piece of literature and giving back to the author in the form of feedback & appreciation. Rabeeta Abbas’ book gives a beautiful turn to this author-reader relationship, as it is a charity project so the readers by purchasing the book are not only in a for a treat but also contribute to a beautiful cause. Let’s find out what she has to say about it.

“I think building a strong author-reader relationship is immensely important. To build a bond of mutual respect and trust is something I truly appreciate. And to have that sort of bond with someone who resonates with my work, that’s invaluable. I wanted to not only build this bond, but to further strengthen it by making sure both (the reader and the author) contribute towards a better future. I trust the readers with my words and they trust me with their resources so that we can both feed the poor. It’s a win-win deal, if you ask me.”

“For as long as the book continues to sell, there’s at least one soul out there who gets their meal”

Team Daastan wishes Rabeeta Abbas best of luck for her future endeavours. We hope you enjoyed the insights from Rabeeta’s dystopian world-building. For more literary goodness, stay tuned!

Noor Hashmi
Noor Hashmi is a student of literature at Numl University. She is an aspiring poetess. She runs a blog by the name of “Diaries of Huda” sharing her journey through poetry. In her free time, she loves to paint and bake.

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