Not so long ago, I had reviewed the book “Birds of Prey” written by Archana Sarat and published by Readomania. Today morning there was a Q&A session with the author, which unfortunately I couldn’t attend. But Archana was kind enough to respond to some questions I had e-mailed her.
I am no great interviewer, but here are the questions I have always wanted to ask a writer. So here it goes.
- Let us do away with the cliches first okay? Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My father is a Chartered Accountant and we have a CA firm in Chennai. So, even before I could pronounce the word ‘Chartered Accountant’, I told everybody I was going to be one. However, after completing the course and clearing all the exams at 22 years of age, I realized that working as a CA was not my cup of tea. It is then that I took up writing as my vocation. (OK.. Let that sink in. She cleared ALL CA exams when she was just 22. ALL PAPERS IN CA)
- What is your favourite book and why?
How can I name one? This is unfair. I’ll talk about my favourite books instead. Among the classics, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Anna Karenina and Gone with the Wind are my all-time favourites. Among Indian authors, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry was the first book that I fell in love with. After that, I read every book written by Mistry. Manto, Khushwant Singh, Salman Rushdie, Neel Mukherjee, Manu Joseph, Sarita Mandanna, Jhumpa Lahiri and Anuradha Roy are my other favourite Indian authors. Mostly, I have read all the books that they have written.
- What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am friends with many authors. Though I met them in the virtual world initially, most of them are good friends in the real world too now. Most writers, especially in Chennai and Mumbai, are known to me personally. We try and meet whenever possible and are connected on the phone and internet otherwise.They help me in innumerable ways. Many times, I send them an article or story that needs a round of editing. We discuss the latest trends in writing and publishing.
There are a couple writers with whom I speak nearly every day. I discuss new opportunities with them—whether I should take them up, how should I pitch my work, whether I should consider a publisher and so many other things. They lend me a patient ear and help me decide what is best for me. I’m a confused being and find it hard to arrive at a decision. It is a blessing to have them around and I can trust them to choose what is best for me.
Then, there is this other special author friend, with whom I would love to speak every day. Time differences and logistics make that impossible. So, we do what authors have always done for centuries—we write letters to each other—we write these insanely long emails to each other embellished with flowers, hearts and stars. We write about our lives, marriages, families, thoughts, desires, dreams and wishes. We share our insights and encouragement with each other. Some days, when I am depressed and lonely, I need to just open the mails from her and the world seems right once again.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I am not sure right now. Some of my stories do connect. For instance, Anton Pinto, the protagonist of ‘Birds of Prey’ appears in the Short Story ‘The murder of a dying man’ that is a part of the Wrimo India Anthology. It is not a conscious decision.
- How do you select the names of your characters?
At random, depending on the place and time-period they are from and the socio-economic background they are brought up in.
- Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read my book reviews. Bad reviews disturbed me initially. Now, they don’t. Not all bad reviews are ‘bad’; some of them are good learning experiences.
- What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The challenge is to find the discipline and peace to work on my art every day. I do write every day. However, most of the writing happens in my journal where I muse about life or wonder about that great novel that I am going to write. The challenge is to actually write that novel instead of pondering about it.
Making art is a job that needs peace and solitude. Being an extrovert, embracing solitude is a challenge for me. It makes it difficult for me to start working. I’d rather be out with my friends for a lunch or movie. However, once I begin, the characters in the story become real and close to me. Then, I don’t feel lonely anymore.
- Does your family support your career as a writer?
I am what I am only because my family is what they are. They support me in every walk of life.
- Do you believe in writer’s block?
I never get blocked from writing but I do get blocked from working on the current project at times. I believe writer’s block is a disease that gets worse with time. The only way to treat it is by writing, even if it is just in your journal.
- Why do you write? (Ha! I ask this to everybody)
I write because it is a compulsion. I started penning down stories and poems when I was eight years old. I have always had a writing journal and a library membership. Even a single day wherein I neither read nor write is an agony.
- What is the hardest thing about writing?
I love writing. It is the editing that sucks! ( I hear you madam. I really do)
- How do you market your books? Would you or do you use a PR agency?
Apart from book launches across cities, I haven’t done much marketing for my debut novel, ‘Birds of Prey’.
- Writing is said to be a solitary profession. How do you feel about incessantly talking about one’s own work, typically over the top marketing done by some first time authors? Does it affect you in any way?
It has been four months since the release of ‘Birds of Prey’ and I have realized there are two things an author should remember:
- Play it subtle. Don’t talk about your own work. Let others talk about it.
- ‘Word of Mouth’ is the best advertisement your book can get. To ensure your book gets that, spend more time working on the book rather than on marketing the book.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Facebook is my poison. I can be found at www.facebook.com/archanasaratauthor
Apart from that, I have a website www.archanasarat.com
So that is all for this post people. If you have anymore questions, please do ask in the comments section, our kind author will find time to answer you 🙂