Reshmy Pillai is one of the newest authors in the scene, having won a nationwide writing contest, she came up with The Secret of Ahiraah, a hystorical short-story, the the book Ten Shades of Life. Here is a conversation:
How does it feel being a published author, and the story being well-received?
It may sound cliche but it feels like a dream, a really beautiful one. I had read many a writers' experiences of getting themselves in a published book for the first time and most of them sounded like a nightmare. And I had always imagined that my struggle would be long and tiresome like most of them but then like they say each one's story is different, so mine too played out differently - it just took it's path.About the story being well received well what can I say - icing on the cake. Irrespective of the over all rating of the book, in every review that has come in for the book the reviewers/readers have been very generous with The Secret of Ahiraah and a huge thanks to everyone for that. Inspires me all the more.
A lot of us read, even write well. Some dream of being a published writer, while some others are happy reading. Which type are you? Have you always wanted to write, or fate made you an author?
You know the first thing I ever wanted to be was to become a journalist and that was completely for the joy of writing new stories everyday. So you can say I always wanted to write though what, is something that took me a long time to figure out.
How did The Secret of Ahiraah come into being?
Ancient history has always been a fascination for me, kind of an unquenchable thirst. Though short fictions were never a part of my plans, when Fablery came up with historical fiction as the genre of the month in a creative writing contest that they were hosting in July 2012, I wanted to give it a try. It was experimental in a sense because it was to be the first fiction that I ever wrote. So combining history, thriller genre & Rajasthan - all of them in some sense favourites - Ahiraah was conceived.
Would you want to stick to short-stories or a novel is in the making, already half-written, tucked safely in your hard disk?
Like I said short stories were never part of the plan and anyway most of my plots are so long that writing them in 3000-4000 words is too exhaustive. The longer version is definitely in the making (though for how long it will have the tag of in-making is the real question). Tucked away…that's not me. If I complete it, it will be out for reviewers' scrutiny for sure.
How difficult is it to write something that someone other than you yourself will like? Or is it easy if you follow the basics?
I am firm believer that the story chooses the writer and when that is the case no one can write that story better than you do. That said I always edit as a reader. So I tend to cut out things I may not like as a reader. I think that does the trick - if I like it as a reader, I believe another reader will like it. Write like a girlfriend, edit like a wife. It is that simple. So basics it is, yes.
Would you give up on your career and take up being an author, as is a trend these days?
An ex-colleague and writer once told me, "routine does wonders for writing" and I completely agree with her. Weaving stories is a passion and I don't want to bundle the fire out by making it the only thing I do. Variety excites me and until and unless The Tales Pensieve takes off in multiple directions and in a big way I will keep my day job.
Who do *you* read?
I read anyone who has an interesting blurb on the back cover but yes there are some favourites I try not to miss - William Dalrymple, Mathey Reilly, Dan Brown, Khaled Hosseini and Michael Crichton top the list amongst foreign authors. Closer home it is - Devdutt Pattnaik, Ashwin Sanghi, Ravi Subramanian, Amish Tripathi, Ashok Banker and Amandeep Sandhu, to name a few.
What do you do other than romancing books and writing?
Ideate! My mind is mostly whirling with half formed, skeleton ideas. I also run a website called The Tales Pensieve which focuses on showcasing and promoting books by Indians or books based in India or on Indians. And yes I have a day job - I head quality initiatives in a healthcare setup.
We know you are into promoting Indian authors through your blog, finding the best amongst them, connecting readers to reads - what is it that we don't know?
You have precisely said it all in that sentence, Samarpita. Apart from that what I am into these days is burning electricity figuring out ways of expanding the horizon to get more readers to more Indian books. Apart from reviewers (who already are a strong community on The Tales Pensieve) I want to open up the magic of Indian books to more readers. There is still a lot of taboo surrounding books written in English by Indians, the effort is on to break some of it, get good Indian authors closer to the readers and overall make the site more interactive.
Tell us a bit about IQRC. Half the year is up, how is the challenge shaping up?
Indian Quills Reading Challenge (IQRC) is one of the reading initiatives on TTP, where the community of book reviewers associated with us link back reviews of Indian books they read and one of them every month becomes the Indian Quills Reading Champion winning a book of their choice. All of their reviews along with reviews from other initiatives on the site form the Indian Books and Reviews Database which helps readers chose better Indian reads.The initiative had taken off in a phenomenal manner, thanks to many book reviewers including you. The reviewers are usually very enthusiastic about reading Indian books and linking them religiously to the website. The initiative works on a self imposed target system (Indian Quills Reading Target) which I think keeps the readers/ reviewers motivated to keep pushing and what greater high than seeing your name against an achieved target (we keep a track on the site of targets vis-à-vis achieved volume). It is a fun community and feedbacks like - IQRC has pushed me to read 50% more Indian than I did last year or I refer to the database on TTP before ordering an Indian book is very inspiring.
Statistically too, IQRC is very upbeat. We are closing July with around 526 book reviews which in 7 months is at an average of 75 book reviews per month. These numbers I believe is good for an initiative in its first year and I am so proud of everyone associated with this dream that was envisioned in November 2012 with an intention to bring the reviews of books by Indian authors scattered all over under one database.
Any more challenges coming up, which others can join too?
Definitely. For one, Debut Indian Writers Month will be repeated every 6 months. So we have it coming in November 2013. India as a country is so dynamic that our literature's promotion can never hit a dead end. There is just so much scope and uncovered area out there. Have some plans to get vernacular literature to more reading audience at least through reviews in English. A few more in the pipeline and till then the evergreen IQRC is there!