We’re kicking off the ‘Meet a writer’ series at TenderLeaves. We interview local writers who are just about taking off in their writing careers – and have them share their experiences – so YOU can see behind the scenes about what it takes to bring out a book. We start our series with an interview of Pune-based writer Rupali Rotti, whose book The Valentine’s Day Clue came out a short while ago.
Q: After working for eight years across major companies, what got you into writing?
Rupali: Writing a book and getting it published was a childhood dream. I used to write poems, short stories, thoughts and articles as a school kid. But then after college, when I got busy with my career, the hobby took a backseat. But there was still a small flicker in the back of my mind somewhere. It was in the darkest hour that the books I read came as a ray of light. How the protagonists overcome every difficulty taught me to hold on just a little longer. I only hope that my writing could do for the readers, what those books did for me. If I could inspire a single person, I’ll be at peace with myself.
Q: Your first book, The Valentine’s Day Clue is now available. Can you please tell us your experience writing this book?
Rupali: It was very funny, actually! Sometimes I’d spring up on my bed in the dead of the night and start scribbling away. I called these as “write attacks”. And sometimes, I’d go days without writing a single word. I’d ask an out of the blue question to my colleagues,to my bosses even! And they’d be like: “What’s happened to her?” I’m a very straight forward person. And if you ask such a person to immediately start writing suspense, they’ll ask you, “Woh kis chidiya ka naam hai?” I knew what suspense could do – make you bite your nails; make you sit at the edge of your seat. But how to create it in my writing was the biggest puzzle.
Q: Detective fiction, especially featuring amateur detectives is a very challenging genre for a new writer. What prompted you to pick up this subject?
Rupali: I’ve always been a big fan of detective adventure stories. I’ve even tried a hand at practical sleuthing. I’d once followed a lead to find a thief who’d stolen my bicycle. I managed to find him even! But then I chickened out looking at the sheer size of him. I thought that since I personally have no exposure to formal ways of sleuthing or police work, it would be better to start my characters as amateurs. Then as ‘I’ gather knowledge, contacts, and experience, I could advance ‘their’ skills as well.
Q: What did your routine look like while writing the book, The Valentine Day’s Clue? Did you write daily and according to a schedule?
Rupali: I was running a business back when I was writing this book. So, there was no schedule as such. But all my ‘personal’ time would be spent in writing, or at least thinking about it.
Q: How did you market/promote your book?
Rupali: I’ve become a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) Association, which provides a lot of help to the new authors, including promoting their books internationally. I’ve registered with goodreads.com as an author. I’ve created a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nayak-Brothers/482964381731444. I also have created a website: http://nayakbrothers.webs.com/. I even went to college and public libraries in Pune.
Q: In one of your posts at http://nayakbrothers.webs.com , you mention that as a woman, writing for male protagonists was a challenging task. Can you please elaborate on this?
Rupali: Girls and guys think differently. For example: The Nayak brothers pataofy their friend Dev by telling him that his brother was beaten up because he’d proposed to a girl. A ‘sister’ would have been angry at whoever beat her brother up. But as brother, Dev feels proud about this. So there are very slight differences in the thought process of both sexes, which can easily be mistaken. I don’t use any bad words (in fact, if any of my friends uses a bad word, he apologizes for it, because I don’t like it). Moreover, I don’t like hurting anyone – physically or even emotionally. Though I know guys (and especially criminals) would not find it difficult to even ‘do’ those things if the situation so arises.
Q: What kind of research did you do before writing this book? Did you visit places in Pune mentioned in the book to better illustrate the story?
Rupali: Yes, I visited most of the places mentioned in the book, clicked relevant pictures, and then shared them in the book for the readers. In fact, I’d never been to Sinhagad before writing this book – I went specifically for my research and loved the place! I pataofied a doctor to help me with the medical details mentioned in the book. Like when the Nayak brothers are attacked with chilli powder, I asked the effects and remedies of such a situation, if it arises in real life. There’s another incident in the book when Sandy is held captive with his hands tied behind his back. I wanted to find a way for him to free himself. So, I found a kid trained in gymnastics and made her try that.
Q: On a related note, what are your favourite places in Pune? Where would one find you on a weekend?
Rupali: JM Road, JM temple, Pashan road is fantastic for long drives, Sinhagad is cool for trekking, Phoenix and Inorbit Malls in Viman nagar (me being a movie fanatic), and Peth areas for shopping. I like long drives – sometimes I go out alone, with my husband working all day long and having only one week-off. Sometimes I go to small villages around the Nagar Road, sometimes Hinjewadi, sometimes Chikhali, Pradhikaran, Kalyani nagar, wherever the road takes me.
Q: Does writing keep you financially independent? Do you think India’s literary ecosystem is ready to support writers completely?
Rupali: I haven’t started earning through my writing yet. But I’ve heard from many writers (across the world) that it is better to have a second source of ‘supportive’ income. I think India is yet to develop its literary ecosystem fully. It has seen a sudden crop of new writers, older being just a handful (especially in English lit). So we should be patient, observant, and progressive. At the same time, this whole industry itself is going through a big change with e-publishing picking pace all over the world. Who knows what’s in store for us now?
Q: There has been an explosion of new writing in India – but there is also criticism that ‘elitist’ writing is dying and writing for mass audiences has picked up. What are your thoughts?
Rupali: I think in case of writing in India the reader base has just increased multi-fold after Chetan Bhagat. This also has encouraged the story tellers in India to become authors. It was thought that in order to write, you have to be perfect in English. But now, the story tellers are realizing that they can tell their story in whichever way they prefer. There’s a huge difference between ‘buddhu’, ‘chaman’ and ‘Chatursing’/’Birbal’. But does the word ‘stupid’ communicate the exact feelings like all those Hindi words did? Such a thing was long due – Indian authors writing in Indian context for Indian readers in Indian English.
Q: Who are your favourite authors? What is your favourite book?
Rupali: Franklin W. Dixon, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, J K Rowling. I like the ‘Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators’ series, Nancy Drew series & the Hardy Boys series. I can’t put a finger on just one book as my favourite.
Q: When can we expect to read the next adventure of the Nayak brothers?
Rupali: I’ve given myself a target of pushing one book out every year. Let’s see how it works out.
Q: What advice do you have for budding writers?
Rupali: Well, something that the Nayak brothers learn the hard way in this book series, and something that applies to all of us: It’s easier to break your will when you don’t have a purpose to go on. And a kick in the a** is also a step forward.Most importantly, enjoy your writing & do well. God bless!