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
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