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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Author Interview: Vani Kaushal

Today we have with us a writer who is prolific yet very conscious about her writings, Vani Kaushal. She strives for perfection and goes an extra mile to achieve it. A very pleasant person and an author who has effortlessly written about recession and its impact on a prospective groom in the Indian wedding market; raising questions in a very subtle manner, sprinkled with humor. Yet these questions stand effectively and make you think and re-think about the very face of  the society we have created ourselves, once you have read her debut novel, The Recession Groom.

Here are the detailed answers to our endless questions when we decided to pick her brain. 

1.      What is your first memory of scribbling a story?
I started my professional writing journey in 2002, working as a business journalist for ‘The Times of India’ and then ‘The Financial Express’. Journalism nurtured my creativity and I decided I wanted to be a novelist. In 2004, I started working on a chick-lit novel that would have read like an episode of Sex and the City, had I completed it. I abandoned that draft after a few pages, but I might pick it up one day. You never know.

2.      What gravitates you towards stories? 
There’s nothing like a good story well told. My grandmother (Nani) was the best storyteller I knew. I remember sitting in front of her for hours and listening to stories about kings and queens and gods and goddesses. That’s the reason why I’m never too bothered about the genre of the story, as long as it is interesting, fine by me. Fantasy is my favorite, though. It enchants me and transports me to a different world.

3.      How has the journey into writing been?
It’s been an interesting journey and I’ve been on a steep learning curve. I was working full time in London when I started writing my book, The Recession Groom. Initially, everything was a challenge, from writing a few pages every day to completing the final manuscript. However, landing a publishing deal wasn’t any challenge compared to the marketing exercise I undertook to promote my book. Last couple of months, I’ve travelled across India and the response my book has received amongst aficionados in New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Gujarat, Kerala and Chandigarh has been amazing. There have been positive reviews in top newspapers of the country which is very reassuring for a first time writer like me. All in all, it’s been worth it.

4.      How and at what point did it strike you to ponder upon the musings of a man in the Indian wedding market being bogged down by recession?
I was in London when the global economy started moving into a recessionary phase. A lot of my friends and relatives suffered due to this, especially men, because they were the main bread winners of their families. I always thought men didn’t have to bear the burden of societal expectations, but that wasn’t the case. That’s what prompted me to write the story from the perspective of an Indian boy who is hot on the Indian wedding market and his chances of finding happiness when he is not ‘so hot’.
5.      Why did you decide to take a humorous angle on it?
I like to read light-hearted books, nothing too heavy. There are novelists who present a hard-hitting satire on the Indian society but they command a more mature readership. I wanted to engage readers from multiple cultural backgrounds and social milieus, the reason why I mixed the theme of arranged marriages with recession. Also, I wanted to leave my readers with a sense of hope and faith, not with tears in their eyes.
6.      Tell us also about the various columns you contribute to at various portals.
I am writing for ‘The Huffington Post’, ‘DailyO’ and many other websites.

7.      How different is it to be a writer of fiction compared to being a full time journalist and what are the pros and cons of both?
My background in business journalism trained me to write in the inverted pyramid style. I wrote facts and supported them with numbers. My dictionary was also made up of words that common people used. I worked with a team of editors who were always there to help and guide me. Writing ‘fiction’ was a different ball game altogether. I couldn’t use the style of news reporting, and fiction required a lot of creative imagination. When I started writing my novel, I was my own guide and it was my decision what to include in the story and where. I ended up unlearning a lot of the old rules. Several drafts and multiple revisions later, that story is what you know as The Recession Groom.

8.      What is your opinion about the Indian writing and publishing scenario.
Most publishing houses agree that readership of fiction is increasing and people are showing a preference for books in India. This is also apparent from the popularity of Literature Festivals and the number of authors and readers participating in them. There are communities of reviewers and bloggers that are actively reaching out and supporting local talent. All of these are signs that Indian publishing industry is set to grow manifolds in the next few years.

9.      To your mind what is that one essential ingredient of a good story?
For me, I look at the way a story has been narrated. You might have an interesting cast of characters and a great plot, but if the narration is poor then your reader will not have a pleasant experience reading the story.
10.  What has been the worst and best memories of your writing career?
I had just started writing ‘The Recession Groom’ and wasn’t even sure it was ever going to see the light of day when I happened to discuss it with my mother (I was in London and used to call her in India every day). Next I knew, all my aunts, uncles and cousins were congratulating me for my book, as if it was already a published piece of work. Never the one to learn from my mistakes, the first time a publisher asked to see my full manuscript, I told half the world that I was finally going to be a published author. This time not only my aunts and uncles but my friends too ended up congratulating me. Of course, the publisher rejected my manuscript and it took me three years from that time to see my novel in print. The best memories are when I held the book in my hands for the first time. I remember checking my name, reading my bio and looking at a few chapters.
11.  What to expect from Vani in the future?
I am working on a sequel to my first book (can’t reveal the name) and there is a third one that wraps up the series. So it is contemporary fiction for now.
12.  What are Vani’s favourite books?
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is number one on that list. It is about magic and an absolutely delightful read. Pride and Prejudice, The Colour Purple, The Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre, A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Alchemist, The Secret, Fahrenheit 451, Fault in the Stars, The Old Man and the Sea, Harry Potter series and many more. These books touched my soul and set a high benchmark for me.
13.  A word of advice to the writers in making.
Be honest. Write every day. Write first, revise later. Discipline helps, patience helps much more.

14.  Your favorite quote (from a book).
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction
— A Room of One’s ownVirginia Woolf.

NV: Thank you Vani for your time and honest answers, we wish you all the best for your future endeavours.

VK: The pleasure is all mine :). 

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