Welcome Dear Shweta.
BNI: Shweta, please share something about yourself and related to your background.
Shweta GK: I am an author and a travel columnist.
My first novel ‘Coming Up On The Show… The travails of a news trainee’, was released in May 2011, by Srishti Books. It sold more than 10,000 copies within the first two months of its release. My second novel ‘Between the Headlines’ was released in May this year, by Good Times Books and has been very well received.
My third and latest book, ‘A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land,’ is now available worldwide via Toronto based publishers, Indireads.
My short fiction and poetry have been published in Indian Voices – An anthology, Bricolage Magazine, Synaesthesia Magazine, Writers Asylum, Single Solitary Thought, Damazine, Love Across Borders, Shades of Love and other anthologies and literary magazines in more than four continents.
My monthly column, ‘Trippin With Shweta’ is a steady feature in the Indian magazine, ‘Travel and Flavours’.
The New Indian Express, One Philippines, Venture (Indonesia) and Geo (Indian edition) have published many of her travel columns. My non-fiction pieces have been featured in ‘Chicken Soup’ for the Indian Spiritual Soul and Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – On Friendship.
I also write and illustrate on the joys and trials of being a parent, in a blog called, ‘The Times Of Amma – The motherhood bulletin with badly-drawn cartoons.’
Before dedicating my life to writing, I worked as a TV news correspondent with CNN-IBN and as a Communications Officer at Greenpeace India.
BNI: Now that you are such a successful published author, may I please request you to recall and share how did you got inspirred to write your first book?
Shweta GK: My reasons for writing my first two books set in the Indian Broadcast News Industry were the same. All the books I had come across on Indian television journalism, both fiction and non-fiction were penned by famous journalists or celebrity reporters. There were no books that told the story of the ones at the bottom-most rung. There were no stories on what exactly happened when you first stepped into the industry. It was these stories I wanted to tell through my books.
I’ve always wanted to reach out to others with stories and narrations of real life incidents and this is what drives my passion for penning them down as well.
BNI: What will be crisp a crisp tagline your latest book – A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land’ .
Shweta GK: Join Mythili as she quits her job, moves to the Philippines with her husband and jumps into the rabbit hole to negotiate a post marital Wonderland.
BNI: Please throw some light on actually how did you come up with the title?
Shweta GK: I had originally titled the book -‘Random Rants of A Bored Housewife’. As the book progressed and the story matured, my publisher and I discussed the title and realized we wanted something that would reflect its parallels with my inspiration for the book, ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’.
BNI: That is a classic one so, who is your intended audience? Why do you think should they read your book?
Shweta GK: ‘A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land’ is a book for everyone who has chosen to make a leap of faith by saying yes to a proposal, yes to moving to a distant land or simply yes to meeting new people and making new friends and has felt a little shaken and a little lost till they found their footing in their new situation in their new metaphorical or literal land.
BNI: Do you correlate yourself with Carroll’s Alice, by any means?
Shweta GK: Lewis Carroll’s’ ‘Alice’ has always fascinated me.
As a child, I’ve lived in Muscat, Kottayam, Calicut, Kochi, Hubli, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore. Two years, sometimes three in one town and then we would move on. Sometimes, it was mid-term as I walked in to friendships formed on the first day of school. I would stand at the fringes – an interloper trying to blend. Masking my nervousness with a grin I would force the extrovert in me out, while the nerd in me would yearn to curl up with my books and my dog for company.
I’d wonder about Alice and how she coped in that Wonderland of hers. I had my wonderful parents as a constant source of support, no matter which new city we moved to. Alice however, had no way of knowing whether this was a dream or if there was another way out of the rabbit hole.
Much later, all grown up and married, my husband and I moved to El Salvador in Central America where I tried to cope with the rigours of bringing up my baby, then barely five months old and the trials of learning to communicate in Spanish. While I thanked my lucky stars for my husband’s support, I remembered that girl I used to be long ago. The newlywed who moved to a foreign land and learnt her way around it.
Much like a lot of my friends who had left their family and careers and friends behind. Much like my childhood friend Alice trying to grapple with the eccentricities of Wonderland.
And that’s how this book was born.
BNI: Dear Shweta, you are a published and a best-selling author. What kinds of comments do you receive from your readers?
Shweta GK: I meet my readers very rarely, the last being a multi-city book launch I had for my second book. Most of my contact with readers is through my website, blog and Facebook page as I live outside India. They are the ones that keep me going, even at times when a blank page tries to stare me down.
They write in to talk about the characters and about the honesty of my books. But most of all, they write about how they can truly relate to my characters.
BNI: So, when and how did you decide to become a writer?
Shweta GK: One of my favourite sayings about writing and reading is ‘Write the book you want to read.’ And this is primarily what I had in mind when writing both ‘Coming Up On the Show’ and ‘Between the Headlines.’
As a fresh journalism graduate and newly recruited news trainee in 2006, I had always wondered whether there were others who had shared my experiences. I searched my favourite bookstores for books with fictional characters I could empathize with, but found none. All the fiction books that I found on Indian journalism were written by senior journalists who had written about major news events and campaigns. I did not find anything on the shelves that told the story of bright-eyed news trainees and rookie reporters and about what it is like to be on the bottom-most level of the news pyramid. These were the people I wanted to write about and write for.
The basic ideas for my books always come from real life.
BNI: Very true Shweta, I totally agree with you on this part. Apart from this, which writers inspire you?
Shweta GK: I’ve had the good fortune to grow up surrounded by books. My parents started reading to me at an age I cannot even remember and that is what motivated me to start putting down my thoughts no matter how silly or random they were.
There have been so many writers that have left such a deep imprint on my mind that it is impossible to list them all. To name a few, I would have to go with Isaac Asimov, Jasper Fforde, JK Rowling, Penelope Fitzgerald, William Dalrymple, Anita Desai… So many more to list.
BNI: From journalism to fiction, what made (or say inspired) you to choose this genre?
Shweta GK: It was never a conscious choice to write in a particular genre. I have found that when I write about the things I know and have experienced, the story flows with a life of its own. My books are slotted in the genre of Urban Fiction, as I have lived through the research needed for all of them. My own life if it were a book would be slotted in Urban Non-Fiction.
BNI: You yourself has grown up from a trainee to a senior position professionally, What will be your one favourite tip to get through the writer’s block?
Shweta GK: I approach writing as I’ve approached all my previous jobs. I could not afford to have a day off as a reporter or as a communications executive. When you are at work you work, no matter your mood. This approach works for me as I manage to write at least a little bit, every day. Being my own boss, I stick to this tactic to ensure I don’t slack off or procrastinate.
I also work on multiple projects simultaneously. This way even if I don’t feel the words flowing for a certain story, I know that it will for another column or blog waiting for my attention.
BNI: Nice suggestion. Any advice for writers budding or established?
Shweta GK: The biggest challenge about being a full-time writer is sticking with it, in the absence of an external editor, boss, deadline or a fixed income. Especially in the beginning, when you have no idea that your manuscript might be picked up for publication at all, it is easy to sit down and put your hands up. And so my advice to new writers is to persevere and be patient, even in the face of rejection.
BNI: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Shweta GK: As an unknown first time writer based from outside India, it was extremely hard to get myself published. I was also looking at getting an entry into the publishing industry without any recommendations or literary agents. I must have sent the manuscript of my first book to at least 22 publishing houses, till Srishti Books, my first publisher responded favourably.
BNI: That was a hard path. Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
Shweta GK: I learnt that getting published is not as easy it seems, but if you stick with it you are rewarded with the incredible thrill of holding your published book in your hands.
BNI: According to you, what is the top most advantage / disadvantage of self-publishing?
Shweta GK: I believe this is a very viable option for writers who are unable to find traditional publishers. There are many writers who choose to go this route also because they want to be in full control of their book – right from the book cover to the editing, marketing and distributing.
For someone like me who prefers to stick to the plain old business of writing and leave the rest to the professionals, it is actually more of a last option.
Books News India blog thanks Shweta, for such an interesting interview and straight-cut answers to the questions. Wish you luck for your future ventures.