Shuchi Singh Kalra is the author, freelance writer, editor and blogger with bylines in major Indian and international publications.
She is the owner of Pixie Dust Writing Studio, a writing and editing firm that services a global clientele, and the Indian Freelance Writers Blog. She has started dabbling in fiction only recently and her first book, Done With Men (published by Indireads), has received rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. Her short stories have appeared in Love Across Borders, Stories For Your Valentine and NAW Anthology 2013. ‘I’m Big. So What!?’ is her second book.
Before she took to writing, Shuchi was an Optometrist at one of India’s leading eye hospitals. Travelling is her first love and she leads a happily nomadic life with her fauji husband and livewire toddler. Pay her a visit at www.shuchikalra.com.
Q1: What do you think makes a good story?
I think all the ingredients of a story like a theme, plot, structure, setting and characters arcs have to come together in just the right proportions to make an engaging story that the reader feels a connection with.
Q2- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Every writer may have a different answer to this, but for me, writing is a means of self-discovery. I sometimes find myself writing about things that I seldom even think about, which means they must be hiding somewhere within me. Whenever I am caught in a conflicting situation, I write. It helps me gain clarity, depth and perspective.
I don’t recollect a single author I know whose life has not influenced their writing. I think we all borrow from the joys and sorrows in our past. I think it’s this way with every writer. That’s not the unique part. The unique part is that you relive your experiences and people through your writing and it influences the way you see the world more than what’s around you ever influence your writing. I also think that writers are a blessed lot as well as doomed. To know what I mean by that, your readers need to read my book J
Q3- In which genre you would write your book other than this Genre!
My first two books were breezy, happy romantic comedies My latest book, ‘A Cage of Desires’ is broody & dark – a contemporary romantic erotica with complex characters and layered emotions. I hope to experiment with other genres like crime and thrillers (this is just an example. You can write some genre here that you would like to write in, in future) in my future writing.
Q4- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I think all of us at least one story that can easily be written into a book. I wrote my first book ‘Done with Men’ in flat three months. It’s the Second Novel Syndrome which is dreadful. It strikes when the first book has been published and made a fuss of – and then the crowds melt away, and suddenly you are left with a blank computer screen and the expectation that they will be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat once more. And then you panic. And you panic because now your audience wants the same, only different. They want what they liked in the first book to be in the second book, but they don’t want a similar book, they’d like some different bits, but they couldn’t tell you what different bits.
So the second book is a lot harder to write than your first book. The first one comes instinctively but you have to labour much harder over your second one. I wish my process of writing had become more structured but it hasn’t really. I know a lot of authors who meticulous foreshadow and plan every chapter of their book and write regularly with great discipline. I often wish I could do that too. My writing schedule mostly involves long periods of writer’s block and then suddenly the floodgates open and there is a deluge or thoughts and words. I wish I could be more disciplined but with my current routine, it’s really difficult for me.
Q5- What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think there are a couple of pretty common traps that most aspiring authors fall for. I myself have been a victim of a lot of these. Some of the many that I recall off the top of my head are
– There is no such thing as an aspiring writer. You’re either one or you’re not.
– Wasting time on too many online writers’ foruforums.se forums are largely amateurs giving bad advice to amateurs.
– Suspense versus confusion. New writers often mistakenly toy with the reader, needlessly withholding basic facts in an effort to create suspense.
– Can’t take criticism.
– Setting self expectations way too high. ‘Either I’ll write a masterpiece or nothing at all’ is one of the most common traps for new writers.
And once the first book is accepted for publishing, then the biggest mistake all newbie authors make is assuming that their job is done once they have finished writing the book. It’s only after my first two books that I have come to realize that the hard part starts after your book has been accepted by the publisher. Even though my books were received well, in hindsight I realize that they could have fetched much better sale figures if I had concentrated more on marketing them well.
Q6- What inspires you to write?
I think I’ll just plug a few lines from my book here that Maya says J
‘For myself! I write for myself! I write to express. I write to give wings to my fantasies. I write to be known. To be read. To be admired. To tell stories.’
Q7- How often do you write?
I wish I wrote more often than I am currently able to manage. There are long dry spells of absolutely blankness when I have stared at my computer screen for hours. Then there are days of writing sporadic random passages. And then rarely, very rarely, are those days when the dam of creativity bursts and there is a deluge of ideas and words inside my head. I wish I had more of such days.
Q8- Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
I wish I did but I have no set schedule. I usually write whenever I can squeeze some time out of my busy life. Most of my day is spend juggling work, home and my child. But even when I have time, I write only when inspired. I know people who sit down and meticulously write every day. I envy them.
Q9- Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
I think it was Noddy. I grew up on a steady dose of Enid Blyton, and I feel so nostalgic when I revisit them now. My all-time favourites however were Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Jungle Book.
Q10- What are your hobbies, passion other than writing?
Other than writing, I’m a wine connoisseur, baking enthusiast, a restless traveller and a compulsive nomad. I love creating quirky craft work when I get some time to myself and I am also a hoarder of eccentric fashion accessories for no reason at all.
Q11- Can you tell us about your current projects?
Writing ‘A Cage of Desires’ has been emotionally exhausting so I’m going to go back to writing rom coms for a while, but I’ll definitely experiment with some other genre soon enough. I am already halfway through writing the sequel to ‘Done With Men’, my first book.The characters got pretty popular with the readers and many of them asked me if there would be a sequel. It’s going to be a fun breezy read like the previous one, and although it takes off where DWM ended, it is intended to be a standalone book. I also have a couple of other stories inside my head that I would really love to put to paper soon.
Q12- Word of advice to the young writers out there?
I don’t think I am experienced enough to dole out advice. I myself still am on the learning path. But I can definitely say that don’t wait for the perfect moment to write that book cooking in your head. Set a routine, write a few words everyday and FINISH that first draft. Don’t waste time on fancy words and expressions when you are writing – just let the story flow. And some of the harsher things that I wanna tell young writers are
· It’s going to be slow. Very slow. There’s no such thing as instant gratification.
· It’s not enough to be a good writer. You have to learn to market yourself well.
· Don’t count on books for money, at least until you have a few bestsellers out in the market
Becoming an author requires a lot of patience and perseverance. It is an unbelievably slow and painful process, at least for most of us. There will be times when you feel like giving up – just remind yourself why you write and keep going at it.