1. How did you get started writing?
Reading has always been my constant companion. I had to have a book to read even during meal times. If all the books borrowed from friends and the school library were already read as were the daily newspapers, then I would end up reading the labels on the packets and jars of breakfast cereals and pickles kept on the table.
In the same way, writing too has been a constant part of my life. I began by making my own journals and jotting down inspiring quotes and motivating phrases in them. But soon, even as a trained and practising fashion and jewellery designer, I was always on the look out for opportunities to write which resulted in me writing articles and columns for trade publications. In 2008, I joined a writers’ group which is when I began writing fiction again (after English Composition class in school) and loved it. I came across NaNoWriMo in 2009 which is when I wrote my first novel and decided this is what I want to do forever.
2. What is your favorite thing to do outside of writing?
Motivating and mentoring people to write and reach their novelling goals. And the best part of it all is that as the Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo for India, I get umpteen opportunities to do this all the year round and especially during November which is the NaNoWriMo month.
3. What do you love most about the genre you write?
I write both romance and women’s fiction. As a woman, I have the inside scoop on how a woman lives in this world. Getting around without losing my identity is a challenge: sometimes interesting, often angry-making, but I end up learning more not just about myself but also about the world I live in. This is what good women’s fiction does and that is why I love reading and writing it.
As for the romance I write, I adore the happily-ever-after but also that the protagonists and their love interests share a mutually respectful relationship despite all the ups and downs they go through in the course of the story.
4. What do you want readers to take from your books?
First, I’d like to thank my readers for investing their precious time and energy in reading my books. My writer-self’s motto is to entertain my readers but also give them something to think about without being preachy. One of the lessons I’ve learned in life and which I hope comes through my writing is that it’s okay to make mistakes. Also, it is important to love, first and foremost, your own self. When we love ourselves completely and fully, we bring the best version of ourselves to all our relationships and other areas of life and that leads to magic.
5. Describe yourself in 3 words.
A recovering overthinker.
6. What does your writing space look like?
Right next to my writing chair and desk is a window that looks out on this huge almond tree whose branches come tantalisingly close within my reach. This tree is home to a large number of birds (or at least it feels so with the musical din they make throughout the day) and its greenery is what soothes my tired eyes every time I look up from my computer.
7. What’s the one piece of technology you can’t live without?
Not a particular software but definitely the whole of the internet which has connected me to fabulous people around the world and at the same time been my school for learning more about so many subjects including the art and craft of writing.
8. Do you find it hard to kill off your characters?
Yes, I would if I did it consciously. But I am as shocked and cranky as, I am sure, my readers are when some of my characters die. I remember tears flowing from my eyes while I was writing a scene in my first novel The Magician. I had not at all planned for one of the main characters to die but it happened and here I was writing and crying at the same time. I guess this is why writing is also said to be part channeling in which the story comes through you and not from you.
9. How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
My characters are always composites and become their own new person so I have to often get into their skin to really understand what they are all about.
10. What are you working on now? Can you share a teaser of it with our readers?
“The Young Turks” is the name of the series of stand-alone romance novels I’m currently working on. Here’s a sneak peek excerpt from the first book in the series:
Meanwhile, VK moved towards the small kitchen to get the crockery and cutlery. When Sara returned to the room, VK had already set out the plates and forks. She was impressed. It always bugged her that when they called for takeaway, the guys in the office just sat back and waited for the girls to serve the food. Now, she watched mesmerized as his long, well-shaped fingers moved swiftly and expertly. With a pair of office scissors he cut open the packets and emptied their content into the bowls.There was multigrain schezwan noodles and her most favorite, chilli paneer, ordered from the recently opened Mainland Chinese.
Sara stretched out to collect the empty packets and as she did so, his hand brushed against hers. She jumped back nervously.
“I don’t bite,” his voice was sardonic but she was sure he was laughing to himself about her overreaction.
“Don’t know about that, but I’m sure you’d rather sink your teeth into the paneer than into me.”
For a moment, there was deathly silence. Then, VK looked deep into her eyes and said, “I wouldn’t bet on it.”
She dropped her eyes even as she felt the pink rush up her cheeks. What the what was that?!?! Playing with fire!!!She had to be careful not to get burnt.
When she looked up, he had already put a serving of noodles and paneer on her plate and was happily digging into his own food. The rats in her tummy were having a rollicking time, but she had to stick to her earlier stand.
“I’m not hungry,” she said in a sulky voice.
“Eat,” he ordered, in a stern voice. She meekly picked up the fork and stabbed the paneer. She heard VK give a short laugh, but hunger pangs finally engulfed her and she began eating.
“Did you know this paneer is made from a secret recipe?” he said, suddenly.
Sara nodded, smiling. “So I’ve heard and I intend to ask them for it.”
“Why? Do you like cooking?” he asked.
Now this was a sore point with Sara’s family. She promised them delicacies every time she entered the kitchen but the only output had been burnt offerings.
What Sara did not ever reveal was that the very act of cooking was a stress-buster for her. She was never aiming for taste and looks in her cooking. But she had always been able to find solutions to her problems every time she cooked.
“Yes, I do but I’m not sure my family does,” she said, laughing, and refused to elaborate on the subject any further.
“I’ll get that story out of you one day,” VK said. His tone was threatening but his eyes twinkled with mirth.
“We’ll see” was her rejoinder, ready to give as good as she got.
“So, who’s your most favourite family member?” he said, giving the conversation a different twist.
This question made Sara pause. She pondered.
“I adore my dad. I’m very lucky to have such a wonderful father.”
“So, the little princess twists her dad around her little finger?” His words sounded harsh but he had a slight smile playing at the edges of his lips.
Sara stuck her nose in the air and said, “Why not, indeed! But I am also the darling of my Gramma. Not so sure what my baby twin brothers feel about me but I love them to death.”
“And your mother?”
Sara pretended she hadn’t heard his question. She began looking around for her phone and gasped. “It’s 10:00pm. I’d better get home if I don’t want to be late for work tomorrow too.”
11. Is there one genre that you have not written in yet, but would love to try writing?
Through my short stories I explore and write in other genres so that fulfills my desire for new literary adventures. A good case in point is my story in Hellcats Anthology which is a retelling of the Red Riding Hood fairytale.
12. What do you do when a flash of inspiration hits you at an inopportune moment?
My ‘inspiration file’ is a journal where I jot down thoughts and ideas and other such flashes of inspiration that I receive on and off during the day. In case I am outside, I use Google Keep on the phone to save them.
But if neither are available and a brilliant idea strikes me, I will keep on thinking about it and explore its various facets so it is deeply entrenched in my mind and I can recover it once I have access to the tools to record it. Sadly, some ideas do drop away but I console myself that, perhaps, they were not yet ready to be completely mine.
13. Where can we find you on the internet?
Creativity is a word that excites me and the process that is very close to my heart. I speak about How to reboot your creativity in my TEDx talk too. Here’s a recording from the FB Live (the videos are getting ready to be uploaded to TED.com) of my talk and there are interesting conversations before and after the talk too which could be valuable for blocked writers, artists and even IT professionals (in short, for everyone): https://www.facebook.com/
I’d love people to connect with me on their most fave social media platform:
FB Author page: https://www.facebook.com/
Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/soniarao