Good writing is scarce these days and when one knows a writer who has already impressed the world through her social media updates, one knows that a book written by her has to be worth reading. Kamalini Natesan is one such person who has the sort of experiences that would have a lot to communicate to a reader of fiction. When one knows a writer to have written poetry as well that has been applauded one knows intuitively that even her prose offering is going to be as lyrical and as rhythmic as life generally is.
No, I haven’t yet read the book and so this post isn’t a review. However, I did manage to ask the writer a few questions that would interest anyone searching for a good tale to read. Kamalini, as I gather, is a well-travelled person and I assumed that the book would be some sort of a travelogue. The first question, therefore, reflected that basic curiosity and I asked, ‘One looks at the cover and wonders immediately — is it a fictional tale or a travelogue? Are there short pieces or is the entire narrative connected by the experiences of the main character? How do you describe the book?’
She answered, ‘The book is a seamless story, as one chapter moves into another, covering Suchareeta, the protagonist’s experiences in Norway. Yes, the narrative is connected. It is a fictional tale, drawn from real life experiences. The book is best described as a young person’s story, wherein she discovers parts of her forgotten self. Travelling away from the familiar sheds new light upon all that is familiar.’ Most readers are forever wanting to understand the publishing process and would love to know something about the conversations that go on with the publisher once the manuscript has been submitted. So when I asked her about this and how easy or difficult had been her conversations with the publisher throughout the publishing process, she said, ‘Olympia, UK, was hugely supportive and patient. During the editing process, I went through a family crisis and it took me far longer to revert with the edits than one would imagine. They have been caring and patient, going back and forth with as many edits as I wished to bring to my original manuscript. The conversations with my manager were in sync, polite and I always received answers to as many queries, as a debut novelist might wish to put forth.’
Those of you who have browsed the net will have noticed the price difference between the print and the e-book version. I asked the author, ‘How do you explain this difference?’
Kamalini informed me that ‘the disadvantage of having a foreign publisher is that you are not in control or even in touch with the business side of your book. Olympia retails the book in its paperback and e-versions, and they do not decide the pricing.
I’ve already mentioned that the author knows and navigates her thoughts through words like a pro. The next question obviously had to be one about the reasons for the gap between her writing and releasing the book finally. Kamalini told me that she began releasing updates only when once she knew the actual date of her book release and so ‘I started ‘advertising’ my book only a month before its release as I had been asked to by my publicity Manager. I thought that was considered normal in this day and age.’
It was time for me to hop from the publishing to the writing process and I asked, ‘Poetry in prose is how someone once defined one of your short pieces on the social media. Does this kind of control over the written word come with riyaaz or is it something that some people just have it in them?’
Kamalini Natesan: ‘Thank you! Yes, riyaaz is a good word. I think writing is a natural calling, yet one needs to hone one’s skills- one needs to write- to practice – to edit, to de-clutter.
To produce anything of a certain caliber that would merit a read and even a reread, one must write, there’s no escaping that.
What I do think is that it is always good to have a few writer friends to read your pieces, and critique you. To get perspective on one’s craft it is vital to have a cluster of folk whose opinion you respect.’
‘How important has reading been for your writing instinct?’
KN: ‘I cannot over-emphasize the importance of reading good work. Reading has fired my imagination and gifted me words and ideas and aided my flights of fantasy like nothing else.’
‘How important, do you believe, are short-term writing sessions or workshops for budding writers?’
KN: ‘Short-term writing sessions, many of which I have attended, are interesting and more importantly, add to one’s repertoire if you find a good mentor. One always does. Writing workshops expose a budding writer to different genres, and force the imagination to open wide its doors to all sorts of skills. Often one discovers one’s talent, and meets folk that one would normally neither befriend nor run across in daily living. They are useful and can trigger more than just brilliant ideas. Interacting with other writers has proved enriching.’
There are so many authors busy with marketing their own work these days and there is an equal number complaining about the writer-publisher-reader equation as this can be cost-intensive besides caging an author in a game-play that is alien to the psyche of a writer. Some writers that I have talked to, have felt that the marketing process can be a terrible drag on their creative instincts. When I asked Kamalini about this, she said, ‘I was unaware of the fact that I needed to market my book. I believed that was the job of the publisher. However, I realise that some amount of marketing needs to be done by the author as well. So when book marketers approached me, I was appalled at how much they charge for this. I was not ready to shell out so much money. Eventually, I did select one company, which will do some amount of marketing for me. Let’s see how effective they will be. For the rest, I’m relying on reviews and bloggers. Olympia themselves, are doing some publicity, but mostly in the UK.’
‘Do you think writers must be as immersive about the promotions and sales of their book as they are about the writing process?’
‘I believe in this day and age, they should be. I’m not quite there, but am learning along the way.’
‘What message do you have for those who haven’t yet read your book?’
KN: ‘I have a feeling that this book is one that you need to take your time to read, and travel with Suchareeta as she grows from a young, naïve Indian girl in her twenties, to one that has understood that right or wrong is not an absolute. She comes to realise that life is about living and breathing in the moments richly endowed with experiences. It is in allowing oneself to take in without reserve that the experiences become part of your persona. They trigger the discovery of the beauty that lies within.
If my novel can convey this message, and if the reader resonates with the characters in my story, I would be more than pleased. I don’t know what a successful novel must have, but my book will give rise to some questions within the reader. And each one will have different answers. I would love it if a reader came away feeling he has not wasted his time, and was thrilled to have been to Norway with Suchu.’