When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was ten years old, with a diary. I wrote a diary for about 15 years and this wasn’t a chronology of events. I wrote about my thoughts and feelings, poems and character sketches of people I knew. I also wrote short stories, novellas, fan fiction and short screenplays with my favorite television characters. I was an introvert in my teens and in my spare time I was either reading or writing. None of this early work was published.
What have you written so far?
I have written hundreds of features for mainline Indian newspapers and magazines over the last 25 years. Some of my short stories have also been published, in newspapers. The Educational Department of H. Aschehoug & Co-publishing house in Oslo, bought a story of mine titled “A Real Lady” to publish in a textbook and related digital components called Global Visions for use in the foreign language subject. (International English in Upper Secondary schools in Norway.) And now my debut novel “The Hawa Mahal Murders” has been published by Vishwakarma Publications.
Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?
I just let my ideas flow in the first draft. I write whatever comes to my mind and then go back and revise it. While writing my second novel I tried the other method, of writing an outline first, because writing experts suggested that this was the better method, faster and more efficient. It didn’t work for me. My brain seemed to freeze and so I abandoned the outline method. I think one should do what one does instinctively and not try to follow another’s method.
How do you feel about indie/alternative vs. conventional publishing?/ What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I was lucky to have got a traditional or conventional publisher, but it was touch and go. Being an unknown author, it is difficult to break into the literary scene. I was toying with the idea of self-publishing but on an impulse entered a contest at the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF) and won. As a result of this I bagged a book contract.
One must get one’s book out there if one believes in it, whether it is through traditional publishing or self-publishing. If self-publishing, an aspiring author should work with a professional editor and have a few beta readers to ensure that whatever is put out is of a high quality.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
The story focusses on two characters: Smita, a troubled housewife trapped in a bad marriage (her second), and Jai, a police officer desperate to prove himself but stymied at every step by a crooked boss and a corrupt system. When a series of murders take place in a posh locality in Mumbai, all hell breaks loose, with senior police officers scrambling to save the Chief Minister’s son and frame an innocent watchman. Jai finds it hard to handle the intrigue and is on the verge of losing his job. Smita, struggling to salvage a deteriorating relationship with her husband, realizes that she married for all the wrong reasons, again. She regrets her decision to put aside her career ambitions and has to consider the possibility that her husband is a serial killer.
Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?
I have created a character (Smita) who is unsure of herself and struggling to come to terms with some of her past decisions. She is not a heroine in the true sense of the word. She is not superhuman or a super achiever the way fictional characters are often portrayed. This makes it easier for readers to relate to her.
What is your next project?
My next project is a sequel to the novel I have already written. I have kept a thread of the sub-plot open. This is about locating an ancient treasure. I also writing a book on hand-reading although this is more long-term.
What role does research play in your writing?
Research is important if one wants to create an authentic setting and believable characters. Not much of the research is visible in the kind of writing I do, but without it characters would fall flat. For example, I spoke to people about the workings of the police force in India and also read up as much as I could on how they speak and behave, the kind of vehicles they use and so on.
Tell us something unique about you.
Not many people know that I am not just a journalist and author. I am also a hand reader. I started reading palms when I was in school, because there used to be books on palmistry at home. I continued hand reading as a hobby as an adult. Now I read hands professionally. I enjoy doing this as it is all about helping people discover themselves.