In advance of the film adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, take a look back at Hamid’s talk on his book and what it means for it to be turned into a film with someone like noted director Mira Nair.

What makes a writer a writer? It’s a simple question with many possible answers and if you ask 10 authors, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get 10 different answers. Junot Diaz answered the question as only he can:

My novel, which I had started with such hope shortly after publishing my first book of stories, wouldn’t budge past the 75-page mark. Nothing I wrote past page 75 made any kind of sense. Nothing. Which would have been fine if the first 75 pages hadn’t been pretty damn cool.

But they were cool, showed a lot of promise. Would also have been fine if I could have just jumped to something else. But I couldn’t. All the other novels I tried sucked worse than the stalled one, and even more disturbing, I seemed to have lost the ability to write short stories. It was like I had somehow slipped into a No-Writing Twilight Zone and I couldn’t find an exit. Like I’d been chained to the sinking ship of those 75 pages and there was no key and no patching the hole in the hull. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, but nothing I produced was worth a damn….

I was living with my fiancée at the time (over now, another terrible story) and was so depressed and self-loathing I could barely function. I finally broached the topic with her of, maybe, you know, doing something else. My fiancée was so desperate to see me happy (and perhaps more than a little convinced by my fear that maybe the thread had run out on my talent) that she told me to make a list of what else I could do besides writing. I’m not a list person like she was, but I wrote one. It took a month to pencil down three things. (I really don’t have many other skills.) I stared at that list for about another month. Waiting, hoping, praying for the book, for my writing, for my talent to catch fire. A last-second reprieve. But nada. So I put the manuscript away….

One night in August, unable to sleep, sickened that I was giving up, but even more frightened by the thought of having to return to the writing, I dug out the manuscript. I figured if I could find one good thing in the pages I would go back to it. Just one good thing. Like flipping a coin, I’d let the pages decide. Spent the whole night reading everything I had written, and guess what? It was still terrible. In fact with the new distance the lameness was even worse than I’d thought. That’s when I should have put everything in the box. When I should have turned my back and trudged into my new life. I didn’t have the heart to go on. But I guess I did….

Because, in truth, I didn’t become a writer the first time I put pen to paper or when I finished my first book (easy) or my second one (hard). You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. Wasn’t until that night when I was faced with all those lousy pages that I realized, really realized, what it was exactly that I am.

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2008 Anisfield-Wolf award winner Mohsin Hamid’s groundbreaking work, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is getting the Hollywood treatment. The story follows a young Pakistani as he grapples with life after 9/11. Starring Riz Ahmed as Changez, the film will also feature Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, and Kiefer Sutherland. Mira Nair (The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding) will direct.

There’s always a murmur when beloved books and characters make the transition to the big screen. Devoted readers will either skip the film altogether or spend a great amount of time picking it apart in comparison to the book. But as The Reluctant Fundamentalist makes its leap into theaters, it’s worth noting that Hamid took it upon himself to create a novel that was especially inviting for readers to create their own vibrant connection to the story. As he wrote earlier this year in a piece for The Guardian:

“I began to wonder if the power of the novel, if its distinctive feature among contemporary mass-storytelling forms, was rooted in the enormous degree of co-creation it requires on the part of its audience. (After all, when you watch a film or TV show, what you see looks like what it represents; when you read a novel, what you see is black ink on pulped wood, and it is you who projects scenes on to the screen of your imagination.)

If the novel was special because it allowed writers and readers to create jointly, to dance together, then it seemed to me that I should try to write novels that maximized this possibility of opening themselves up to being read in different ways, to involving the reader as a kind of character, indeed as a kind of co-writer.”

 The Reluctant Fundamentalist is due to hit theaters in 2013.