Shilpa Gupta is author of the novel entitled Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey, which was published earlier in the year. We interviewed Shilpa to find out more about the lady herself, to learn about her book, to get some tips on writing and getting published, and to get a sneak preview of her next book. Read on to learn what Shilpa had to say.
Welcome to e-Books India, Shilpa! We’re thrilled to have you here with us! Please tell us a bit about you. Where do you come from? What work do you do? How did you get into writing?
Hi! Thanks for giving me this opportunity.
I was born and brought up in Bhilai, a steel township. This steel plant was set up in collaboration with erstwhile USSR. This influenced me in two key ways: i) my writing in school – short stories and poems – had a bend towards socialism ii) my inclination to opt for engineering – I did B Tech (Chemical) from IIT Roorkee.
I hold a postgraduate degree in management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. After working as an investment banker for thirteen years in Mumbai, I relocated to Pune in 2007 and quit my corporate career a couple of years later to take care of my two growing boys. Apart from mathematics and finance, my interests lie in meditation, writing, painting and travel.
I am an avid reader and I think a lot of reading inspires writing. As part of my professional life, I used to write about 50-100 pages of financial research every month. Of course, it was more structured and method driven than writing fiction, but nevertheless writing became a habit. Once I quit my corporate career, my writing moved from non-fiction to fiction.
Your debut novel is called Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey. Can you please tell us a bit what this story and its main characters? What in particular inspired you to write this book?
About the book
Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey is an honest portrayal of a teenager’s life. It captures an entire generation’s struggle of growing up in today’s often troubled times. The book deals with the issue of teenage pregnancy.
The protagonist is Ananya Sharma who is not your regular, teenage girl-next-door. She adores hanging out with her friends and engaging in whispered confidences at sleepovers, but when it comes to boys, she has competition on her mind rather than romance. At school, she really enjoys math and the sciences, and is completely focused on passing the IIT entrance exams. Ananya relaxes only when she is with her three good friends Mohini (her best friend and a genius), Sanjana (a trained classical dancer) and Nandini (a talented painter).
Her good family friend and classmate Amit is interested in her, but she is oblivious to the fact. She instead falls for Mohini’s brother, the handsome and charming Rohit who is doing his post-graduation in the US and visits India during his break.
She becomes pregnant at the age of seventeen, and discovers that the world is a very different place once you are on its wrong side. She also discovers the fault lines in her parents’ relationship, which come to the surface because of this episode in their lives.
The last and in my view the most important part of the book deals with her efforts and struggle to cope and rebuild her life.
Inspiration behind the book
The inspiration for writing this book came from a visit to an orphanage. At the orphanage, it broke my heart to see so many small kids who had either lost their parents or were abandoned by them. There were babies small enough to be in the cradle and as a tiny one wrapped its palm around my finger, it was all I could do to not cry. And yes, lots of these abandoned kids were of teenage mothers, who because of cultural, social and economic reasons were not able to keep their children with them. I left with a heavy heart, but the hours spent there left an indelible print on my mind and heart.
I then decided to take up this as a research project. As part of my research, I met lots of doctors, gynaecologists and psychologists. And what I found was that the issue of teenage sex is witnessing an alarming rise. And given the lack or low level of awareness it often results in various physical and psychological complications like depression, pregnancy or even in one tragic case, suicide.
I hope this book by raising awareness addresses some of these issues and contributes in its own small way.
What things inspire you to write?
I draw my inspiration from real life. By nature I am a keen observer and a curious person. Life provides me with a very rich and fascinating canvas of people, emotions and situations.
Do you have any other novel(s) that you’re working on? If so, can you please tell us what we can expect from you in the future?
I have finished writing my second book. It has a female protagonist and deals with the underbelly of the stock markets. It is a study in contrasts.
The book covers the highs and the lows of the stock markets, including things that are visible to the outsiders and those that are not. It contains shenanigans of the manipulators and gullibility of the victims. It is about what is right and what can go so horribly wrong! It demonstrates how the stock markets are driven by greed and fear; the herd mentality of the markets and the hedonism of an individual. The book is about falling down but not staying down.
It is a story of shakers and movers! It is fast paced, racy and realistic.
Do you like to read? If so, who is your favourite author and what do you like about his or her writing?
Oh yes, I love to read. Like my protagonist Ananya in the book, I even read the paper in which the bhel comes wrapped, before throwing it away. And like her in school I used to spend all my pocket money on library subscriptions or buying books. When I started earning, for the first few years I hardly had any savings as I spent all on books and travel.
I read almost everything – books across genres. However, I prefer classics. My all time favourite authors, in no particular order, are Bronte sisters, Harper Lee, Kafka, Steinbeck, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Tolkein, Ayn Rand, Richard Bach, Salman Rushdie and Victor Hugo.
From your experiences of becoming a published author, can you please share 3 key pieces of advice with budding authors who wish to do the same?
I would try and cover the three most important aspects for a writer – writing, getting published and book promotion.
The first bit of suggestion would be related to writing itself. And here I have only one suggestion to give and that is, be original. With ~90,000 books being published every year in India alone, the space is very crowded, so the best way to stand out and create a space for yourself is by putting out an original work.
The second would be related to getting published. Have a good, well-reputed agent represent your work to publishers. The chances of your book being picked up by a publisher are definitely higher if an agent represents your work.
The third would be related to book promotion, that bane of many first time authors. The best promotion is coming out with a good product. A good book by way of ‘word of mouth’ publicity does its own promotion. However, even a good product may not get noticed if not marketed well.
Many authors (including yours truly) believe – at least initially – that having delivered their book, they can just sit back and enjoy royalties. But these days, authors need to invest large amounts of time and resources in promoting their books. Some of the things than an author may consider for promoting his/her book:
– Promotion on social media
– Engaging with readers through book reading sessions
– Hosting contests
– Event tie-ups
– Reviews by bloggers/newspapers/magazines
– Hiring a PR firm.
How can people find out more about you?
I can be reached at –
Getting a copy of Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey
We would like to express our deep thanks to Shilpa for joining us for this interview. If you would like to get a copy of her book Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey, you can do so at stores such as Amazon and Flipkart.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/hv1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of eBooks India. He is also a prolific eBook writer with over 25 titles to his name.[/author_info] [/author]