Exploring the complexity of human relationships is a tough job. It is even tougher when you are creating a world of your own in a book and have all the characters at your mercy. Sujata does a fantastic job of creating an exciting tale of two people who come together. In this bare all interview Sujata reveals her life, her writing style and most importantly how to write a great book. As a part of our author interviews series where we catch up with famous authors and their books, Sujata Parashar caught up with Tiger and here is an excerpt of the interview.
Hi Sujata. Welcome to Talk to Tiger. Can you introduce yourself to our audience.
Hi! The world knows me as Sujata. (Even mom calls me by that name). However, Dad calls me Sona. A name my mom gave me when I was born. 🙂
Although, I am an accidental writer, I’ve always been artistic by nature and since the time I can remember I have loved music and dance. In fact, I used to learn Bhartnatyam and Hindustani Classical music at different points in my childhood but due to dad’s frequent transfers (he served in the army), I could never formally complete either of my trainings. However, throughout my school and college life, I’ve participated in song (English and Hindi) and dance (Western and folk) competitions and have won awards. I was an average student while in school. However, in college I excelled in my studies and topped my class. My favourite outdoor sport is swimming and except butterfly stroke I know all the other styles. I also love playing chess. Both these games were taught to me by my dad. I got interested in reading books at the age of nine or ten. The first storybook that I ever read was ‘Adventures of the Wishing Chair,’ by Enid Blyton.
Where were you born? Tell me about your childhood, parents…
It’s funny that I was born in Roorkie; a place I’ve no recollection of. Dad was posted out soon after I was born. I’ve never got an opportunity to visit my birth place so far. But maybe I’ll go there someday.
Both my parents are simple and open – minded people. While my dad was known for his daredevil ways in his younger days — he’s a great shooter and swimmer– mom was famous for her beauty and her mellifluous voice. She’s the loveliest of souls on this earth. Mom comes from a royal family and before her marriage led a very protected life but after marrying dad she moulded herself to the needs and demands of a soldier’s wife and single – handedly raised my brother and me as dad was mostly posted in field – stations where family was not allowed to stay for long durations.
What and where did you study? Any influences that inspired to write?
I did my schooling from different central schools. I wasn’t a very happy child in school. I hated mathematics and could never overcome my fear and dislike of the subject. However, I enjoyed English and Social studies. And to answer the later part of your questions – no, writing happened to me much later…when I was in college. I wrote a few essays and poems during my first year of college. Dad read them and took the initiative of submitting some of those to various journals and newspapers. A few got published. It felt good to see my poems and write – ups published in some reputed magazines and newspapers; however, I never pursued writing seriously and it was only when I started working that I discovered the writer in me.
What were your dreams like when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a famous singer or actress. J I was a good dancer too. There was a time when I wanted to be a ballerina but did not get an opportunity to learn it. Also, while in college I realised that I wanted to travel the world and so as soon as I completed my final year, (even before the results were out), I came to Delhi to do my PG in Travel and Tourism Management.
What was your thought process behind the book? Woman relationships is a sensitive topic.
My stories are about modern day man – woman relationships. My first book, ‘In Pursuit of Infidelity,’ dealt with the much thrashed out issue of infidelity. However, what was interesting about the book was how the subject was dealt with. I tried to study the emotional status of a married woman who finds out about her husband’s affair while dealing with her own guilty emotions of cheating on him. So basically in my novel, the issue of extra – marital affair was studied in a whole new light where the victim and the perpetrator of the misdemeanour was the same person. Similarly in my latest book, ‘In Pursuit of a Lesser Offence,’ I tried to examine the changing face of marriage in modern times. The concept of Live Apart Together (LAT) which is already a micro – trend in some parts of Britain and Western Europe gave me the seed idea for the story. However, I tried to explore and address a few vital questions through the book like– Why do people marry? Do they marry for the right reasons? Is it possible for people to maintain healthy and loving relationship with their spouse or partner after their break up with them? Can one get a second chance at love? Et al.
What kind of research you had to do for the book?
As I said earlier, I read the book: ‘Micro trends – the small forces behind tomorrow’s big changes,’ by Mark J Penn (with E Kinney Zalesne). But the story is written from my own imagination and of course for the Indian readers; keeping the Indian sensibilities in mind.
How did you come up with that name for your book?
That was simple. I thought about my first book. And then I thought that if infidelity is considered such a big offence, shouldn’t marrying blindly or for wrong reasons be a greater offence? That thought gave me the clue for the title of the book.
Any one character you like in the book? What was the thought process behind that character?
I like all the characters that I develop. Each of them add value and carry the story forward. However, the most striking of all my characters in IPLO has been Kanupriya. I just thought of presenting this odd and rebellious woman who knows her mind well and despite what others might think of her, she’s comfortable in her own skin. She is unapologetic and expressive about her views and decisions in life.
How do you arrive at the story? When do you know it is ready?
I am a pantser. As opposed to a structured writer I plan very little. Other than the beginning and the end of the story, I write my stories totally unaware of what will happen next. My characters guide me. Of course, I do pay attention to my characters while developing them. In fact, even before I start writing, I have an idea of what kind of characters are needed to carry forward the story and make it work. But in the end, it is they who drive the story to a large extent.
What can your readers expect from the book?
A great story about love, loss, commitment and second chances in the ever changing and evolving man – woman relationship.
Tell me your best experience after you your book came out!
The play based on Chapter 4 of the novel was performed at the book launch event in Delhi and everyone who came enjoyed it. That was a special moment for me. Also, one of the first reviews by a male reader whose sister had recommended the book to him made me very happy. In his review he mentioned that he was glad he listened to his sister and read the book.
Please tell me how you prepare yourself to write. How do you beat writers block?
As far as writing or any other creative work is concerned the best part of the day for me is Morning 7:30 a.m. till about 3: 00 p.m. when I am on my own. I’m at my creative best during this time. But there are days when I get distracted or am unable to write so then instead of forcing myself I take a break and divert my attention to other fun things…listening to a song or watching a period film works best for me to beat the writers block. And even retail therapy. J
My first short – story collection will come out later this year. The stories are about the modern Indian woman who is bold, aspirational, and expressive and does not shy away from facing life’s challenges head – on. It’s an exciting book. Something today’s women can relate to.
Well Sujata. Here is a tough question. Any message, tips for aspiring authors? An author’s secret?
I have three –
1) The focus should be in telling a good story. Do not show – off your vocabulary skills. Keep it engaging! And keep it simple.
2) When you get stuck while writing/ describing a rather odd situation, think how you would have reacted if faced with the same challenge. It comes to you.
3) Don’t write to become famous. Write because that is what you want to do with all your heart.
Any quote from the book that is your favourite?
“The quote came to me in a flash and aptly describes the emotional turmoil of the lead female protagonist when she discovers the truth about her husband.”
“Sometimes, the shield that you build so painstakingly to protect yourself is the very weapon that kills you.”
Thank you Sujata for talking to us and sharing so many things. We wish you all the best for all your next books.