Sunday, August 25, 2019

Interview with Kavya Janani, author of With Love, Forever

Hi Kavya, glad to have you here on Readers Muse. And let me begin with congratulations on the success of With Love, Forever. I have a few questions here to see the woman behind the words, and let us begin!

  1. Tell us a few words about your book.
I conceptualized the idea of this book in 2011. Due to time constraints, I could finish it only in 2015. I went through a tough phase after that. It took me another four years to finally publish it. With the entry of right people in my life, I could publish it without any hassles. I may write other books, but this one would always stay close to my heart.
  1. You have been published in the four major formats of writing: you have a novel, novella and short story collection to your credit. You also dabble with poetry. How did it all begin?
I wrote my first short story - The Ghost Sticker - when I was just eight. It was inspired by many ghost stories which I had read in magazines like Tinkle, Champak, and Children's Digest. After that, I started writing a story called The Suspense Behind The Trees, inspired from Enid Blyton's books. But I had to abandon it halfway, since I didn't know how to take the story forward. The same happened with another story of mine, named Jack and the Beach Scene.

In 2010, I started writing a novel named 13 Days Later, but I had to shelve it due to no proper plotting. Then, I began writing With Love, Forever in 2011 and there was no looking back. Meanwhile, I wrote many short stories and published them online. Later, I compiled them into a collection and published via KDP. I started dabbling in poetry only in 2016. Though I am not that good at it, I still use it as a therapy to overcome writer's block.
  1. Which of these format of books are your favourite, to read and to write?
I prefer to read all these formats, but when it comes to writing, short stories are my favourite. It is a challenging format, yet I feel at ease, whenever I pen a short story.
  1. How do you approach writing? Is there anything specific you do?
I don't follow the mantra of writing daily. Time is really scarce for me. So, I write whenever I find time. This means, I even write on my phone. I don't wait till I return home and have access to my laptop. I write on the go. I write while I wait in queues. I write even in the loo!
  1. Which works best: plotting or writing at a flow?
I wrote With Love, Forever at a flow, but I'd rather prefer plotting before beginning any project. When one has a clear chapterwise outline, they'd know what they want to write. It also helps when they have writer's block and they don't know how to take the story forward. I prepared a chapterwise outline for my late work-in-progress, which I lost to the realms of technology. But I can rewrite it from scratch, since I still have the outline with me. So, yeah, plotting wins a thumbs up.
  1. Who are your writing inspirations?
My earliest writing inspiration was Enid Blyton. I grew up reading her Secret Seven and Famous Five series. Also, I am a staunch Agatha Christie fan. Though I don't write crime fiction, I take inspiration from her writing style. My current inspiration is J.K.Rowling. I read the Harry Potter series only in 2016. Thanks to you, Dhivya. Now, I am reading the series for the third time from a writer's POV and learning many things from Rowling's writing style.
  1. What are some compliments that you got for your writing and now hold close to heart?
One of the compliments from my best friend, Madhan, is really close to my heart. He was one of the first readers of the first draft of With Love, Forever. After reading the story, he said he hadn't read such a beautiful story in a long while. He also added that he'd cherish this book forever. Also, I treasure your appreciation which you showered on my book, while we met. You had noticed my reactions. So, you know how precious is that appreciation to me. I have saved many screenshots of compliments from my writer buddies. I go back to them, whenever I feel uninspired.
  1. Inspiring or inspirational writing: which is your favourite?
I've never been a fan of inspirational writing. I'd prefer writing that inspires me. Even a romance or a mystery novel can be inspiring in many ways. Certain stories have inspired me to create something of my own.
  1. Your book exhibits your music tastes. Anything specific you would want to say for our readers about that?
Music has always played an important part in my writing life. You can find many A.R.Rahman’s songs referred in With Love, Forever. His music influenced me a lot, when I penned the story. His songs influence my daily life, too. I have one A.R.Rahman song associated with every mood of mine. I also write listicles in my blog for his songs. And, you can find at least one of the characters in all my books to be a music aficionado.
  1. Do you have any future projects in line?
I have a general outline for two full-fledged novels, both having time-travel as its central theme. But I am planning to take a break of two years, at least, and hone my writing skills. I am also having lots of books in my TBR pile. So, let me do some reading!

Flash Clap:

Tell me the top 3 that come to your mind when you think of:

Best Indian authors:
Ruskin Bond
Arundhati Roy
Vikram Seth
Favourite authors from UK:
Agatha Christie
Enid Blyton
Books that always grace your bookshelf
Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries
Cecelia Ahern’s light-hearted reads
Books about books, bookshops, and booksellers
Books that you want to own
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
All works of Haruki Murakami
Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Three authors you buy without question
Agatha Christie
Cecelia Ahern
Dan Brown
Languages you want to learn
Places you want to go
Edinburgh, Scotland
Santorini, Greece
Orlando, Florida

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Interview with Smitha Vishwanath and Vandana Bhasin: Authors of Roads, A Journey With Verses

Thank you, Smitha and Vandana for taking time to answer my questions.

Let me begin with congratulating you for getting your wonderful poetry collection out there. Wishing you the best for the success of Roads.

1.   How did this idea of a book of poetry originate? Any particular inspiration?

Smitha: I’ve written about the conception of ‘Roads’ in the book which tells you how the book originated.
Honestly speaking, I hadn’t thought I’d be publishing a book so soon. I say soon, because until 2018 March, I held a full-time banking job that gave me only enough time to write a post every week on my blog.
However, when I left my job and returned to India in July 2018, with my husband, who was transferred here, I had a lot of time on my hands which allowed me to write more. One thing led to another and it paved the way for this book. It’s pure ‘Serendipity.’ There’s no better way to explain it.

Vandana: I had been writing poetry for anthologies for about a year and that planted the seed of publishing my own book. I had known Smitha since 2017 through Wordpress and we liked each other’s writing. When Smitha happened to move to India, we met in Delhi at a literary event and we decided to work together. We first thought of writing fiction- short stories maybe (as suggested by few friends.) I have inclination towards inspirational and motivational writing, so we started working on inspirational stories. But, since poetry was our forte, and this was our first book, we decided to divert our energies to the genre in which our hearts believed.

2.   Have either of you been published before?

Smitha: My poems have appeared in a few anthologies and online magazines. Again, it all started after moving here. The first was in August 2018 where 3 poems were published in the anthology ‘Meticulous Men of Mettle,’ by Impish Lass Publishing House and subsequently others followed.

Vandana: My poems and articles have been published in numerous anthologies. Some of these are: She the Shakti, Muffled moans; Medley of melodies; Speak your mind; Petals of Love; Gems of Poessy; Ripples of Peace; Lyrical Dewdrops; World peace; The spirit of India; Speak your mind; Queen; Complexion based discrimination; Vasudha etc.

3.   Why poetry?

Smitha: I have been writing poems since I was a teenager, in my diary.
Incidentally, one of my parent’s family friends found a resume’ that I had sent to them in 1998, when I was looking for a job and strangely enough I had mentioned ‘Poetry,’ under hobbies (Don’t know if people actually write their hobbies any more in their resume’).  We actually laughed on seeing it.
So I guess it was only right that I should start off with a genre that I was most comfortable with.
Vandana: This is interesting. Unlike Smitha who had been writing since childhood, I discovered my inclination towards writing, only about three and a half years ago. After quitting my corporate career and staying at home for few years for raising my kids, my intellectual faculties were biting me hard. So I decided to join a creative writing course at British Council, without knowing what was in store for me. One of the session was on Poetry and our teacher (to whom I’m grateful till this day) showed us three pictures and asked us to write a poem on any one of them. There was one picture depicting a dancing girl that I couldn’t take my eyes off and words just started flowing on the paper. I wrote about 10-12 lines in the class and went home. But till next day, I felt restless as some lines kept buzzing in my head. The poem titled ‘Wings of Freedom’ is a part of the book. It was then that I discovered my penchant towards poetry, though I equally enjoy writing articles on women empowerment and contemporary issues (as evident in my poems too, which are often mistaken by the reader as my personal woes or experiencesJ)

4.   I love your little notes between poems. This is not the norm, but made the collection infinitely more enjoyable and personally relatable. How was this conceptualised?

Smitha: In my case, most of the notes were written at the time of writing the poem. You know: a feeling, an emotion, a pain; I would just pour it out through writing a poem and have this little note that helped clear my head. So when the idea of the book came up and we wanted to do it differently from the existing poetry books in the market i.e. make the poems more understandable and accessible to the average reader who is generally averse to reading poetry; we decided to add notes. I’m really happy it struck a chord with you. It means we got it right. Thank you for letting us know.

Vandana: We actually deliberated over the genre for about two months and then when we decided to go with poetry (which was close to our hearts), we thought of doing it with a difference. We wanted to present it to the reader in the form of an experience- the way we used to do on our blogs. The basic idea was to let the reader experience and understand the emotions that resulted in that particular piece of poetry. Categorising the book into nine virtues around which our life revolves, was also an outcome of that thought process.
If you feel that those little snippets added to the beauty of the verses, then we are really glad to know that their purpose has been served.

5.   If you had to choose one favourite poem from the other’s in the book, what would it be? And why?

Smitha: It’s funny because one of my friends’ who read the book asked me the same question and my initial answer was, ‘I like them all. Each holds a different memory so each one is special.’  It’s like asking a parent to choose their favourite kid, you know? Anyways, I slept over her question and the next day morning I sent her a reply in which I had chosen 5 of my 30 poems. They were, ‘I buried what we had,’ ‘Hush Daddy! Don’t Fear,’ ‘Miss you when you’re gone,’ ‘Courage to start from scratch,’ and ‘A Friend is Valiant.’ These are all poems that were the result of very strong emotions and maybe that’s why they’re very important to me. Answering her question has prepared me for yoursJ.
I like ‘Who Am I?’ and ‘ Let me Unwind,’ which I somehow always end up calling the ‘Coffee poem’. It’s a feel good, warm poem.

Vandana: This reminds me of the question that my two boys often ask me, “Mom, whom do you love more- me or my brother?”
All the poems carry a very strong set of emotions with them. The opening verse of the book that starts with, ‘On the blank page of life’ and ends with, ‘But I never fail to inscribe each day, as I never fail to breathe each day,’ describes my state while having to choose one J
Who am I’ is close to my heart as I often find myself debilitating over my identity in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of life as reflected in another favourite of mine ‘The conundrum of life.’ I also love the conflict portrayed in ‘Writer vs. Woman’ as I struggle to balance my personal life with my passion for writing and then reading a few lines of ‘Believe in yourself’ instils life.
From Smitha’s collection, ‘Second chance- when its’ worth your life’ and ‘Hush Daddy-don’t fear’ are close to my heart.

6.   How has co-authoring been? What were the trials and rewards?

Smitha: Co-authoring has been an amazing journey. I jumped headlong into it when Vandana proposed it. But when the idea sank in, I wasn’t too sure, if it would work. Fortunately, Vandana is a great partner to work with.  I’m not sure if I would have been as easy with anybody else. Having worked in and managed teams for 20 years, I know how difficult it can be. And since writing a book is a creative process, it can be a lot tougher. Also, I believed writers’ as most creative people could tend to be a little cranky or even a tad bit egoistical. However, working with Vandana eased all those niggling doubts I had, when I began. The rewards were ample. We focused on our individual strengths which complemented the other.  Vandana’s great at managing excel records and she is extremely patient when it comes to fixing and re-fixing the document. This is not one of my strong points. So she handled this very efficiently and allowed me to sit back. On the other hand, when it came to the cover, she gave me the freedom to alter the colours and the image sent to us, by the Publishers. Also, being a first book, having another person on the same journey helped. Because the truth is, it can get lonely along the way.
I think, she’s set the bar pretty high for anybody else to work with me.
At the end, I think our strengths worked for us and I hope the readers feel the same when they read the book.

Vandana: Writing is generally a lonely road and its challenging to attune to or trust other writer with your thoughts and ideas.

Co-authoring with Smitha has been an incredibly beautiful journey in itself. Being a novice, I had never imagined to strike chords with someone in the literary field, especially with someone whom I hadn’t even met personally. But working with Smitha was like reliving my youth days. We were so different in our habits and interests and yet perfectly compatible. We discussed for hours, we laughed heartily, we interrupted each other to share our thoughts, we argued to reach consensus and we patiently waited for each other’s availability (that was very critical as we both have families!). We ensured that every word that went into the book appealed to both of us, without thinking it was her poem or mine (no matter how long the discussion went). It was ‘our’ book. The trust we had in each other gave us the confidence and strengthened our bond. Of course we had concerns, but we always clarified them in time. Since both of us had been from corporate world and that too same industry (banking), we knew the importance of communication and this ensured that there was no scope of misunderstanding. I’m grateful to God that our paths crossed and paved the way to ‘Roads.’ I proudly call her my ‘Writing Partner.’

7.   Do you have any tips for people wishing to co-author books? What do you think is the one major requirement for this to be successful?

Smitha: For all those who want to co-author a book, its’ really important to know yourself first. Go for it only if you’re comfortable working in a team. You have to be ready to listen sometimes and to let go at others. It can’t be ‘My way or no way!’ Secondly, choose your co-author well. In mine and Vandana’s case, we had been following each other’s blogs for over 2 years and so we knew what to expect from each other. Also, we respected each other’s individual styles which you’ll see is not the same. Respecting and being flexible I think, is a major requirement.

Vandana: Trust and patience are the two key elements of every relationship. You have to trust that your interests are aligned and you must have the patience to accept and respect other’s choices and ideas. Harping on strengths of each other and ignoring the weaknesses can only foster the relationship. Each person is unique and we should not try to find our mirror image in our partner. You must respect other’s writing style and not construe one as superior or other as inferior.

8.   Why ‘Roads?’

Smitha: We thought of 50 -60 names before ‘Roads’ came up. It was always really ‘Roads,’ just in different words. But the meaning was the same – which was to showcase life’s different hues. Every day we’d come up with 10 different names and every night we’d sleep over it only to wake up to not liking any of the names we previously thought of. Somewhere in between, we even said, ‘What’s in a name?’ But, the answer is ‘There is a lot in a name.’ When ‘Roads’ came up we decided to follow the same process of sleeping over it. First day, we woke up and we still liked it. And when we liked it, on the second and third day, we knew we had found our name. ‘Roads,’ metaphorically depicts our journey through life while stating that one must keep moving on with courage, strength and hope.

Vandana: This brought a smile to my face J
I can’t tell you the number of titles we deliberated upon. I have an excel listing all the titles! Every day, we would come up with few names and Smitha would speak it out loudly in her sweet accent. We would then try to connect and feel the title. And next day, one of us would say, ‘You know what, I think this isn’t what we want. This doesn’t portray our poems correctly. Let’s think more.’ Even our families got tired of our title suggestions. We wanted a name that indicated the journey of life, the challenges, its varied hues (I remember having stuck with ‘Hues of Life’ for many days!) And this continued for many days until one day we came up with ‘Roads.” And when that stayed with us for few days, we knew that’s what we wanted our book to be titled!

9.   What inspires poetry? And how is it different from prose?

Smitha: Anything can inspire me to write poetry. It could be as simple as my children arguing with each other, a change in the seasons, a conversation with friends or a newspaper article. For me poetry writes itself. But when it comes to prose, I would need to structure it, think about what it is I want the reader to focus on. It’s a more deliberate process.
However, saying this, the truth is, I can’t write only poetry or only prose. And therefore, I write both: poetry and prose, in my blog:

Vandana: For me, poetry is everywhere.
Every streak of light, every ounce of nature, every emotion, every experience, and every breath of life inspires poetry. You just need to be in the frame of mind and you can seek inspiration from the most mundane things. I have written poems on uninteresting topics like lizard, shoes, closet, eagle, to nature represented by ocean, hills, sky, to emotions evoked by love, to experiences to woman, to relations and what not.

To address the second part of the question, poetry warrants expression in few words. You should be able to express your feelings in carefully articulated words that touch the reader in the manner you want. In prose, you have the liberty to elucidate same thoughts in as many lines as you want. Rather the reader expects you to elaborate your thought process.
I write both as I feel both demand and expand your creativity.

10.                Are we looking at any works on the cards from you? Please tell us about your future projects.

Smitha: I would like to write Fiction maybe in the future. Maybe a collection of short stories or just a novella. But that’s going to take some time. For now, I’d like to get ‘Roads’ rolling because I strongly believe it’s more than poetry and it has the power to make a difference in people’s lives.

Vandana: Well, I was planning to work with Smitha on our next poetry collection but she has some family commitments in the near future. So not sure if we will be able materialize that as of now. So I haven’t clearly planned anything. I might start working towards another inspirational book.

Roads: A Journey with verses is a collection of poems on various topics, published by Notion Press. 


"Roads" is a poetic rendezvous that takes the reader on a panoramic journey, making one pause, ponder and celebrate life.
The book is a light, alluring read that instantly strikes a chord and elevates one's spirits. A trove of 60 poems, it is quilled with beads of nine virtues: Courage, Wisdom, Serenity, Love, Hope, Strength, Joy, Compassion and Gratitude. The verses encapsulate life's ebbs and flows while prompting the reader to enjoy its simple pleasures.
"Roads" is a book that you would want to keep on your bedside, for a quiet read before retiring for the night or for the morning wisdom to seize the day. With poems revolving around emotions that each of us experiences, "Roads" very easily develops a personal connect with the reader that is defiantly refreshing.
"Roads" is a journey with verses. Take it on yours.

It can be purchased in the following links.

For Paperback :