Today on my blog I have the pleasure of interviewing the very sweet and very prolific Sujata Parashar a novelist, poet, short story writer and social worker. She has written seven books so far. Her debut novel, In Pursuit of Infidelity (2009) was a bestseller. She also has a poetry book series to her credit, titled, Poetry Out and Loud. Her latest book is a collection of short - stories, titled, That Woman You See (2015). She has won awards for her first poetry book and her first short - story.Apart from these, Sujata is on the planning board of a couple of prestigious literature festivals of the country (Kumaon Literary Festival & Delhi Poetry Festival). She is also Director, Fellows of Nature (FON), a nature - writing project of KLF. Sujata works on different social projects and is a founder member of Empowering Minds; a Delhi based NGO focusing on education and mental health issues of women and children. She has been selected for the Karamveer Chakra Award 2016- instituted by iCongo in association with the UN conferred to individuals who bring about positive social impact. Now over to Sujata :)
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wasn’t aiming to be a writer so the realisation came to me much later and was of a different kind. Firstly, it dawned on me that writing is a medium through which I express myself best, and secondly, I became aware that I enjoy telling stories. However, I discovered these aspects of my personality only after my first two novels were published.
In my debut novel, ‘In pursuit of infidelity,’ (Rupa and co., 2009) I tried to study the emotional status of an independent - minded woman who is shown equal to her spouse in every sense. She cheats on her husband before finding out that he too has had a one night stand with his colleague. I’d written more than half the script before realising that my unconscious scribble was actually turning into an interesting tale and that’s when I approached a few publishers in Delhi. Rupa and co. liked the story and decided to publish it. The book became a bestseller within a few months of its release. That’s when it struck me what I’d put myself into.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on my overall schedule as I continue to work on different social projects which require me to travel. I usually write one book a year. However, I’ve three poetry collections to my credit and my latest is a collection of short stories, titled, ‘That Woman You See,’ (2015, Alchemy). It took me much lesser time to complete these books. Of course, they were written and published at different points in time.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
My work schedule is quite haphazard due to my travel and other commitments. When I’m working on a book (and not traveling), I make it a point to write almost four to five hours at a stretch…leaving my study table only when my twelve year old son-- who is incidentally being home schooled this year but himself has a packed schedule-- needs my attention.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm. Nothing that I can immediately point out. However, I’m particular about drinking water only from my green – coloured bottle during my short - breaks, if that can be counted as a writing quirk. J
On the other hand, my characters come across as slightly odd or quirky while at the same time they could be anyone you might know or come across in real life. So, for example, the lead female protagonist of my first novel, ‘In Pursuit of Infidelity,’ Sheena loves dancing but after marriage has almost given up on her passion. Then she meets one of her ex – college senior who invites her to a dance party. An excited Sheena almost forces her husband to accompany her to the party despite knowing well that her husband has two left feet. Yet when he accompanies her to the dance floor, she closes her eyes and starts dancing all by herself, forgetting everything about him. Similarly, Sangeet, the lead female – character of my third novel, ‘In pursuit of a lesser offence,’ is deliberately shown as a hyper - sensitive, confused, cynical – about - men kind of a woman. Her actions and clumsy behaviour brings out her insecure personality.
What projects are you working on at the present?
As I shared above my last book was a collection of short stories, titled, ‘That Woman You See,’ (Alchemy, 2015). The collection features nine different stories with a common theme running through them. It focuses on the bold and expressive new – age Indian woman and how she goes about fulfilling her needs and aspirations even at the cost of appearing rebellious or odd.
I’ve just finished writing the first draft of my 4th novel (and my eighth book). It’s a political thriller and narrates the story of a woman who loses everything in her life. She rises from the ashes and despite facing many odds decides to fight back.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part in this book was creating the backdrop and setting of the story. It spans two decades and the political setting of the story had to be made powerful and believable to make it work. I had to depend on informal chats with well – informed friends, read several articles and pull out the relevant information from the net that helped me develop the main plot of the story. Thankfully, I’ve a powerful imagination and because of that I was able to manage the tricky portions. However, writing this book was an excruciatingly slow and difficult journey for me.
Out of all my books, this has been the most challenging one and took me more than three years to complete. There are two reasons for that; one, for the first time since I started writing, I’m attempting a different genre than the one I’ve been writing in. Secondly, I’d started writing the novel in 2013 but left it mid - way to complete my third book in the ‘pursuit’ series. I only went back to it somewhere in mid-2015. Let’s hope the readers find the story engaging and meaningful.
To know more about Sujata, kindly visit her website: www.sujataparashar.in