Mridula Koshy On The Writing Community In India + Writing An Adoption Novel

KoshyName: Mridula Koshy

Hometown: New Delhi,

Based In: New Delhi

Education: Occidental College

Briefly: If It Is Sweet is a collection of short fiction that looks at class relations in New Delhi. Not Only the Things That Have Happened is a novel about inter-country adoption set in India and the US.

Author Crush: Eliot Weinberger, Breyten Breytenbach, Paul Zacharia, K Satchidanandan, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Foster Wallace, Alice Munro.

Your Writing Space: Coffee shops in my neighborhood.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be: If I were neither a writer nor a mother I’d be trade union organizer. In an entirely different life I would be a radio reader with a sideline in dress design.

Up Next: a novel about a young girl, daughter of a poor man, who dreams of riding a bicycle and of healing her broken family. It is set in present-day New Delhi.

When you think of your childhood, and when you think of books, what comes to mind?

My sister and I would take turns, one of us minding the road on the walk home from school while the other read. It was frightening to finish a book because I didn’t know how else to spend my time. A book left unattended for even a moment was fair game. There were many fights: “But I am still reading it. I only put it down because Mummy was calling me” etc. Once while we were reading Omen together, I waited for her in the closet, butcher knife in hand. I hadn’t anticipated how much her hysteria would frighten me. I was precocious and read books far beyond my years but everything I read was read at a younger age by my younger sister. There was and still is no point boasting. When you set out to write Not Only The Things That Have Happened, your novel about adoption, did you set out to speak for adoptees everywhere?

The voices of the members of the adoption triad – birth mother, adoptee and adoptive mother – are not heard equally. The power to tell the story of adoption belongs most clearly with the adoptive parents. The relinquishing parents and the relinquished child have the least voice in the story. I wanted to hear their voices. Annakutty Verghese relinquishes her child under great social pressure. She lives then with an enormous sense of loss. Her child is adopted and grows to adulthood in a loving but complicated Christian family. He too lives with a sense of loss. Not Only the Things That Have Happened is a work of fiction and ultimately gives voice to the story of individuals. I cannot claim to have spoken for everyone everywhere because my characters are uniquely themselves and their story is uniquely their own. However, my novel is a critique of adoption in that it examines power and its operations in the relationships of various characters in the book. In an interview you gave at the time of the publication of the book, you mentioned the extensive you did for the work, the countless reading of adoptee memoirs, adoption articles. As you leafed across all that information, how did you determine what was going to influence you?

I do think there is a dynamic at work in the author’s writing of a story and the story’s writing of itself. I had characters in mind and wrote their story and then at some point became aware they were dictating their story to me. Of course this is not the same thing as having a muse. I am responsible for all the decisions of craft in the novel. And it was craft that was the mediator between me and my characters. I was not the inspired author who hears and responds to a voice by transcribing. No, I did actually have to understand my characters’ desires and then understand the craft of being faithful to their intentions for themselves.

As I researched among adoptee and first mother blogs and read scholarly papers I became increasingly aware, for example, that my character Annakutty Verghese was researching with me. In the novel, she dies within the first couple pages, but the epitaph she leaves on her grave at the end of Part One of her life, her last message to a son she realizes she will never see, is something she, reading over my shoulders, understood was true for her: though she will never see her son, she will live in him. This is an understanding of the biological and spiritual bond I repeatedly encountered in adoptee and first mother blogs.

koshy-photo pic

What’s the writing community like in India?

I write about what I am curious about. Most often there is some basis for my curiosity in the known, and of course a whole lot more basis in the unknown. It would be hard to sit solving the various complex craft challenges of writing if it were not for the motivation of knowing that I am doing this to discover something unknown out there.

To write in literary fiction in English in India, is to simultaneously live in a small town and a large country. The terms ‘literary’ and ‘English’ are the confines of my small town. There are few writers and few readers inhabiting this small town, but like inhabitants of actual small towns, there is an abundance of love and courtesy here because most of us actually live face-to-face. The accountability of small town life makes me glad to live in this small town. When I moved to this small town, a complete unknown, I was welcomed as I imagine small towns welcome strangers, with some curiosity and a whole lot of generosity.

On the other hand, we, the few of us living in this small town, are painfully aware that our actual lives are lived in a large country. Our coziness is likely to be our undoing, and we are guilty of producing a literature that is thin in its inability to grapple with all of what our subject demands from us. Luckily there are many other towns in Indian literature – other languages, shaped by scores of practitioners, into literature fantastic in its scope and ability to tell the stories of this country.

I just wish we had more translators so the good news in these other languages could travel to my small town.

Tell us about the writing process for your other novel If It is Sweet.

My short stories are image-driven. That is, I see something searing in its beauty somewhere in the city of Delhi, and I cannot abide its fleeting nature. I want to be seared again and at my behest. So I set out to write the story that will take me back to the image. My short stories are expressions of ecstasy and I am always aghast when a reader will moan to me that she finds their ending sad. But the reader, who I love has written to me once or twice and complained about things other than the sad endings.

When you got to the editing and revision stage, how did things go?

I had to rewrite my novel once twice, three times. I wish I had rewritten it some more. With short stories rewriting can give way more easily to new stories that are themselves re-writes, that are new efforts to mine the same ground. With the novel there is just the embarrassment of putting out into the world something that at a practical level must be put out into the world but that at an emotional level feels incomplete.

What are some of the publishing trends that you anticipate seeing in literature?

I think a lot of what drives literature is its thematic concerns. At least in my lifetime and perhaps beyond I imagine our thematic concerns will be similar to what characterizes the literature of the past. Still there are interesting wrinkles. For example, are we more or less violent as a species? And is technological advance equivalent to an advance in any other arena of human achievement, for example does it advance compassion? Perhaps. There is as much ambivalence about our own existence now as there ever has been and that alone gives us much to chew on. How we choose to do our chewing – in flash fiction, twitter feeds, through e-books or chap books – is something I don’t spend a lot of time pondering. I am glad I started writing in my mid-thirties. I am not afflicted with the sort of ambition which might drive me to speculate on market trends with the view to cashing in.

How can new writers improve their writing?

There is another sort of ambition that is worthwhile, which is the effort to do justice to one’s thematic concerns. I read Weinberger for example because while he is no trendsetter, he has done much to look at the question of how we can relate the seemingly unrelatable. I love the notion of a world in which what is in opposition is also in collision, that what pulls apart achieves embrace. His experiments with form and craft have taught me a lot. Recently, Booker short-listed writer, Jeet Thayil told me he writes for the writers he admires. New writers might want to read the writers they love lovingly and then sit down to write for them.

What’s the best way to get the word out on a book?

I am not aggressive about searching out ways to promote my book, but that’s only because I am shy. I have never turned down any opportunity to get the word out. Not even when I felt too shy. There’s a chutzpah involved in thinking of myself as worth being published. It would be hypocritical to follow on that with a pretense of crippling shyness. So while I have conquered shyness and would advise others to do the same I have another issue – laziness – that I have yet to wrestle with successfully. Promotion is part of the job even if it isn’t the most interesting.

Author’s Facebook | Author’s Blog | Amazon Page Continue reading

Shelia Goss On How Authors Can Be More Prolific And On Expanding Brands

Shelia GossName: Shelia Goss

Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana

Education: Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Ideal Writing Space: I usually write on my desktop. One summer, I did write a book on my iPad.

Briefly: Screenwriter; Author of seventeen novels and counting: The Joneses; Writes the young adult book series The Lip Gloss Chronicles, under the name Sparkle. Ruthless, Delilah, Montana’s Way, My Invisible Husband, Roses are thorns, Violets are true, Paige’s Web, Double Platinum, His Invisible Wife, Hollywood Deception and Savannah’s Curse. Essence Magazine, Dallas Morning News, Black Expressions, bestselling author. African-American Literary Award recipient, 2013.

Favorite Read: The Bible. Too many to name; however I will list a few: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins.

What are your earliest book-related memories?

I started reading at an early age. I was about four years old. Prior to that, I remember my mom reading books to me.

What are some of the things that you’ve learned about book marketing along your publishing journey?

The best form of marketing is word of mouth. When a book resonates with a reader, they will tell someone and it can spread like wild fire. Also, when marketing, you should concentrate on your target audience. Marketing blindly is not advised.

Not only are you an author, but you’re also a screenwriter, and a publishing entrepreneur overall. What advice would you give to authors about expanding their brand?

I encourage it if it’s something they are interested in doing. The best advice I can give is to do research before taking on any endeavor.

As someone who’s also a screenwriter, and an author, which medium do you feel most comfortable in?

I’ve been a published author for ten years so I would say in that medium because I have more experience with success as an author. I’ve only recently had one of my screenplays optioned so ask me in five years after I’ve had several more optioned 🙂

Have any of your novels have its start as a movie in your head?

No, however I visualize the scenes in my head as if they were a movie because if I can visualize it, I can write it. You are also known as Sparkle. If you had to do it all over again, would you have started writing as Shelia Goss, or would you have written as Sparkle from the get-go?

Shelia Goss. Sparkle was a name I came up with for the YA books that are for a different target audience.

I think a lot of authors wish they could just think of a plot in their minds, and have everything miraculously appear on the page. What are your thoughts on getting started, and dealing with writer’s block?

Preparation helps. I suggest doing a character chart on all of your main characters. I don’t use outlines but for those having trouble getting started, I would suggest doing an outline.

I don’t get writer’s block. I might get the “I don’t want to” because “I want to do something else,” but not writer’s block. [Smiles] When I get the “I don’t want to,” depending on whether or not I have a deadline, I will allow myself a day or two off and then I’m back to writing.

How can an author get better at writing?

Write. The more you write, the better your writing will get. Part of that process includes being aware of your writing issues and working on those until it’s no longer an issue.

Do you think book tours and book signings are instrumental in selling books?
It helps with bringing awareness to the author’s books but an author can still be successful without doing either one of those things.

What are your thoughts on critique groups?
I haven’t been in a critique group in over ten years. Critique groups can help when you have a mixture of experienced and non-experience writers.

How can authors be as prolific as you?

Determination, dedication and discipline are the three things you will need in order to be prolific.
Set up your own schedule. Don’t allow other things to get in the way of the schedule and write and sometimes that means writing, even when you don’t feel like it.

Some people feel that self-publishing is evil, that it makes authors out of folks who aren’t quite ready. As a veteran author who’s seen a lot of changes in the industry, what’s your perspective on this?

Self-publishing is a business. Before you start a business, do your research. Everyone is not meant to be a business owner. If one does choose to go on that path, invest in the Self Publishing Manual by Dan Poytner and read it, not skim it. It’s a blueprint that works.

Author’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Author’s Blog Continue reading

Margaret Dilloway On Writing About Health Issues in A Work of Fiction + Tips To Writers Having A Hard Time Starting A Novel

img_1363Name: Margaret Dilloway (O’Brien)
Hometown: San Diego
Based In: San Diego
Education: BA Studio Art, Scripps College, Claremont CA
Briefly: Author of Sisters of Heart and Snow, upcoming, Putnam Books, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, Putnam Books.
Winner of the American Library Literary Tastes Award for Best Women’s Fiction, 2013; Winner, Bonus Book of the Year, Pulpwood Queens International Book Clubs, 2013. How to Be an American Housewife, Putnam Books; Finalist, John Gardner Fiction Award, 2011.
Author Crush: Ruth Ozeki. I read A Tale for the Time Being in as close to one sitting as I could get, and wept when it ended—not because it was horribly sad, but because I wanted it to keep going. I also read it at a difficult writing-time in my life, and something about it re-inspired me.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…a detective! I always notice weird little details other people usually don’t—something writers and detectives have in common.

Up Next: Sisters of Heart and Snow from Putnam Books.

You grew up in San Diego. What’s the best book fair memory you have of growing up in that fab city?

My junior high held a book fair and had an author visit—young adult/middle grade author Frances A. Miller. It was the first time I met a Real. Live. Author! And I was beyond excited.

Let’s talk a bit about your book How to Be an American Housewife, set during the Second World War. When you were writing it, did you feel that you historically had to have a revisionist point-of-view?

It’s not really a Continue reading

Jennifer Handford On How Authors Can Maintain A Write-Life Balance

jennifer handfordName: Jennifer Handford
Hometown: Tempe, Arizona
Based In: Northern Virginia
Education: BS and MS in Political Science, Portland State University
Briefly: Author of Daughters for a Time, and one-time Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner.
Favorite Read: Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: Stephen King’s On Writing
Up Next: Acts of Contrition, scheduled to release on April 15, 2014

As someone who had spent her entire life living in Arizona, was it pretty scary moving to Oregon for college?

Not at all. When I was younger—in college and in my twenties—I loved the idea of moving around, traveling abroad, and exploring different places.

What was the most helpful course you took while in college—in terms of how it helped your writing and creativity?

When I was a freshman, I took Continue reading

Susan Rebecca White On The MFA in Creative Writing + Book Clubs + Authors and Social Media

susan rebecca whiteName: Susan Rebecca White
Author’s Website , Facebook, Twitter
Hometown: Atlanta, GA USA
Based In: Atlanta
Education: BA Brown University, MFA Hollins University
Briefly: Author of:
A Place at the Table
A Soft Place to Land
Bound South

Essays in The Huffington Post, Tin House magazine (forthcoming), The Bitter Southerner
Favorite Read: Hard to choose one, but The Confederacy of Dunces always makes me laugh, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird teaches me something new about writing each time I read it. I also love Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety.
Pet Peeves: People who text / check their cell phones at the dinner table.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…A high school English teacher or a caterer.
Author Crush: Ann Patchett
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Steven King.
Up Next: A novel about college roommates in the mid 1960s whose lives go in very different directions during America’s counter-culture revolution. Also, I’m working on a lot of personal essays, motivated by the fact that I am pregnant and thinking about all sorts of things in regards to raising my baby.

Relax your mind for a bit. And think. What’s the earliest book-related memory that comes to mind?

Having my mom or dad read the line “goodnight mush” over and over again from the children’s classic Goodnight Moon. At age four, the thought of saying goodnight to the oatmeal was hilarious to me.

How do you react when you find yourself experiencing writer’s block while writing a book?

I get really self-critical and Continue reading

Melissa Foster On The Writing Process + Writing Great Novel Openings

melissascarf author photo FINALName: Melissa Foster
Author’s Website , Twitter,
Women’s Social Network, Facebook Fan Page, Goodreads, Fostering Success, World Literary Café
Hometown: Rockville, MD
Based In: Maryland
Briefly: NY Times and USA Today Bestseller, Have No Shame; 2013 Readers Favorite Award, Gold Medal Winner (Southern Fiction), 2013 Readers Favorite Award, Finalist (Historical Romance). Traces of Kara awards: 2013 Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Award, Gold Medal Winner (Thriller), 2013 Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Award, Bronze Medal Winner (Suspense). Megan’s Way Awards: 2011 Beach Book Award Winner (Spirituality), 2011 Readers Favorite Awards,Winner (Fiction/Drama), Finalist (Women’s Fiction), 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award, Finalist (Spirituality), 2011 New England Book Festival, Honorable Mention (Spirituality). Chasing Amanda:
2011 Readers Favorite Awards, Winner (Paranormal), Finalist, (Women’s Fiction, Mystery), 2011 Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards, Winner, (Paranormal), Top 10 Books of 2011, Pixel of Ink
Amazon Top 100 75+ Days running
Indie Reader’s Bestselling List That Counts (8 weeks)
Top Books of 2011, The Write Agenda

Come Back With Me
2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Finalist; 2012 Readers Favorite Awards, Finalist; 2012 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Books Award, Finalist; 2011 Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards, Finalist, Top 5 Must Read Books of 2011, IndieReader, Top Ten Books of 2011, Tea Time With Marce, IndieReader Best Reviewed Books of 2011, Huffington Post.

Favorite Read: The Lovely Bones.

Pet Peeves: When someone eats all the chocolate and doesn’t replenish the stock.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…I can’t even imagine this…

When you think of your childhood, what’s the first book-related images that come to mind?

Me sitting in a tree reading every afternoon during the summer.

Sisters in Love begins with one of your protagonists getting accidentally hurt at a cafe. This opening scene is very telling about one of the characters Danica. When you’re writing the opening chapter of a book, what do you strive for? To slowly pull in the reader, or do hit them with a bang and get them immediately intrigued?

When I write the opening of the book I Continue reading

Ashley Hay On Book Marketing and Getting Publicity For a Novel + The Writing Community in Australia

ashley hay-photoName: Ashley Hay

Author’s Website

Hometown: Austinmer, NSW, Australia

Writing From: Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Education: I studied journalism and creative writing at Charles Sturt University for my undergrad degree, did an Honours year later at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) – and then later again completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts through UTS.

Briefly: I’ve published two novels (The Railwayman’s Wife in 2013 and The Body in the Clouds in 2010). Someone asked me recently if I’d always been interested in infrastructure history; someone else asked me if I’d always been interested in industrial accidents, and I hadn’t realized either was true. But The Railwayman’s Wife is partly about the death of a train guard, and The Body in the Clouds is partly about a man who falls off the Sydney Harbour Bridge during its construction – so perhaps there is a theme emerging …

I’ve also written four non-fiction books – three of which were ended up exploring various collectors and their obsessions with natural history (Gum, 2002; Herbarium, 2004; Museum, 2007) – and one which was about Lord Byron’s brief and dubious marriage (The Secret, 2000). I’ve been writing journalism for more than 20 years, and have had work anthologized in journals and collections including Best Australian Essays, Best Australian Short Stories and Best Australian Science Writing.

Favorite Read: Just one? I’m addicted to the Paris Review interviews with writers – I love the time and the space they dedicate to exploring someone’s imagination and their craft.

Pet Peeves: Reviews that give away a book’s twist or its denouement. I read a review of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader that revealed its end, which dramatically diminished the experience I could have of reading the book itself.

If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be… at a loose end. I’ve never had a job that wasn’t to do with words – writing them, commissioning them, editing them. I used to joke about giving it all up to become a train driver, but given the narrative arc of The Railwayman’s Wife (and its roots in an appropriated piece of my own family’s history), that might not be the safest idea.

What You Have Lined Up Next: I’m working on a novel set in Brisbane that spans the 1960s and now, and I’m also very excited to be editing the 2014 Best Australian Science Writing Anthology.

Do you think you were born to be a writer?

When I was little I wanted to be a flight attendant (until I realized I was too short) and a teacher (until I realized I was too shy). I was always interested in writing but I didn’t know how to go about being a writer, so I enrolled for a journalism degree. I thought if I could find work as Continue reading

Nichole Bernier On Her Ideal Writing Space And On Writing The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D

nichole bernier-4
Name: Nichole Bernier
Author’s Website
Hometown: moved a lot, but lived longest in Westport, CT
Based In: suburban Boston
Education: Colgate University BA English, Columbia University MA journalism
Favorite Read: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Briefly: Author of the novel The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. Have written for publications including Psychology Today, ELLE, Men’s Journal, Self, Salon, Boston Magazine. Former features writer, golf and ski editor, and TV
spokesperson for Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Mother of five. Almost always tired.
Pet Peeves: It makes me crazy when drivers don’t take turns at four-way stops. We’re all on this planet together, people.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Probably working with orphaned and injured wild animals. I did it as a teen volunteer at a nature center, bottle raising raccoons and squirrels until they were old enough/well enough to be released in a state park. About half survived to make that run from the cage to the woods. In my dreams and nightmares I go right back there, like emotional hard-wiring.
Author Crush: If I listed them all I’d sound promiscuous. But Wallace Stegner is at the top of the list. Ann Patchett, Geraldine Brooks, Julia Glass and Marilynne Robinson are all there, too.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: I’m joining the chorus of fans here, but Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing are my go-to reads when the writing doesn’t flow. The empathy comes through as strong as the teaching.
Up Next: I’m working on my second novel, about a tour group to the USSR in 1989 that goes terribly wrong. The emotional core of the book is the reason the main character has joined the tour: to find out the truth about a missing child she believes has been brought there.

Is your living room your ideal writing space?

No, not by a longshot. My house is too loud, too populated, too many distractions and obligations. I love the library, and sometimes the coffee shop. The noise there is noise I don’t have an emotional investment in.

What do you most enjoy about writing for readers, who are female in their majority?

I love hearing that the book moved them, made them think, and that it was still under their skin well after finishing it.

The premise of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D has Kate rediscovering her friend Elizabeth who died in a plane crash. Have you ever discovered that someone had snooped into your room and read your personal journal or documents?

Not that I know of. I don’t keep a journal anymore, but when I did, I didn’t really tell anyone, and was pretty discreet about where it was kept.

Have you ever read someone else’s journal or diary?

Interesting; I’ve never been asked that. So: you get a fresh truth. When I Continue reading

Catherine McKenzie On Creating Distinct Narrative Voices + What She Wished She Had Known Before Becoming A Published Author

catherine mckenzie-author photoName: Catherine McKenzie
Author’s Website, Twitter
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
Based In: Montreal, Canada
Education: BA in History; Law Degree from McGill University
Favorite Read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pet Peeves: When you go to a restaurant to eat something you love there and it isn’t on the menu anymore.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…An Astronaut.
Author Crush: John Greene.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To: Don’t talk about yourself all the time. Get behind other authors and support them.
Book I’d Recommend: The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison—great book!
Up Next: Hidden, releasing in the US April 1, 2014. After that…working o it!

You went to and graduated from law school. Early on…did you have a mental battle of sort between being an attorney and an author?

No, I never thought I’d be able to make a living writing, so I Continue reading