Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the very talented, Sajita Nair, creator of the classic romance novel, She’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Sajita has taken the traditional publishing route with her work and I’ve enjoyed hearing her take on the pros and cons of taking that particular road.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a writer based in India. My first novel, ‘She’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ (Hachette India, 2010) was inspired by my life in the Indian army. Recently, I published a collection of short stories by Juggernaut Books. Apart from these, I’ve also written travelogues, short stories and articles for various publications.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Reading and travelling. Reading lets me explore other minds, thoughts and ideas while travelling helps me keep the childlike wonder alive by exploration of nature, cities, cultures and cuisine.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
I facilitate creative writing programs at Nutcracker creative writing workshops (www.nut-cracker.in) and I also conduct corporate training sessions on women empowerment and soft skills.
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
My writing career began with blogging. After every blog post, I would eagerly look forward to feedback from readers. It was a good learning experience. I then moved on to writing articles, travelogues and short stories for reputed print and online publications. It is only then that I attempted writing my novel. The first draft of my novel was done in 2007 and after several edits, I completed it in 2009. It was finally was published in 2010.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
When I began writing my first novel, I had limited knowledge of genres. I wrote because of the compelling urge to tell the story. Much later, from the editors at publishing houses I learnt the concept of genres and their importance in marketing books.
About ideas – my ideas usually come from travel, observation and interaction with people. Being a student of psychology also helps as I tend to indulge in psycho-analysis (sometimes landing me in embarrassing social situations). But that notwithstanding, I believe that better understanding of human behaviour and emotions helps create well rounded characters in fictional work.
6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I’m just out of one that lasted about eight years! Writer’s block hits me when I feel that an idea is not exciting enough to pursue. I’ve abandoned several projects after a thrilling start. Also, negative review of my work triggers a writer’s block. I get into an introspection mode. But in recent times, I’ve come to understand that each reader is entitled to his/her opinion. Hence I try and distance myself from my work. It is quite a challenge though!
7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I work on a rough outline, a short synopsis, which helps me get on track if I lose myself in the sub-plots. Usually this rough synopsis gets edited as the characters take on a life of their own.
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
As a child, I have been influenced by the works of Rabindranath Tagore and Ruskin Bond. Tagore’s short story, ‘Kabuliwala’ still melts my heart. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed reading Hemingway, JM Coetzee, Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jodi Picoult and Amitav Ghosh.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My novel was selected by a talent scout at the Kala Ghoda Literary festival in Mumbai. And this led to a traditional publishing contract. I believe that such contests/ forums at literary festivals are a great way to land your first publishing contract.
10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Nothing! Although with time, one learns the nuances of storytelling better, I wouldn’t replace the raw energy in my first book. Its imperfection is perfect.
11. What project are you working on now?
My upcoming novel is a story set in North Kerala and tries to capture the essence of a changing society from Maru-makka-thayam (inheritance through nephews and nieces followed among Nairs of Malabar) to the modern day nuclear one. It requires me to study anthropology so as to understand how the society functioned and what triggered the transition. The research is on and I hope to complete it in a year.
12. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the greatest compliment?
Let’s start with the good things first. The best compliment I received was when readers told me that they could get under the skin of my characters and feel the emotions and challenges. Most readers found my work inspiring and entertaining. The worst however was when a critic wrote in a review that had my paperback not been published, the world could’ve saved more trees.
13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t stop writing. It’s a long drawn process, often replete with rejections, self doubt and criticism. But like the proverbial tortoise, continue to write bit by bit, everyday. Quoting Toni Morrison – If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
Look forward to reading your work!
Please join me in thanking Sajita for her comprehensive answers and for sharing her experiences of the modern day publishing landscape. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Sajita via the following links.
Please show your appreciation by checking out her work on Amazon:
Debut novel, She’s a Jolly Good Fellow – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7229386-she-s-a-jolly-good-fellow
Short stories – https://www.juggernaut.in/authors/5a6a2d21b4c3447eb8c2c3d8af50a39f
Book reviews –