Being a published writer at 20, to be honest, is not something I thought I would have to speak about too much. I could speak about being a writer (writer's block, etc.). Or I could speak about being 20 (how I never quite liked college, etc.). But, a writer at 20? Well, let’s give that a shot.

How I got around to writing my first novel, The Bard of Blood , is an interesting journey itself. Around the time I had turned 17, I had a sudden growing interest in the covert world of espionage. And it wasn't a James Bond film that drew me to this newfound interest of mine. It was, in fact, the entire talk of jihad and Islamic extremism that plagued every newspaper. There was always an article of some extremist outfit wreaking havoc.

Being a Muslim, I wanted to understand why I was so different from them, when ideally, we both were supposed to believe in the same set of principles? One thing led to another, and I had suddenly read a lot more than anyone else my age probably had about the subject, finding myself disagreeing with the ideology that had tweaked itself conveniently to something it was never meant to be.

Simultaneously, being an avid reader of fiction, I always kept myself abreast with the latest Lee Child or Jack Higgins novel. And then, I soon realised that India itself was bereft of a fictional character who was as powerful as a James Bond or a Jack Reacher. I wanted to fill that void. I wanted to create a character worth his salt, that wouldn't seem like a 'me too' of a Bond or a Bourne, but could stand his own and be equally magnetic. And what’s more, he was going to be set in the real world dealing with what could well be real situations.

Writing to write, not to be published

I was going to write the novel regardless of whether it would get published or not. It was going to be for my satisfaction, perhaps for a 40-year-old me to look back and find traces of himself in a character he had created two decades ago.

So, at the age of 19 I had begun writing the novel, burning the midnight oil and still making it to college on time the next morning. Soon afterwards, I met Chiki Sarkar, then the Chief Editor of Penguin Books, through Hussain Zaidi (a renowned crime writer whom I have been assisting for thethe past three years). Zaidi had discovered my writing skills and had dropped in a word to Sarkar, who agreed to read the synopsis.

She responded saying that she would like to read half the manuscript, after which she would take the final call. I was suddenly motivated to complete the book, which I might have drifted with otherwise. To meet Penguin's high standards, I had to up my game. I had to get my facts in place and research the topics well. Zaidi helped me at every step, and there was a reversal of roles, from me assisting him, he started assisting me! It took me roughly a year to get done with the project.

The benefits of writing a book at 20

You get applauded for doing something at an early age, something that people spend a lifetime hoping to do. You begin to be taken a lot more seriously too.This stood true in my case especially, because I picked a topic like the Taliban instead of writing a soppy teen romance.

There are drawbacks too. When you set out to write, there is bound to be apprehension – perhaps you're too young to write about this subject? But you must learn to brush that away. Believe in yourself even if others don't. In my case, especially, I backed myself as a story-teller. I had a good story and I was going to tell it.

And being 20, I was in college, which came with a set of problems that I could dedicate another article to! Writing was that much-needed escape, a catharsis of sorts.

But once that's done, you can't let the fact that you've been published get to your head. Because then you would be remembered as the guy who wrote a novel at 20 and then never wrote another. Or, worse still, you wouldn't be remembered at all!

Like any other book-lover, I absolutely love the smell of books; new and fresh, or old and musty. But you know what's better than the smell of a book? The smell of your own book! And I intend to smell many more of them!