Our next author to bask in spotlight is Ms. Bhargavi Balachandran. Dear Bhargavi, our heart-felt thanks for accepting to be interviewed.
BB : I was a corporate pack rat and have sold office equipment, air conditioners and corporate loans after my MBA. One fine day I decided I needed to do something more with my life than live in a cocoon of balance-sheets, sad bosses and such-like. I live in Chennai and spend time running behind a toddler who is handful, running an e-commerce company and writing (when bouts of inspiration strikes ;0). I also love reading , travelling and art.
BNI: So, What all you have written / published till date?
BB: I have written articles for magazines and newspapers and have published a romance novella called Seven Across, which came out in 2012. Though The Crossover year was he book I wrote first, it got published in Dec 2013. I started blogging in 2008, which in a way gave me the confidence to start writing a full-length novel.
BNI: What inspired you to write your first book and or this book?
BB: Actually I don’t think I gave much thought to how complex writing a novel really is when I sat down at my desk and decided to write a novel one fine day. So, the first book was pure serendipity. I didn’t even know if I would complete the book , but thankfully I did J The premise of the book is fairly auto-biographical. I had just quit work and didn’t know what I really wanted to do with my life. I happily borrowed that for the broad plot of my book. However, the journey that my protagonist goes through is completely fictional.
BNI: A 30 word tagline for your book
BB: A fun book about life, parenting, choices , career and friendship that will make you laugh and think.
BNI: How did you come up with the title?
BB: This must sound crazy , but I came up with the book’s name even before I started writing the book. I guess giving the manuscript a name makes you own it more – it is no longer an ‘untitled manuscript’ that will get forgotten soon!
BNI: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
BB: Though the book is Women’s fiction, I have had men read the book and tell me that it helped them figure out what a woman’s mind worked like. Yes, it is chick-lit and has it’s flighty moments, yet I think it also tackles certain pertinent issues that today’s woman faces like sexual harassment at work and the role of a career in a woman’s life ( among other things). So , if one is looking for a cosy read to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon, The Crossover Year would be an ideal candidate.
BNI: Who is your favourite and least favourite character? What makes them so?
BB: I don’t think I have a least-favourite character. Everyone in the book is ‘grey’, including the protagonist herself. My favourite character would be the protagonist’s friend, Smrithi who is extremely balanced, down-to-earth and strangely a little like Monica from Friends. I really have no clue why I ended up liking her character so much, when actually I am not too fond of Monica’s character in Friends. 🙂
BNI: Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
BB: Sri AnuPrabha aka Anu is completely larger than life, confused , in your face , emotional and wears her heart on her sleeve, yet she is endearing and lovable because she genuinely means no harm to people and is warm. She blunders through life without a clue, and her gullible misadventures will want one to smile indulgently. I guess I am quite fond of Anu. 🙂
BNI: What was the hardest and easiest thing about your latest release?
BB: The easiest thing was to write the first draft. I had to do very little research as a huge chunk of it was drawn from experiences of people I know and from my own life. The most difficult part was getting it published. It took me a year to find a publisher , and three more to see the book finally in print.
BNI: Share some interesting story about the book writing/cover development.
BB: I don’t think there was anything out of the ordinary. I fell in love with the cover the minute I saw it. The editing part took a while .I read the book four times in a continuous loop to spot possible errors just before it went to print and thought that I would have a nervous break-down if someone had asked me to read it once more.
BNI: Is there a message in your book/novel that you want readers to grasp?
BB: I don’t think the intention of the book is to leave any message- I just wanted to entertain. However, the book definitely spotlights the predicament of the modern woman who wants to be able to manage home, kids and come in to work and win accolades. It’s this pursuit of balance that takes a centre-stage in the book.
BNI: Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions or similar events? Any plans in relation to this book.
BB: The Crossover Year hasn’t been formally launched yet. I would love to meet my readers definitely, if given a chance.
BNI: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
BB: People who have read the book tell me that Anu’s voice (first person narrative) is the best part of the book . The lovely thing about technology is that we authors are in touch with our readers directly. Some of my tedious days have sparkled because of lovely comments that readers I haven’t met have shared with me. One really feels blessed at such times.
BNI: When and how did you decide to become a writer? Do you write full-time or parttime?
BB: I did not decide to become a writer, it just happened that I discovered the joys of writing after churning out credit reports for a long time J However, after my second book got accepted I realised that I really wanted to continue writing. I am a mom to a two-year-old and also run an e-commerce company, so I don’t get much time to write every day. But I make it a point to at least clock in an hour every day.
BNI: Which writers inspire you?
BB: Anuja Chauhan, Joanne Harris , Chitra Divakaruni, Margaret Atwood , PG Wodehouse , Sophie Kinsella and many many more.
BNI: What draws you to this genre?
BB: I believe that good stories cut across genres. That said, both my books have been slotted as women’s fiction( The Crossover Year has been pegged as Chick-lit and Seven Across as Romance), and I understand the necessity to do so , because a lot of people decide to read a book based on this ‘slotting’. I love reading chick-lits as they are a great way to un-wind after a long, hard day and serves as a great buffer between serious reads.
BNI: According to you, What is the hardest thing about writing?
BB: Showing up at my desk everyday and to write with blinkers on when my daughter is ransacking the house is my biggest challenge. There are days when at the end of a long day all I want to do is curl up and sleep even when I know that there is a deadline looming ahead of me. Then, there are the days when words elude you me matter how hard I try. The key thing is to realise that we are entitled to some down-time once in a while , and not be too hard on ourselves when we hit a road-block in our plot/writing.
BNI: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
BB: To continue writing and get published, against all odds. Also , unless you are a best-selling author , there is no money in this pursuit. You do it because you want your stories to be told.
BNI: What has been the toughest criticism and best compliment to you, as an author?
BB: There was one review that totally got to me, though I had promised myself that I wouldn’t succumb to negative criticism much. The reader had called the book ‘insipid’ and ‘boring beyond words’. I think I am more relaxed about ‘damning reviews’ now.
People have told me that the book is humorous and that the protagonist very relatable .I think that is the best compliment I have got. So , I think I got something right with the book. 🙂
BNI: What will be your one favourite tip to get through the writer’s block.
BB: Take a break; watch a good movie; spend some time with family; listen to some music. Now get back to work and plod on. 90% of the time it has worked for me.
BNI: What are your thoughts on book series? Would you like to have one for your latest book?
BB: They are fun! I wrote The Crossover Year as a stand-alone book, but wouldn’t mind considering a sequel (or even a prequel). The book I am writing currently is the first one of a series.
BNI: Any advice for writers budding or established?
BB: I am just two books old, so I have no clue if I am in a position to give any advice. But let me tell you what has worked for me : read as many books as you can possibly manage from different genres. That way you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Write at least 300-400 words every day. But dnt beat yourself too much if you can’t write every day. Like any other skill , writing also gets better with practice. Keep the faith and keep churning out your manuscripts. Good luck with your masterpiece.
BNI: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
BB: A publishing house was interested in the book and was keen in taking it up, while three more didn’t accept it. However, suddenly the editorial team changed and the new commissioning editor didn’t have faith in the plot. Hence I was back to square one. I really let the rejections get to me. A month later, I found myself an agent. He tried to place the book with publishers and I had no luck for almost a year. Meanwhile, I wrote another novella that got accepted for publication. The Crossover Year was published almost two years after the second one was, though I signed the contract way back in 2011. It’s been a roller coaster ride, but a ride that I will not regret taking.
BNI: What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
BB: I don’t think I have a favourite part.
BNI: Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
BB: I wasn’t really a methodical writer before , but now I understand the importance of plotting prior to writing. I am not critical about the stuff that I write, as I know that nearly fifty percent of my first-draft will get chopped at a later stage. I am just two books old and feel that it might take a few more books for me to find a comfort zone and mature as a writer .
BNI: Any amusing story about marketing this book, so far.
BB: Ah, I wish.
BNI: What do you think about – What does your protagonist think about you?
BB: That is such an interesting question! I think Anu would think of me as a snob and a boring person. I am not as over-the-top or endearing as she is! I would think of her as a little obnoxious, but a little sweet too. Just saying. 🙂
BNI: How about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us?
BB: Sharing a few slides. 🙂
BNI: What are your expectations for the book?
BNI: I wanted the book to entertain, and not preach. I am happy in the fact that the book has made people laugh and think. What more does a writer need?
BNI: Do you think book cover an important role in sales?
BB: Absolutely! Though I would hate to admit it, I have often picked up books only because of their evocative covers. I am sure a lot of people do that too!
BNI: According to you, what is the top most advantage / disadvantage of self publishing?
BB: I think self-publishing is a great idea for people who have a flair for marketing their books. The upside of getting it right is huge as the royalties are pretty high. The downside is also pretty bad if your book doesn’t garner as many eyeballs as you’d want. Pricing might be a problem , and high MRPs might be a deterrent for interested readers in buying the book. However, with people starting to read e-books, this challenge doesn’t seem that humungous anymore.
ebook, pdf, mobi, kindle or printed hardcover book, what’s your pick?
BB: Paperback. I am still a dinosaur when it comes to books. 🙂