We’re thrilled to share that Penguin Random House has just bought the rights to debut novel The Matchmaker from local mum and well-known Willoughby writer Saman Shad. The soon-to-be author kindly answered a few questions…
What is your background as a writer?
“I’ve always wanted to be a writer ever since I was a child but I had no clear plan or idea about how to go about becoming one. After I moved to London in my early 20s I saw an opportunity advertised by a theatre company who were offering playwriting workshops to early career writers. Even though I’d never written a play before, I wrote up a few scenes and submitted it and that’s how I got started in theatre. I had plays performed in various theatres around London. I worked with the Hampstead theatre’s youth company to create a children’s play and I was a writer in resident at Soho theatre. I also took one of my plays to the Edinburgh Fringe festival where it was seen by a producer at the BBC who then asked me to submit some scripts, after which I became a scriptwriter for a BBC radio drama series. After I moved back home to Sydney, I focussed on writing articles for various news publications and that’s how my career in journalism began. Freelancing allowed me to focus on my children while also working. I also made a few radio documentaries for the ABC and have for the last couple of years worked at SBS as an editor and freelance writer.”
You’re also a Willoughby mum – who’s in the family?
“It’s me, Matt and our three kids who go to school locally. We’ve lived in the area since we moved back to Sydney from overseas.”
In the last year you’ve developed a play, worked on two tv shows, published numerous articles for leading publications, mentored young writers, held the position of Editor of SBS Voices and appeared on ABC’s The Drum regularly. Um – where do you find the time? And which vitamin supplements are you currently taking?
“Ha! I don’t take any supplements but maybe I should! Time is so hard to carve out and I often end up working late into the night after the kids are in bed or carving out time in the weekends. I imagine it’s the same for most working parents. This year it has become a bit easier as my youngest has started school so suddenly the week has opened up for me. But as any parent of school children will say, the day is too short! I feel I’ve just dropped them off at school, sat down at my computer when it’s time to go pick them up.”
Congratulations on the book deal for The Matchmaker with Penguin Random House. How did it come about?
“I’ve been working at getting a novel published ever since I lived in London – so it’s been a long time coming! I just didn’t expect to get a publishing deal when I was a working mum with three kids – but it’s been a huge dream come true for me and also a reminder to never give up on your dreams! My agent at Curtis Brown Australia introduced me to the editor at Penguin after running my book concept past her. I worked with the editor for a few months to refine the concept and the chapters I was submitting before Penguin Random House offered me the book deal.”
Where did the idea for The Matchmaker come from?
“Arranged marriages are commonplace in South Asian cultures. As I was born in Pakistan I’ve seen many relatives around me get an arranged marriage – although neither my parents or I had one. But I did think if you were to get an arranged marriage in Australia how would you go about it? That’s where the idea of the Matchmaker came in. Saima is a Pakistani-Australian woman who arranges marriages for other people but remains resolutely single herself because she doesn’t believe in love, at least not for herself. That is until she is hired to arrange the marriage of a man, Kal, who she ends up falling in love with. Kal helps Saima open up her own heart to the same promise she offers her clients – that of true love.”
When can we expect to see The Matchmaker in bookstores?
“When I finish the book – eek! I have a deadline of later in the year to submit my manuscript which I’m still working on. But I will make sure to keep Willoughby Living updated about when the book is coming out.
Meanwhile I have written a play which is being performed at Kings Cross theatre in August (yes I know – what a year!). It’s a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that would make a fun night out. More info in the poster below.”
How is the writing going while juggling three kids and your other professional commitments?
“It’s hard! I managed to get some solid time working on the book last month by booking myself an Airbnb for five days so I could write. You do need a lot of self-discipline to keep yourself focussed on writing – especially as I’m still working for SBS and doing the parenting juggle. But I think I’m somehow managing it – just!”
Where can everyone follow your creative adventures?
“My website is your best bet: https://www.samanshad.com/”
If you’d like to read about more wonderful locals, click here to meet our Humans of Willoughby.