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Interview with Judy Balan

 

As I walked in to the bookstore for the launch of Judy Balan’s debut novel, Two Fates: The Story of my Divorce, I was greeted with a sweet smile and a hint of a rollicking time!
I managed to get Judy’s time and attention before the launch and indulged in a candid interview.
On enquiring about the ideation of the story, she was quick to respond, “I happened to be in a store   and noticed Drink, Play, F@ck, the parody of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. The author of the    parody had managed to sell film rights to his book and I thought, “Wow! You can simply rip off a  best seller and do wonders!” I was reading Chetan Bhagat’s “Two States: The Story of my Marriage”,  and I thought of doing a parody of the book.
I went home, and posted this incident on my blog and asked my readers if they thought it was a good idea. And most of them reverted with a “yes”. Would you believe it only took me about less than three months to wrap up the book!” smiled the author. Continuing her part of the story, she said, “And it was a wonderful experience. I was surprised as to how quickly I even found publishers willing to launch my book. It truly felt like a Cinderella moment…”

So do we see glimpses of her life in this book? “No no! This is definitely not the story of my divorce,” Judy responded quickly. “In fact the only thing common between me and the character of Deepika is the job (as a copywriter).”
“Oh and the aunties of course! The ones who keep coming up to me or my parents enquiring about my age, and they seem to be obsessing about my marriage and my divorce more than my folks. It’s hilarious (now) but it is so true!”
Digging a bit in to her professional background I enquired about her decision to be a “full time parent”.
“Well, even after those five and a half years in the advertising agency as a copywriter I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t satisfied doing what I was doing. I was scared to quit initially as I did not know what I would do next. Quitting was not an option but when my divorce came through I knew I had to dedicate time to my girl. The ups and downs of divorce were terrible. I took up freelance writing and of course started blogging ardently.”
So how was life at home? “Very different. It was mundane, yes. It took me about a bit to adopt the sedentary lifestyle. There was a drastic change in momentum. But it gave me time to spend with my daughter and write. It was the best thing that happened to me.”
Ask her if she would plunge in to a marriage (or love) again and she chirps, “Why not! I’m a die-hard romantic. A million times bitten and still not shy sort of a person. Divorce hasn’t made me cynical. I’m the incurable optimistic who still writes letter to “the one”. If life gives me a chance to fall in love, I’d dive!”
As the focus shifted to her writing and her blog, she confessed “Blog writing gives you almost instant gratification. Your readers revert real quick. Writing a book, a fiction, needs commitment. It is hard work.”
For those who don’t know, Judy also writes scripts for plays. Her shyness prevents her from being on stage, but off-stage she seems to be the “queen of the written word”. “I would love to have a column someday, though my blog sometimes serves more like a column,” smiled Judy. “But writing an epic adventure series (like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series) is one thing I look forward to. I know it’s a long long way yet, and for now I will focus on light fiction about relationships and break-ups.”
Humor and comedy is one key ingredient Judy feels that she cannot do without in the books she reads and pens. “If you’ve read Two States, you’d get all the jokes in my book”, confessed the author sheepishly.
“I do love romantic comedies. Nothing can quite beat Erich Segal’s Love Story and Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult’s works. I also like reading books by Candace Bushnell and Marian Keyes and Elizabeth Gilbert.”
Getting to the juicy part of the conversation, we asked Judy to share an exclusive detail about her as a writer and she confessed, “My writing will always precede the love of my life. I think I devote more time to my writing than anything else.”
And Judy as a mother? She quickly said, “I’m forever obsessing over the fact that I’m not good enough. Trust me, all that art and craft and wonderful things parents do for their kids, I’m bad at all that.”


Over more smiles and jokes I enquired about her next book and she said, “It’s wonderful how I’ve already signed the deal for my next book. It is again a light fiction. But I can’t give out much on it. You’ll have to wait a bit!”
For sure we would look forward to her next book, since her first one has definitely got us hooked!
It’s true all good things definitely come in small packages. And this package is amongst the best!
I’m sure she captured more hearts and readers with her smile and her book that evening.

 

Grab a copy of her book before the stores run out of copies! You will definitely enjoy the read.

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Interview with Dr. Vivek Banerjee

Dr. Vivek Banerjee, the author of ‘The Long Road’ is a self-confessed “full time pediatrician (by choice) and part time author (by chance)”. Also known by his pen name Ben, for his blogs earlier, Vivek shares snippets of his writing career with us. Read on.

Could you share with us your earliest memories of writing? What got you blogging and finally writing a fictional tale?
The earliest memories in writing are contributing to my school magazine and later editing it. Blogging started as an experiment and then became an addiction. Rediff iLand (the earlier and hugely successful avatar of now moribund Rediff Blogs) provided the proverbial fuel to the fire. The Long Road started as a serial story called Doctors on Rediff iLand. It was hugely popular and my fellow bloggers got more and more involved as the story progressed. Eventually, the idea of presenting it as a full-fledged novel came to me and I decided to take the plunge.

What kinds of books grab your attention?
I love fiction. From adventure to science fiction; thrillers to classics and novels to short stories, I love them all.

How was the experience of writing a novel, given the fact that your profession barely leaves you time for other activities? What inspired you to come out with a full length novel?
Agreed! There is hardly any leisure. This novel and all my writing is generally done deep in the night. Many a time, I have to attend calls at odd hours and find it difficult to sleep after returning.  The only option left is to pick up the laptop and start typing.


Any character from the novel that reflects or resonates with the real you?

No, I don’t think so. I do wish that I could be like Prof. Patil from the book.

The language used is quite simple and coming from a highly specialized industry, one tends to use the jargon of the field. How easy or difficult was it writing a book based around your profession?
It was very simple to write a book based on my profession and many parts of the book are inspired from real life happenings. I did make a conscious effort to avoid medical jargon or get too technical. I hope that I have succeeded in this aspect.


Would you like to share a memorable incident that happened during the writing process? Or an instance that clicked the writer in you (while at work), wherein you felt that the incident would make for an interesting mention in the book?
Considering the fact that I joined Medical College in 1983, I had a rich reserve of memories and experiences to draw from while writing the novel. But one repetitive incident that causes me a lot of anguish and finds a mention in the book is our inability to prevent very sick children from dying despite best efforts.

An ebook or a hardcover– your pick? and Why?
I guess I am traditional in this matter. I am a huge fan of printed books. If you visit my home, you’ll find a lot of books everywhere. E-books are not for me.

Name some your all time favorite reads.
To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an all time favorite.
I am partial to almost all the books by Isaac Asimov, Wilbur Smith and Jack Higgins and have read them multiple times.

A Quote that inspires you – in personal life / professional life.
This too, shall pass…


A book/author in the recent past that has captured your interest?
Anish Sarkar’s Benaami and the Urban Shots series.

Any other genre that you’d like to explore now? What next do we see from your desk?
I am writing short stories. In fact, there are two projects in the pipeline. One is a collection of stories about the paranormal in collaboration with Faraaz Kazi. An anthology of stories about the darker side of human nature is the other project. Upneet Grover, Saksham Agarwal, Amit Kumar Gupta, Anandita Chawla and I team up for this one.

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Interview with Rashmi Singh

 

Love’s Journey is the debut novel of Rashmi Singh, a freelance Personality Development and Soft Skills Trainer at Faridabad.
From talking about her personal and professional life to her take on love, Rashmi gives us an insight on present day society woes and much more. Read on.

Tell us a bit about your professional background. How did you steer towards becoming a Personality Development and Soft Skills Trainer?
I had been quite active during my school/college days- Taking part in Painting, Elocution, Drama, Creative Writing Competitions (both in Hindi and English, winning prizes for Elocution/Recitation from RamaKrishna Pramhansa Society, Ranchi, second prize in dramatics, in B.H.U-.I.T. and from diff. prestigious platforms) and other co curricular activities saw a growth in my Personality. I was very good academically (except Math-ooops!), winning Best Class Citizen Award consecutively for 2yrs in school. My life could not be perceived without these!!!
I connected well with my friends without having ideas that I was better than others or others were better than me….though I wasn’t the partying type. My ability (God Gifted) to connect with friends made me the elected Joint Sec., of my college though just after graduation I got married.

Marriage came with so many other regular responsibilities which weren’t easy to shoulder so my studies saw a break. But I am thankful to my very good schooling (Notre Dame Academy, Patna and Loreto Convent, Ranchi) that I got a chance to teach English in a school where my child had taken admission-thence my journey started. Along with teaching, I carried on with my educational pursuits and finally did M.A., M.B.A., C.T.E. In schools I was generally asked by the Principal to counsel students and parents and this idea came up in my mind to hone and polish the personality of others with my own experiences of life-So about 12 years back, I quit schools and started as a Freelance Personality Dev. and Soft Skills Trainer.

What is the one thing that you think is quite important when it comes to communication skills and personality development?
It is confidence coupled with being well-informed. If you have confidence and correct information of things for which a person needs extensive reading, then his/her language defects, dressing sense, etc. could be easily covered up. But not over- confidence- this leads to miscommunication.

Would you like to share with our reader, your earliest memories of writing?
Yes, why not!
Like I mentioned, Creative Writing came to me naturally, I was always into a flight of fancy in my imaginary world. I watched people, their mannerisms very intently. Why people-I even watched animals..clouds..flowers.. My poems and write ups were published in college magazines and local dailies but at that time we didn’t have much opportunities. Moreover I belonged to a conservative Rajput family, though was provided with the best of education but all these were mainly done with one objective-marriage. But the writer in me often fought with the woman in me and I kept on writing in my diaries continually. I have 2 blogs Riviera and Lost Tranquility in the Asia Section of an International website.
But recently these blogs have become a scapegoat of the rules of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting- the write ups are there but the illustration in the form of pictures have been blocked. But this has not deterred me. Actually I am more energized now.

You get to meet a lot many people every day, given your line of work. Did that in any way trigger you to write a story/novel? As in, what brought about the ideation of “Love’s Journey”?
Yes, I meet many. There are many married men/ women who are leading an unhappy life. Though they profess, they love their spouses but actually are not happy. Many want to get out of their wedlock but have certain fears!

And above all the YOUNGSTERS. The no. of jilted lovers are increasing by leaps and bounds these days!!! Progress has come with increased no. of suicides.

Sleeping with one and then moving around with others. Though in such cases often the males do not have any qualms but the females to a great extent are traumatized. Though while narrating their stories, they try to hide their physical relationship but their restlessness and eyes tell all!!!
So I took a backdrop of Bollywood and wrote about the feelings of a woman who has to overcome hurdles of life and I think being a Counselor has helped me a lot in etching the characters.

How would you define “love”?
Love is something which cannot be defined or measured!
It is just a feeling. It rises above physical appearance and mental make up. According to me love is something when you understand a person-give him/her space. Sex is obviously there but in couples where this becomes primary, love cannot stand even a single negative onslaught. Like in Love’s Journey Jennifer falls in love four times… but with Shambhu her love was a platonic and the most strongly bonded one. She knew she was crushing her desires, then too she wasn’t at all feeling bad because the kind of selfless love Shambhu was showering on her was never experienced by her before. And with Shantanu she thought after all she had found the love of her life with her body physically craving for him but eventually it sucked her into a vacuum!!!

Who, according to you, is the epitome of love in your life?
From renowned and known figures, it is Radha- I think Radha, Krishna’s beloved is the epitome of love. She never demanded anything from him…She was married but had the courage million years ago to admit this. And nobody knows what became of her when Krishna left her. It is said Krishna gave her a place along with him to be worshipped but there is no mention of the fact, that where she went..what she did.

Wasn’t this Krishna’s responsibility to see what became of his beloved? Radha had the courage to let the world know she loved Krishna.

How was the experience of having authored a book? Have things changed in anyway? Did you face any apathy from publishers or agents in the publishing industry?
It was great! First time people could know about me-my ability to feel things around me and l
gave them ‘language’ And I for the first time could really let out my feelings to the world. Monetarily it hasn’t changed but fame wise it has!! People now relate to me. As a Personality Development Trainer, I could reach out to a limited people but now I am able to reach the masses!

Pustak Mahal People are very good and extremely co operative to me and hence far I have interacted with them only. I have no agents. I do my own Liaison. But many of my friends with finished work are facing apathy from agents and Publishers. I can’t name them as this may hamper their hard work

What’s your take on the sudden rise in the number of new young authors?
It is really nice to see that now so many young people are getting their desired platform.

What’s your favorite genre? Name some of your favorite authors and books.
Recently I read ‘The Palace of Illusions‘ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni-It’s really gripping.
Paulo Coelho‘s ‘Veronica decides to die‘ is also thought provoking.
There’s nothing like my favourite Genre. I read anything which attracts my attention.

What next do we read from your desk?
Taming The Restless Mind is a very sincere and honest effort from my side to guide people across the world! I know many would be scandalized to see a woman dealing with topics which is considered a taboo in our society-but then someone has to! Topics like confidence development/communication skill is obviously there but topics like Peer Pressure, Job Stress, Dating, Drugs, Internet Porn Addiction, Nudity, Bed Buddies, Sexual Myths and Facts are also there. So you can say it is a complete package to tame restless minds!
Though a non fiction, it is written in a narrative style. The chapters are gripping with solutions provided to the best of my belief and faith.

Rashmi certainly has shown a knack for plotting a good story and etching relatable characters. I look forward to reading her latest non-fictional offering.

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Interview With Adithi And Chatura Rao

The launch of Growing Up In Pandupur in Mumbai gave us a chance to interact with two very versatile and creative authors – Adithi and Chatura Rao.

Growing Up In Pandupur is a marvelous collection of 13 short stories for children. And parents alike.

The writing is mature and stable, but at no place does it feel commanding or overbearing. So kids will have no difficulty breezing through the stories.

Talking to the author-sisters would really make you feel as if you are talking to a friend…a mature, responsible and a really caring friend, who will always guide you through difficult times.

Yes, the book in a way brings to light certain topics/issues that kids face but are unable to communicate with their folks. The book comes as a friend and a guide to not just children, but parents too.
Well, the sisters are good at hearing you out as well. No wonder kids and parents wouldn’t leave a chance to strike a conversation with them, at the launch. Their observation and insight to finer things, usually overlooked by most, is admirable.
I got a chance to interview the sisters and here’s a bit of the conversation:

How did you chance upon the title of the book?
There is actually a small town by the name of Pandavpur between Bangalore and Mysore. We passed through it many a times and it is quite scenic. While we were penning out the stories, we modified the name to Pandupur.

How did you think of writing a short story collection for kids?
Between us sisters we have three kids. And we discuss every issue our children are facing or undergoing. There are a lot more challenges you face as a parent. There are times when kids cannot really express what they feel, and this (writing stories of different themes that revolve around kids) was a way of connecting with them.
We already had a few stories around the theme of growing up, and we added a few more to complete the book.

Broadly, what would you say are the diverse topics the stories touch upon?
From sibling love-rivalry, to the loss of a family member, to child sexual abuse, to growing up –most of the stories cater to topics any child can relate to. For that matter, any parent can relate to.

Amongst the stories in this book, which ones are your favorites?
Grandfathers and Trees
Sister’s Song
The River Came Home
The House Painted Blue

Could you name a few of your favorite books?
Chatura: I like fantasy-science fiction work by Ursula K. le Guin, novels by Toni Morrison and John Steinbeck.
In children’s fiction, The Bridge To Terabithia, the Earthsea novels by Ursula K. le GuinJ.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan, and Winnie the Pooh, and Huckleberry Finn.
Adithi: I like the work of Harper Lee (To Kill A Mocking Bird). Her ability to get into the psyche of a child is commendable. I also like R.K. Narayan’s  Malgudi Days and The Christmas Miracle by Jonathan Toomey.


What were your growing up days like?
Charuta: We had a typical middle-class childhood. Grew up in south India, moving between Chennai and Bangalore. Played a lot with large groups of kids. Cycled, went for music classes, stole mangoes, befriended stray dogs and adopted their puppies, ran a book library from a friend’s garage, spied on crabby old neighbours, got together and put up plays and dances at Christmas in our grandfather’s garden…
Adithi: Pretty much as Chatu described it! Bangalore was my Pandupur, complete with the magician grandpa and a grandmother who was never too tired to read, cook, feed, sing, play, talk or listen when it came to me…

Would you share an incident (from childhood) that has stayed with you till date?
Chatura: I used to be petrified of having my nails snipped by my grandfather. He was an ex-armyman and believed in crew cuts! So I’d hide around the house, sneak around quietly, until inevitable he’d shout for me, and then i’d go to him like a lamb to slaughter! I remember the undersides of beds and tables a lot because i was often playing behind/ under them with my dolls, and also hiding from people. One time my sister got an injection and while she yelled, i hid behind the bed and cried too 🙂
Adithi: “About Grandfathers and Trees” pretty much tells of my most poignant childhood memory.


What next do we see from you – individually and / or together?

Chatura: I’m working on a collection of stories for adults in the style of magic realism. Nothing being co-written with Adithi right now.
Adithi: Together we haven’t planned anything yet, although we’d love to do a “Pandupur Too”! Individually I’m sure Chatu will come out with a book. As for me, it has to be a film or I’ll burst!


If there was one advice you could give parents today, what would it be?

Chatura: Listen to the kids.
Adithi: That if it’s happening with your kid it is probably happening with lots of others as well, so it can’t be that bad. Let it pass with a sense of humour, things do have a way of working themselves out. This is advice for myself as well as for parents out there… I too forget, more often than not.
Psst: For people who still haven’t picked up a copy of Growing Up In Pandupur, “fie fie!”
Get it here!

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