Hello Aarti, thank you for being a part of IWI’s Incredible Women Writers of India 2016, and sharing your journey as a writer.
How would you define yourself?
Writer. Reader. Lover of shoes and huge bags. Naptime enthusiast. And in my other career, someone who loves writing about tech and finance.
What was your childhood like? Any incidents form your growing up years that shaped you as a person?
I am an only child of working parents living in the suburbs of Bombay. I had building friends and we used to hang out a lot, play in the evenings, sneak in snacks and gossip too sometimes. But then I got introduced to books and I disappeared into my own head where Archie, Nancy Drew and Moonface (from the Faraway Tree) kept me company.
As for incidents, does hating Math from Grade 1 to Grade 10 count?
When did your journey as a writer/poet began?
I guess it was a natural progression to reading novels to feeling the urge to write one. The urge became particularly obsessive once I started reading Mills and Boon novels and I realized people actually did this for a living. Wrote love stories about awesome, strong, passionate characters (and all those sex scenes!) and had a career.
I began my career with some extremely badly written fanfic for Tom Cruise, and that is ALL I am going to say about that. Then it progressed to writing stories for my girlfriends and now, more than a decade later, here I am. Three novels out and many more simmering in my head. It’s been more of an adventure than a journey!
Do you have a muse? If yes, who or what acts as a catalyst to your writing?
I don’t have A muse, but it’s imperative that I have a really, REALLY good-looking hero all sorted in my head before I commit anything to the keyboard. It’s different for different books, but since I think visually (storyboarding in my head) it works well for me to see two people talking to each other instead of me having to think up dialog and scenarios for them. The writing is more natural and instinctive that way and, somehow, miraculously, it works.
For my next MS the catalyst would be Kurt Cobain’s tragic and untimely death and the sexy, haunting eyes of Jake Gyllenhaal. (You see now why writers are called crazy.)
Do you plan out your work or just go with the flow?
Yep, yep. I absolutely plan out the plot, break it down into chapters and see what I come up with when I storyboard. Then I start writing and the characters are like, “Hello! You don’t have control. We are the boss.” Luckily, I know enough of the plot by then that structuring is not a big deal and even when I don’t have control, I can still steer the ship if need be. Which, I don’t. Because, well, they are the boss and mostly that means I just follow their thought processes and it’s all organic and natural.
For you, what’s the easiest thing about writing and the hardest thing? Do you have any weird/funny writing rituals?
Music. Music is the most important thing for me when I start writing. I totally need the right playlist before I sit down to work. Right now, the top choice on my playlist is Taylor Swift’s Style and Kabira from YJHD. I don’t know if muttering to myself while pacing and screaming into the pillow that I suck counts as a ritual, but that happens fairly regularly too.
Do you get writer’s block? How do you battle it?
HAHA! I’ll let you know when I find out. Yes, I get writer’s block. No I don’t know how to battle it. I don’t think anyone does. Powering through it doesn’t work for me because I write utter crap and that makes me feel worse which blocks me even more …you see where this is going.
I guess, all you can do is have faith that one day it will come back and you’ll get to do the thing you want to do so badly.
How have you evolved as a writer since you have started? If you could give one advice to yourself, what would it be? What are you working on now?
The one thing I consciously do now is to take a lot more care before I begin writing. Characters have to be unique and distinctive and have that indefinable something that makes them unforgettable, as opposed to memorable. I didn’t think that back when I started writing. I also pay a lot more attention to parlance since I am writing for a largely national audience, so relatability matters.
Plus, emotions versus logic is a constant struggle when it comes to writing romance in India.
The best advice I can give myself and indeed anyone who is writing is, Don’t chase it. Writing at its drug-high best is the hot woman who sits alone at a bar waiting for you to buy her a drink so she can go home with you. But, the minute you sit down next to her she’s going to turn away from you. There is a fine line to tread between being interested and uninterested and that’s where the best writing happens, for me.
Yes, it is EXACTLY as crazy as it sounds.
Right now, am working on a couple things. A young adult urban fantasy set in a utopian Bombay filled with monsters, magic and a kickass but doomed young couple. And a story set at an engineering college during the continent’s largest college music festival. Both are romances in their own way and so much more.
What’s your opinion about the future of writing/reading/the publishing industry in India?
In a country of one billion people with the largest demographic of 27-35s which is called the working population all over the world, the publishing industry in India is about to boom out of control. The Millennial is looking for new and new experiences and for sure, reading interesting, fun, thoughtful, provocative and entertaining writing is one of them. The other side of the coin is that everyone wants to be a writer too. Which is good for the industry makers but makes it that much more difficult for writers to break out.
But, no gain without pain, right?
Favorite food… Mom’s khana/Nani’s khana.
Favorite Book… HAHA! You’re kidding. Right now am re-reading City of Glass by Cassandra Clare.
Favorite author… Let’s go with Cassandra Clare for this interview.
What are you afraid of… Not living up to my potential
What makes you angry… Patriarchy
Childhood crush… Tom Cruise!
Things that you can’t live without… My iPod, without which I cannot write. Laptops for work and writing. And Mom without whom I would not have done half the things I have. Ok, also hot men. They make writing so much more fun and easy!
Any message or advice you want to share with our readers?
Reading is the last great pleasure. Watch the movie/TV series but read the damn book too. Nowhere else do you get the freedom to open your mind and purely BE than when you read a really well-written story.
For aspiring writers, the standard rule of thumb is to put in 10,000 hours of work and research when you want to become good at something. When it comes to writing, a lifetime isn’t enough. If you can wrap your head around that and still be obsessed with writing, then go for it. The world awaits your words.
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Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI.