Interview with Author Husna Kassim: Discussing her Book People & Places and Other Stories from Life
Husna Kassim is a chemist by discipline with an MSc in Analytical Chemistry & Instrumentation from Loughborough University of Technology, UK. She has an overall work experience of 32 years in various fields. She spent 29 years in Research &Development (R&D) work in the field of agriculture and oil & gas.
Her biodiesel research on palm oil methyl ester resulted in an article being written about her as a pioneer researcher in Petronas Resource magazine in 2002. She is now doing what she loves most – travelling and writing. Husna’s experience in R&D work has kept her well-grounded for her non-fiction writing stint. Her first travel book “A Train to Catch”, based on her Trans Mongolian / Balkan trip was published by Partridge Singapore in 2016. Since then, she has been actively blogging and writing articles for magazines. She won third place for Jasmina Awards 2019, for My Malaysia category for her article “A Kind of Paradise.” She is a member of the editorial team and contributed essays for the book “Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives,” published in January 2021.
SHE speaks to NEWS WORLD INC about her book: People & Places, writing aspirations, upcoming books, life memories and much more.
NWI: What was the concept behind penning down the book People & Places?
Husna: When I first decided to put down my travel experiences in the form of the book “People & Places: Walk My Journey”, my idea was to ‘transport’ the reader to the places that I have been , as if the reader was there herself, travelling with me. The hope was to inspire others to explore new cultures and experience the journey itself in the way I have done. Taking a bus around Taurus Mountains in winter in Turkey was my kind of unique travel experience.
NWI: Would you like to throw some light on the second part of the book:We Crossed Paths?
Husna : The book is a collection of essays about physical / geographical journeys and inner journeys. “We crossed Paths” is the collection of inner journeys, mostly a reflection of emotional journeys that I went through while growing up and a home I left, and people who I met while travelling like the Bedouin in Saudi or the Turk in the mosque in Goreme, allowing me to get close to locals and appreciate their innermost thoughts about everyday life.
NWI: How is it different from any typical travel memoir book?
Husna: “People & Places: Walk My Journey” is a travel memoir. It involved two parallel journeys : a physical / geographical journey and an emotional / inner journey. But what differs for this travel memoir to another is the takeaways. This particular book tries to highlight that the best way to know a destination is to explore the people in it through conversations and interactions such as the ones I had with the Turks in the mosque in Goreme and in Istanbul. From conversations, I got to know how most Turks revere Kamal Ataturk and what they think of Erdogan. Explored this way, I almost felt like I was a ‘journalist’.
NWI: Was there any bizarre/unique travel experience that you missed in the book?
Husna:I am not too sure what exactly you mean. I take it to mean the unique travel experience I remember most and greatly missed? The one particular experience was travelling in Southern Tunisia, enjoying a campfire in the desert near Douz under the sparkling stars of the Sahara. I think this is the most memorable night for me being among new friends, one being Mohamad, and burying my legs in the warm sand to keep out the cold. That night we were all Bedouins, eating pre-prepared Mandi meat and dates.
NWI: Did you try promoting the Malaysian tourism?
Husna: There are a number of essays which narrate certain destinations in Malaysia. These narratives reflect cultures of Malaysia like kite-flying in Kelantan (“Flying Wau Over Pantai Cahaya Bulan”); “A Paradise of Sorts” is about two beautiful beach-front kampong called Kampong Mangkuk and Kampong Telaga Papan on the east coast of the state of Terengganu in Peninsula Malaysia; “Backpacking inLangkawi”, another beautiful island on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia.
NWI: Will you share your UK experience in any of the upcoming book?
Husna: Ireland is definitely on the plate for 2023 or 2024. I am inspired by the movie “Wild Mountain Thyme” and I love the countryside. But South Island of New Zealand will definitely be in my next travel book. It is heaven on earth with the mix of blue skies, winding roads, snow-capped mountains, electric blue lakes, gorges, beautiful rivers with water rushing over pebbles and stones, birds chirping, colony of seals etc . I will definitely write about the nature walks in my next travel book including my conversations with Repika, the 18 year old Maori girl I met while in Kaikoura.
NWI: What is the major life theme in your book, other than travel stories?
Husna: We all go through life, quietly observing the on-goings around us. What happened to us becomes a source of inspiration. But inspiration is never about one thing. It could come from the many experiences we go through: a divorce, a death, a long-drawn illness, the sadness from loss of a loved one, betrayal by a loved one; etc. The world around us, all affect us one way or another. My major life theme is stories around my inner journeys and the will to carry on.
NWI: What do you aspire as an author?
Husna: As an Author I hope to be able to share my experiences with readers through story-telling. I aspire to be able to write and make my mark as a non-native English author like Arundhaty Roy in the “The God of Small Things”. Of course she writes fiction, but I will stick to Creative Non-fiction since by training, I am a research scientist / chemist. But Fiction is where authors make money. I hope that one day one of my books will become a best-seller.
NWI: What are you working on next, any book in near future?
Husna: My next book is not a travel book. The upcoming book “The Push till the Last Mile” will be a collection of essays of how life experiences shaped the person you have become. It will be out in late February or early March 2023. It is a book of life stories: inspirational stories of a winning mentality with accounts of endurance, perseverance and courage; stories of how the cycle of poverty was broken through education; and stories of the unfortunate ones who fell through the cracks. These stories are about paths taken by people who go the extra mile to achieve their dreams. One essay is an interview with Malaysian 7th Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir, a 97 year old statesman who led Malaysia for over 22 years.