Monday, April 15, 2013

At the Mumbai Book Fair

Psst. That's me in the black striped shirt and black trousers. Along with Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi, Ravi Subramanian and Manish Gupta. At the Mumbai Book Fair for a panel discussion on content, masala and marketing in publishing today. Given that Amish, Ashwin and Ravi have well on ruled the bestseller charts for yonks now, this made for a most informative discussion especially for a newbie like me, I listened, I learnt a lot, and damn, I wished I was taking notes.

PS: Go visit the book fair, it has stalls and stalls and discounts and activities and events and is a cannot be missed event for any book lover.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In which Yashodhara Lal speaks with me as part of her blogger to author series

As a part of the continuing Author Chat series, which seeks to bring you a perspective on writing and publishing today, I had a conversation with Kiran Manral ,author of ''The Reluctant Detective'' which released in 2012. Kiran is a lady with a purpose - she runs and supports various fantastic causes - finding the time to do so passionately, despite being a wife, mother, writer and various other things. She's got a great sense of humour, too - evident in her book and of course, her blog. As you'll see in her responses - she talks straight and tells it like it is! Enjoy :) 
Yashodhara:      When exactly did you start blogging and why? What role does blogging play for you in your life today vis a vis when you started out?
   Kiran: I began blogging in 2004/5 and at that point it was just like a personal diary I maintained and wrote about. I started the kiddy blog a little later to put down memories of the child's    growing up because I was sure I would forget everything given the kind of black hole memory I have. Today blogging is a habit, a routine, something I do as a matter of fact, because it has become part of me. 
Y:        Did blogging help you get published in any way – directly or indirectly - and if so, how?
  K: Indirectly I think, because it kept me writing and in touch with my writing skills. And helped me discipline myself when it came to writing because I set myself a ten minute deadline for    my blog posts. Nothing more than ten minutes a day on a post. 
Y: What is your experience and view on the art of writing short stories vis a vis a novel?
  K: Short stories are much more challenging in my opinion, to build up characters, situation, context, conflict and climax in a short story needs mastery of the art of storytelling. A novel is      much more generous, you have lot of space to do all this.  
Y:    Your first book The Reluctant Detective was published early last year– share with us the story of how that happened.
    K: It was rather simple. I wrote out three chapters and a synopsis, mailed it in to the editor at Westland, she liked it and asked to see the rest of it. So I wrote out the rest, mailed it in and     voila, a year later, the book was birthed in paper and ink. 
Y:       Can you shed some light upon the challenges of first-time authorship? First, with regard to writing; and then, with regard to the process of getting published.
  K: Touchwood, I didn't have much of a struggle, I was lucky enough to get my first effort accepted.  
Y:      As far as the community of new authors goes in India, would you say it’s a well-knit and helpful one? What is your view on this?
   K: I think the community is rather open and friendly and willing to lend a helping hand to those coming in. I have had only positive experiences with other already published authors.  
Y:       Kiran, you’re a freelance writer in one of your avatars – how did that contribute to helping with the book?
   K: Discipline in writing that's the main thing. Treating writing as a job not as something one waits for the muse to descend before getting down to work. 
Y: This is my favorite question because I’m trying to find the answer to it myself! What is your view on Plotting? Stephen King in the book ‘On Writing’, suggests that plotting results in stories that are too formulaic – I personally struggle without a plot outline. What is your view?
   K: My first book, the second and the third all were plotted. The one I am currently writing is not. Nor is one I've abandoned midway, but know I will get back to. The plotted ones get done    quickly. The ones that aren't plotted are a struggle but so much more creatively satisfying. The characters take a life of their own, do things you never think they were capable of and I think the unplotted books are where truly, you go into an alternate dimension where you as an author are just merely the recorder of the story, not the puppeteer to the characters. 
Y:   What are the most common questions you get asked personally from aspiring authors? What is your response to these?
    K: How do I get published. How does one write. Answer 1, submit your manuscript to the email ids on the publishing house websites in the format specified and pray hard. Answer 2. One    word at a time. And the third and most dreaded thing is the sudden influx of manuscripts from aspiring authors. I love everyone, but unless they're dear  friends, I'm really hard pressed to    take time out to go through all the manuscripts that land in my inbox and I find it tough to say, no really, go to a professional editor, I have too much on my plate to go through your    manuscript with a marker and give you feedback. Right now I have 12 manuscripts in my inbox. Completely unsolicited.
Y:   Tell me some of the mistakes that you find aspiring authors make in the beginning – what are the rookie mistakes that you made which you think other people could learn from?
   K :Me, I didn't pay attention to plot. I just had fun writing the story. Now I suggest plot more. Also I didn't do any research. I would recommend every aspiring author research their subject    thoroughly so there are no grey areas or obvious mistakes.  
Y:   What are the components of any good story, according to you?
   K: Conflict. Resolution. Emotion. Empathy.  
Y:  Do you think it is critical to get some sort of training in the process of writing – or does it just happen? What does it really take to get published?
   K: Training would always help, but what would help more is a flair for writing. You can train all you want but if the words don't flow naturally, it won't help. About what does it really take to      get published, I really don't know. Some national bestsellers I've browsed through have such appalling command over the language that all that I believed in has been shaken to its core. But    yes, they are best sellers, with some authors churning out a new book every few months. So they must offer something that the readers want.  
Y:   When it comes to short stories, who are some of your favorite authors, Indian or otherwise?
    K: P G Wodehouse, W Somerset Maugham, R K Narayan, Ruskin Bond. 
Y:   Any last words for the people looking to participate in the Indiblogger-HarperCollins Get Published contest? 
    K: Don't wait for the muse, she is fickle and often calls in sick. Just put fingers to keyboard and write.

Thanks a bunch, Kiran! 

Yashodhara Lal is the author of 'Just Married,Please Excuse.' ( You can read her blog here or follow her on twitter @yashodharalal
Read the original here:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interviewed by

BookChums interviews Kiran Manral

Post by: Deepti Khanna
On one of her blogs Kiran Manral blogs about fashion, jewellery, bags, shoes, cosmetics, home d├ęcor and food. She claims to be obsessed with them all; we are sure most women will understand why…

In the interview, the author talks to us about how her first novel The Reluctant Detective was born, why blogging is so much fun and how she founded India Helps (a network of volunteers who work with disaster victims).

How was the storyline of The Reluctant Detective born?

It wrote itself. Honestly. I just began writing about a suburban housewife and she had her own little adventure while I wrote it.

What is the methodology you follow? Is that that you plan every chapter or let the story take its own course?
In the case of The Reluctant Detective, I wrote out the first three chapters and a synopsis of each of the rest of the chapters and mailed it in. It got approved and I wrote out the book.

In case of another book I have written (which is still languishing with me, because I can't seem to end it) the story is taking its own course, so I have worked with both routes and while the first route is finite and determinable, the second is creatively much more satisfying.

How did you think of amalgamating a murder mystery with a housewife's story who worries about her weight and groans about not having enough clothes?

Actually, the back stories to the little snippets in the newspapers about 'unidentified dead body found' and such like fascinate me. Also the thought was to incorporate something disturbing into her everyday life that wouldn't actually impinge too much on her everyday life, but just create slight ripples that would unsettle her a bit.

What changes in the sequel to The Reluctant Detective?
Ha ha ha. You have to wait for that. Kay will be as reluctant as ever, is all I can promise.

Do you think women bring a unique perspective and emotional angle to their novels?
Stepping into Sir Vidia's controversy? Seriously, no. I might get lynched for saying this but it isn't a male/female perspective that counts, it is the power of observation and recollection and the ability to put down thought and emotion in a way that the reader can connect with it that counts. Some of the most moving novels have been written by men and they have been as emotional as they can get, and some female authors are very matter of fact and brusque with their writing. I would say it is personality rather than gender that determines how the writing will be.

You do a couple of blogs and write extensively as a freelance writer. How is novel writing primarily different from blogging and writing.
Novel writing involves living with the characters over a period of time, seeing how their story evolves, creating a kind of plot or development they have to work over or around. Blogs aren't like that.
Blogs are very random, at least mine are. Just five to ten minutes of writing. Freelance writing is writing to an assigned topic, in the house style. That is bread and butter work. Novel writing is a passion. Blogs are fun.

How can a writer make his/her humour work?
I wish I knew the answer to that. Honestly. I think you either have a sense of humour or you don't. I think it helps to not take yourself or your writing too seriously.

Could you share a little about your role at India Helps?

I founded India Helps post the 26/11 terror attack with a group of friends. It is a network of volunteers who work with disaster victims.
I primarily coordinate fundraising and getting information about the victims in need.

Read the post here

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An afternoon of gluttony

In the words and pictures of the wonderful Nikhil Merchant.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Verve Botticino Lunch at the Trident BKC

Botticino, the Italian restaurant at the Trident invited me to read to a group of select bloggers, and I was quite delighted because these were friends I'd known since my trip to Lavasa last year. And since Verve was on board as the media partner for the event, I was all panic about hair and clothes, because, of course, I'm not a good one for the coordinated look. But with the help of Disha Waghani, a dear friend, I finally agreed to get myself into a dress. Disha has been after me for yonks to wear a dress and I've been dithering and dathering. So a dress it was, hair and make up, thankfully, taken care of by Lakme Salon, so that was immaculate and I wasn't terrified of the Bride of Frankenstein look happening.
I reached the venue to find Anuradha, Pushpa, Nisha from the blogger group, Arti Sarin and Sitanshi from Verve already waiting for me, as was Biswajeet who had put together the event. Also met Anushka Agarwal and Kainaz Daver of the Trident, such pretty ladies who totally made me feel like the country cousin with their impeccable complexions and immaculately draped sarees. Shakti joined us soon after I walked in.

I did a bit of reading excerpts from the book. What is lovely about reading to a crowd that has already read your book is that they know which bits are their favourites and know what is to come next.

And then it was time for lunch, and we moved towards the restaurant where Chef Vikas Vichare had laid out a fabulous spread for us. Here is what was on the menu:
Me, being the died in the wool carnivore I am, I opted for the roast chicken roulade, the chilli and fennel crusted snapper with olives and the Tiramisu with berry sorbet.
This was accompanied by a lovely red wine, which in my excitement, I forgot to take the details of, and given my kindergarten level knowledge of wines, wouldn't be able to comment knowledgeably about anyway.
The food was plated so exquisitely that it seemed a sin to eat it, they seemed like art forms on their own. I personally loved the way Chef Vichare had balanced the flavours so that not a single thing about each dish was overwhelming, but was a feast for the palate and the eyes. And yes, I can say the tiramisu at the Botticino is TO DIE FOR. If I'm on death row, this will be my last wish meal request, tiramisu from here.
Here's us at lunch.

 A lovely afternoon was had, and time just flew by. This reading at the Botticino, I think, would be amongst my most cherished memories of this launch campaign.

And here's what I did this Saturday

The Verve Botticino Trident lunch for lady bloggers.