Eurocon: How I got interviewed by French media

During my visit to Eurocon 2018, I met a French lady in a corner. I was quickly stuffing my stroller and getting ready to talk about Indian fantasy.

She juggled with equipment. We got talking. She turned out to be a TV journalist from a French webzine ActuSF and I invited her for the talk I was about to give.

And that’s how I got interviewed by Samantha. I had no experience of talking while being translated and how to learn how to stop my thoughts. It was funny.

Also read, Five lessons I learnt at Eurocon.

(Thankful to Thomas for his patience with me!)

Award-winning author Jim Crace on how to win a literary award

I had a chance to attend a talk of the award-winning English writer Jim Crace in Chichester University when I was there for a writing fellowship. He was marvellously witty, charming and brutally honest about the publishing industry and how to keep an eye out for things that destroy writing. His latest novel Harvest,  won the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the 2013 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. That’s a lot of awards for someone who’d famously announced his retirement and then backtracked when a new idea took over his mind. Post the talk, in true Brit tradition, as we headed to a pub for beer, I had a chance of interacting with Jim one on one and frankly, was charmed away. He was a great listener and genuinely interested in my experiences as a “genre author” from India. The journalist in me insisted that I record a few sayings of his for myself, as inspiration. And so I wrote to him post our conversation and got him to answer a few cheeky and not-so-cheeky questions. Here are the excerpts from an interview. When in doubt, follow his advice, I say. Q) If someone wants to win a literary award, like you have, how should they go about it?  Don’t even think about it. That way, madness. Winning prizes is just a matter of luck and it is entirely beyond your control. There’s no accounting for taste; there’s no controlling the judges; and even if you were able to pack the selection committee with all your cousins, there is no guarantee that any of them would vote for your book.
Q) Any suggestions for writers who’re stuck in a vast desert called the middle of a novel?
There are a thousand answers to this. But there are no golden rules except that -as with all great deserts- it’s useful to have a camel and some water. What has worked for me is to stop at the end of each day, knowing exactly what I have to pick up on the following morning. I also commit the first line of, say, Chapter 20 to the screen or page, just as I am starting on Chapter 19. It gives Chapter 19 a sense of destination. Continue reading “Award-winning author Jim Crace on how to win a literary award”

On the front page of The Hindu

Oh my.  This is the fourth time the kind girls over at MetroPlus, the magazine of The Hindu, have done a story on me (see herehere and here) . And I remain amazed at how everyone I seem to know reads this newspaper in Bangalore. I am flooded with messages, tweets, emails and phone calls everytime a story comes out.

Mini’s interviewed me twice now and every time, we giggle together as friends and as people who enjoy poems about old age.  She messaged me a month ago to tell me how because she was so involved in Anantya’s adventure, she could  reading ignore her fear of flight (she was flying internationally). It was the best compliment ever!

Cult of Chaos, The Hindu, Hyderabad, Feb2415

Here’s the interview.

Shweta Taneja talks about the anger of Anantya, the tantric detective heroine of her latest book

There is a new gumshoe in town. She is Anantya Tantrist, a tantric detective solving horrific crimes in the supernatural underbelly of Delhi where magic seamlessly mixes with the mundane. The Bengaluru-based Shweta Taneja talks about the genesis of Cult of Chaos, where the feisty, foul mouthed Anantya makes her debut.

Can you tell something about the genesis of Anantya?

Anantya came to me from a now-failed novel. It was a revenge saga in an epic fantasy world. I spent months building up the world and then realized that I wasn’t excited enough about the story. So I left it and started to work on Ghost Hunters of Kurseong instead. Meanwhile, Anantya stayed in my head, an angry protagonist, a powerful magician. Then one day, while reading a detective story, I suddenly knew that she was an occult detective. Anantya’s anger is a reaction to a frustration in me on everyday violence on women. On the other hand, I did want to create a heroine who does all those things that are usually reserved for alpha male detectives – spews gaalis, has no-regrets sex on the go, is stubborn, talented and emotional.

Why did you set the story in Delhi?

After the book was created in my head, I knew it would be based in Delhi. The capital city is a fascinating mix of layers of history, combined with arrogance in power and violence. It has not belonged to anyone historically, but everyone feels a claim to it. Also, having grown up in Delhi as a woman who had to be aware of where she was walking and keep a layer on, I wanted to revisit Delhi with Anantya.

Is the weird quotient as much as you wanted or did you tone it down?

The weird quotient was one of the reasons that many publishers rejected it initially. Even HarperCollins had doubts, so I requested them to come on the table to discuss this. Thankfully they agreed and we signed a contract. In the final editing process, though the language was softened and toned down, all the scenes, the story and the plot are exactly how I wrote it.

Drugs, sex and cinema — what about rock and roll?

The second adventure of Anantya Tantrist, which I am currently polishing and editing, has a pretty weird scene in the middle of a rock show. With Anantya Tantrist and her world, I want to explore all things that are considered vices or a taboo by the mainstream society.

Cult of Chaos is very different from Ghost hunters… Does genre hopping make you schizophrenic or does it come naturally to you?

With Anantya Tantrist, since she has a very unique voice you would feel it is dramatically different from my other books, but I see a connect. Both belong to the mystery or thriller genre, though the treatment in each is quite different. I do tend to challenge myself with each thriller that I write.

The book makes a strong case for the feminine principle. Would you describe Cult of Chaos as a feminist text?

I would rather not describe the book as a feminist adventure, because of the problematic ‘male-bashing’ tag to the word nowadays. It’s definitely about a woman, a strong willed woman who has gone beyond social relevance and taboos. In the book, I’ve taken immense pleasure in consciously turning everyday gender scenes on their head. To call it a feminist text would be unfair since you won’t use the word ‘masculine text’ for books or movies that have a male point of view.

The characters including Nawab sahab, Kaani and Prem Chokra are super colourful…

Aren’t they? I loved creating each and every one of them. Nawab is just so dramatic and still insecure after so many centuries of living a life of a ghost. Kaani, though talented takes his own time to describe things. I think their uniqueness comes from the fact that each of them is eccentric in their own ways.

There are stories that Anantya doesn’t tell… is that saved for future novels?

Yes. I’ve signed a three-book contract with HarperCollins on Anantya Tantrist mysteries, which means you will definitely read three books of her adventures.

I am already in the middle of the second book, where you will find out a little bit more about Anantya. The third book will be mostly based in Banaras, where she comes face to face with her past. Books four and five will head to explore her matriarchal past.

How come a novel set in Delhi is so filmy — it seems a Bedardi Bar can only be in Mumbai!

Oh, that’s a little unfair to say. Delhiwallas love both movies and drinking. Actually the love of both these things, with cricket is the only thing that binds us all as Indians. We all love movies, and all love to drink. I can even imagine Bedardi Bar in Bangalore, an illicit little dingy place which is run by supernaturals in the Pete area.

Anantya’s reaction to technology (as mysterious to me as tantrism was to others) is refreshing. Was that by design?

Yes. All of us who’re technology connected tend to forget that we’re only a very small percent of the population of this country. There are people whose life doesn’t revolve around technology. Who are not online or use gadgets. And they don’t need to in their everyday life. Since I am a technology writer myself, this weaving of technology, science and tantrism as an alternate science has been quite fun to build up.

Could you tell us something about the cover design?

Isn’t it just fabulous? I am so, glad that George Mathen agreed to make it.

I so wanted to ask him to do the cover. Even then I did and he agreed, even though the pay was pittance. He’s so sweet that way. I sent him a five-page cover brief, he read it, discarded it and created something completely different and fabulous.

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Interview and giveaway @KiranManral’s site

I know author and blogger Kiran Manral since the days when she was a freelancing writer based in Mumbai and me, a fulltimer in Femina, based in Delhi. We didn’t ever meet, we still haven’t but we interacted over email and kind of kept in touch for all those years. She’s a very popular blogger in India, one of the most popular ones and has moved on to become a novelist as well. So it happened that I offered a giveaway copy of Cult of Chaos on her blog which has a very, very strong following and she, like the sweetest woman that she is, agreed not only to the giveaway, but also on doing an interview with me.

Check out her books:
Once Upon a Crush (Flipkart // Amazon) or Reluctant Detective (Flipkart // Amazon)

Read the complete interview here. My favourite bits of it:

What made you decide to write a book, what was that moment when you decided you must give it a shot?

I don’t remember any one instance really, but after a few years of chasing stories as a journalist and editor, I realized that I wanted to tell stories instead. I didn’t start immediately however, something that I perhaps should have. From the desire to write, it took me five years of a Master’s degree, two failed novels, millions of procrastinating moments, blogs on stuff, to get to actually writing. And once I did, I haven’t stopped! In the last five years, I’ve written six books, four of which are published and two lie at various edit levels. The longest of this, my latest Cult of Chaos, touched 1,20,000 words at manuscript stage.

How long did it take you to research and write this, and how do you see this evolving as a series perchance? Continue reading “Interview and giveaway @KiranManral’s site”

Blogging at HuffPost India (+interview)

 HuffPost India runs an extensive blog section and I had to get in. To start it, this week, I have posted an updated version of the blog about Rajnikanth and a community that lives near my home. Next week, something sinister is coming up. Keep a track 🙂
rajinikanth_132315259025_thumb.jpg

Marketing for my book has taken over my life currently. I’ve been writing and talking, furiously. Nothing fictional, but something that is somewhat more difficult: it’s all about myself, about Cult of Chaos, about Anantya Tantrist, so much that I see friends getting the tired ‘there she goes again’ expression sometimes. But then, I’ve worked on this book for two years and so have to do this for a month or two more, hoping that the books takes off, gets some wings before I sit back in my corner and start writing again. So I got an interview done for a blog Locomente. Here’s a bit of my favourite part.

Tell us something about your kickass tantric heroine – Anantya Tantrist.

Anantya’s a spunky independent girl who lives in Chandni Chowk. She has had a violent, abusive past, but she doesn’t feel like a victim. In fact, she’s quite the opposite. She has shifted to the city recently, but made it her own. Her profession, that of a tantrik detective, is her own choice completely. She has shrugged her father’s patriarchal legacies and the luxurious life she was offered to make it on her own in Delhi. She is not a goody-goody girl in any way. She smokes beedi, spews gaalis, glugs drinks at a seedy bar, and has one-night stands with various species. She lives by her own morality and ethics and doesn’t care two hoots on what the society thinks of her.

Professionally, I think she’s attracted to danger and unsolvable mysteries. She’s quite good at this detective thing she has fallen into. She enjoys being in the centre of action and likes to solve cases and help the underdogs of the supernatural underworld. She hates most of the tantriks around her though.

The complete interview

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Lastly, I’ve started a giveaway on Goodreads. I love the way they take complete control. All you have to do is say I have a copy of the book and I will send it to someone by post. As a reader, all you have to do is click and hope that you win the lucky draw.