Guest Post: How to multitask as a writer

Kiran Manral is a good friend and a prolific author who multitasks in a normal life. She has published eight books, written countless articles, blogs and short stories and is actively involved in mentoring startups, speaking on stage, involved in curating literary events and handling an awesome family. So of course when she launched yet another book, I had to ask her how she does so many amazing things in one life. This is what she had to say. 


How do you multitask so much, someone asked me the other day.

I had no honest reply to give her, except the very prosaic, “With great difficulty.” If there was a camera fitted in my home, it would make for rather sedate viewing. Get up. 5.45 am. Get to the kitchen. Make the tiffin boxes, morning tea. Wake the offspring, pack him off to school, put the clothes into the washing machine. Now here’s where it gets a little more exciting. Get to the computer, switch it on. At this point this is the most hedonistic you could get. My fingers start flying over the keyboard. That, with occasional interruptions to answer doorbells, put clothes out to dry, deal with the domestic help, organise breakfast, lunch, dinner. Rinse, repeat.

I work from home. I also live life on rotorblades.

You might not see it when you look at me, sitting at my desk, morning to night, my fingers working themselves out to the bone. But at my desk, I have multiple windows open. I have the attention span of a gnat. And perhaps that’s what works to my advantage.

Multitasking, isn’t that what we all do, every single day, without really thinking too much of it. It is par for the course for most women. There’s a day job. There are time bound projects that come up. There’s the offspring and his demands. There are events to be put together. And there is the writing. I chortle when folks say they’re going away for a few months to write. I long for the luxury of doing the same, but I know that in the peace and calm of only myself and my thoughts, writing won’t really happen. What might happen is boredom.

My writing feeds itself on my daily frenetic schedule.

There’s been books that have been written in this chaos, like the dancing stars of the cosmos that emerge out of the chaos of creation.  My latest book, Missing, Presumed Dead, began its life as a novella five years ago. I kept going back to it, the word doc stayed open, tinkering, and tinkering, until it emerged a manuscript that became a 268 page book. Or as my protagonist in this book, Aisha, reflects, it is the everyday routine that keeps us stable. It is routine that is the font of creativity. Or as Gustave Flaubert said, “’Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.” It is the discipline of writing with everything spinning around you, that allows your creativity to be the eye of the storm.

Because the books get written while life and work happens, the window to the Word file stays open, it gets looked at in the breaks between work, writing becomes my break from work. Writing becomes my play. And that’s why I wouldn’t have it any other way, but to swamp myself with things to do, and then run away to find myself in my writing.

Event: Talk at Eurocon – Trends in Indian Fantasy/SF

Pinch me. I’m giving a talk at Eurocon.

I’m writing this in a train, looking out at a blur of a rainy French day. On my way to Amiens from Paris. Amiens is a small town in France, where Jules Verne was born. A town where this year’s Eurocon 2018 will be held this weekend, Europe’s biggest convention for science fiction and fantasy. I’m heading there to speak about Indian fantasy and science fiction and my work. The amazing titles that are coming out of my country, the debut authors who are experimenting with a desire to read more Indian speculative fiction.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. There is a reason. (And this should’ve been another blog, but frankly I’ve become just too busy to write blogs. Hoping that would change soon).

Earlier this year, I said bye to my home for 10 years, Bangalore and moved house and husband to Zurich. It was in the middle of February and for a month, the only things I saw outside my window were cats and snow. I also met a lot of Swiss officials for the various paperworks it takes for two people to move in their 30s. (Yet. Another. Blog)

It gave me a lot of time to reflect and work. And travel. Quietly, without social media. It’s freeing, by the way, to have a hiatus from the online world. You should try it.

I managed to set up new home, finish my third novel in Anantya Tantrist series (another blog on that too. Soon. I promise), wrote a 20 page comic about Anantya, with a fantastic artist and three short stories which are going to come up in various anthologies around the world. I also travelled two continents, to a lot of cities and attended lectures in ETH in Zurich and MIT in Boston.

As I said, there’s a lot happening so I won’t write many blogs. Or maybe I will, because there’s so much I have to share! Well, I’m talking to a bunch of Europeans at the Eurocon. Telling them stories I bring with me to their country. Our stories. Wish me luck, peeps! I’ll tell you later how it all went.

Meanwhile, leaving you with a fantastic illustration done for Eurocon. See you soon.

 

 

Event: Factor Daily’s Sci-Fi Meetup in Bangalore

Each time you finish a new novel, you think you’re more experienced and will be able to write the next one faster and in a more efficient manner. Doesn’t happen. My novels are messy, individualistic creatures to whine and throw their own unique tantrums. And I love them (and at the same bipolar time, throttle them) for it.

All of last two months I have been hiding under a rock, rewriting and editing the third instalment of Anantya Tantrist mysteries to make it for my deadline. The good news is it’s coming out later in 2018. The better news is, I will be talking about it and my love of speculative fiction as a whole with Factor Daily, this fantastic online geek-out that you should check out if you haven’t already.

Do come over, say hello, ask us questions and give your thoughts on what you’d like to read in life. You’ll have to register for this event. Details below.


** We have limited seats, so do register. The event is free! Fill up this form to register –> https://goo.gl/forms/4b59fZSNxFv7j6b42

The much-awaited New Worlds Weekly on FactorDaily – #NWWonFD – Sci-Fi meet up is here again!
Whether you’re a sci-fi fan, an avid reader or interested in SF, then mark your calendars for an evening of catch-ups and conversations about all things SF/F with fellow fans and Shweta Taneja – SF fan, geek, journalist and bestselling author of the Anantya Tantrist mysteries.

Shweta Taneja will be in conversation with New Worlds Weekly columnist Gautham Shenoy, followed by a Q&A. You can read all the best of the NWW posts here –> https://factordaily.com/top-science-fiction-from-2017/

There’s also a cool – and short & interesting – NWW-based SF/F Quiz with some awesome prizes to be won. Not to mention all the goodies and giveaways that await you. Be there!

Saturday, January 13 l 5:30 pm onwards l The Bookworm, Church Street, Bangalore


 

Interview: Author Anjum Hassan and Zac O’ Yeah on their writing course

When I first began writing fiction, I didn’t take any creative writing course. There weren’t any I could find. Instead I learnt the old way—reading, scrounging blogs of writers, emailing authors and haranguing them—till I could build that small little wisp of an idea in my head, through plot building, characterization, structure and somehow fit it into the shape of a novel. Learning the art of writing this way wasn’t easy. And if it wasn’t for the support of a lot of authors who replied back to me over email and tried to help, I would have given up before I finished my first novel.

Does a formal writing course help?

Last year, when I attended a few classes at the creative writing master’s course at Chichester University, UK, as part of my Charles Wallace India Trust fellowship, I realized how these classes could have helped me as a debut author. A formal course would have introduced me to concepts of structures, storytelling style, plot building, scenes, pace, and many other little building blocks that each author needs in order to build the magic wand of writing and shape the story in her head. Plus, it would have introduced me to authors and publishers and made me understand how the publishing industry worked a little bit more.

Which is why when I heard about author couple Anjum Hassan and Zac O’Yeah, starting an intense creative writing course in Bangalore, I decided to write about it, hoping that debut writers, who are scrounging now like I did all those years ago, would hopefully attend and build their magic wands of writing.

An intensive writing course will show you possibilities

Bangalore’s worldBangalore’s World-Famous Semi-Deluxe Writing Course as it’s called is a 12-week program at Shoonya – Centre for Art and Somatic Practices where a conglomerate of authors introduces you to various genres including short stories, thrillers, travelogues, children’s literature, writing for film and television, business writing, poetry and translations. You get to meet a lot of wonderful writers and learn from them. Both Zac and Anjum didn’t want to keep the cost very high as they wanted to encourage everyone who harboured a wish to write and not only ‘corporate types’. Excerpts from an interview.

Q) What brought about the idea of doing such an intensive creative writing course?

Anjum: Because it just felt like high time that somebody starts something like this. There have been lots of smaller and more informal courses over the last few years in Bengaluru, but none that actually follows a thought-out curriculum which takes a broad perspective on writing as a possible career. And with more people being interested in writing, who may want to write a novel or whatever they wish to write, it seemed like a nice idea to do something.

Q) Tell us a little bit about this workshop. What modules do you plan, how will you divide the teaching among yourselves.

Continue reading “Interview: Author Anjum Hassan and Zac O’ Yeah on their writing course”

Author Anita Desai on struggles in writing

While browsing the bylanes of internet i found this wonderful interview of author Anita Desai in The Wire. It’s a deliciously long one, where the author among other things, talks about her latest book, The Artist Of Disappearance and the research that went in In Custody and Fire on the Mountain.  Here I’ve just used her struggles and advice to writers from the interview for my section Witchery of Writing. But do read the complete interview over at The Wire.


What do you think is the purpose of literature? The worth of literature is being questioned these days, certainly here in Canada.

One works on two levels. At the subconscious level one is not working with an agenda, one is working out of a compulsion to tell your story, to put words on paper, to keep something from disappearing. And the joy of using language ought not to be forgotten.

On a conscious level, after you’ve written your work, sometimes it takes you by surprise. You say, oh, is that what it was about? At the end of the book you say, so that’s why it stayed in your mind for so long. What’s the reason for writing it? And invariably the reason is to tell the truth, in a somewhat sideways, somewhat subversive way. You don’t always manage to do that openly, face-to-face, you have to find a kind of a secret way.

The truth about life?

Yes.

You have a strong body of work dating back many decades. Do you have any of your books that are favourites, that have stayed with you?

Continue reading “Author Anita Desai on struggles in writing”

The Matsya Curse is out for pre-order. Yay!

It’s called The Matsya Curse. And it’s here.

Am superbly thrilled to share the cover of my latest book with you all. Anantya Tantrist is back. And so is this adventure, which is crazier than the last one.  The cover’s been done by the wonderful, wonderful George Mathen. (Read about how I convinced him to do it here). And well, it’s out, it’s coming and I’m going gaga and have lost the art of writing a bit. On preorder now.

Tantrik detective Anantya Tantrist is back, smart-ass comments, dark mantras and all

In Banaras, Bhairava, a black tantrik, sets out to win control of life through mass murder, aided by an army of pretas. In Delhi, a tribal supernatural melts to death in a five-star hotel on the same night that an ancient demonologist is murdered. All this while, the government and the Central Association of Tantriks choose to look the other way and gods, demi-gods, immortals and rakshasas all join Bhairava’s army.

All that stands between the murdering bosses and the hapless masses is unofficial detective Anantya Tantrist, armed with a boneblade, a tote of mandalas and a cocky attitude. Just as she begins to see a pattern between a goddess selling art, a miracle-producing minister, an undead mob attacking a rock concert and her immortal friend throwing a tantrum, Anantya faces her most personal hell: her ex-boyfriend Neel has come back from the dead and is trying to kill her. He’s not the only one, of course. A powerful rakshasi wants her head, a pair of demi-gods wants her blood and the trolls are trying to squash her to pulp.

She cannot even sleep off the exhaustion, because each time she drops off, Bhairava invades her mind, trying to consume it. Join Anantya as she faces her most formidable enemy yet in the ultimate battle for her mind and her city.

“A remarkable tale,” says Anand Neelakanthan, author of Asura and Bahubali.  Please to pre-order and read.

Should you write a romance bestseller?

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!

Must-have sports apps for sports lovers

Whether it’s finding a sports partner or places to play, your phone has it covered with smart sports apps. During college, Gururaj Upadhya was a badminton champion. But once he started working, he left sports behind. “After 10 years of work, I wanted to pursue badminton again,” says the 37-year-old chartered accountant from Bengaluru. Expensive club memberships would have been a waste, given that he was travelling a lot. This is when he came across Playo, an app that connects people who play sports. He not only found sports mates but also badminton courts he could book at an hourly rate. Upadhya now plays four times a week, hosts badminton matches and runs a 70-people badminton group within the app.

If, like Upadhya, you want to follow your passion for sports, here are some apps that can help you find a place and/or a partner.

Spyn

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Interview: Literary agent Kanishka Gupta on publishing

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.

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True love stories from Tinder. Internet style.

How does love blossom in the world that is the internet? What do you feel as you swipe left or right, deciding instantly on a pose, or a hashtag or just the numbness in your thumb? I’m always fascinated by how love shapes itself online. Which is why when I came across #100IndianTinderTales, an art project by the fantastic Indian artist, Indu Harikumar or Induviduality, whose work I’ve been following for years, I just had to share some of it on my site. The project has “true stories and experiences of people using Tinder in India and Indians using Tinder abroad” with images by the artist. They’re full of glee, sex, intrigue, crushes, obsessions and in some cases true love. Curl up this Valentine’s with a few of my favourite ones. For more, head to the artist’s Facebook or Instagram page.


 Day 22: P from #Delhi writes about a night of unbridled passion

“By age 37, I have experienced the truest of loves and its devastating loss. A heart that has loved so singularly & lost so purely becomes either fearless or reckless. So when a chance Tinder encounter (truly chance because he is only in the same location for a couple of hours when we ‘match’) reveals himself to be perfect in all ways except that he’s married, I don’t disqualify him. It is the coldest thing I’ve ever done – to pursue an intensely sexual encounter with an absolute stranger from whom my heart wants nothing. It also makes me feel alive. We meet and have a spectacular night without an ounce of sleep. I get a cab in the early hours of the morning and as I ride back, there’s a smile on my face, a glow in my body and an absolute absence of guilt.”


Continue reading “True love stories from Tinder. Internet style.”