Thursday, February 6, 2014

Interview : Sarita Varma

Sarita Varma is not new to literary field. She has contributed short stories for the Chicken Soup series and has written many articles for magazines and websites. She is actively associated with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India. Writing transports her to a different, magical world of make believe. 

When did you start writing and how has been your journey as an author so far?

I have been writing forever! As  a schoolgirl, I and my friend, author Anjana Appachana, would write stories to entertain each other when we had exhausted what the libraries had to offer. In the past two decades, I have written for NGO publications like PLAN INDIA & MSSI, online websites and contributed stories for a couple of Chicken Soup books.  As you can see the journey has been varied and  unplanned and I have taken life pretty much as it has come. My active association with the Pune chapter of MSSI ( Multiple sclerosis society of India),  and looking after my family has kept me busy. When I was approached by Indirom, now Indireads to write a romantic novella meant  for e publication I jumped at the offer and that's how 'Girl From Fatehpur' was born!

What was the inspiration behind your novella - Girl from Fatehpur? Why novella and why not a full length novel?

As an army child, I have lived in small towns  and my own family is from Allahabad. The transition as an adult to the metros of Kolkata and Mumbai inspired the novella. I think it is interesting the way girls from small towns change and adapt to a faster paced life yet retain the values of their upbringing. That's not to say that some don't go overboard!  My heroine is a little old fashioned !
The length of the novella was decided by the publisher because it was in e format. I myself would be happy with a longer format.

Are you satisfied with the final version of 'Girl from Fatehpur'? Do you think you could have improved it more?

As my first serious writing of substantial length, the book is very special to me although I don't think any writer is ever satisfied with the final product!  There is always room for improvement! However, you also have to heed the advice of your editors and publishers and manage deadlines. I know I could have  developed the situations/conflict better in a slightly longer format and hopefully in my next effort I will.

What is next after this? What is your dream piece of writing?

I have always been fascinated by the historical genre and my next piece of writing deals with our pre independence days.

Which genre of books do you enjoy reading the most? Who are  your favourite authors - Indian and foreign?

I enjoy historical romances  with a light hearted touch, especially the books by Georgette Heyer and also the  detective writings of Ellis Peters and Ruth Rendell. Ruskin Bond, Anjana Appachana and Anuja Chauhan are the  Indian writers I admire most. I think the sheer familiarity of the local atmosphere in writings by Indian authors makes all the difference to readers and, may I add, the quality of writing too is as good as any in the English speaking world. 

How difficult/easy it is for an amateur writer to get published these days? What all roadblocks one is required to surmount in order to see the final published product?

While it has always been difficult for writers to find sympathetic publishers, the opportunities now offered on a vast, international level by electronic media have been truly mind boggling! The e format idea is slowly catching on and Indireads is a path-breaker in popularising  South Asian literature.  Any good publisher will meticulously edit your writing and even suggest changes. It helps to have an open mind to suggestions and  constructive criticism...after all, you do want your book to reach a wide audience and editors can provide the much needed objective view of your writing. It is a good idea to submit drafts and meet necessary deadlines. Later on, it is best to cooperate with the publisher to promote your book.

What do you have to say about Indian literary scene? What all changes are taking place in this field?

The Indian literary scene is dynamic and interestingly poised.  There is a huge potential market of English readers in India  and slowly the writing is reaching out to varied groups of readers in the sub-continent and outside. Literary festivals, book readings, the easy availability of books not just in book stores but also through online stores  all help generate interest and hopefully sales.

What are the areas where Indian writings lag behind their foreign counterparts?

Indian writers don't lag behind in quality of writing but perhaps they do so in marketing them. The  common view  is that the subject matter/ cultural atmosphere/story line of Indian writing  may be too India-centric or exotic to be internationally appealing...although my own personal view is that a good book always has universal appeal. I believe this will change as the world gets more connected through electronic media and travel.

What suggestions would you offer to the budding authors?

Simple advice for budding authors is  they should be true to themselves and should  know their  subject matter well to create the right atmosphere. Stick to simple story lines till they have gained experience. There are many book clubs/associations where it is possible to promote  books and networking helps but the best is  still to find a good committed publisher. While it is now easier  to self publish books through online websites, it is not easy to market the book. 

You don a lot of hats during a single day, which of the activities that you engage in is the most satisfying for you?

Of the many roles I play during the day , the most satisfying is that of mother! Not that I can do much of that now with both my children grown up and living ' saat samundar paar'. There is another hat I like to wear when I can ....and that is chilling out with my good friends. In their company I am once again a happy go lucky teenager:)

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