This is a series of blogs introducing Authors of Tomorrow – these are the ones to keep an eye on. Each week I will deliver a blog with an interview from an author of a different genre.
Sandeep is an exceptionally talented artist, writer and lecturer who is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the writing industry.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
A lot of times, one’s kryptonite is related closely to one’s superpower. This is spot on for me. I don’t know that I often feel inspired to write, but I feel compelled.
I show a lot of emotions and dark reality of my situation. I’ve gone through several periods where I endured losses and painful changes that in order to get through them, I’d completely shut off my emotions.
My main focus was to survive. Adding my feelings to the mix was too much for me to deal with. My characters will do whatever necessary to survive; however, in doing so, they tend to be so focused on survival, they forget the light-side of life.
They’re so busy reacting, moving from one crisis to the next like some kind of robot, they don’t try to stop for a split moment to deal with the emotional trauma they’re experiencing.
Now, I’m faced with worsening anxiety issues and becoming more of a recluse. My family is starting to suffer because of this kryptonite. And so is my writing. But first-I need to allow those emotions to flow through me, re-open the door of my heart, and allow it to breathe. I need to live again.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
The most common traps for aspiring authors are two things:
EVERYONE WILL LOVE MY BOOK.
It is a very unrealistic point of view. You love your book because you wrote it. Just because you love your work doesn’t mean everyone will love it. Not everyone reads the same thing.
I love writing poetry but I don’t enjoy reading them. I love non-fiction and memoirs mostly. You have to approach writing realistically and with some idea who you want to market your book to.
Age, gender, location, interests… etc., these are all things to consider when thinking of who your reader is going to be and who may love your book.
NO ONE WILL WANT MY BOOK, SO WHAT’S THE POINT.
Just like not everyone will love your book, not everyone is going to hate it either. You wrote a book or short story or poem that you needed to write. Something inside you said the world needs this. That same voice is the reason why there will be people who will love your writing.
Someone out there needs what you’ve written, and you may never meet them but they are there. The world is a big place and there will be those that will not like your work but there will be just as many who will love it. You can’t be afraid of those few for the possible many that will embrace your creation.
SO, IN CONCLUSION:
Always think of ways to engage your potential readers, (maybe start a blog), or become part of a writing guild in your community to learn and get to know other creators.
Get someone you trust to review your work and see if there are places where you can make your piece stronger. Also never be afraid of criticism; take it as a chance to grow.
Explore places where those that might enjoy your work may be hanging out either online or in the real world. Try sharing your talents in small ways to build your confidence and maybe your following.
Who knows? Your work may touch more people than you could have imagined.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I have a mild ego. One that has enough self-esteem to know I’m worthy of the life I have, and a desire to strive for something better.
This average view of myself helps me stay neutral when it comes to judging my writing, and I think having a average ego helps me as a writer because I don’t belittle others striving towards their goals. If anything I’m more willing to help where I can and share my experiences.
THE BEST AUTHORS, IN MY OPINION, ARE THOSE THAT HAVE AVERAGE EGOS.
They release their worth and they use it to better others. J.K. Rowling is the perfect fit for this example. She knows what it is like to be at the bottom of the income ladder.
When she became famous for her series she didn’t let that fame go to her head and instead used the money that she had and influence that she gained to better others around her.
You could say the same about Bill Gates. He knows how powerful he is and he is using that power to help others not help himself.
I think someone with a high ego wouldn’t do well within the writing community. Okay, maybe at first… but other time their inflated sense of self-importance and arrogance towards those around them may cause their popularity to fade.
A BIG EGO GOES IT MAY HELP A WRITER IN THE SHORT TERM BUT HINDER THEM IN THE LONG TERM.
When you fall in love with yourself as a writer, you hit a plateau in your talent which is impossible to escape from — until you hit rock bottom, until the rug is pulled out from underneath your ego.
What is likely, however, is this: Feeling self-satisfied, we will “finish” our projects without returning to them with an objective eye. At the peak of our creativity, breaking new ground (in our minds), we won’t bother making sure the work is good.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have Margaret O’Driscoll, Evan Mantyk, Cindy Rochstein, Vivekanand Jha, Mahathi, Nick victor, Wilhelm Cortez, Joe Martin, Onkar Sharma, Stacie McCall, Ocean Reeve and Melissa H North.
Great writers connect with other writers. Because before they were great, they were mediocre. They had to meet someone who inspired them, someone they aspired to be.
Many creative people underestimate the power of networking. They think of it in the slick businessman sense, but it’s much deeper than that.
True networking is simply connecting with people. In your journey to become a great writer, there are three relationships you’ll need:
There’s nothing fancy to this. You’ve got peers, people who are in the trenches with you. Find those who are pursuing your same craft, those of like mind, and get together with them. Buy a fellow writer coffee or lunch. Hang out, commiserate and enjoy each other’s company. These relationships should be mutually beneficial.
Everybody wants fans. At least you think you do. But how we go about getting them is more difficult than we often realize. So how’s it done? In a sentence, help people. Take something that is obvious to you (but not to others) and generously share it with the world. Try this over and over again in different ways until you find the right one.
If you haven’t already found it, knowing your voice is pretty important to this. Take some time to figure out why people would listen to you, and then say what you have to say. Say it boldly, and the fans will come.
This is the hardest part. It’s also the most important relationship you could make in your journey to becoming a great writer.
These people — leaders and influencers in your industry — will help you grow your platform and get your message heard. So how do you get their attention? You have to earn it:
Demonstrate your competencies.
Serve someone else first.
Make a big ask.
Find a potential fan, friend, and patron (one of each) and reach out to them. Don’t ask for anything but this person’s time. Don’t say no for them or apologize. Just ask. Make it an invitation to coffee (if a local connection) or to Skype. Do it and do it now before you lose your nerve. Then tell us how it went.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I think it’s easy to feel despondent when a glittering writing career doesn’t immediately open up, but like any skill, writing takes time to become good at, so just keep slogging away in private, and be honest about how ready you are to be published.
Treat writing as a job. It is the hardest job you’ll do – you’re your own boss, and everything you produce is you.
Learn to throw out what isn’t good. Editing is the most important part of the process. And above all – read.
Be in the world of words when you wake till the moment the book drops from your hand as you dose off. Reading is everything.
I think that many younger writers at the beginning of their careers spend far too much time writing and then tinkering with their first book. My advice is to write a book and then immediately go on to the next one and to the one after that. In other words, the more you write, the better you will become.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
The first thing is to remember that although there are differences, they aren’t as drastic as you might think.
Not all women are crazy about pink. Not all of them are aware of the way they walk, and all women are NOT damsels in distress.
The same way all men are NOT born mechanics or knuckle-dragging troglodytes who only care about sex and beer.
It’s an understanding that it isn’t only the sex of a person that defines the character. Sometimes male characters can be made very practical or detached while female characters can be written as weak or emotionally charged. This stereotype isn’t a good assumption.
It’s best to develop your characters with male and female characteristics as that is how real people are. If you follow this, you’re characters will be more human, and readers will relate to them more.
Women, on the other hand, have been more of a mystery to me, and in the beginning I was satisfied depicting them through my men narrators. “Write what you know,” I said to myself, and for a while it worked well.
But writing what we know, though a good rule for beginning writers can become restrictive. Soon I wanted to challenge myself by writing from multiple perspectives. In order to create powerful female narrators, I had to do a lot of preparation. I used four methods: reading, research, recollection, and review.
First I examined the works of writers who I felt had done a good job depicting female characters – either in first person, or in close third person point of view.
After I finished reading, I embarked on a people-watching mission. I observed women at my place of work, in public places such as malls, airports, sports events and doctors’ offices. I took careful note of gestures and ways of communicating, and the kind of language women tend to use.
Memory has always been a powerful writing tool for me, so I spent some time thinking about the women I have known – women in my family, women I went to college with, women I worked with or was emotionally involved with. I jotted down everything I could remember about their personality traits, life philosophies, and little quirks that had struck me as amusing or annoying. All of these helped me understand how women navigated life differently from men.
This was my final step. Once my first draft was done, I had a number of female readers and female writer friends read the draft, focusing specifically on the female narrators. I asked them to tell me if they found them convincing, or if there was anything about these characters that bothered them and made them feel that women would not act this way. Based on their feedback, I cut down on a lot of dialogue, especially when the female characters were explaining to the men how they felt about something, and replaced this with action.
What is your favourite childhood book?
We have Anne of Green Gables, Winnie the Pooh, Snoopy, the “Encyclopedia Brown” series of mystery books. The books were so unique to me because they gave the reader (unlike the “Boxcar Children” series) a chance to actually solve the case for themselves. Of course, I rarely solved any, but I just enjoyed the mystery, suspense, and complexity that went into those stories.
All the Disney characters, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Aesop’s Fables, David Copperfield, Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers, Peter Pan, Robin Hood and all Jane Austen novels have made a permanent impression. I also read Indian authors like R.K. Narayan (Malgudi Days and many more), Ruskin Bond, ‘The Jungle Book’ by Rudyard Kipling; and also the Indian comics, Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha (tales of Indian history and mythology in the graphic form).
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
No, But my personal circumstances find expression in my writing and tend to seek some solace from the reader.
How many hours a day do you write?
I write in a study shared with my kids – it’s stacked with books and baskets full of pastels, watercolours, glue, wool, fabric, cameras and so on. I make pictures. I play music.
I’m normally at my desk by 7 a.m. and stop once I have done a good amount of work. That normally means 1500-2000 words or a poem or a scene for a story or a large amount of editing.
If I’m in the writing phase of something, it’s messier. I succumb to Twitter or Facebook. I pick fights with strangers of a different political persuasion from my own. I sign petitions. I go for walks. I pick through old piles of paper.
Each day is different: the work is very varied. Has my working day changed since publication? I think my attitude has changed – before, I was on my own, trying to break through into the world on the other side of a slippery glass wall.
Now I’m on that other side, I feel I have to work harder. I don’t always love the work I do – but I know I’m one of the luckiest people alive to be doing now what I always wanted.
Tell us about your latest projects and where we can find them?
I am an infrequent poet and writer because of some personal issues. I first published an article in 1992, but there are so many intervals in the writing process that I became a freelance writer on variety of topics.
I have restarted my journey with the collection of poems and art, “Feel My Heart” published in 2016. “The Death of the Seas” will come in December, 2017.
I am working on another book “The History of English Poetry” to be published in early 2018. I regularly publish poems, articles and reviews. You can know more about me through my website.