If you are a children books author and appreciate editors, you would have heard of Sudeshna Shome Ghosh. A Bangalore-based editor, Sudeshna has worked in the Indian publishing industry for twenty years now. She started her career at Penguin Books India and moved to Rupa Publications and Aleph Book Company thereafter. During this time, she has published authors such as A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Subroto Bagchi, Derek O’Brien among many others and was responsible for managing Penguin India’s children’s publishing list, Puffin for four years before she started Rupa Publication’s children’s list Red Turtle. Currently, she is a consultant with Speaking Tiger Books and is building a children’s list for them.
In other words, she’s a treasure trove of inside knowledge of the publishing industry and me being the Curious Cat that I always was, used our friendship by asking her the most delightful personal, almost rude questions over tea at Infinitea in Bangalore. An excerpt
Q) You’ve just completed 20 years in publishing and the thing you said on social media was that you wanted to do it for another 20 years. What about this job keeps you here?
Let me see, where do I start…
There are many things, but the biggest, for me, is the feeling that my work is meaningful, that I am contributing to the creation of a reading culture in children. That the books I commission or edit, are good books that some kid somewhere is going to pick up, enjoy and think about. That, for me, is what keeps me going through some clearly mindnumbing bits, like reading proofs!
Q) Why did you become an editor? Why choose this career?
Have you been tempted to write a romance bestseller lately? The other day, I was chatting to an author about how speculative fiction is such a hard-sell in India. (It’s the usual conversation between science fiction writers. There’s a handful of passionate us, and a handful of equally passionate readers. The others, don’t really care if it’s not mythology.) Immediately, I get a WMA (well-meaning advice):
“Write romance. It sells like hot cakes in winters.”
Umm. Frankly, all Indian writers, be it of any genre or creed, have thought about romance once in a while. After all, it’s the most selling genre in our country. I did seriously consider it for a second. I did!
And then I remembered, that the last romance I read and appreciated was between the Oankali, alien genetic engineers who touches DNA in humans to have sex and a woman named Lilith. Author Octavia Butler‘s Lilith Brood gave me as many goosebumps as decades ago Sharukh Khan’s ‘palat’ in the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge had done. And I don’t read much romance myself, unless it has alien spit or monster claws involved. So I turned my eyes away from the temptation of writing that romance bestseller we all think we can write and decided to plod along on the current science fiction mess I’m in the middle of.
Should you write a romance bestseller?
Which is why when I came across this witty sketch by author Sarah Maclean over Twitter, I had to share it on my site. Sarah is a period romance writer based in New York. The flowchart tells you how to decide on whether you should write a romance novel or not. As I read it, I was ‘out’ in the first step itself. If you’re considering writing romance like me, due to a WMA given by another or by yourself, do read and go through this flowchart. You’ll figure out the truth, I promise!
Have you ever considered changing your genre and writing something else that is selling well nowadays, like mythology or romance? Do tell me the truth!
I’ve always found the job of a literary agent very curious. Since as an author I know that most Indian authors don’t make much money, I do not understand how a literary agent, who charges the author 10-20 percent commission on royalty, makes any money in Indian publishing. This curiousity led me to ask these questions to Kanishka Gupta, a friend and my agent in India for YA/A novels.
Kanishka runs the literary agency Writer’s Side and has represented more than 400 authors in his short six years as an agent. I find him superquick in his responses, honest about his feedback and open to debut authors. In this excerpt he answers all those questions about agenting that had got me curious. I haven’t edited the blog, so it’s rather long. Take your time.
Q) A literary agent is rather an unusual profession. People who come into it, either wanted to be writers or publishers. How did you start as a literary agent?
As an out-of-job, out-of-sorts struggling writer in my early twenties, I was deeply perturbed by the lack of a support mechanism for writers in the country. At that time there was just one literary agency ( yes one!) and publishing editors were like inaccessible government bureaucrats. After freelancing briefly for a literary agency and a well-known novelist, I took the entrepreneurial plunge and founded Writer’s Side. In the beginning WS was more of an editorial consultancy but over time we have shifted our primary focus to author representation.
Do you suffer from writer’s block? I’ve been thinking of taking a break because writing is coming tougher to me nowadays for various reasons. A friend mentioned maybe it was a writer’s block. Since I’ve never fallen for the whole idea of a wall blocking your creative side, I thought I will write about it. And just then serendipitously I came across my wonderful author friend Andaleeb Wajid’s rather helpful blog on the same subject. Andaleeb is a superstar author who keeps churning out one fantastic book after another, while taking care of a vast family, doing workshops on creative writing and generally being a fantastic person. So if she’s talking about this block-monster-thingy, believe me she knows her stuff. And this is what she suggests you do.
What’s this Writer’s Block?
If there’s one thing every other writer will tell you or post/tweet is that they’re facing a writer’s block at some point or the other in their writing career. Of course, if you are a writer, you know for a fact that writer’s block can strike you unawares and the novel that you were working on is no longer flowing from your finger tips on to the keyboard. This feeling of being stuck, of not being able to move forward is typical of writer’s block. But here’s a secret. Writer’s block doesn’t exist. What? Yes. It doesn’t. Writer’s block has more to do with your mental disposition at the point of time when you’re trying to write, rather than actually being the thing it is made out to be.
Over the past years as I’ve been writing my books there have been times when the words just didn’t seem right. There have been times when I haven’t felt like writing. A typical question that students I speak to, or interviewers ask is how I deal with writer’s block. This is how.
1. It’s in your mind. It doesn’t exist. Believe it.
It’s a paranormal adventure, full of romance, jealousy, gadgets and ghosts, set in the beautiful university of Manipal. And it has the craziest name you’ve heard of. Welcome to my latest title with Juggernaut Books. Tadaaa!
The only way Twinkle Kashyap can win Rohit Dandi’s heart is by becoming the best paranormal investigator in Manipal and stealing a few ghost-catching tricks from retired professor Susanto Das. But when a string of mysterious murders complicates things, Twinkle is forced to dive deeper into the supernatural world than ever before. Can she solve the cases and get a happy ending?
I’m so delighted to inform you of this special book. I wrote it squeezed between two parts of Anantya Tantrist series and almost shelved it.
Thanks to a lot of encouragement (Uthara, Suki, Saba, Ashwani, Indra, Kanishka, Anchal, I’m looking at all of you), I edited it again and again till it became what it is today. And I’m so glad to see it getting published. For the protagonist, Tinker, deserves it. She’s a first year student in Mechtronics in Manipal University, full of hope for her future and love for a senior. It’s her adventure with the dark side of Manipal that you’re going to read. And how she stands up to the challenges she faces. I’m proud of the 17-year-old. For what she achieves. I would personally recommend this book for anyone above the age of 13. It’s published with Juggernaut Books, which is a mobile ebook publisher, so the only way for now to read it is on your smartphone.
If for whatever reason you can’t read it on the app, write to me and I’ll send you a e-copy or a PDF. I would rather Twinkle’s fantastical adventure is read by everyone who loves to read paranormal tales.
Ten years ago, I was working full time in Femina. Ten years later, someone from Femina did an interview about me. It’s a moment of a kind. Femina has shaped the earlier me. I worked three years there, three years full of travel and meeting the most fabulous people I could imagine. So, I’m a bit stumped. And wowed. Here’s a okay photo that someone sent me of the interview.
Isn’t this simply the most jiggle-worthy thing? Here’s the original interview, in case you’re the reading type.
More than a decade ago, when author Terry Pratchett won the Carnegie Medal award for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, he talked about fantasy and how it was so important as a genre to explore society. I’ve been heavily inspired by this fabulous author’s work and everything he says is gospel truth for me. So when I found this delightful speech by him on the Carnegie website, I just had to share it with you (and remind me too). Take each line seriously and incorporate into your work. Now.
Over to you Terry. (Wow, never thought I will say that!)
I’m pretty sure that the publicists for this award would be quite happy if I said something controversial, but it seems to me that giving me the Carnegie medal is controversial enough. This was my third attempt. Well, I say my third attempt, but in fact I just sat there in ignorance and someone else attempted it on my behalf, somewhat to my initial dismay.
The Amazing Maurice is a fantasy book. Of course, everyone knows that fantasy is ‘all about’ wizards, but by now, I hope, everyone with any intelligence knows that, er, what everyone knows…is wrong.