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Dear Readers,

Today, I take the privilege to introduce you all to the woman who is a big reason behind restarting this blog after a year’s pause.

Shuchi Singh Kalra is a debutant novella writer at Indireads and this isShuchi Kalra the reason why she contacted me. I am one of the followers of her freelancing blog (which is an epitome of information about Indian freelancers) and when she contacted me, I could not refrain myself. Thanks Shuchi for re-igniting the spark in me.

Here, I present you all the insight into the dynamic person and her dynamism.

BNI: Dear Shuchi, please tell us something about yourself and your family background.
Shuchi:
I belong to a family of academicians, mostly doctors and professors. Both my parents are independent medical practitioners, and my husband is an Aviation engineer in the Army. I am the first in my family to go take up writing as a profession. I hold a degree in Optometry from the Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry. Realizing that I wasn’t really cut out for the profession, I went on to pursue a Masters in English Literature just for the sheer love of it. I spent my growing up years between Libya, Lucknow and Hyderabad, and now I roam the length and breadth of the country with my fauji husband and toddler. When someone asks me “Where are you from?” I really have no answer because I feel that I belong everywhere and yet nowhere. I love
traveling, books and food, not necessarily in that order. Oh, and Bollywood!

BNI: I have learnt that you are a published writer, so, what all you have authored and published until date?
Shuchi: As a freelance writer, I have worked with several print and online publications, both in India and abroad. My bylines have appeared in Femina.in, Good Housekeeping, Home Review, Investors India, Dogs and Pups and Womens Era, to name a few. I have also worked with corporate clients such as The Princeton Review and Skyscanner, apart from many medium and small businesses.  As a rare honor,  a popular international blog recently put me on top of the list of “12 Highly Successful Non-Native English Freelance Writers”.

While I can call myself an experienced copywriter and editor, I am very new to fiction writing. Some of my short stories have found a place in anthologies such as ‘Love Across Borders’, ‘Stories for your Valentine’ and New Asian Writing’s upcoming collection. Done With Men is the first time I am going solo as an author.

BNI: It is really an inspiring journey of yours. What actually inspired you to write the very first book of yours?
Shuchi: 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’s how the seeds of this story were planted in my mind. 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 of us have actually experienced at some point. 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.

BNI: ‘Done with Men’ is really a contrasting title. It attracts the reader’s attention in a glance only. How did you come up with yet another interesting piece of creativity – the title?
Shuchi: 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 of us have actually experienced at some point. 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.

BNI: Heart-broken women are hard to catch up. IMO, it is harder to convince them to sit and read a book! I am curious to know whom according to you is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
Shuchi: I think Done With Men would appeal more to young women in their twenties and thirties, or anyone who enjoys a lighthearted chick-lit book.  That said, I have received some fabulous feedback from male readers as well, which completely took me by surprise.

BNI: Moving back to your brainchild, who is your favourite and least favourite character? What makes them so?
Shuchi: My favorite is obviously the Thought Bubble because it is like that devil sitting on your shoulder, adding to the confusion. I can’t really choose a “least favorite” because they are all very close to my heart.

BNI: Smartly crafted answer put in words! Can you please give us an insight into your main character? What does he/she do that makes it is so to special?
Shuchi: Kairavi Krishna, or Kay like her friends like to call her, is notorious for her neurotic behavior. She is confused, impulsive, insecure, yet completely lovable.  She has kissed too many frogs and has lost all hope of finding Mr. Right. The most special thing about her is that she is so ordinary – she is flawed and gets so many things wrong. And that is what makes her relatable.

BNI: Seems that you have put hard work in sketching each character and weaving relatable emotions into them. During this stint, what was the hardest and easiest thing about the release?
Shuchi: The easiest thing was writing the book – it is
the marketing bit that got me sweating!

BNI: Marketing – trust me is not that sweating! It is simply putting your message across to readers with clarity. So, now what do you say, is the message in your novella that you would like your readers to grasp?
Shuchi: There is no message as such and that was not the objective either. I just want my readers to curl up on a couch, leave their literary and critical brains on the side table and just have fun. We need to do that too, sometimes!

BNI: Indeed, it is a light-hearted message! With this, you have built up my curiosity to know if you hear from your readers much. What kinds of things do they say?
Shuchi: Even though the official launch is a few days away, I have already received an overwhelming number of mails and messages from readers who have actually bought the book from Amazon or are waiting to get their hands on it. It is really heartwarming when so many people, most of whom I have never seen, met or previously interacted with, extend their wishes for the success of my book. The reviewers who received an ARC have also written
back saying that they really enjoyed the book. They have complimented me on the quality of writing, the humor and the way each character is sketched.

BNI: Talking of literature, which writers inspire you?
Shuchi: That has to be the toughest question! I read everything that I can get my hands on – right from Shakespeare to Murakami, to Sophie Kinsella and even self-published authors if I find their books interesting. I enjoy almost all styles and genres and my writing style is an amalgamation of all the reading I have done since I was a kid.

BNI: Can you handpick just one genre as your favourite pick? Shuchi: I always turn to chick-lit whenever I am in the dumps or just in need of something, which does not require too much brainpower. There is something strangely uplifting about these books – perhaps because the characters are so relatable and are going through the same life problems as you. I just wanted my first book to be entertaining and fun, which is why I chose this genre.

BNI: So, after choosing a genre and writing on, what according to you was the hardest thing about writing?
Shuchi: For me, it is to sit down and WRITE. I get easily distracted by the internet and I am the most productive on days when the signals are down.

BNI: Lolz !!! Most of the writes face similar problems but only a few conquer this roadblock. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Shuchi: I don’t have any fixed plans as such. Right now I just taking each day as it comes. I’m game for whatever opportunities life throws my way.  But yes, I am definitely going to write more books.

BNI: That reminds me of the novella again. What has been the toughest criticism and best compliment to you, as an author?Shuchi: A couple of reviewers have compared me to Sophie Kinsella and Bridget Jones (Helen Fielding) calling me the “desi Sophie Kinsella” or “the Indian avatar of Sophie Kinsella” and I take that as a huge, huge compliment. It is extremely humbling when my work is compared to that of these goddesses of chick-lit who I have grown up reading and admiring.

There hasn’t been any tough criticism as such, so far, but some reviewers have mentioned that they would have preferred it ifthe book was a  full-length novel instead of a novella.

BNI: What will be your one favourite tip to get through the writer’s block.
Shuchi: As someone who writes for a living, I can’t afford to have writers block and the luxury of waiting till it passes. Yes, there are times when I’m not quite up to it but clients and deadlines keep me on a roll. Things are very different when it comes to writing fiction though.

BNI: What are your thoughts on book series? Would you like to have one for your latest book?
Shuchi: I think they have worked very well for some books. A series is always welcome as long as the author can sustain the reader’s interest and come up with something new and exciting. I haven’t thought about writing a sequel to Done With Men but I’m open to the idea.

BNI: Any advice for writers budding or established?
Shuchi: I think I’d rather be at the receiving end of any writer-ly advice for now because I still have a lot to learn about the publishing industry.

BNI: What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Shuchi: I has a lot of fun writing this book but if I had to pick one scene it would be the one where Kay eats shrimps to impress Vivian even though she is allergic to them. As she battles diarrhea and a swollen face, her ex comes in and starts acting like a jerk. What follows is complete mayhem. I just imagined all that happening to someone and burst out laughing while writing that scene.

BNI: How about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us?
Shuchi: “I have made mistakes—mighty big ones at that. Not the kind that would cause a national fiscal deficit a-la Manmohan Singh or ruin some unassuming person’s life, but the kind that makes you go into face palm mode and want to die every time you are reminded of them. “

BNI: What are your expectations for the book?
Shuchi: I just want readers to have a good time while reading the book, and have a smile on their faces by the time they finish it.

BNI: Do you think book cover an important role in sales?
Shuchi: Of course it is. An attractive, professionally done cover does draw eyeballs and gets a prospective reader interested in the book.

BNI: ebook, pdf, mobi, kindle or printed hardcover book, what’s your pick? (must answer)
Shuchi: I have cupboards and trunks full of paperbacks/hardcovers because I love collecting them. I am pretty possessive about my books and I don’t like it when people ask to borrow them. Of late however, I have started leaning more towards ebooks (mobi and Kindle) because they are far more convenient and easy to carry around and don’t occupy space. If I am at a boring party, I can just whip out my phone, open a book and tune out. I even do that in movie theatres sometimes.

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