Q.1 What has the experience of writing and publishing books been for you? How has your Author journey been so far?
It has been an exhilarating journey, writing and getting my books published. It has also been a long journey as I began writing at the age of ten, but as with every experience, I have had my ups and my downs. The one good thing is that neither of those has stopped me from writing, and I consider myself blessed to be able to continue wielding my pen. I have been fortunate in my publishers who have respected my writing, enhancing it further with pertinent amendments, without losing its essence.
Q.2 When and how did you become interested in writing books? Tell us a bit about your books.
Having produced my first poem when I was ten, I won many literary laurels in school and college. Writing books came much later, and my first book ‘Arms and the Woman’ (Rupa Publishers, Delhi) was published in 2002. This is a book that took a light-hearted look at my life as an Army wife.
I continued writing thriller short stories for various anthologies over the years. Finally, in 2016, the thriller bug having sunk its teeth into me, I wrote ‘Shadow in the Mirror’ (Readomania) which is a psychological thriller.
The COVID years bought me enough time to do much of my writing. Readomania brought out two more of my ‘Shadow’ books in 2020 and 2021 titled ‘Where Shadows Follow’ and ‘Shadows Never Lie’. The three books were collectively referred to as the Shadow trilogy.
‘Classic Tales from the Panchatantra’ came out in four e-volumes in 2020, and were further compiled into one e-book as well. To add a nugget, the illustrations in this book were done by Priyanka, my daughter, and by me. There is even one sketch done by my little granddaughter, Zoya.
My latest book titled ‘Defying Destiny: Nalini Chandran – A Life Sketch’ was published in 2022 (Logos Books). This was a labour of love as it tells the life story of my mother, an educationist of repute and a multi-facetted personality who has spent her entire life in bringing up an ICSE/ISC school that has created a niche for itself in Thrissur, Kerala.
Q.3 “Writing runs in my blood, as teaching does, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to do both.” Please tell us more about how did you get into teaching and how your learnings and experiences can be seen in your work?
Having been the daughter of a committed teacher who lives for her students, the last profession I wanted to take up was teaching. From childhood, I had striven to be a writer. In those days, the only option open to an Army wife was to turn to teaching. Out of reluctance, I went for a school interview, but the day I walked into a high school class and broke the ice with my young students, my life changed. I found that I could relate to them, and that is when my passion for teaching evolved. The wonderful truth is that one can learn so much from children of all ages and every life lesson I learnt from them helped me to turn into a more evolved and passionate writer as well.
Q.4. When choosing a book marketer, what factors are most important to you? Any 3 practices that according to you are a must while marketing a book.
In today’s world, book marketers are extremely significant in a writer’s literary life. Equally important is it to choose a book marketer who understands how important every book is to its creator and does his best to enhance the reading experience for readers out there. Three practices while marketing a book?
- One would be to read the book and understand the market.
- The next would be to use social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) widely to market the book, and help it gain visibility through integrated marketing.
- Finally, the more reviews that appear on Amazon and other sites, the better, and a book marketer can make it easier to get those reviews.
Q.5. What are the challenges you faced while writing your books/anthologies and how did you overcome them? From where do you get the ideas and inspiration for writing?
Writing is always a solitary process and often, life comes in the way, especially when the most exciting of ideas strike. As an Army wife with all my commitments, I had to find time to write. Today, as the Director of a school, I still need to burn the midnight oil to meet deadlines, especially if I do not want them to whoosh away!
Ideas? I can get ideas from anywhere and everywhere. For example, I could be on a walk and overhear a snippet of conversation. I could look up at the sky and see birds flying, and find the right theme. Ideas are all around. One only needs to grasp them out of the air and use them. My friends and family are a trifle wary of talking to me because they have often found themselves in my stories, one time or the other.
Q.6 From a Teacher, to a Writer and then a Journalist, how has your journey been? What is that one thing that was constant in all these three phases?
All three roles have had to do with reading, understanding, and acting on my impulses. It has been an exciting journey. I have been a teacher and a writer all my life. I jumped into journalism, off and on, the longest period being ten years in Chennai when I freelanced for different magazines. That was the period when I interviewed many vibrant personalities from various fields, authors like Ruskin Bond, and Jeffrey Archer, actors like Vijay and Jayaram, Rajnikanth’s daughters, Aishwarya and Soundarya, Kanimozhi – Sri Karunanidhi’s daughter and the like. I critiqued plays and movies, attended book launches and fashion shows. My only criterion was that I needed to enjoy and appreciate anything I did, and I still follow my heart rather than my head.
Q.7 We’d like to hear from you about your latest book, “Defying Destiny”, which tells the story of your educationist mother. What emotions or experiences did you go through while writing this book?
My latest book ‘Defying Destiny’ is a life sketch of a woman who means the world to me, my mother, who was widowed at the age of 39 after my father, a Colonel in the Indian Army, passed away. She was suddenly left alone in the world with three young daughters to bring up. This book tells the story of her tumultuous journey as a young mother, and an educationist who had to tread on fire to start a school without the support of her husband, in a town that was conservative at the time. I am proud to say she has etched her persona on the same town over four decades, and more. Even today, my mother is one of the strongest people I know and it was her struggle, her story, and her success that my co-writer, Ms. Kalpana Ramesh, and I have tried to bring out as best as we could.
Q.8 What do you consider your greatest strength as a writer? What do you plan to write next?
I feel that it is my love for reading and writing that is my biggest strength as a writer. Having done my Masters in English Literature in college, I knew from very early that somehow, writing would always play a significant role in my life. Today when people call me a writer, it makes me happy and proud.
My next book is slated to be a collection of Shakespearean stories for children. Another manuscript that I have sent out is set in Kerala and deals with oracles. I am also in the midst of yet another manuscript which I am working on relentlessly, the theme of which I cannot divulge at the moment.
Q.9 Who are your target readers and why should they read your books?
As far as my thrillers go, I think that anyone between the ages of fourteen and eighty will be able to read and appreciate them. The same goes for my latest book ‘Defying Destiny’. ‘Classic Tales from the Panchatantra’ is, of course, for younger children. My style of writing is comparatively simple, whatever the genre I choose because I prefer to have people understand and savour my narratives, rather than get lost in a literary maze of prose and imagery.
Q.10 Which are the top 3 books you would highly recommend, and what’s your most favourite genre?
There are ever so many books that I could recommend. My favourite books are The Count of Monte Cristo, the mysteries of Agatha Christie, and any book by P.G. Wodehouse. If I could add some Indian names, they would be Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee and the short stories of Rabindranath Tagore.
Favourite genre? Without a doubt, mysteries and thrillers!