Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a writer and travel columnist. She is an alumnus of the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, she worked as Communications Officer for Greenpeace India and as correspondent with CNN-IBN, before dedicating her life to writing. She has been featured in various online magazines and newspapers for her non-fiction pieces.
She currently lives in The Philippines with her family. Her romance Novella ‘A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land’ was on the Amazon (India) 100 top bestellers list, in the Indian Fiction category for months on end. Let us know more about a professional writer.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always been a writer- right from the age of five, when my mother sent one of my childishly scrawled short stories to a newspaper contest, till today. Some of my most treasured possessions are my dog-eared bundles of notebooks filled with pages and pages of my musings, rantings, stories and in some cases, poems that were written in misguided grandoise moments. I’ve always wanted to reach out to others with stories and narrations of real life incidents and this is what drives my passion for penning them down as well.
I am just fortunate that my life took a turn where I had no choice, but to embrace my passion as a full-time profession.
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
There have been so many books that have left such a deep imprint on my mind that it is impossible to list them all. However, I loved Enid Blyton and I still own most of her works. My favourite classic is Charles Dickens, ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I am also a Muggle who is madly in love with the Harry Potter series. I read these and more as a child and I still do, when I head back to my parents home for vacations. I look forward to sharing them with my children when they grow up.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
The biggest challenge about being a full-time writer is sticking with it to the end, in the absence of an external editor, boss or deadline. Especially in the beginning, when you have no idea that your manuscript might be picked up for publication at all, it is easy to sit down and put your hands up.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
I have found that when I write about the things I know and have experienced, the story flows with a life of its own.
My books and short stories are slotted in the genre of Urban Fiction, as I have lived through the research needed for all of them. My own life if it were a book would be slotted in Urban Non-Fiction.
What motivated you to write the book “Suspended Animation”?
‘Suspended Animation’ is a phrase that I have carried with me all the way from 2005, when I was a post-graduate student at the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Pune. One of my closest friends there Shiv, was a film student focusing on animation. In our final year there, he started work on a project, which involved a lot of editing and production that I found fascinating. I loved watching the frozen frames, which were waiting for the next stage in their virtual lives and the phrase stayed with me.
Years later, when I recognized the theme of ‘waiting’ surface in my stories, it was this phrase that lit up in my mind.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Suspended Animation”?
‘Suspended Animation’ is a collection of short stories about those and by those, I mean both human and non-human, for whom waiting is a constant reality of life. It is an anthology of 22 stories that captures snapshots of lives caught in status quo, as they wait for something to release them from it. Be it the wait for a natural disaster to pass or the wait for a forever absent spouse or even the wait to transform oneself and fight the odds, the book aims to take the reader, through a complete spectrum of emotions and insecurities.
The stories in this collection are not based on other people’s lives, but they are definitely based on real-life incidents, sights, meetings and experiences that made me stop, reflect and get inspired.
Like in the case of ‘Sole Mate’, a story about a monitor lizard lamenting its solitary existence. This story was born out of an encounter my husband and I had, with an actual monitor lizard on our honeymoon!
Or ‘Green To Red’, which is a story about two beggars, inspired by a two-women begging team, I often saw at the traffic signal near our apartment in Manila.
How did you came up with the idea of writing collection of short stories genre book?
I’ve always been a fan of the short fiction genre. Being a former journalist, telling a story that one can read in a single sitting comes more naturally to me, rather than drafting a larger chunk of the protagonists’ lives, like in a novella or a novel. The stories in this collection were written over a span of four years and from multiple locations, thanks to my muse and her mysterious ways. A few stories on, I recognized the common thread of ‘waiting’ binding the stories together and that is when I decided to collate it as an anthology.
Who are your favourite authors?
To name a few, I would have to go with Isaac Asimov, Jasper Fforde, Kamala Das, Elif Shafak, Ma Jian, William Dalrymple and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
I approach writing as I’ve approached all my previous jobs. I could not afford to have a day off as a reporter or as a communications executive. When you are at work you work, no matter your mood. This approach works for me as I manage to write at least a little bit, every day. Being my own boss, I stick to this tactic to ensure I don’t slack off or procrastinate.
I also work on multiple projects simultaneously. This way even if I don’t feel the words flowing for a certain story, I know that it will for another column or blog waiting for my attention.
Instead of trying to set aside a certain amount of time, I stick to a daily word count or a goal. If I’m working on a new book or story, I try and write a certain amount of words a day. If it is in the editing stage, then I aim for a certain chunk of the manuscript, like a chapter to be tackled on that particular day.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
One of my favourite sayings about writing and reading is ‘Write the book you want to read.’ And that is what I’d like to tell aspiring authors. If you feel you have a book in you, then by all means, write it. But also be aware that writing will sometimes feel like the easiest part of the process. Getting that book in the hands of a reader might seem like an impossible task.
So, please do persevere and be patient even in the face of rejection.
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