Friday, May 8, 2015

Author's Interview: In Conversation With Shuchi Kalra

She is a best-selling author, and a successful freelance writer, published in magazines like Femina, Woman's Era and Good Housekeeping. She runs a very helpful website for freelance writers. If romantic comedy, chick-lit, or well-written light fiction is your genre, you must read her debut book 'Done with Men' (a novella).

Here, I am in conversation with Shuchi Kalra, author of a successful novella 'Done with Men'

Welcome to my blog. Please tell your readers about yourself and your interesting journey of      writing.

Thank you for inviting me over!

I like to think of myself as a thinker and a dreamer. I live in my own idealistic little world and am cruelly jolted back to reality every once in a while when earthly responsibilities beckon. I am a proud military wife and mother to a beautiful daughter. I have been writing professionally for over ten years now, and I also run a small firm that goes by the name of ‘Pixie Dust Writing Studio’.

I have always found solace in writing, even as a child but my journey as a professional writer began in 2005, when I was working as an Optometrist at an eye hospital. I took up some academic writing assignments just to escape the drudgery of 9-5 (which was more like 7-9 at the hospital where I worked) and it was only when I received my first payment that I realized that I could make a full-time career out of this. I quit that job, took the plunge and kept at it.  Looking back, I feel so glad that I did. I wouldn't trade my career and lifestyle for anything else in the world.

Do you find any difference between creative writing and freelance writing?

Well, I try to approach both kinds of writing with the same systematic discipline. Creative writing is definitely more satisfying but it is the freelance projects that bring in the moolah! J

Ha! Ha! Yes. Okay, would like to ask about your writing process. Do you plot the entire story before writing or just go with the flow?

I usually have a basic premise in mind but I don’t really create detailed chapter outlines. The process is spontaneous, and for the most part even I don’t know where my characters will end up and how they will respond to a particular situation. I like to walk and grow with my characters.

How did Done With Men happen? I mean from freelance writing to writing a novella.

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 interest part was that I had signed the book contract even before I had a synopsis of the story! So in a way, I kind of made a backdoor entry  into the world of publishing.

Where do you get your ideas from? Are they inspired from real life?

I spend most of my time in an alternate universe and a lot of awesome stuff happens there.Of course, I do draw some inspiration from real life as well. I like to observe people, get to know them at a deeper level, understand their quirks, hear their life stories and learn how a human mind functions.

According to you, what ruins a story?

Bad writing. I can, for once, overlook a weak plot or flat characters but I find it impossible to go beyond a page if the writing is sub-standard.

Is there any particular genre you find difficult to write? If yes, which one? 

I don’t know if it will be difficult because I haven’t really tried it yet, but I’d really like to see if I can work my way around horror.

Would you like to share something about your future projects?

Ahh…I thought you’d never ask! My next should be out by the end of this year. It is a rom-com (more rom than com) with a spirited plus-sized protagonist. While it is primarily a romance, the story touches upon body image, fat shaming, social stereotypes and how challenging it is for anyone who doesn't fit the mould to navigate the society.

Being a mother to a toddler, how do you make time to write? In other words would you like to share some time management tips?

Surprising as it may sound, I started writing more prolifically after I had my daughter. Though she takes up most of my time, she is also a constant source of inspiration. In fact, I wrote DWM when she was barely an year old and I finished the first draft in three months flat. It is a different matter that I had to type away on the phone while feeding her or lulling her to sleep! I don’t make any conscious efforts towards time management – I just know what I have to do and I prioritize my tasks accordingly. If you are really passionate about something, you’ll make time for it no matter what.

Very well said! Writing a book is a huge task but getting a suitable publisher is the toughest nut to crack. What’s your take? 

Yes, that’s unfortunately true. Competition is stiff and everyone and their cousin is writing a book these days. It isn’t uncommon for potential literary gems to get lost in the slush pile given the number of submissions publishers are bombarded with each day. I have realized that it helps to have a literary agent back you up. My second novel was placed with Fingerprint Publishers by Kanishka Gupta of the Writer’s Side. Getting an agent to represent you is tough too but once you are signed on, you have everything sorted. And that means more time and energy to devote to your writing.

Any words of encouragement for aspiring writers who crave and struggle to get    into the ‘published author world’?

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.

As you are also a successful freelance writer, please share some tips for  beginners?

Whatever you do, it is only your work that will make you stand out. There are no shortcuts around that one.  The kind of jobs and the rates offered to you are going to be proportional to the quality of your services. If you want to command a premium price, learn to deliver a premium product. Treat freelance writing like any other business and do whatever you can to improve your writing skills. I have always been stressing on the importance of building a strong portfolio because that is the only way writers can project their worth in the market. Bottom line: Write prolifically and write well!

You are a travel writer. Do you believe that travelling has a special impact on writing?"

Maybe not in a direct way but it does give you a deeper perspective on life and the world. The more you travel, the more you discover and learn about yourself and things around you. For me, travelling is a necessity and a constant source of inspiration.

It's an absolute pleasure to have you here! Thanks for your precious time. I wish you all the best for your future projects!

Thank you Tarang!

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