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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Editor Interview : Naheed Hassan, Editor and Co-Founder, Indireads

Indirom is the flagship brand for Indireads. It offers romance novellas, for South Asian readers everywhere. And the editor for Indireads is Naheed Hassan.

‘Many new writers try and write entire books without dialogue, which makes their writing very uninteresting. Dialogue is important and a skill to learn and perfect is the writing of natural sounding dialogue that moves the story along,’ she says. For more such tips, read my interview of Naheed Hassan at Indireads.

What are you looking for in a book, when it first comes to you?

First and foremost, I am looking for a compelling story, and an engaging writing style. A fantastic story told badly will disappoint readers, as much as good writing cannot save a bad story.
We have a team of editors that provide feedback on both elements to writers as soon as they have submitted a story idea and the first five to seven thousand words.

What, according to you are the qualities of an ideal writer?

Great language skills, coupled with an ability to hold a reader’s interest with their story-telling. We are always looking for aspiring new writers who combine these two qualities.

A good storyteller can hold the readers interest from start to finish – either through their story or with words and imagery. 

Could you explain your process, from writing to editing, and finally, printing and marketing? Is it very different from the traditional book printing?

We work with writers and give feedback and suggestions on storyline and writing style as well as offer support to writers through the entire writing process.

Once the manuscript is complete, our editors initially focus on storyline related feedback and work with the writer to strengthen, tighten the story.  Next, we copy edit and proofread the manuscript.

In parallel, we start the marketing process which involves a range of activites including advertising and putting the manuscript in front of reviewers. Our books are only available as ebooks and their marketing tends to be quite different from traditional print books – with a focus on social media including Facebook and Twitter and affiliates of the major retailers, especially Amazon.

What is the one thing, you would you tell an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many tips as you like)

Writing a book is very different from writing short stories.  One of the things we stress on is creating a detailed timeline and storyline before starting to write because oftentimes a new writer, trying to write on the go, can get frustrated and then stuck.

Another critical element is writing good dialogue. Many new writers try and write entire books without dialogue, which makes their writing very uninteresting. Dialogue is important and a skill to learn and perfect is the writing of natural sounding dialogue that moves the story along.

What do you think an editor can add to the writer’s work?

In my opinion, there are very few writers who are also able to edit their work. And by 
editing I don’t mean correcting and copy editing.  

Substantive editing is where the editor offers insights into gaps and flaws in a story and a writers writing style. For example, a writer may have visualized an important detail from a character’s past but may have omitted to reveal it in the story.

A good editor would then point this out to the author and help them correct the oversight. I believe strongly that editors play a critical role in strengthening and testing a story and that an author would be well-advised to be open to receiving feedback before presenting their story to the world.

What are you working on now? 
At Indireads, we work with several authors and manuscripts at a time, in various stages 
of completetion. I make it a point to be involved with every book, so currently I am working on several books.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a book editor? 

I always wanted to be a writer – publishing and editing came much later for me. But they are very fulfilling in their own way.

What sorts of project(s) are most likely to get an okay from you?

I don’t go with fixed views. Like I said before, I am looking for interesting stories and writers with an engaging writing style.

Could you tell us about some of your upcoming titles? 

We have a love story coming up, which is an innovative and modern take on Beauty and the Beast. There is also a funny story about a pregnant newscaster whose job is on the line because of her weight gain.

What are your top three favourite books?

I have many favourites but in the rom-com genre ‘The Zoya Factor’ by Anuja Chauhan is a book that always picks me up. ‘Mothsmoke’ by Mohsin Hamid is absolutely brilliant and ‘Listening Now’ by Anjana Appachana is one of the most lyrical and beautiful books I have ever read, about secrets and bonds between women.

What is your favourite thing about being an editor? And your least favourite thing?

My favourite thing is being able to help a writer solve an issue they have been struggling with, and my least favourite is working with writers who take constructive feedback in a negative way.

What are the main skills, an editor would need to do their job well?

Attention to detail and the ability to track and analyse a story from start to finish.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

Being able to step away from a story that you have already read and given feedback on several times, and look at it anew, to provide a fresh round of analysis and feedback. That is very difficult.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review : ‘The Last King in India' by Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

Considering my love for history and all its stories, it was no wonder that I wanted to pick up this book. British historian, Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’ take on this particular period in history, ‘The Last King in India: Wajid Ali Shah’ gripped my imagination. 

The pages began well, a rather poetic king, with a love for the female form, considering he had about 350 wives! He married with considerably difficulty at 15, to Khas Mahal, the granddaughter of Sally Begam, whose history is fascinating in itself. (I thought it would make a whole other story). She was also a poet like her husband. 

Wajid Ali Shah, a nawab with an enthusiasm for the theatre, music and dance, he considered himself close to Lord Krishna. This would probably explain his love for many women. He has three sets of wives, the ‘mahals’ who gave him progeny,  the ‘begams’, the ones who did not give birth, and the ‘khilawatis’, who performed basic jobs in the household.

The thing, which caught my eye, was his fascination for theatrics, which he showed, through directing and producing a few longish sessions of theatre. He is also known for the renewal of Kathak. The 'fairy palace' is a another beautiful read.

Though he actually is not known for his rule, which did not last very long, he still has all the other factors which make up this book, a good read. The Nawab of Awadh’s children are as numerous as his wives, whom despite the divorces were always around.

His reign in his ancestral kingdom ended in 1856 when Lord Dalhousie took possession of Awadh. He lived the good life, (1822-1887) in Calcutta’s Garden Reach where he was exiled to. He ruled for exactly nine years. His love for theatre and architecture were aspects, which never left him. At Garden Reach, the readers are introduced to ruler’s love for animals.

He also seemed to have a thing for keeping one’s family close by. This could explain why his children were hardly ever seen outside the walls, but were taught at the school inside Garden Reach, itself.

Though I enjoyed the book, it was only in parts. I thought it read like a history book, which was a tad boring. I have read a few non-fiction books before but I have always enjoyed them, probably due to the author who always seemed to have a fascination for his/her subject. I felt that the history though well-researched but was written as a school’s history book.

Author: Rosie Llewellyn-Jones
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Randon House India
ISBN: 978-81-8400-549-3
Price: Rs 599 /-

Friday, July 25, 2014

Writing and Thinking... like a Writer!

Write and Think. Think and Write. Of course, it is very easy to think, you’d say. Thinking of anything in the world. But now, the question is thinking like a writer. A writer’s thoughts could be slightly different. Of course, it is another thing, that every person’s thoughts are different from the other’s.

Let’s give it a go… I have found that writing reviews can be helpful for this. Not only can we find out a little more about the plot, and put it all together in the review format. We can do this by also critically giving it a deeper thought, giving it our own view and letting it flow. But, that’s me. What about you?

How do we do this? By simply paying attention. We need to pay attention to what is going in around us, to what people are saying and doing. When we sit down to write what just happened, we notice a lot of different things about it. What happened, why it happened, where did it happen, how and when? You can know this by simple paying attention.

How can you do it differently, if you were put into the other person’s place? Would it be different, why and how? Once you challenge the other person’s thought process you discover a whole new way to it.

Now, coming to the process. Firstly, write. Write anything. You like to comment? Then do that, offer an opinion, and you have written. Do not over think it. Just do it.

Daydream. You are better at it, when you think about it. It could be good or bad. If it is, you can always edit it!

Write about anything in your day. For about 20 minutes. That’s it. It’s not so hard now, is it? And whatever you do, do not edit. I know of one comment, I wrote, but I ended up editing it even before I wrote it and forgot the point I was trying to make in the first place.
One advantage is, you can always edit what you think, when you write it down. 

Remember to take a journey while thinking. What have you got to lose? Think of everything around you. Just look up, think about what you are looking at, what you can see, hear, and feel? Think of the whys and hows of it.

Write for yourself, and quit worrying about it and have the confidence to do it. Then you can think of it, once you have a full page. :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Author Interview: Shuchi Singh Kalra, author of 'Done With Men'

Done With Men’ is a fun book to read on an easy day. It does not give you advice - free or otherwise. But it still has a few tips. Especially, the advice to the new writers.

Set a routine, write a few words every day and FINISH that first draft. Don’t waste time on fancy words and expressions when you are writing – just let the story flow. You can edit and pimp it up later’ says the author. You can look for My Review right here and also Buy the Book here.

Read on so you can know a little more about Shuchi Singh Kalra in this Interview…  
How did ‘Done With Men’ happen? Could you describe the journey?

‘Done With Men’ was a stroke of destiny. Naheed Hassan, the founder of Indireads had approached me sometime in late 2011 to work for them as an editor. We got talking and then she suggested that I write a book, a chick lit to be precise, because she believed I had the voice for it.  Before I could make sense of things, the contract was signed and I was on my way to becoming an author.

The interesting part was that I had signed the book contract even before I had a synopsis of the story! I really have to thank Naheed for having so much faith in me. I always wanted to become an author but I never thought my journey would begin this way.

How did the story, especially Kairavi’s come about? Did you have a lot of personal experiences to go with it?

A friend of mine was telling me about her sister who had gone on a vacation after a breakup and had landed up in the hospital injured – that sparked off the idea and I thought it could make for an interesting story. As for the title, I saw a random tweet by someone who wrote “I’m so done with men” and I realized that so many women (me included) have gone though that post-breakup phase when we say “I’m done with men” only to go falling in love all over again.

It is not merely a phrase, but a feeling that most women actually experience at some point in their lives. Since it encapsulated the essence of my story so well, I decided to weave it into the narrative and use it as the title too.

What according to you is different about your book?

I wouldnt say that DWM is “different” in terms of story and theme but it is a book written straight from the heart. I had a lot of fun writing this story and I think that comes through in the book. People who have read the book have absolutely loved the characters.

There have also been some kickass reviews likening my writing to that of Sophie
Kinsella and Helen Fielding (*celebrity eye roll*). On a whole, it’s just a fun book that you’d want to relax with on a vacation or after a hard day. Just leave your brains on the side table and don’t expect any intellectual stimulation!

How would you relate the lives of characters to the lives today? Any similarities?

Though the characters are completely fictitious they are 100% relatable. There is a good chance that you have someone like Kanjoos Kapil or Bindass Baani in your friend circle. Ss for Kay, she is so real that she could easily be one of us.

She is the quintessential modern, urban, working girl who anybody could relate to. She loves to travel and is a writer. Like any single girl her age, she is has her own wonky ideas of romance and is clumsy enough to land into trouble at the drop of a hat.  Many of her personality traits are borrowed from people I know. 

What was the most challenging part about writing ‘Done with Men’?

I had tremendous fun writing ‘Done With Men’ and I cant think of any parts that were particulrly challenging. However, the marketing and publicity activities close to the book’s launch really had me flustered.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

I have had that author itch for as long as I can remember and my first attempt at writing a novel was when I was ten years old. Every time I would go to a bookstore, I would imagine a book with my name on the cover sitting on the shelves. Now that things are on a roll, it all feels very surreal!

When will you next book be out?

I am working on multiple projects at the moment and I’m not sure which one will hit the shelves first. There is a sequel to DWM in the pipeline, another yet-to-be-named rom-com and a story about a small-town housewife who is struggling to find her identity.
Which book are you currently reading?

‘The Mind Readers’ by Lori Brighton.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

There are just too many! I have been a voracious reader since childhood and I never missed a chance to bury myself in a book. From the Bronte Sisters to Enid Blyton, and Shakespeare to Sophie Kinsella, I’ve lapped them all up. I believe that my writing style carries the influence of all the authors I have read till date.

What else do you do on a daily basis?

Being a mom to a toddler takes up most of my time. – I try and finish off my writing work when she is at school. Evenings are mostly family time when we go for long walks or swimming. If I have some time to spare, you would probably find me in the kitchen baking something. I love the way the house smells when there is a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread in the oven.

What advice do you have for the young writers of today?

I am just one book old so I’m not sure if I am the right person to dole out advice, but I would just say that don’t wait for the perfect moment to write that book cooking in your head.

Set a routine, write a few words everyday and FINISH that first draft. Don’t waste time on fancy words and expressions when you are writing – just let the story flow. You can edit and pimp it up later.