What inspired you to write this book? Oh dear… Long story…Well, here it goes! The first time I took to social media – Orkut then – about thirteen-fourteen years ago, I realized that I could string my thoughts aptly into words, and that even strangers could connect with what I felt. This led me to blogging, wherefrom I derived plenty of creative satisfaction. Nothing substantial in terms of webpage traffic and commercial blogging – just a simple wordpress site with not more than ten-fifteen faithful readers some of whom went on to become buddies. But the seed of a writer was definitely sown inside me then. The next milestone in this creative journey of mine came when I became a part of a group of folks brought together by our mutual love of Agatha Christie, and before I knew anything, we were giving each other writing prompts and alpha and beta-reading each other’s stories. And so my first-ever short story was born. However, post this, I admit I was bitten by the bug of getting published traditionally, harboring grand notions about my worth as an author. This led to a series of rejections, disappointments, and final shelving of all that I had written so far – four and a half short stories, one novella, and the translation of a Hindi novel. It was not until a decade later that I was encouraged by my husband to revisit all that I had written. By then, I had heard of Kindle Direct Publishing, and hence, decided to go the self-publishing way. So this, in a nutshell, is how my short story collection ‘Extremely…’ came into being.
Can you tell me about the book? ‘Extremely…’ is a collection of six short stories in the General Fiction/Slice-of-life genre. The premise of each story is a thought, an idea or an emotion that was unconsciously taken to the extreme by the protagonist – each story plots how the protagonist’s life is shaped because of such an extreme. It is my firm belief that behind every story, there lies an extreme…
What is your writing process like? I usually don’t put words on paper till I know in my head where to start and where to end. So 80% of the plot line is already floating in the cerebral folds, struggling to come out, when I start hitting the keys of the notebook. Rest of the 20% comes as I write. You could definitely call me a plotter, I’d say. I am sporadic and get bouts of writing attack, during which I can finish up to 3-4 chapters in a day.
Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who? In part, yes. Largely, I dissected my own thoughts and motivations, and then added quite a bit of imagination here and there.
What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended? My stories are about life, and while a story ends, life doesn’t. So all my stories end in mid-action, with sufficient hint in the plot line as to how the protagonist would have continued even after the story’s end.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Absolutely fills my deepest core with energy…Having written one satisfactory chapter gives me sufficient energy to climb the Everest in one go!
What are common traps for aspiring writers? When our motivations to write come not from what we have felt and seen and then imagined but from what we have only read about. This may sound clichéd, but it’s got to be said that the power of first-hand experience vis-à-vis vicarious ones is immense. Even with a fertile imagination, originality will stem only from the roots of primary observations.
What is your writing Kryptonite? Nothing really.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I strive for originality. It will someday be my good luck when what I write matches with what readers want.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I am trying to build a body of work, but without connections between each book. In my current frame of mind, I am flitting between multiple genres – from kid-lit to general fiction to murder mystery to a thriller.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? 2 each. One kid-lit short story collection is awaiting an illustrator while one novella in the murder mystery genre is getting its cover designed. I am half-way through the next stand-alone novella in the series, while also co-authoring a thriller.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I like to get the details right. Being a researcher by profession (I did my PhD in Ecology), I have the inherent tendency to go for data triangulation and trust multiple observations. So yes, I do spend sufficient time researching – cannot quantify how long is sufficient – it may be a few minutes, it may be a few days, depending on what I am looking for.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? I am still a part-time writer. The corona quarantine has turned me into a temporary full-time one! However, being a mother of two and running two firms of my own will probably ensure that I stay a part-time writer for a long, long time.
How many hours a day do you write? On an average, 2-3 hours.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult) Adults, largely, and children.
What did you edit out of this book? Verbosity.
How do you select the names of your characters?
The names usually have a connection with the plot. Sometimes, it is just a name I happened to like.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? I am a full-time environmental consultant and language editor.
What was your hardest scene to write? I flounder in romantic scenes and avoid erotica. Somehow can’t do them well.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? A month, for a novella of about 40k words.
Do you believe in writer’s block? Oh, yes. It’s not a myth, folks.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand? My laptop is my BFF.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
As I managed to hint in the first question, it was slightly more than a decade ago.
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something? Not hard at all. It is harder to keep the words and the plots inside my head. I am fairly bullied by them to type them out.
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Nope. I am sporadic. I write in bursts. Also, with a full-time career and a couple of kids, it is difficult to get into the writing mood as a part of a timetable. I write when I am turned on by an idea.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you? Mostly a plotter.
Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors? I do. I’ve been reading Hindi since age 4, thanks to my grandpa and my parents. I was fairly brought up on the Hindi translations of all the classics. Then Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew came into my life. Later, I went on to adore, or should I say absolutely worship, Agatha Christie. R K Narayan was another favorite at this age. During this period, Jane Austen, O. Henry, Saki, the Bronte sisters, and Oscar Wilde carved very special places in my heart. Then Ayn Rand came about, definitely changing the course of my life. Charles Dickens never failed to mesmerize. Manik Bandopadhyay, a Bengali author who died too soon, wrote such pithy stories that his characters are imprinted on my soul. Today, I find Sudha Murty to be absolutely delightful. Last and definitely not the least, in fact just the opposite, the Bard’s works have strongly impacted my thoughts. My goodness, I hope I am not sounding too pretentious, naming all these great names? You see, I spent a very sheltered childhood and teenage with little or no extra-curricular. All I had was books, and I made the most of it!
What is the most important thing about a book, in your opinion? Its originality.
How much of yourself do you put into your books? Almost all of myself, with an ample dose of imagination.
Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family? My husband
Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that? Not for me yet.
Did any of your books get rejected by publishers? All of them!
What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any? I am currently co-authoring a thriller. It’s a great experience so far. I don’t know my co-author from Adam, and it is just the mutual love of writing that has brought us to this venture. All we converse about is the plot and while he ideates, I contribute with the words.
Is writing book series more challenging? Definitely. I am yet to envisage writing one. My current plotting ability has not gone beyond stand-alone novels.
Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier? Oh, my yes! It has happened hundreds of times. I have started jotting these stray thoughts down in mail drafts now to escape the pain of having forgotten what seemed like the best idea ever.
Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts? Kind of, yes. The first romantic novella I wrote was rejected summarily by a traditional publisher. While I didn’t destroy the manuscript actively, I must have unconsciously wanted not to save its soft copy.
Can you tell us about your current projects? I have one collection of short stories dedicated to children of the age 5-7. Everything is ready but for good illustrations. I have titled it Gull and Nanaiyya. A novella titled Fire and Ice, in the murder mystery genre, is ready and done, too, getting its cover page designed. The second novella in the same genre (titled Sun and Salt) is half-written. At the same time, I am co-authoring a thriller which is yet to be titled.
Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day? Not so, though I was a darling of both my Hindi and English literature teachers.
Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid? My grandpa still reads plenty, and so does my dad.
Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs? My husband is the most enthusiastic non-reader of my stories! He has never ideated with me and read only a few of my works. But he does everything else to encourage me to write and publish. And whenever he has given his opinion about what I should do with a character or a plot, I have found it to be worth following.
Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece? Once, when I was a part of an impromptu writing group, one of the group members dreamt a rather dramatic dream, which was taken as a writing prompt by all of us. It was fun!
How can readers find out more info about you and your books? Do check out the links below: