A fan of Jane Austen, I encountered Khairun Atika Kamsan whose publications were inspired by the classic British author. Atika wrote New Beginnings: A Modern Reimagining of Pride and Prejudice, followed by Blessed Unions, which were inspired by Persuasion. Kamsan has her BA in English Literature from Singapore University of Social Sciences, and she resides in Singapore. She is not only a published author, but also dabbles in poetry and actively reviews books. Here is an interview with the author who has just released her second novel, Blessed Unions.
R. Congratulations on the release of Blessed Unions which is your second publication! Tell us about it.
A. ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ I am grateful to be sharing this story with the world. It is a story that is loosely based on one of my favorite novels, Persuasion by Jane Austen. It is essentially a story of a kind and dependable young woman who seems capable and strong to others, yet she hides many painful secrets from everyone. It also touches briefly on grief and of learning to move on from your pain and taking charge of your own life. There is also an element of a romance, of having a second chance to be with someone from your past again.
R. New Beginnings was your first publication which surrounded friendship, sisterhood and romance. Does this in any way relate to Blessed Unions? If so, how.
A. New Beginnings was loosely based on another one of my favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. While it is generally more light-hearted and quirky, I chose to focus on sisterhood and the journey of two sisters who worked hard on their professional and personal lives. There is a touch of romance, but I like to think that these sisters were blossoming in other aspects as well. There are some characters from this book who will shine more in Blessed Unions!
R. What inspired Blessed Unions? Tell us about your writing and publishing journey.
A. I have always wanted to write a story about two souls who are isolated from the world, who find solace in each other. That was the crux of Blessed Unions at first. After writing New Beginnings, I was in a rather listless place as I struggled in my personal and professional situations, as well as living in lockdown amidst the pandemic. I tried to channel that feeling into writing something different, about a young woman who struggles and strives to move forward from her past, and to embrace her strengths. I was looking for a distributor for New Beginnings initially, when I chanced upon Bilal Books an independent publishing house in Singapore. As I am a self-published author, I approached them to distribute my first book and to possibly publish my second book. They offered to repackage and republish New Beginnings, and to publish Blessed Unions as well, which is how the publishing journey started. The rest, as they say, is history.
R. Can we see a bit of Atika in any of these books? Tell us about yourself, your upbringing and how it shaped who you are today.
A. I was born and raised in Singapore, where my large family prided on traditional and religious values. My parents always stressed on the importance of working hard and fulfilling my five daily prayers, which I try to instill in the characters of my books as well. I believe that these values helped to shape me into someone who prioritizes her responsibilities and who constantly strives to please her Creator above others. I am, of course, very much still a work-in-progress, and I hope to constantly make my family proud.
I am a kindergarten teacher, and I am fond of books and poetry, just like the characters in my books. I have always wanted to write stories that I hope would inspire young women. I would say that these qualities are imbibed in my characters — I am as outspoken and feisty as Alisa in New Beginnings, but I can also be quite introverted and pensive as Anaya in Blessed Unions. Though I would say Anaya is a part of me that not many people know of, I enjoyed telling her story. I believe that people are multi-faceted, and I try to incorporate different parts of myself in my craft.
R. How can we follow your journey?
A. You can follow me on my Instagram page, @khairun_atika_writes, where I will frequently post my poems and book reviews.