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Get to Know Author Usha Narayanan

Today I have on my blog author Usha Narayanan whose book Madras Mangler is out now. Let’s get to know her through a question and answer session.

Q: Tell us something about yourself and how you got into writing.

Writing came easily to me and an MA in English Literature made it a natural choice. I spent many years writing to a client’s brief, whether for advertising or radio, corpcomm or websites. In the last two years I started writing for myself, playing both the Queen and King of Hearts from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. One proclaims “Off with their heads!” and the other pardons them.

Q: Your experience of writing a book – easy as pie or hard as nails?

It was really tough as I started off on a whim, and had to discover every detail of the process through painstaking research. How many words, how many pages to a chapter, where to begin, where to end, how to hold interest, how to build suspense, what happens to bodies when they are dumped in water, what clothes do obnoxious show-offs wear, how does a stalker operate….

I realized I knew nothing and had to fight each step of the way forward. But now, when I read ‘The Madras Mangler’, I feel like a proud mother who has forgotten the pangs of birth!

Q: What motivates you to write?

Once you experience the thrill and the freedom of writing for yourself, it’s like a drug in your blood. After it has been completed, you want to share it with as many people as you can. Positive feedback from the readers is the ultimate high.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

I started with five starry-eyed girls, who are eager to conquer the world. What happens when the world is not exactly as they had dreamt it would be? Do they hold their own or do they retreat in fear to their homes? That is the question which this book addresses, with the serial killer being a metaphor for the challenges that life throws at you.

Q: Please describe your book briefly.

‘The Madras Mangler’ is a suspense thriller featuring five feisty girls, one hot hero, a psychopathic killer and the pleasures and pain of youth. Chills and thrills, fun and banter, drama and action ― get ready for the joyride of your life!

Q: Tell us about the main characters in your book.

Kat, Lolita, Minx and Moti are the central characters, leaving home for the first time to live in a hostel. Each of them has their own story ― difficult parents, a patriarchal society, financial or personal issues. Are they victims or winners? The brilliant and sexy Vir and his friend Bishnu are the male protagonists. We also have the trio Amar, Rakesh and Subu who together form the creepy Asuras. Thugs, cops, politicians and a Hollywood film crew add spice to the pot. They charm you or spook you and keep you reading, till you reach the spine-chilling end.

Q: How do you overcome writer’s block?

Take a break, read a book, watch a TV serial, meet a friend, go out for an ice cream. And then get back to your computer. The story is not going to write itself, my friend! The only way to remove writer’s block is to push through it.

Q: Does writing get in your way of life?

Yes, it does. When I am going full speed ahead, I have little patience for household duties, ringing phones or calling bells, even meal times. At other times, I’m happy to have an excuse to say I’m cogitating, just a fancy word for lotus-eating!

Q: What’s next in your writing plans?

A romcom with a sparkling pair of lovers in the colourful media world. And an action thriller set in mythical times, jazzed up with loads of romance, adventure, divinity and heroism.

And here comes our rapidfire round:

Your favourite movie

‘Gone with the Wind’. This was the rare movie which to me surpassed the book it was based on.

The worst movie you’ve seen

The Tamil movie ‘Boys’ which was so loud and crass it had me running away midway!

Any secret habit?

Skimping on sleep to read a book, write a book, watch the TV serials I love!

Actor you’d fall for in a heartbeat

George Clooney

Favourite book

The psychological thriller ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S J Watson. It is every woman’s nightmare come true.

Fallback option when the fridge is empty 

A good book that you stashed away for just such an eventuality!

What comforts you when things go bad?

The confidence that you have weathered several crises before. ‘This too shall pass.’

Your most comfortable outfit

A cotton salwar kameez ― it is cool in more ways than one!

 

Thanks, Usha. It was great fun having you here. By the way, how does an empty stomach cope up on the diet of a good book? I’m sure all dieters out there will be intrigued to know 😉
This interview is a part of the Book Club tour for Usha’s book. Check out the buy links and author links below.

 

 

 

The Madras Mangler by Usha Narayanan



The Blurb
 
Five pretty girls from around the country, enjoying college life in Chennai, chasing their own dreams. Until a psychopath comes to town, killing girls and dumping their bodies in the rivers. The killer is smart, dangerous and very angry. Just like Vir Pradyumna, ace criminologist from New York, who is fighting his own demons from the past. Ruthless politicians, bumbling cops, beer barons and cyber criminals run amuck. The killer snatches a girl whom Vir has sworn to protect. A Hollywood action crew and the crowds at the India-Australia cricket one-dayer get sucked into the relentless buildup to a nail-biting climax. Will Vir be in time to stop the maniac and save the girl?
 
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Watch it

 

Meet the Author
 
Be crazy, be creative. That’s been my mantra as a writer and a creative director ― in advertising, radio, corpcomm and web-writing. I turned up the craziness a notch by becoming a novelist, with the freedom to write exactly what I wanted. I started a romcom, changed it into a thriller and sweated and slogged to get the pieces to work together. Research, cliffhangers, suspense, clues, red herrings ― my brain was in a tizzy for days and months.
Done, dusted off, dispatched. A few rejections, heartbreak. A contract from Leadstart, bliss. Creating a spooky book trailer with images and music I bought online. A tweak here and there, with my editor. Poring over images for the cover. Suggesting the artist turn ‘The’ in the title sideways. The book comes out on Flipkart and Amazon first. And after some nail-biting suspense, in bookstores. Organised a launch with Suhasini Maniratnam and Rudra Krishna. Great media reviews. Lovely, wonderful blogger friends. I love being an author 



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Author’s Interview..Ruchi Vasudeva, Mills and Boons, Harlequin Author by Sufia Khatoon

Here’s my interview on Being Bookworms, hosted by Sufia Khatoon.

Welcome to another edition of Being Bookworms Author’s interview session where Sufia Khatoon has interviewed Ruchi Vasudeva, Milland Boons, Harlequin Indian Author, the writer of two successful books Bollywood Fiance for a day and You can’t fight a Royal attraction…

We Being Bookworms team are delighted to welcome Ruchi Vasudeva.

I had a great experience knowing you and reading your work. A review coming soon of Ruchi’s books and I am happy to say that she is a wonderful writer, full of surprises and a very dear friend. We wish her all the best, waiting patiently for you other titles.
Best wishes….Sufia

Q1: Being a doctor how difficult it is to find time for writing and juggling two professions at the same time?

Ans: Thank you for hosting this interview, Sufia. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Juggling a medical career and writing is certainly not something I’d advise anyone to do! *smile* Having a job and family means hands quite full, so at times it gets quite tough to find writing time. To write one needs seclusion and I, at least, write better when I’m either alone or somewhere where there’s no chance of getting disturbed. Which is near impossible because at home every one has a claim on your time. At work too I’m busy. But the good part of a great story idea is that it writes itself. The characters will compel me to tell their story no matter if it’s just fifteen minutes I have free. So, all that word count piles up and holidays and weekends help a lot *grin*Photo

Q2: Writing happened to you with winning the passion contest by Mills and boons, have you always been a writer by heart?

Ans:I think so, yes. I used to write stories and poems when in school. I liked to present my essays in new ways than the usual way of introduction. One favourite starting point for me used to be “since the dawn of civilization” No matter what the topic was, eg value of books or my grandmother’s chair (yes, I was given that topic once) I would start with the dawn of civilization phrase and go on to the topic. It worked quite well *grin*

Q3: To many writing is a form of expression, to some a way of escapism from the mundane lives, What is writing to you?
Ans:A series of ideas popping in my mind and forcing me to put them down! It’s something of a compulsion I’d say *smile*

Q4: How challenging is writing a novel? Does one need to be very serious to take up this profession?

Ans:Oh absolutely. Anyone who wants to write well has to be quite dedicated and determined. There is so much to learn. The craft of writing comes way before the art. So it’s certainly not anything you can do just whiling away the time. On top of that, nowadays, writers have to learn about the publishing and marketing side, study the trends and genres. I’d say as a profession, it’s quite demanding.

Q5: Most of us have a writer in us, but few have that passion to pursue it for life, Do you think having a lot of expectations can be harmful as we know is not easy to get published especially now when everyone seems to write?

Ans:In any profession, we have to begin low and go up. If one is willing to work hard, there is no harm in having ambition and I believe there is no lack of opportunity. But writing offers no time-bound progress as occurs in most other jobs. A book might take ages to sell while another book of the same writer might hit the charts as top seller. Don’t expect miracles but be willing to swot, I’d say. Have goals like making your work the best it can be, rather than unreasonable expectations like winning awards with your first book. Goals make you more focused and productive.

Q6: You first novel Bollywood Fiance for a day seems to have been inspired from Bollywood, and so does your other novels. Tells us how important romance and Bollywood is for Indians and Why doe sit inspire you so much?

Ans:For most Indians the two are nearly synonymous. Bollywood films and especially songs ooze with emotions. I can’t say exactly why I like to think of Bollywood as a setting. It’s something that happens unconsciously; maybe because I have grown up watching movies like YC’s Lamhe and others of that genre.

Q7: You can’t fight a Royal attraction is a sequel to your first book, usually a love story in Mills and boons end in a first novel only. What made you write sequel and telling Saira and Rihaan’s love story? Can we expect another sequel to this story in future?

PhotoAns:It wasn’t really a deliberate effort to make it a sequel. I was discussing ideas with my editor and she wasn’t keen on the one I was suggesting at the time. So I put forward this tentatively because Saira’s character had inspired me during the writing of Bollywood Fiance for a Day itself. My editor Kathryn loved it, so I went ahead and the book was formed.

As for another sequel, I have story ideas in mind for Mia and also for Viren of the second book. But they’re not always easy to chart out. Let’s see what happens.

Q8: How do you start writing your story, Do you start with a plot or just start writing and the characters develop eventually?

Ans:Usually for me the story begins with an idea revolving around two characters. Gradually I flesh out the idea and develop the characters. It takes time to situate the idea into the real world because imagination has no foundation in logic and what initially looks good might turn out silly when you actually write it out. So under the left brain direction, there is a lot of tampering and repair and what eventually emerges is quite different from the original. Once the characters and their world is ready then all I have to do is listen to them and let the story unfold. The writing is fairly quick after that.

Q9: Tell us something about Saira and Rihaan?

Ans:Saira is young and spirited. She believed in love and married early, being a little headstrong. She is the sister of the first book heroine. The marriage didn’t turn out well and now she’s divorced and feeling hurt. She has no career and sees no direction in her life. At this point she meets Rihaan.
Rihaan is a loner and somewhat reclusive. He has no desire to get involved with Saira but out of friendship for her sister and her brother-in-law, he takes her under his wing. However, the attraction between them escalates. A twist of fortune places him at a defining moment in his life when his past collides head-on with his future.

Q10: Are your characters in your novels inspired from real lives? How important is inspiration and travelling for a writer?

Ans:Inspiration happens from real life but only to an extent. I do pick up some traits from real people initially but then as the characters start to speak, they assume their own personality. That’s also because they have their own world, their own past and present. So like every human being they are unique. I might discard the traits I had got inspired from once the characters get their own skin so to speak *smile*
Travelling and interacting with people is important for inspiration, I believe.

Q11: Now to get published most writers are choosing the romance or chiclit genre, knowing this is widely read. Do you think a writer should write form the reader’s point of view or write what he or she observes around rather than following the stereotypes?

Ans:The hardest question to answer is what will sell well. I think writing to expectation can profit neither the reader nor the writer. An easy way to decide what to write is think of what you love to read. These days published works are very genre specific so if you pick your favourite genre, you’ll know what comprises it and you’ll find it easy to write for it. But one shouldn’t be afraid to experiment if one has complete belief in the story. And certainly don’t write romance or chiclit just because they sell good.

Q12: Many Indian writers are doing wonders with their impeccable storytelling skills, but recent writers are lacking it, Can you tell us what our new enthusiastic writers need to focus on?

Ans:I’m myself a relatively new writer so really can’t presume to tell anyone anything. I can share what I have learnt and am still learning about writing. It’s that for one thing, one has to know about the craft of writing. The story structure, the goal, motivation, conflict of the character must be properly charted out. I heard it said and will repeat here : there is no shortcut. You learn to write by writing and by having the attitude to learn. Don’t be in a hurry to get published. Try to hone your skill. Take every rejection as a step to learning more.

Q13: You won the Harper Collins’ short story contest, can you tell us something about it and how do you feel?

Ans:The contest was an initiative of Indiblogger in collaboration with HC India. They asked for love stories inspired by real life situations to be selected for publication in an anthology. It was thrilling to win and I’m looking forward to getting published with them.

Q14: How important is participating in contest for newbies? Does research really help in shaping up a novel?

Ans:Contests are the way publishers are roping in new talent these days. Having won two of them and got a publishing break through both, I’d say they are a great opportunity for writers. Just one should read the guidelines very, very carefully and obey the rules to the letter.
Harlequin holds the Passions contest every season for aspiring Indian authors. Right now this is underway. The last date to submit is 25th Jan, ’14. You can check out the details on Harlequin India website.
Research definitely opens new portals for a host of ideas. The more you research the better you can shape up the story world and the characters. For example in case of Rihaan, the more I learnt about his background, the better I could visualise

Q15: Many assume that writers can earn in millions if once published, tell us how does the publishing thing works, and is it really true that once published, there is no looking back?

Ans:If you sell to a renowned publisher and get a great contract, you can earn well but if you think one or two books will land you in the lap of luxury, then no! You’re sadly mistaken if you presume that!
Writing is a job like any other and you have to work at it and be consistent. It’s probably tougher than most jobs because there are long hours but no paycheck at the end of every month to look forward to, in the beginning. When you sell your first work, it feels as though you have arrived but it’s not so. Be prepared for your expectations and your pride to take a lashing. But stick in there – if you really want to succeed – and gradually you will see results. Since publishing world makes a snail look like a jet plane as far as speed is concerned, you’ll need loads of patience. Make sense of what makes successful writers successful and try to work out those principles. It might help.

Q16: Mills and boons is known for its steamy sex scenes, many feel that its just erotics that mills and boons produces, but that is not entirely true. Did you had nay such inhibitions when you were writing about your characters. Do you think a steamy scene is a must in any love story to make it more real or its better avoided?

Ans:It all depends on the story and the characters. All Mills and Boon are not explicit. Take my book for instance. Mills and Boon have many genres and allow the authors free hand in writing what they are comfortable with. For myself, I leave it to the characters. That said, when you’re writing a love story, you have to show some sensuality to make the emotions convincing.

Q17: When you first touched your published novel and heard praises for it, how did it feel?


Ans:Awesome, absolutely out of this world…I could add more superlatives here because I’d have to use many to describe what I felt. Hearing genuine appreciation from a reader who has harmonized with your work is very rewarding indeed. It’s a feeling hard to beat.

Q18: You are a bookworm we know, which writers inspire you and why?

Ans: Getting published is tough. I know so many authors who are writing, taking care of families as well as tackling a job. I salute all those writers and get inspired to do more by their example.
As for writings, my favourite are Agatha Christie’s whodunnits and GPhotoeorgette Heyer’s timeless Regency novels.

Thanks, Sufia. Enjoyed answering your questions.

Ruchi, Best wishes and lots of love.

Hope you are really liking the way we are bringing you tips and the real world of the writer’s…tells us whom should we interview next
warm regards,
Sufia Khatoon, Being Bookworms

Being Bookworms is a praiseworthy project started by the multi talented Sufia Khatoon. She is artistic, devoted to charity work and dedicated to supporting readers and writers. Being Bookworms is an effort to bring readers and authors together and promote good readership. I congratulate Sufia on her work and wish her the best for future.

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