Monthly Archives: September 2011

Interview with Ismita Tandon Dhanker

A “lesser known poet”, a brilliant author, and an extremely charming young girl – Ismita Tandon Dhanker made waves with her debut novel- Love On The Rocks earlier this year.

BookChums got talking with Ismita and here’s all that we found out.

We saw your blog and it has some real good poetry. So let’s begin with the clichéd one first – when and how did you start writing poetry?
Poetry happened to me at the age of twenty-six when I went sailing for the very first time. A stroll on the deck one evening gazing at the blue sky slowly turning crimson and the wind stroking my face, the thoughts kept flowing until they began to rhyme beautifully. Communing with nature was the turning point in my life.


Your first published book is a romantic-thriller and not a collection of your poems. Why?

People don’t read poetry. Where is the time in this mad rush to pack meaning in their fast paced lives?  And even if they do they don’t buy a poetry book and publishers have a tough time selling it in the market. But it’s my dream to have a poetry book that would sell like hot cakes. The dream has already begun to pay off since I won 50, 000 for my poem ‘I am Beautiful’. Life is much like poetry…beautiful, free flowing, cryptic.

Love on the Rocks had quite a heady mix of characters. What was the thought process while developing the characters? What kind of research did you have to do for the characteristics and the overall plot?
The characters are an amalgamation of all the wonderful people I have sailed with in the last few years. Sailors are quirky, a lot different from the average man you meet back home. Long voyages at sea in the company of colourful sailors, gross jokes, anecdotes, bizarre incidents, the loneliness it all turned out to be one helluva adventure. That’s all the research that I needed to put together a thriller.

If the book gets picked up for a movie- who do you think will fit the role of Sancha, Capt. Popeye, Aaron, Harsh, and Baldy?

If we are dreaming, we might as well dream big:
Sancha – Amy Adams
Capt. Popeye – Antonio Banderas
Aaron – Christian Bale
Harsh Castillo – Oliver Martinez
Baldy – I think Christopher Nolan can handle rest of the casting

The title, genre and setting of the book is unconventional and not been explored by many new age writers. What prompted you to work along the lines of suspense/thriller/murder…and not take the conventional route of a chick-lit or simple love story?
Everyone has a story to tell and the first book almost always comes from the authors immediate surroundings, experiences. I have always been inclined towards murder mysteries and it seemed like such a thrill to keep the readers guessing. And love is so twisted in this day and age that any story can hardly be termed as a ‘simple love story’. Hence the thriller angle.

What are the challenges you faced while writing the book –maybe in terms of its progress or the characters or maybe with the publishers?
Challenges were plenty. To carry the story forward from different POV’s, exploring their personal crisis while moving on with original plot required that changes be made to the draft very often.
Even after the final draft was ready, my troubles were far from over the difficult task of finding a publisher loomed large. A year long struggle, countless rejection mails and nail biting moments were an integral part of the books arduous journey. And I had to kept reminding myself every now and then ‘Its a good book and I’ll make it’.

Is there an incident that you’d like to share with our readers and budding authors that you encountered while writing the book?
The original manuscript was a grand, elaborate peep into the lives and work of sailors on a ship. Their hardship, the hectic work hours all that had to be pruned to make the plot tighter as editors from various literary agencies believed that the general public would not be interested in reading about the mundane. I differ on that point and today most readers come back to me and say ‘they loved the novel, the plot but a little more description of the life at sea would have made it so much more interesting’.
Persistence is what worked in my favour. It’s a tough call to roam around with a manuscript that doesn’t gel with the standard idea of Indian fiction, the story being narrated by different points of view. And then to be told that Indian writers can’t write good thrillers. Well, I just did!

Given a chance, would you think of giving this story an alternate ending?
Nope but I would prefer to stick to the original/working title of my book which is ‘Almost Lucid’.
How do you think your writing (fiction and poetry) has matured with time?
Clarity of thought and simplicity of expression are now the hallmark of my writing. Practise makes perfect!
Name the authors and poets who have inspired you.

Jeffery Archer, Sydney Sheldon, Kabir, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Frost.
Tell us something unique about:
Ismita the poet…is restless.
Ismita the author…is an author by default.
Ismita the girl…spends her evenings in the company of Trees.
Tell us:
The one quote that inspires you all the time
To practise any art no matter how well or badly is a way to make your soul grow.

The one character of LOTR that is closer to you than the rest
Manna and his journal entries.

The one dream/aim you still strive to achieve
To be known as a Poetess.

The one poet (and/or author) you desire to meet
Deepak Chopra.
What can we next expect from your desk?
I am half way through another thriller titled, ‘Drink and Die‘, weaved around DND, a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics in a town called Monele near Ooty. The story highlights a social malady, Alcohol addiction, an issue I have always wanted to address.
The plot is a heady cocktail of the different favours of life lust, power, money, incest and vanity. The protagonist of the story is Johnny Will, a man with a high IQ, who runs a rehab and is ostensibly helping the rich and not so sober get over their little alcohol addiction. He has no qualms about blackmailing his wealthy patients too. A crook selling a cure.

What other books/authors of recent time would you recommend our readers?
Deepak Chopra, Robin Sharma, Kabir.

If you had a book club, what would you name it? And what would you be reading in there?
‘The Poetry Night Club’ and would be reading poetry of course!

Well, there’s a lot more to this charismatic young author and we for one, eagerly await her next book.

To know more about Ismita check out her profile page, only on BookChums!

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Flash Your Fiction

I’m sure (almost) everyone can write a nice piece of fiction. But ever thought about presenting a story in less than a 1000 words? That my friend, is Flash Fiction. Yes, I know it sounds a bit…weird? But just so that you know it is one of the most sought after practices in writing fiction currently.


Writing Flash Fiction is an art. Though it has been around for quite a while, it has become popular recently with contests and enthusiasts spreading the word virally over the internet.
Flash Fiction is a form of very short story writing. The story is very concise, tightly written and crisp. Not much is revealed, so to say, but the form of a story (with a beginning, a middle and the end) is absolutely maintained.

 

Talk to a flash fiction writer and he/she would vouch that a hundred words are considered most apt.  But people do like it to keep it within a thousand words.
Here are some tips you could use while writing flash fiction or short stories:

Topic: You should have a basic topic/ theme in mind. You could begin with something random too. But as a beginner, having a theme will help you develop it to its rightful climax.

Central character: This will help you keep the story sharp and crisp and revolving around the main protagonist.

Along with one central character comes the need to focus on the timeline and space. One setting or location is all you need. You don’t have enough time to tell the main protagonists’ entire life story- you need to only focus on the current scene and the changes that defines the story.

This also leaves no room for sub-plots or secondary stories. Novels can move around different themes at the same time- but not flash fiction. You need to stick to the central theme. This single thread spin is sometimes difficult- and sometimes the easiest.

If possible, if you can time yourself and beat it every time you sit. It would help you hone your skill even further.

 

Write the entire story first: Yes, you could begin by writing the entire story as you plan to. Then sit and edit the story to match the word limit you set for yourself. Do not forget the flow of the story –a beginning, a middle and the end. The setting, the characters, the conflict and the resolution should be weaved in carefully.

While editing – The main conflict should be harped on right at the beginning. Understand the word limit and if so desired- open with a bang to keep the intensity higher. You’ll be amazed at how much emotion and description can be conveyed by a story devoid of descriptive words.

Edit all that isn’t essential to understanding the setting, the action, or feelings of the characters. Remove modifiers such as “very,” “quite,” and “actually.” Be intentional about every word in the story.

No room for flashbacks or background stories: The theme and the characters, in flash fiction, need not give their identity proof to the readers. Things should be left open for interpretation. That adds a lot of thought and perception in the mind of the reader. Let the reader too fill in some of the blanks.

If you feel the need to give any backdrop, keep it as simple as possible and of course short.

 

Always remember: Illustrate (with words of course) the scene. This minimizes word count. Don’t “tell” the story. Come to think of it, no back-story or backgrounds required. Honestly.

Use minimal essential vocab. Crisp short sentences do the deal, and intensify the tempo.

 

Write in active voice: Limit the adjectives, hold the descriptive phrases – “show” as much – “tell” the least.


Bring the twist in the end: When a piece ends on an excitingly twisted climax, it gathers more fame. The moment you feel the story is done and you have to bring in the climax- just drop it in. Like an anchor. Suddenly. (Not abruptly mind you.)

Go for the kill with an unexpected climax. But don’t just plant it with no link to the story.
Yes, there is no need for an epilogue or a signing out note. Save it for a novel.
Practice this over and over again till you beat your score each time –with the word count I mean. When you feel confident enough post it online for your friends to read and comment on. There are a lot of online contests that will help you showcase your writing to the public.

These are just some basic tips to help you churn out better short fiction tales. Most importantly, you need to have fun while writing flash fiction. Leaving lot many things open to interpretation is quite thrilling in itself.
To sum it all: By practicing writing in an active, powerful form and cutting out all extraneous words, you can improve and tighten your writing in other genres as well. Remember, flash fiction is usually a story of a single act, sometimes the culmination of several unwritten events.

Ex.: 
She opened her eyes, feeling the sharp pain in her right hand. Honey colored sunlight had filled the room and she could inhale the mellow fragrance of the morning Jasmine. She tried to smile but the pain intensified. Slowly she looked to her right.
The dagger was pinning her hand to the floor. Gary’s body lay still soaked in a pool of blood. His grip, now lose on the dagger. She wanted to scream and pull away. In a jerk of a movement she brought her left hand ahead, only to reveal the .357 Magnum, with no more bullets.

(99 words)

Next on, imagine writing a story within 100 characters (not words, characters!)
You shall be Twitter King/ Queen if you ace that!

Watch out for our CONTESTS this month. We shall ask you to flash your fiction too!

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