You’ve written romances of all kinds – second-chance romance, paranormal, royals, single mom etc. Which one is your favorite kind and why?
Oh, that’s an interesting question I haven’t been asked before. I think the books in my Inn Love romance series have been my favorite to write so far. I chose a different country and fictitious inn for each book, and being an innkeeper myself, I could subtly weave my own experiences into the stories. Plus, I just love armchair travel and can get lost in the research for the settings.
On the other hand, I also loved writing my paranormal romance trilogy because I’ve always enjoyed various elements of the supernatural. It was something completely new for me to write, bringing its own challenges and more freedom to try out something different.
2. Could you tell us about your educational background?
I don’t often talk about it because (especially in Sri Lanka) people tend to look down on me for not being a degree holder. I graduated from German high school with top marks, but I never attended university or got any other kind of degree (although I started an office management diploma in Germany for a few months, several years later). Life happened and I made some choices I don’t regret at all.
3. How easy or hard is it to put yourself in the shoes of the different characters you write?
I’ve always had a very vivid imagination and also been observant, so I find that part easy. And I think being an introvert helps. I can get into other people’s hearts and minds and empathize, which is important.
4. What are the challenges you face while writing series as opposed to standalone romance novels?
Some of my series feature stand-alone books even though they have a common thread or theme. I think it’s remembering details from previous books that need to be consistent. I’m pretty bad with dates/time frames, names, things like that.
5. Do you believe there is a formula when it comes to writing romances?
Well, if it’s genre romance, then of course there are certain unspoken rules; and if you write for a publisher, there are ‘spoken’ rules too. I’m not constricted by those but try to work with popular tropes and keep in mind what readers enjoy. I guess that is a formula in itself.
But I believe there’s only one rule that HAS to be met when writing romance: a happy ending a.k.a. HEA (happily ever after) or alternatively HFN (happy for now) if it’s a series.
6. Which are some books on romance writing you’ve read and would recommend?
I have to say I haven’t read any of those – although I do read general romance or writing advice blog posts. In that regard, I can recommend Jami Gold and the guest authors on her site, as well as Jesse Stuart.
7. Could you name some of your favorite romance novels?
That’s impossible, sorry! Some of my favorite romance novelists are Nora Roberts, Sylvia Day, and Cass Michaels.
8. Looking back at your journey as a writer, what are some things you would avoid doing today if you could?
Hm, another great question. I’ve learned from reviews of my earliest books that I shouldn’t get too lost in describing the setting and the background information but weave it into my plot and have my characters interact with it instead.
9. What do you consider your greatest achievement till date?
Writing-wise? Probably that I embarked on this self-publishing journey at all. I started in 2013 and I’ve published almost 20 books so far, some of them co-written.
10. What is your advice to aspiring romance writers?
Read as much as you can, and write as much as you can (ideally both in your genre, but that doesn’t have to be). And never forget that writing itself is just the start, it’s the marketing effort afterwards that counts, too.
What was your inspiration behind writing Isapuram Tales?
I did not intend to write children’s books. You could say, the books came to me. One day in 2016, when I was going through a challenging time in life, I felt the urge to write. I had a vision in my mind and felt a pressing need to write. It was a scene with a little girl laughing on a swing. She was being pushed on it by an old grandpa-looking man. Little did I know that it would lead to nine stories, which would eventually become two books. They are India’s first spiritual fiction books for ages 7-99!
Honestly, as I wrote, I had no idea of what would appear on paper. I worked in partnership with the Universe, in readiness and acceptance of what would appear. All I knew was I had no resistance to what was being written. As the stories came, they turned out to be simple reminders about life, the mind, people, relationships, emotions. In the stories, these were being experienced by children, questioned by children, but the wisdom they hold are important to adults as well. I re-learnt many important lessons as I wrote the stories, and at one point of time, I just knew they had to be shared with the world.
2. Could you tell us about your writing journey and educational background?
I started writing when I was in grade Five, poems about life, sorrow, and joy. Childish ones, but they seem very wise in retrospect! Writing and reading were all I knew. I would live, breathe, and sleep books. And so, naturally, I wanted to study literature in college. My dad wanted me to do engineering and we ended up deciding Commerce was the compromise! Makes no sense, but that is what I graduated in.
But even as I studied commerce, the real writing began. I started freelancing during college. By the time I was 18, encouraged by my brother, I was writing for the Times of India Supplements. Then after graduation, I chose to do my post-graduation in journalism. Though I already had a body of work by then, it was the best decision I had made, for I got to study under the doyens of journalism. I ended up securing the highest marks and graduating with the Jehan Daruwalla Merit scholarship. Since then, I have been a travel writer, a content writer, a communications specialist with development agencies, etc. The writing has been varied.
3. Could you tell us about your publishing journey?
For years, journalism was the mainstay, but I wrote poems and short stories on the side, dreaming they would be published in books one day. More than a decade ago that dream came true with poems in literary magazines and short stories in anthologies. Around this time, I won an award from the State of Andhra Pradesh for one of my travel pieces.
Then I had a soul-awakening kind of period. After chasing words and success for years, I felt a disconnection with what I was seeking. I felt no fulfillment with what I had worked so hard to earn. For almost five years after that I almost gave up writing, working only sporadically. And then, just like that when I least expected it, Diya and Baba (the lead characters of Isapuram Tales book series) came into my life. I did have a contract with a traditional publisher. But soon into the journey, I felt a lot of differences in our approaches to the book. So, we amicably parted ways and I decided to take the crazy decision of self-publishing children’s books! It has been a wild and challenging adventure; India is still not open to self-published books and marketing them is very tough.
4. You conduct writing workshops on therapeutic writing techniques, too. Could you tell us about them?
I have always been interested in the mind, emotions, and the soul department since I was a child. These fall under the “spiritual” category, and I now identify most as a spiritual seeker. The therapeutic writing is an outcome of that journey. I have spent over 25 years learning and practicing from different spiritual teachers and traditions. But the last almost 10 years have been with a guide and mentor who I owe a lot of my awakening to – GD. Somewhere in these meanderings, I discovered how much I turn to writing as a tool to bring emotional and mental stability into my life.
I began to explore the power of writing in healing and therapy and later started offering it as a part of my therapy sessions with clients and in my workshops. I have since seen beautiful results for the same. Therapeutic writing brings the power of healing and transformation into your own hands. We all look outside us for healing and wellness, but writing is a simple skill everyone possesses and can be used very effectively to deal with stress, emotional challenges, and even to usher in change. I guide people through these processes in my workshops and one-on-one sessions and help them unravel their minds to bring in ease, peace and joy.
5. What are you writing now?
I am always working on many things at a time! I am primarily focused on a book of these therapeutic writing techniques, tentatively titled “The write path.” I am also working sporadically on a book for children. I also have another two books, which are being worked on as and when they happen.
6. Do you have any upcoming book releases or writing workshops?
I intend to release “The write path” as soon as possible this year. The writing workshops are an on-going affair. I just completed a 21-day program and will be launching another one next month.
7. What are some of your favourite books?
Oh, this is difficult because my favourite books have a lot to do with where I am in life… Some books I can still read again and again are ‘The little prince,’ ‘The alchemist,’ and Herman Hesse’s ‘Siddartha,’ etc. I want my son to read “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” now, because I once loved it. “Ishamel” and “My Ishamel” by Daniel Quinn blew my mind, when I read them two decades ago, and Shatrujeet Nath’s Karachi Deception did that a decade ago! Actually, it is easier to name authors than books. I love Amitav Ghosh’s writing, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s writing, some of Paulo Cohelo’s books, R.K. Narayan, and Ruskin Bond. In the past few years, I have veered away from fiction and find myself reading either children’s books or spiritual books. Children’s authors I love include Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Nandini Nayar, Paro Anand and Shruti Rao. I know I have mostly named Indian writers, but that is intentional 😊
8. What advice do you have for aspiring children’s book authors?
I don’t think I have enough experience in that domain to be dishing out advice to others. But as someone who has been writing for decades, I would suggest – Be true to your voice. Do not compromise on what you want to say. But don’t be self-obsessed either. It’s a fine line 😊
9. What should a writer be mindful of when writing for children?
Children’s writers tend to dumb things down for kids. Some writers believe in sugar-coating things. But kids are wise. They notice things, we adults don’t. While we don’t need to throw the thorns of the world their way, do not make them believe the world is only full of roses. Be realistic without being bleak. I love the quote that says there is only a little difference between ‘partner’ and ‘parent’. Choose the first whenever you can.
10. Which books on writing would you recommend?
“Elements of Style” by William Strunk and EB. White. It’s an old book but one I believe every writer should read. I would also recommend “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and “Writing in general and the short story in particular” by Rust Hill.
Congratulations on your book ‘Stars from the borderless sea.’ Could you tell us about it?
Thank you so much. “Stars from the Borderless Sea” is a collection of three non-linked novella length stories, each of which has a strong, mature woman protagonist at its center. On a usual day in their busy, well settled lives, the morning newspaper takes them back in time. They recall the loves of their lives and their relationships, which shaped their lives today. Through their life journeys, the books explore different facets and nuances of love. It also shows how these women overcame their challenging circumstances and lived life on their own terms.
2. What prompted you to write ‘Stars from the borderless sea’?
Love is the most universal emotion. Everyone craves it, searches for it, laments not finding it. Yet, if you ask them what love is, each will have a different concept or a definition. As the quote from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park goes “There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time.” This book showcases some of the many facets of this universal and powerful emotion. The overarching theme of this book is love-and its myriad forms.
The book started as a short story, which is now the third story of the book-Humraaz. As I wrote the story, I began to outline the other two stories showing different relationships between the protagonists.
Romance is one of my favorite genres as a reader, but most of the books focus on peppy young protagonists with a Happily Ever After (HEA) ending. I wanted to go beyond that etch out characters who have matured through their life journeys and explore the concept of soul mates
3. How did you arrive at the title of your book?
Both the stars and the sea are not defined by any borders we may construct. They are eternal and infinite. And that is exactly what love is-immeasurable, infinite, impossible to define. The water in the sea below and the stars in the sky above are not limited by borders or divisions; in fact, they defy them. Similarly, love does not conform to conventions, definitions, or stereotypes. However hard we try; we cannot limit it to our rules. That is the premise of the book.
4. How long did it take you to write the book?
I started this book in June 2020 as a short story. But then I put it aside, mainly because I didn’t have the confidence to develop it into a longer form. A few months later, the story kept haunting me, asking to be told, and I returned to it. By February 2021, I had almost completed the first version of the manuscript, which was ready for feedback and beta reading. But then the second wave of the pandemic happened, and I wasn’t able to make any progress, so again there was a gap a few months. Later, more round of edits and revisions continued. By August 2021, I was ready with the final manuscript.
5. Could you take us through your writing journey?
I am a late entrant to the world of writing. In 2019, I started writing small pieces and some poetry mostly on Facebook. A few friends encouraged me to write more often, and I began writing short stories and flash fiction. I enjoyed participating in the “Muse of the Month” contest organized by Women’s Web, where the prompts given were very thoughtful and inspiring. I also wrote some poems and non-fiction pieces relating to the pandemic. I really enjoy writing short stories, and even while I was working on this book, I regularly wrote short stories alongside. Five of my short stories have been published in three anthologies.
6. Could you tell us about your publishing journey?
The publishing journey is as much a learning journey for an author as is the writing journey.
Once the manuscript was complete, I began querying with literary agents and publishers both. I finally signed with Readomania Publishers in December 2021.
7. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Favorite authors change with time and stages of our life journeys, and it is not possible to select a few. But I have always enjoyed reading non-fiction and memoirs, in addition to general fiction. Some books that have left an indelible mark on me are “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E Frankl and “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. Gawande and Oliver Sacks are authors whose words I have devoured for many years. “Love Story” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” are two books that I can return to any number of times
For the last few years now, I have been making a conscious effort to read more and more contemporary Indian writers, and it is a pleasure to discover the wonderful body of literature they are creating, especially the brigade of women writers!
8. What is your current read?
‘I am reading Stolen focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention’ by Johann Hari and ‘One True Loves’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid
9. What were some lessons you learned while writing this book?
I learnt how important having a writing routine can be. Writing daily, even for a short while a day, helped me complete this book and write many other pieces. I also discovered so many online platforms and writing communities which were very encouraging for me.
10. If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be and why?
Alice. It would be such an adventure to follow The White Rabbit into the magical garden. And be a guest at the tea party along with the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and Dormouse. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to play croquet with the Queen of hearts? And enjoy as life got curiouser and curiouser?
I interview photographer Kamal Chilaka who has recently published a coffee table book on images from Lapland.
What was the inspiration behind your limited-edition coffee table book, -29 ˚ Celcius?
Photography coffee table books by the likes of Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado , Jimmy Nelson and also collections such as The Hasselblad Master series have been a big inspiration and influence on developing my photographic vision. When I was readying my works for the Exhibit “-29 ˚ Celcius” I realised I had a collection of images worthy of a quality coffee table book.
2. What drew you to photography and how long have you been a professional photographer? Could you tell us about your journey as a photographer?
I have enjoyed photography as a hobby even since the days of film photography. After a few years of doing it part time and doing a few exhibits of my work while pursuing my other career I decided that I wanted to get into photography in a more serious way and in the year 2014 I started Eyemage as a platform to showcase both my own work and also the works of other Photographers
3. Why did you choose Lapland and how did you get there? What do you think draws people to Lapland?
Over the years I have travelled to and shot in several locations both in India and overseas during the seasons of spring, autumn and summer. I had stayed away from winter photography due to the fear of difficult travel logistics and of the difficult photography conditions. When I was going through my portfolio of images on my computer, I realised I had very few winter images. I decided it was time to widen the scope of my work and started researching locations for winter photography. There were a number of options, but I decided to go all the way and chose Finnish Lapland as it has one of the coldest winters but also has some fantastic scenery during winter and there was also the possibility of viewing the northern lights.
4. Tell us about your accommodation in Lapland.
I chose very safe and comfortable hotel options at Rovaniemi and Saariselka as there were already many challenges to overcome in terms of the low temperatures and travelling via public transport primarily . I wanted to be able to come back to a good warm room with proper food options and all the amenities to stay connected during the trip
5. What has the experience of travelling to Lapland and capturing the snowy scenes out there taught you?
The major lesson learnt was that in both life and in photography, it pays to get out of your comfort zone from time to time. Through new experiences, new learnings and new actions we can enrich our life. So, take a few risks
6. Apart from photography, what captured your interest in Lapland?
I loved everything about Lapland: the native Sami people who have adapted to live in these extreme conditions and how everything still works so efficiently in spite of the cold weather. I want to go back and shoot some more during the other seasons
7. Tell us about some of the other places you have travelled to?
I have travelled to over 60 locations in 20 countries for my photography, and I still have so much more of the world to see and photograph
8. How was your experience of bringing out this coffee table edition? What have you learned during the process?
Passion projects such as publishing a book take time and effort to do well. You need to have a good publisher who understands your vision and a good print partner who can print to a good level of quality. Right from planning to selecting the images and editing the book and numerous sample prints till you get it right it takes time and patience and you can’t really rush it
9. How many cameras and lenses did you take with you on your journey to Lapland?
I had carried with me two Canon DSLRs and 4-5 lenses and accessories for this trip. I have now moved on to shooting with Leica now
10. What advice would you share for someone venturing into photography?
Photography is a wide field with numerous specialisations to choose from. More and more the trend seems to be moving to video now for storytelling, but there is still scope for specialist photographers and specially those who can shoot both still and video images. Everyone is a photographer these days with their mobile phone cameras. To get to the next level, you should develop your vision and technical abilities to be competitive.
“A novel” approach to technical writingby my dad K.S.Loganathan
Here I feature a very special interview. One with my dearest dad! His book is releasing shortly. Do read on for his beautiful answers to my questions.
Tell us about your latest book. Why did you write it, and how does your work matter?
‘Reinforcing Fibers in Tires and Mechanical Rubber Goods’ is my second mega book on rubber technology. The first, Rubber Engineering’ was published by the McGraw-Hill companies in 1998. It is an aid to vocational education according to an international apprenticeship program in Rubber technology. It came at a time when the rubber industry was shifting eastward, and it was well-received. It was also a great business card for my emerging consultancy practice after a long tenure at Dunlop.
The half-life of an engineering or science degree is constantly decreasing due to technological developments but the attrition in one’s knowledge with age is not offset by academic textbooks or research papers. Keyword searches and posts on the Internet are not a substitute for a good education. In industry, lost knowledge, in particular “know-how” due to employee turnover or retirement or relocation of plants is a serious concern for even companies that have a training and succession plan. A rich legacy of technology of the pre-Internet era is unknown to the scholars in the present generation.
The current work is a self-education tool for practitioners in the inter-disciplinary field of textiles and rubber. It is a first-of-its-kind crossover design guide to rubber engineering with fibers. It is based on my industry experience and is targeted at young professionals entering the rubber industry from diverse academic backgrounds. I shoot for a practical rather than a purely theoretical book. Engineers are looking for current information and actionable advice rooted in reality to solve problems in their profession. The book includes various touchpoints with material science, engineering and tire mechanics, composite structures, processing and product designing for load-bearing, power transmission, and transport applications using terms that would be familiar to graduates from the various fields. As such, it is a professional and reference book.
2. How has the pandemic affected publishing?
COVID-19 has had a disastrous impact on the world’s creative industries, especially on the print media and the printed books industries. Even though people turn to books in difficult times, the publishing chain, which is vital to society, has been over-stressed. Conferences and trade exhibitions have been postponed or have gone virtual. The pandemic has also transformed the ossified educational system overnight into a fluid, digitized learning apparatus that can reach millions. The time is right for innovation in creating, collating, and disseminating knowledge and entertainment to the public in new and effective ways. Augmented reality used for knowledge capture is still in its infancy but may move centerstage in the time to come.
3. How do you determine your audience for this type of work?
A reference book has an academic audience for traditional and emerging subjects and industrial research groups for specialized topics. My book is on a subject that has so far not been taught in colleges or industrial training courses and there are few active practitioners in the field to serve as mentors. On the other hand, the end-products are mass-produced and sold and are of great importance to society and the environment. The potential audience who would never hear about the subject otherwise is large. It is much like selling shoes in a barefoot-village environment. Not everyone is in that place, but if you are, you might as well put your best foot forward.
4. How is technical writing different from fiction?
Technical writing is bound by verifiable facts and reality unlike fiction, which thrives on emotion and imagined experiences. Fiction readers want to be taken on a journey to another place and time with their favorite characters.
The vocabulary of scientific and technical/semi-technical words in industry usage is often different from the language used in everyday life, and it can cause a lot of trouble to the outsider or even the scientific community. In common parlance, “strength” is used to describe how powerful or resistant something is to withstand an applied force. In science, the term is a material property of isotropic (monolithic materials like metals), which is the limit to its load-carrying capacity. In composites, which often replace metals for light-weighting, especially in the aeronautical and automobile industries, the load-carrying capacity is determined by the local failure due to flaws and cracks, which propagate under impact and over-stressing. It is not a material property as such but a characteristic depicted by a similar parameter such as residual strength or compression after impact strength under critical stress. Much of the terminology in rubber and textile industries is a rollover from cotton fabric manufacture and metallurgy practices, which means that a term like strength can be confusing. The author cannot assume that the reader has a wide knowledge of all branches of engineering as opposed to common knowledge. The first task for an emerging discipline or for an author in an inter-disciplinary field of work is to develop the vocabulary and the vision to build a structure for the intended audience.
A structure is essential in the expression of technical facts and ideas. It is hard to find an unbiased, neutral work on any subject since so much of the publication chain depends on the profit principle and draws inspiration from war assembly lines.
5. How did you structure the book?
It is rare that in technical writing, one gets a blank canvas to paint on, so to speak. “Storytelling” has been a buzzword and a boredom-killing stratagem in business communication for a while. However, it would seem to be out of place in a scientific track if a Kalavathy were to appear every ten pages or so with a tall story to make a point. But the structure of a narrative – plot, character, theme, contradictions, and resolutions – can be gainfully employed in technical writing with the interpretation left largely to the reader. The story arc must unfold as the book progresses.
To begin with, I created and treated the subjects in the index as characters in the story to be introduced and developed as the plot thickens. Usually, the book index is the last job that the author does as a reader service when the book is almost ready to print. Putting these subjects down as post-its on a whiteboard and stringing them like good homicide detectives do on television, helps to introduce some order. The problem however is that there are more than 500 characters in my book – even the Mahabharata has only 300 characters or so. But I could downplay the role of minor characters as it is done in these stories.
The story arc is determined by the hierarchic nature of textiles – fibers, yarns, cords and fabrics to 1D, 2D, and 3D structures incorporated in various rubber products.
Long-form writing has practically disappeared from the industrial scene since the mid-1980s when statistical and automatic process controls, benchmarking, screen tabulation etc. became popular. A descriptive operational process in the traditional sense conveys far more than a quality metric does and is a valuable training aid for beginners in the absence of a mentor. However, text tends to be linear and with limited information carrying capacity, while 2- or 3- dimensional visualization or representation can foster a balanced presentation of a topic. I prefer technical writing in which a number of 2-D or 3-D elements by way of tables, cross-impact matrices, isometric projections, and good graphics supplement a clearly written text. Moreover, the potential reader is often deterred by higher mathematics and modeling. It requires a significant design effort from the writer to reduce the time, concentration and cognitive investment of the reader. In a single-author work, it is far easier to smooth out wrinkles and ensure that the ideas and advice as well as the figures all support one another.
Regarding the other strategies used, I recommend that the readers discover them. Suffice to say that it is a novel approach to technical writing.
6. Why did you self-publish the book?
Traditional publishers have the advantages of production and marketing scale, and in-house editorial, formatting and design skills that are hard to find on the freelance market. They bring their own audience to the author e.g. public and school libraries, academic community etc. and offer more support and structure. However, even if the book is a runaway success, the author is left with a jackal’s share of the spoils. I preferred the self-publishing route to have a good control over the production and guide the precision in the initial placement of the book, keeping crucial momentum going after its publication, albeit at some financial risk. It is now easier than ever to get published, especially by the self-publishing route.
Authors are expected to publicize their book themselves through social media networks. I believe in starting with a small audience to test-market the book and improvise as we go along. Carpet bombing of the unaware public with a publicity social media blitz is not a good idea.
7. What are your views on copyright protection?
There is a constant tussle between transparency or openness or secrecy, which extends the gamut from individuals to companies, societies, and governments. Individuals are the most vulnerable and their successful creative endeavors must not result in a loss to themselves. It is all too tempting to plagiarize or pirate intellectual property, as society often turns a Nelsonian eye to these things, compared to say, petty larceny, and considers education as a birthright. Unfortunately, patents and copyright protection require public disclosure, which may give the game away to a marauding inventor, and the intellectual property rights are in effect only a moral salve for regulatory bodies.
8. How can technical books be marketed in the present situation?
All said and done, you can only position the book in the marketplace. If it is any good, readers will come to it.
9. Why is there a marked difference between the local and market prices of books?
The costs of distributing books across borders rise astronomically due to postage, taxation and distributor’s margins and also if language translation is involved.
10. How will you measure the success of your endeavor?
The measurement of success of a book is not in the copies sold but in the lives or perspectives it has changed and the know-how it has transferred. Writing it has certainly changed mine by crystallizing my thoughts and arranging them in a 3-D order rather than in a messy space. The archer becomes the arrow. “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing, an exact man” – ( Francis Bacon).
Comment/Feedback from Mr. T.V Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum, on this interview:
“I was delighted also to read the excellent interview you have given on the subject of technical writing. You have articulated very nicely the various pertinent aspects involved. Heartiest congratulations for this. Please do convey my compliments to your daughter for the good questions and for conducting this useful interview.”
Could you tell us what your book ‘How to read your husband like a book’ is about?
It’s about understanding the “inner mind” of husbands through everyday situations. The way they think and act and what it means is revealed through illustrations and little nuggets of insights. It’ll throw light on the behaviour of husbands and is aimed at helping married women understand them.
2. What prompted you to write a book on this topic?
An incident during my college days in 1989 triggered the idea for the book. An aunt in the neighbourhood was telling me one day, “Raj, why is your uncle non responsive when I want to discuss something, on weekends it’s difficult to get the TV remote from him, and he’s forgetful of important things…” This left an indelible mark on me. It cropped up now and then, but finally in 2015, I began to write ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’.
3. When did you start working on this book? How long did it take for you to finish writing it?
As I said, I started penning this in 2015. It took me six years. I had to observe and pick the right situations that resonate with married women, so that it helped them enrich their relationship.
4. What do you have to say about the institution of marriage?
Marriage is beautiful and everyone must experience it. It has stood the test of time. It’s natural for man and woman to come together but it’s nurturing when we come together and start a family. We’re made that way and I guess will stay that way.
5. What part do you think humour plays in a marriage?
Humour is an important part of the everyday wife-husband relationship and one can laugh away the worries when a spouse has a sense of wit about them. Without humour, marriage could turn out to be rather serious. But on the lighter side, marriage is also fodder for a million jokes.
6. Do you vary your style for writing different content formats? How so?
I chose short form prose laced with humour because the subject is important, the time demands it – reels, shorts, TikTok; and audience attention spans are dipping. Moreover, I chose illustrations and single page nuggets because one should be able to just open the book and read any page. I choose formats based on subject, form, platform etc.
7. Who are some of your favourite authors?
I loved RK Narayanan, Somerset Maugham and Shakespeare. Even author P Raja, from Puducherry, my professor at college.
8. What advice do you have for newbie authors looking to get published?
Research and find the right kind of publisher who specialises in your genre. An author is a marketer, too, so create plenty of content around the subject of your book and be ready to fire on all cylinders on social media, blog, video, webinar, and more. Find where your audience is and choose the platform to connect with them. Be consistent, but more importantly persistent. It’s a 5-day match, so be ready for the long haul. Don’s lose steam, ever!
9. Which books on writing would you recommend?
I’ve been writing since the age of seven and I didn’t really read much on writing. I just work on my craft every day, even at 54. But I’d recommend choosing some books/ courses on the art of writing better, signing up on copyblogger, following writers you like.
10. Do you have lessons to share from your own writing journey?
When I was at school, I used to keep a notebook by my side, even when I went to sleep. A writer needs to have some discipline and rigour, so write regularly. That’s something I learnt early.
I fell in love with the Internet medium when it arrived in the world. I built Zodiacs4u, an astrology blog with 250K page views a month. 13 months later, in 2008, I sold it to a US content company.
When Slideshare was new, I leveraged it for Impiger Mobile, where I worked for a few years, I grabbed 2000+ leads and 144k views in two years, with 25 decks.
The reason I’m saying this, writers should be curious to test and try new platforms and formats of content. Writers should explore life.
Pick up a copy of ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’ on Amazon
Your memoir “of divorce and discovery” will be out soon. Could you tell us more about the book?
Rewriting My Happily Ever After is a true story of a three-year period of my life. At that time, I had walked out of my marriage of sixteen years. Despite being brought up in Mumbai, having an advanced degree and having returned after spending fourteen years in the US, I had always lived in either my parent’s or husband’s house. Moving out was a major decision which required me to learn, unlearn and relearn many things while I figured out my new life as a single parent. My book covers my journey to independence.
To help other women who may find themselves at the same crossroads as me.
Going ahead with the decision to divorce is not a trivial one for women who live in a culture that looks down upon a ‘broken family’. Even women who are financially self-sufficient or have family support prefer to live in a unhappy but familiar state instead of finding a happy life outside of the known boundaries of their life. I wanted to share my thinking process and the coping strategies I used to figure out my new life.
3. How long did it take for you to write this book? Could you tell us more about your journey?
I procrastinated for over ten years but began writing earnestly in Jan 2021. I wrote for 50 minutes every morning before my workday began. It required commitment, discipline, and some suffering to bring the book to life. Some days it was difficult to relive those painful memories of the past but the greater goal of connecting with readers made me keep going.
4. This is your fourth book. How has the experience of writing it been when compared to your first three books?
My earlier books were compilations of short stories (Negative Space) and essays (No Longer NRI and Train Friends). Those were easier to put together because they were written as standalone pieces around a theme.
This memoir is my first major book-length creation and took much more concentrated effort. I wrote the chapters as independent pieces and then moved them around to make the narrative cohesive. It required three drafts, a handful of beta readers and a professional edit to bring it to its final stage.
5. How did you gear up to write this memoir?
To be honest, I needed a lot of convincing to sit down and write this book. I intuitively knew that there was a need for such a story to be out there because divorce is a topic that Indians/South Asians tend to brush under the carpet. Still, I was reluctant to subject myself to the pain of reliving a difficult part of my past. But having a decade-long gap between the events described and the writing made it bearable. I am glad I wrote it because the writing was cathartic and also gave me closure.
6. What advice do you have for someone who would like to write their memoir?
I would recommend that you read a lot of memoirs to get a good understanding of the literary form. While there are formulas and standard approaches, you should be clear about the story you want to tell and how you want to do it because after all, memory is subjective and evolving. Just like a fiction writer chooses what to put in and what to leave out, a memoir writer also creates a narrative with very specific and intentional choices about the story and the storytelling, even though the events are unchangeable.
7. How has your background as a scientist helped you in your writing process?
This is an interesting question. As I mention on my website, I observe life carefully, look for signs and trends, verify it with my own understanding and then propose a solution, a suggestion, or an insight. Personal essays come easily to me because of my background because it involves a deep exploration of certain ideas and themes. And although I enjoy fiction, it does not come as naturally to me.
8. Whose memoirs would you recommend to writers?
I have read memoirs by Americans like Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love), Dani Shapiro, Melissa Gouty – I would recommend all of them. Recently I have become very interested in memoirs by Indian writers like Kalpana Mohan, Ashwini Devare and Rohini Rajagopal. I interviewed these three authors on my blog and the discussion was fascinating. I intend to continue the author interview series for Indian memoir writers.
9. Who are your favourite authors and what genres do you like?
My current favorite fiction writers are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Marjan Kamali. I also read a lot of non-fiction – current read is How to raise a feminist son by Sonora Jha and of course, I’m always on the lookout for memoirs J
10. Do you have lessons to share from your writing journey?
Writing is a means of creative expression. But like all art, it requires patience, practice, and discipline to hone the craft and to go deeper. The learning happens in the doing and gives tremendous personal satisfaction. Being able to share it with others is the other side of the coin which is wonderful but is not the motivation to continue with your work of writing. It helps to keep this in mind.
If you want to write, do it for the right reasons.