Saturday, March 15, 2014

Author Interview: Shweta Ganesh Kumar

After reading the book A Newlywed's Adventures in Married Land, which was an ARC, I thought it'd be great to have a talk with the author Shweta GK about the book. Shweta agreed readily and here's what we talked about.

Hi! Welcome to my blog.  Its such a pleasure to have you here! First of all, as we'd love to know, tell us something about yourself.

Hi Vinny, thank you for having me on your blog. I am an author and a travel columnist. My first novel 'Coming Up On The Show... The travails of a news trainee', was released in May 2011, by Srishti Books. It sold more than 10,000 copies within the first two months of its release. My second novel 'Between the Headlines' was released in May 2012, by Good Times Books and has been very well received. My latest book, ‘A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land,’ is now available worldwide via Toronto based publishers, Indireads. My short fiction and poetry have been published in Indian Voices - An anthology, Bricolage Magazine, Synaesthesia Magazine, Writers Asylum, Single Solitary Thought, Damazine, Love Across Borders, Shades of Love and other anthologies and literary magazines in more than four continents. My monthly column, ‘Trippin With Shweta’ is a steady feature in the Indian magazine, ‘Travel and Flavours’. The New Indian Express, One Philippines, Venture (Indonesia) and Geo (Indian edition) have published many of my travel columns. My non-fiction pieces have been featured in Chicken Soup for the Indian Spiritual Soul and Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – On Friendship. I also write and illustrate on the joys and trials of being a parent, in a blog called, ‘The Times Of Amma – The motherhood bulletin with badly-drawn cartoons.’ Before dedicating my life to writing, I worked as a TV news correspondent with CNN-IBN and as a Communications Officer at Greenpeace India.

So, when did you first know that you wanted to be an author? Did you always want to be one?

I’ve always been a writer- right from the age of five, when my mother sent one of my childishly scrawled short stories to a newspaper contest, till today. Some of my most treasured possessions are my dog-eared bundles of notebooks filled with pages and pages of my musings, rantings, stories and in some cases, poems that were written in misguided grandoise moments. I’ve always wanted to reach out to others with stories and narrations of real life incidents.

 What prompted you to write the book "A Newlywed's Adventures in Married Land"?

Lewis Carroll’s’ ‘Alice’ has always fascinated me. As a child, I’ve lived in Muscat, Kottayam, Calicut, Kochi, Hubli, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore. Two years, sometimes three in one town and then we would move on. Sometimes, it was mid-term as I walked in to friendships formed on the first day of school. I would stand at the fringes – an interloper trying to blend. Masking my nervousness with a grin I would force the extrovert in me out, while the nerd in me would yearn to curl up with my books and my dog for company. I’d wonder about Alice and how she coped in that Wonderland of hers. I had my wonderful parents as a constant source of support, no matter which new city we moved to. Alice however, had no way of knowing whether this was a dream or if there was another way out of the rabbit hole. Much later, all grown up and married, my husband and I moved to El Salvador in Central America where I tried to cope with the rigours of bringing up my baby, then barely five months old and the trials of learning to communicate in Spanish. While I thanked my lucky stars for my husband’s support, I remembered that girl I used to be long ago. The newlywed who moved to a foreign land and learnt her way around it. Much like a lot of my friends who had left their family and careers and friends behind. Much like my childhood friend Alice trying to grapple with the eccentricities of Wonderland. And that’s how this book was born.

As I was going through your bio it seemed like the story was inspired by your own life at some point. Is that true?

I have found that when I write about the things I know and have experienced, the story flows with a life of its own. My books are slotted in the genre of Urban Fiction, as I have lived through the research needed for all of them. My own life if it were a book would be slotted in Urban Non-Fiction. So, yes I do get inspired by real life – but it’s not always my own.

What was the biggest challenge while writing the book?

I prefer finishing my manuscript first and then working on the edits. This is the process I have followed with my first two books. However, with this book, my publisher and I were working on edits simultaneously, sometimes from chapter to chapter and this was challenging. Though, I believe the book is what it is today, thanks to this process.

Did you ever suffer writer's block? If yes, what did you do to get over it?

I approach writing as I’ve approached all my previous jobs. I could not afford to have a day off as a reporter or as a communications executive. When you are at work you work, no matter your mood. This approach works for me as I manage to write at least a little bit, every day. Being my own boss, I stick to this tactic to ensure I don’t slack off or procrastinate. I also work on multiple projects simultaneously. This way even if I don’t feel the words flowing for a certain story, I know that it will for another column or blog waiting for my attention.

What were your feelings when you first saw the finished copy of your book?

I always think of my books as my babies. ‘A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land’, was my first foray into the world of eBooks and seeing the first finished copy of the book was like seeing a newborn make her appearance for the first time.

Are you completely satisfied with your writing or would you like to change something in your story, given a chance?

For me, my writings are little slices of Life. And like life, I don’t think you can change or rewrite your basic narrative once it has happened. So, no, I never change the basic gist of my stories once written. This is not to say that I do not edit, I do. Sometimes, I edit my manuscripts as many as three times. But I never make structural changes or personality changes in my characters.

Well said! Now lets hear a few things about you. To start with, is writing your full time profession?

Yes, I’m a full-time writer. I’m also a travel columnist and a work from home mother to a two-year old.

When you're not writing what do you do to relax?

When I’m not writing, you’ll find me playing with my daughter, reading, trying out new recipes or travelling.

What’s the schedule of a typical day for you?

My day is usually made-up of play and reading with my daughter, getting the day’s meals ready and sticking to my daily word count – albeit by working on a novel, short story, blog or a travel column.

If your book is adopted for a movie, which actors would you like to play the characters of your story?

Such an interesting question! I’ve never thought about it before. I’d say I’d love for Priyanka Chopra or Vidya Balan to play the role of Mythili and Farhan Akhtar or Siddharth (Rang De Basanti) to play the role of Siddharth.

I guess Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar would suit Mythili and Siddharth very well! Um, so what are your favourite books?

I’ve had the good fortune to grow up surrounded by books. My parents started reading to me at an age that I cannot even remember and that is what motivated me to start putting down my thoughts no matter how silly or random they were. There have been so many books that have left such a deep imprint on my mind that it is impossible to list them all. To name a few, I would have to go with Isaac Asimov’s Robot Dreams, which is also on my read and re-read list. I love all the books in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. They are addictive for someone who loves literature in all its forms. My favourite classic is Charles Dickens, ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I am also a Muggle who is madly in love with the Harry Potter series.

To kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourites too! What are you reading currently?

I am currently reading Elif Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

The biggest challenge about being a full-time writer is sticking with it to the end, in the absence of an external editor, boss or deadline. Especially in the beginning, when you have no idea that your manuscript might be picked up for publication at all, it is easy to sit down and put your hands up. And so my advice to new writers is to persevere and be patient even in the face of rejection.

Just for curiosity, if you’re ever deserted in an island alone, which 5 books would you pick to carry along with you? And why?

Tough question!
I’d probably carry a childhood favourite Enid Blyton’s The Secret Island, for tips on how to survive. And Douglas Adam’s The Hitchikers’ Guide to The Galaxy for those long nights when I’ll have to look at the stars and wonder if anyone there is looking down at me. I’d pick one book at random from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, for the literature lover in me. I’d take Kiran Desai’s Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard to remind me of daily life in the small towns of our country and the lengths to which, one would go to avoid the responsibilities of adult life. And finally J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because it is long and will give me good company for all those long days and nights ahead of me and will reassure me that all life’s riddles will be solved at last and that darkness will not triumph no matter how stark and lonely the road ahead seems.

Such diverse and well described choices! Finally Shweta, thank you so much! I loved the chat with you. Lots of good wishes for the success of your book. :) 
Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a writer and travel columnist. An alumnus of the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, she worked as Communications Officer for Greenpeace India and as a correspondent with CNN-IBN, before dedicating her life to writing. 

Her third book and first novella, 'A Newlywed's Adventures in Married Land,' is now available worldwide from Toronto-based publishers Indireads. 

Her second novel ‘Between the Headlines-The travails of a TV reporter’ was released in May 2012 and is now available in bookstores and online stores. 
Her first novel ‘Coming Up On The Show… The Travails of a news trainee’ sold more than 10,000 copies within the first two months of its release in May 2011 and was also listed on multiple bestseller lists.

A mother herself, she writes on the joys and trials of being a parent in a five day a week bulletin called 'The Times Of Amma - the motherhood bulletin with badly-drawn cartoons.' 

The New Indian Express, One Philippines and Geo (Indian edition) have published many of her travel columns. RobinAge, a leading children’s newspaper features her pet and travel columns for children. ‘Kiski Kahani – The Ramayana Project’, an Open Space initiative, features her essays on the diversity of the Ramayana. 
Her non-fiction pieces have been featured in Chicken Soup for the Indian Spiritual Soul, Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – On Friendship and also in CBW’s India’s Top 42 Weekend Getaways eBook. Women's Web has featured her feminist columns and Mahindra's Mom and Me - her columns on being a new mother. 

Her short fiction has been published in Indian Voices- an anthology, Shades of Love (An Anthology of Short Stories), Winds of Change (An Anthology), Australian Women Online, Single Solitary Thought, Pothiz, Damazine and the Asia Writes Project.

Here's The Review of the book A Newlywed's Adventures in Married Land.

P.S.- Shweta sent me an autographed cover of her book. Yayy! I love the cover and with the autograph on it, its even more precious! Thank you, Shweta!

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