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The Jaipur-based author makes her comeback with her third book and narrates a story set in 1968 when the average age for marriage of a girl in India was 16 years. In this interview Shivani A Singh takes us through her journey on how she decided to start writing and what it takes to author a book.
1. When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Ans. In 2009 I did an online IQ test which also told you where your aptitude lies. The answer was, I should be a writer. I tried writing a ghost story. Showed it to my mother who did not like it much. So I forgot about writing. Then in 2015, while watching Downton Abbey it struck me. I can also make this stuff up. Why not try?
2. How long does it take you to write a book?
Ans. How long? Maybe 15- 20 days for the research. The plot is something which has come to me on its own. I build up on it. Create the main characters and their relationship to each other. What motivates them. The key events in the story. Then it takes about fifteen days to write it. Maybe more or less. If it’s good one is caught up in the story oneself. One doesn’t see the time. The rewrite takes much longer.
3. Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your books?
Ans. The ideas are everywhere and anywhere. Anything you look at can make you want to write about it. For research I use the internet. Old articles from magazines like India Today. Wikipedia of course. Since I write historicals I look up movies from that time. YouTube videos of archival material from that time.
4. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Ans. The most surprising thing a writer learns, I think is that the book writes itself. You start with a certain plot line and certain key events but then the story starts going in another direction. You might find yourself starting to feel more sympathy for a secondary character or a villain.
5. How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Ans. Till now I’ve written three. The first went into the rubbish pile. It was that bad. But, it set me thinking. What was the motivation of the grandparents in that story. What must their life have been like. Who were they? So that was how Made for Each Other- Samne Kaun Aaya was born. I have written another book which I am in the process of rewriting. This is also a historical romance starting from 1980 onwards.
6. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Ans. Yes I have had messages from readers. It’s wonderful to hear that they were captivated by the story or they got lost in the pages of the book or they would have named their children after the character’s of my book. Or that their breath stopped at a certain point in the story. That is what storytelling is about. Building worlds for people to get lost in for a while. An artist or a craftsman creates more for the validation from others than for the money I think.
7. What do you think makes a good story?
Ans. I think an author shouldn’t just pick up a formula and lazily sleepwalk through their book. So that the reader at the end of it throws the book into the dustbin or gives it one star out of anger. Every penny paid should be worth it to the reader. “Paisa Wasool”. We live mundane routine lives, most of us. Why give the same to the reader? Make it interesting. It’s a story. It’s not a documentary.
8. Who is your favourite author?
Ans. My favourite author as far as learning how to write is concerned, is Georgette Heyer. Without a doubt.
9. What is your next book in the pipeline and in which category and when it will be expected in the market?
Ans. My next book is about a small girl adopted into a Punjabi business family. Needless to say it is also a historical romance. Hopefully soon. 10. What is your area of interest for writing Ans. I am a very romantic person at heart. I still love reading vintage Mills and Boons by Sara Craven and Anne Mather. So yes, romance is where I feel my ability lies. I don’t think I could write a whodunit or a spy thriller for instance.