Uzma Hameed wrote her first novel aged 17. Since then, despite her parents’ advice, she’s been writing and directing plays, and has even run her own theatre company. (Not all) critics seem to like what she does. Although she was born two years after her sister, she doesn’t think of herself as secondary. (Read some of Uzma’s Reviews.)
Ambreen Hameed was born first. Trained as a journalist, she’s survived a career in British television and has even won a couple of awards. To everyone’s surprise, her first novel, Shrinking Francesca, has won representation from leading literary agents MBA.
Undying is a novel on which – for reasons we can’t now recall – we decided to collaborate. It’s a black comedy about two sisters (not us) who fall in love with the same man. The man may or may not be a British Muslim terrorist. Somebody we know (not us) summed up our plot as: “The Bronte sisters meets Four Lions“. It’s about sibling rivalry, heroism and how global politics impact ordinary lives. Plus a djinn who looks like Humphrey Bogart.
As our novel nears completion, we can report that writing with your sister is both the best thing you could ever do and also the hardest. Family myths, sibling resentments and barely-buried feuds come screaming out of the ancestral crypt. You’re forced to reject your most basic assumptions about each other. You thought you knew this person, but it turns out you don’t. Who is your sister? And who (the hell) are you?
Will Undying, the novel, be better for all this heartache? Jonathan Franzen, one of our literary heroes, recently said this: Good novels aren’t written by committee. Good novels aren’t collaborated on. Good novels are produced by people who voluntarily isolate themselves, and go deep, and report from the depths on what they find.