Media Mentions: HT Brunch, Scroll, Bangalore Mirror

Last few months, got a few journalists asking me to give a quote for a lot of interesting stories they were working on for their media houses. Listing down my absolute favourite ones! This is more for my reference than your reading, but go ahead and read it if you’re looking for interesting stories around storytelling.

Shattering the idea of feminism with wit – Bangalore Mirror

This was a fantastic story that talked about new age women in all careers who are trying to face-off chauvinism, patriarchy and bigotry with humour, wit and a slice of lemon. I loved the story, though I didn’t have to say much I’ve always struggled with the idea of feminism and what it represents in India (aka feminazi) though I bet Anantya would disagree.


Who I want to see at Jaipur Literature Festival – HT Brunch

Douglas Adams! That’s who. Imaginethe author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy  coming down to Jaipur with his massive wit and observing the whole gamut of the festival and the bustle crowd around literature without a book in their hand. He would have a blast, I tell you.  I loved the answers of others in this too. Read the whole article online here.

Reared by the wolves –

Firstpost did a great article on why we remain fascinated by the human child that grew up in the jungle, aka Mowgli. I got to add my two bits along with Ashwin Sanghi and others.


“Shweta Taneja, a speculative fiction author and a Charles Wallace Writing Fellow, offers this perspective: “I feel the idea of growing up in the wild, away from social norms, is tied up to having a re-look at society and what construes social norms and civilisation. When a character grows up in the jungle so to say, his/her perspective to our society is fresh, explorative, almost child-like in its curiosity, innocent and simplicity. This kind of storytelling is a way to explore the society that we live in from a fresh, almost innocent perspective. The writer, who is invariably city-based and grew up in the civilised environment looks at the jungle/forest space as something which is chaotic and dangerous, but at the same time has codes that are untouched and untainted by the civilized codes.”

Have a story you’re doing? Write to me. I would love to give in my two bits.

The media on my latest novel on Manipal

I’m always both excited and panicked when a new novel is launched. It’s out there, with a lovely cover, and you don’t know if it’ll do good or sink in, if readers would enjoy it or frown while reading. It’s panicky, but then what’s an author’s life without it? Sharing a quick listing of all the lovely interviews, reviews How to Steal a Ghost @ Manipal, an ebook which got published with Juggernaut has received so far. It also stayed in Top of the Charts within the app! Yay!


“A young student turns into a paranormal investigator to impress her boyfriend.” – Best subhead  found at Asian Age along with a rather lazy, old photo of mine.

asian-age-mumbai-2016-10-19 Continue reading “The media on my latest novel on Manipal”

Deal with post Diwali blues by donating

Hope you had a fantastic Diwali. Now add more lights to it by donating. The best way to feel good about yourself is to bring in light into someone else’s. It lifts your spirits up and makes you feel thankful for what you already have.

With this Diwali’s wishes, I wanted to share a few of my favourite places to donate to. Donate to one of these causes, write back to me and I’ll send you a signed-copy of any of my books. In case of How to Steal a Ghost @Manipal, it would have to be an ecopy with a personal email 🙂

Donate. Now. Believe me, you’ll feel great.

Independent Media

Citizenmatters: They are a team of passionate journalists and a long list of voluntary bloggers who want to do good, reveal inefficiencies in the system and make their city beautiful, warm and welcome. I would recommend this one if you’re based in Bangalore. Donate here.

The Wire: A team of fantastic journalists who are coming up with in-depth insight into current politics, culture and our society. Right now, they’re better than any mainstream media. Find here how they’re funded and donate.


Donate A Book: This is a library crowdsourcing platform through which you can help build a library in a school. The initiative is run by Pratham Books, one of the more innovative children books publishing house and is fabulous. For a book in a child’s hand opens a new world. It allows the child to dream, to think of new possibilities, to know that a different future is possible for her. Give some kids stars, by donating here.

Kalap Trust: Kids of a remote village in Utharakhand are looking for people to sponsor their additional education. This genuine work is done by a friend of mine.  Sponsor a child here.

(images courtesy Kalap)

Know other NGOs doing great work? Comment below and I’ll add them on in a future blog. Till then, keep donating!


Book excerpt: Cult of Chaos in New Indian Express

Cult of Chaos is not an easy book for anyone to like, as in anyone from traditional media. Some say no, because it’s a tantrik book, a fiction supposedly encouraging superstition (without having read it of course). Which is weird really. It’s fiction, created stuff! Some of them have said no to the book because it’s too violent, sexual (though there’s not even a single sex act in the novel. Yup, still, Anantya’s such a character that you imagine that she would be doing all kinds of perverted thingies. Which is true actually). So it was quite nice of the kind people over at New Indian Express to give the book a chance and actually use this hair-raising prologue of the book.

Check it out online.

Excerpt in New Indian Express in February
Excerpt in New Indian Express in February


EXCERPT (Here it is. From the Prologue) Continue reading “Book excerpt: Cult of Chaos in New Indian Express”

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”

Interviews in Economic Times, Business Standard

Isn’t this quite cool? I didn’t know that business dailies would show interest in picking up this story for their magazine sections. So the same interview, conducted by this really sweet lady from PTI, was carried over at two of the major financial dailies: Economic Times and Business Standard.

Here’s the interview in its full glory. Won’t say I am not itching to tweak a byte or two, but I guess editing can always change the meaning a bit. As a journalist, I understand that more than anyone else.

Shweta Taneja’s new book ‘Cult of Chaos’ delves into Delhi’s underbelly

NEW DELHI: The terrible, scary and horrific side of society is explored in a new book, billed as the country’s first tantrik detective novel, which also talks about the key issue of women’s safety.

Author-graphic novelist Shweta Taneja’s ” Cult of Chaos” is based in the supernatural underworld of Delhi.

Even though this is a fantasy fiction, and I could’ve made everything up, I wanted to stay a layer away from the real. That’s the reason that I set up the world of ‘Cult of Chaos’ in contemporary Delhi, a real city, weaving supernatural elements and creatures within its bowels,” she says.

“The species in the book’s world, as well as the tantrik magic that Anantya (the protagonist) wields, has been created after extensive research on tantrism, the occult and Shakta traditions in the country. I’ve delved deep into the folklores, folktales and the rituals of sorcery in villages,” Taneja told PTI.

Anantya Tantrist, a 23-year-old, is a completely inverted model of an ideal woman.

“She smokes beedis, walks in Delhi at night, alone, has sex with all kinds of creatures, is fearless, has chosen a profession which is violent and bloody, and she doesn’t care about what anyone thinks of her. So the book is also about her reaction to the regressive tantrik society she belongs to and the abuse she has faced in her past,” the Bangalore-based author says.

“Even though the species and the creatures I’ve mentioned in the book are make-believe, the violence, the power-play, the abuse, the unfairness they suffer, is not. The feelings, the emotions, the reactions the book reflects are all real,” she says.

Anantya emerged from Taneja’s first attempt of a novel, a revenge fantasy saga where a young girl is abused and seeks vengeance from those who’ve wronged her. That book never materialised but Anantya stayed as the author explored the possibility of combining two of her favourite genres – fantasy and detective.

According to Taneja, some of the scenes in the book, published by HarperCollins India, were inspired by incidents in real life.

“There were so many scenes in the book I wrote, where I wove incidents I’d just read in the newspaper, something a crass politician had said when yet another woman got raped; someone who had been demonised because of the way they looked or their surname.”

Taneja also touches the issue of women’s safety in her book saying women have to struggle for their safety in every corner of this country.

“But no walls, no government, no men, no police, no institution or clothes can protect us from violence. What can make a difference is if all of us, women and girls, go outdoors, claim public spaces, again and again, fearlessly, in spite of the violence,” she says.

“We need to own the spaces, only then can we be safe. Be fearless and walk alone at night as a woman. Something that I’ve tried in fiction with Anantya, who chooses a profession that takes her out at night, alone,” she claims.

Taneja has earlier written a novel “The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong” and graphic novels “Krishna: Defender of Dharma” and “The Skull Rosary”.

“I deliberately experiment with different stories and storytelling devices. Not only age groups, or styles, I also love experimenting with mediums. I’ve worked with various mediums in my short history as a fiction writer: be it graphic novels, comics, short stories, novels, collaborative stories, or even games,” she says.

But she “itches to touch dark, gloomy tales that see the raw, terrible, disgusting, scary and horrific sides of all of us”.


Two interviews and a confession

Last week, two interviews came out one after the other in the web for Cult of Chaos. One was over at a new website,, where Saurabh, a novelist himself, is collating gyan for newbie writers. The other came over at the b00kr3vi3ws blog, where Deb,  other than the usual stuff, asked me one question that was new and surprising.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.

Fun? Writers? Are you serious? So I did what I do best: made stuff up. Here are the three I told him.

  • I am slightly schizophrenic and can have a conversation with Anantya on Twitter, using two separate devices.
  • I am a movie junkie and can watch five to six movies in a row
  • I love making up stories about facts and confusing children. Nephews and nieces have many times been left with a frown on their forehead.

The first thing I confessed to, is true. I have tried it. When I am writing from Anantya’s handle (@anantyatantrist), she speaks. When I use mine (@shwetawrites), I talk. It’s weird but true. Vidya, an avid blogger who invited me to guest blog on procrastination in writing, is currently reading Cult of Chaos right about now and confessed over email that she keeps confusing me and tries to call me ‘Anantya’. Well, I always wished Anantya became stronger in people’s head than me. I am boring. I sit all day long clanking on keys. Whereas Anantya is just so cool! See:

Anantya Tantrist on Twitter_ _sorry @DalrympleWill tantrism doesn't have sweet tasting stuff. Best of it smells of piss but works hellish

For the complete interviews, head to b00kr3vi3ws or



Cult of Chaos excerpt in DNA

Oh this is fabulous! DNA carried this excerpt from Cult of Chaos on their online worlds this weekend. This is from the first chapter on the book in which Anantya has gone on a blind date. Of course, it ends bloody. 😀

CoC cover - final=============

This is why I rarely accepted cases from my own species and preferred to work with what humans call  ‘supernatural’ creatures. Sups of any kind, be it mayansor pashus, don’t judge tantriks by their  appearance. They determine your worth by the shakti you wield. Most of my cases over the last few years had involved sups. Ever since word had spread in the city that a pro-sup tantrik was ready to take on their cases, which was a rarity since most tantriks wanted to either kill them or enslave them, I had got all kinds of assignments. I had arbitrated between best friend asuras who become arch nemeses and, in their attempt to finish each other off, almost destroyed a chunk of Lodhi Garden between them; saved a yakshi from a spirit; a chandaali from a greedy tantrik and a tantrik from a vengeful bhuta. I  rarely refused a case. The only exceptions were the ones that involved daevas, elite heavenly spirits, who were as my teacher Dhuma put it concisely, treacherous trolls. A couple of days ago, I had turned down just such an offer. However, I was now beginning to regret it. Even dealing with a shifty daeva was better than sitting around a candle eating ducks and explaining myself to Mr SUV Headlights here. I took out my kapala, a skullcup that I used for my rituals, and placed it on the table.

‘Perhaps this will convince you?’ I said, smiling sweetly. The skull gleamed in the candlelight, throwing long dark shadows into the mirrors behind Nikhil.

‘Wow, a skullcup! Is it a real human skull?’ Nikhil inserted his hand inside its jaw and picked it up for a closer look. ‘Where did you find this one? I saw one on eBay the other day. Nothing less than one lakh rupees. Only the imitations are cheaper. How much did you pay for it?’

Was nothing sacred anymore? I stared at him, shocked, and wondered how many seconds it would take  for Lala to attack him. Lala was the old man whose skull Nikhil was molesting at the moment. Lala had begged me to ensure he didn’t descend into naraka after his death. He wanted to stay on in this world even if it meant that I used his skull as a sacrificial cup. So, after his funeral, I stole his head from his grave on a full-moon night. Ever since, Lala’s skull had been my kapala. And he hated anyone else touching it. How would you like it if someone poked inside your head? I dug out my boneblade, ready with a freezing mantra in case Lala fired up and became too hot for Nikhil to handle. (Although, frankly, a part of me was hoping Lala fired up.)

‘Are you Anantya Tantrist?’ asked a reedy voice behind me. I turned to see the headwaiter who had discussed wines with Nikhil a little while ago.

‘Yeah,’ I answered curtly. Nikhil plonked Lala back on the table.

‘You have an urgent call, madam,’ the waiter said. My old Nokia phone lay on the table. I switched on its screen. It seemed to be working. ‘Who is it?’ I asked, wondering if it was Dakini. No one else knew I had  come to this restaurant. The waiter paused and looked to his right, as if he was listening to someone.

‘Mister Qubera, madam. He wants to talk to you urgently, madam.’ For someone who stood in an air-conditioned space, the waiter’s face was very, very sweaty. Drops of perspiration rolled down his forehead and a droplet glistened at the tip of his chin.

‘I don’t know anyone …’ I stopped, suddenly realizing how quiet it had gone. So quiet that I could not hear the singer anymore or the tinkle of laughter. The singer was on the stage, but she had become mysteriously mute. The feeling that someone was watching us returned, and intensified painfully. I could kick myself for allowing Nikhil’s stupidities to distract me. I ought to have sorted this out before now. The waiter stared at me, his eyes vacant and glassy. He pinched and pulled the skin on his neck, like a shirt collar. Stupid, stupid rakshasa. Someday he will get into big trouble and get himself killed. Probably by me.

‘You have to come,’ he urged, bending down and grabbing my right arm with his clammy palm, his hand cold and hard as stone. ‘It’s urgent!’

‘What is the meaning of this?’ Nikhil hollered, his face pink with anger. ‘How dare you touch her? Where’s your manager? I want to speak to him!’

‘Sit down, Nikhil,’ I said quietly, my hand reaching for the boneblade in my satchel. I was glad I had brought it along, although I had left my belted scabbard at home. Fashion can be lethal for a tantrik.

Nikhil pushed the table away with a loud screech and rose to his intimidating six feet. Not that that would save him from a disgruntled rakshasa. He lunged, grabbed the waiter roughly by the shoulder and bellowed, ‘Let go of her!’

‘Urgent,’ the waiter whispered, sinking to his knees, his face still blank, his eyes empty, his left hand still frozen on my right arm. Poor guy. He didn’t have a choice really. I turned in one swift movement and slashed the waiter’s torso from his throat at the right collarbone to the solar plexus with the boneblade. Blood erupted and splattered my face and hair. A loud screech echoed somewhere behind me.

Excerpted with permission from Harper Collins India.

Book: Cult of Chaos
Author: Shweta Taneja
Price: Rs 350


If you would like to read the book, order here:  Amazon // Flipkart // Infibeam //  URead.


Champion or pawn: What does your firm want?

Why are companies eyeing their employees’ social media accounts?

Two years ago, as part of its social media strategy, HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt. Ltd asked its editors to use their personal social media accounts to tweet and post about the books they were working on. There was a social media training session at their office in Noida, Uttar Pradesh; that is how Karthika V.K., publisher and chief editor of HarperCollins Publishers India, who has been with the company for eight years, became active on Facebook and Twitter.

Today, she has over 2,847 followers on her Twitter account and around 4,637 friends on Facebook. Together, that makes 7,484 possible readers, not all of whom may have been connected directly with the publisher earlier.

“This is not part of the job for me, as in, it’s not in any contract,” says Karthika, “but my work-life is such an integral part of my whole life that I don’t mind using my personal online identity.”

She does add, however, that when she’s on a social network, she’s more than just a HarperCollins employee. “I am an individual when I am connecting with people. I don’t think I am a publisher so I should say certain things, I am pretty instinctual about my posts.” In this instance, it is a win-win situation for both company and employee.

Like HarperCollins, companies across the world are fast realizing that they can convert their employees into effective brand ambassadors if they bring them on board, guide them and let them work in the social media space. Even one post every day from 500 employees makes it 500 different posts about the brand.

“Today, every employee is a spokesperson for the company,” says Aditya Gupta, co-founder of Social Samosa, a social media content portal based in Mumbai. “Companies can add value to their brand when employees update their personal accounts with updates about the industry, engage with the customer and showcase the company both internally and externally.”

Trust matters

According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, a worldwide survey of trust in companies and brands, customers trust the voices of regular employees within the company, not the top-level management, most. Around 62% of the respondents, a group of 33,000 members of the general public and people familiar with the industry in 27 markets globally, believed a company’s employees are the most credible voices on multiple topics, including work environment, integrity, innovation, brands and business practices. In fact, an old employee of the company is three times more credible than the chief executive officer when talking about work conditions on social media.

Power to reach out

That’s a lot of power in the hands of individuals. More and more marketing teams are encouraging employees to become brand ambassadors for their companies. Some firms are even putting it down as policy, making it part of the contract or even part of the regular work of an employee.

It is the strong individual brand companies want to tap into. “Social media is now mainstream, and a broadcast medium with large reach,” says Amita Malhotra, director, Blogworks, a social media marketing company based in New Delhi. “Since the employees are individuals who hold the power to broadcast messages, have their own set of consistent followers that can impact their company’s interests, they have become much more powerful,” she says.

Finding a balance

This channel does, of course, have its limitations and risks: the pros and cons of creating an official account for each employee, the credibility of an “official” account, the kind of things employees should post about, and the attempt to drive this through guidelines or policy. And when an employee leaves, the risk that the network (possible brand buyers) may go too.

For while companies may ask employees to create official accounts, this comes with its own dilemmas, including a possible dilution of the core brand and extra work for employees.

Some employers also feel threatened by a powerful personal brand. Legally speaking, an employer can only control two aspects of an individual’s social media life: what you write about the company or its products and competition, and what you do on the infrastructure and devices that the company has provided you for work, say, your office laptop, phone or tablet and Internet connection.

“An employee with a strong online following can also dilute the parent brand by building his/her own networks or by leaving a void when he/she quits,” says Malhotra. It’s a threat which is very real for companies, and the reaction tends to be knee-jerk. They either put in place stringent social media policies at work, or curb the individual’s voice on social media by forcing him to strictly segregate his work and personal posts online.

“If your employer’s policies restrict you from tweeting about work-related matters on your personal ID or ask you to create an official ID on social media sites, then you’re legally bound to comply with it,” says Vikram Shroff, a Mumbai-based lawyer with Nishith Desai Associates who has extensively researched the use of social media in workplaces. Shroff believes companies may be more comfortable if they have well-defined social media policies for employees, with clear guidelines on what is permissible and what is not.

The model of segregating official social media accounts, much like an official email ID, does solve the basic problem of ownership (in this case, the company has ownership of all followers, content, comments on that particular account), but it’s not the perfect solution. “If I am forced to do it, I would find it inconvenient,” says Dheeraj Sanghi, a professor of computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, who runs a blog on education that gets more than 200,000 page views a year.

“I know of faculty members who have two separate pages on Facebook, one for personal friends and the other for more official use, like interacting with students, alumni, or sharing class-related information, but I feel it’s unnecessary and without purpose.” According to Prof. Sanghi, online spaces are fluid and people can’t really segregate their personal and work lives, though they may want to.

Gupta has a different take. He says a separate official social presence may not be the best idea for a company’s brand. “It dilutes the brand’s social quotient by having too many ‘official’ lines of communication.” Also, readers might perceive official accounts as parroting the company’s opinion, and therefore being less believable.

No right over an individual’s identity

If an employee leaves, he or she has to stop using the official account and cannot interact with followers of that account. Companies, in turn, cannot use the former employee’s personal accounts or his/her name for brand-building, says New Delhi-based cyber law expert Vakul Sharma, a Supreme Court advocate. “Under no circumstances can an organization use my name after I’ve severed all ties with it,” he says. “Any company using an official social media handle which includes my name is a violation of my right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

Revenue-sharing, perhaps?

A company doesn’t own an employee’s individual identity. Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression to citizens. Remember, such a right extends to social media as well. “Anything that the employee does personally, using her own resources, is owned by the employee,” says Sharma….

First published in Read the complete article:

The Skull Rosary nominated for two awards!

There are times when you write for the heck of it. And then there are times when you are forced to write just so that you can somehow, somewhere collect, announce, record, and remember all the awesome things that have been happening to you. This one is a latter kind of a post. A lot many good things have been happening to me and I am overwhelmed. So this is not to all you readers. This blog is meant for the future Shweta Taneja. Food for her days which will be bleak and black and without hope. For her to remember that good things and then bad things happen in a continuous cycle. And what’s low will go up high soon enough.

The Skull Rosary has just been nominated for The Best Writer and The Best Cover in the Comic Con India awards. The latter was kind of obvious all thanks to the amazingness made by Lalit Sharma and colourist Yogesh Padgaonkar (hello, have you see the cover?). But the first one comes as a delightful, extra scoop of chocolate! Am basking in the surprised glory.



And there’s more! Krishna, Defender of Dharma was named as a must read in CBSE School Reading List for 2013. The credit goes to the awesome artist Rajesh N, who quietly works in shadows on a desk in Campfire Comics.

Meanwhile, The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, my darling novel which was never to have been written, has been written, has been published by the awesome Hachette India and is slowly cuddling up to little ones and warming up to people in the media. Read reviews spread across the web: Citizen Matters, Niticentral, The Hindu and elsewhere. I am also doing a detective workshop for it next weekend. Come over!

And even that’s not ALL. I have managed to sign a three-book contract with a really, really good publisher for the fantasy book series which I have already dreamed to write and have written part 1 of. That will will be announced soon and separately. Meanwhile, I will go back to writing Part 2 Smile

But really, wow. Too much. Overwhelming.