Night at the Warehouse – Free Preview

Okay, who loves getting creeped out? Me! Me! But I also can’t sleep after reading a horror novel or seeing something scary on TV because in my imagination, the shirts hanging at the back of the door, transform themselves into sinister monsters at night, something that will creep towards me while I turn my face away from it, slide its cold finger up my spine and then…

You get the point. I actually do enjoy writing horror/creepy/supernatural stuff and I’ve recently begun to see how much fun it is to scare other people.

What creeps you out the most? Dolls? Clowns? Mannequins?

SSshhhhh…..

Read the free preview here ( a little more than what is available on the Juggernaut site)  and decide for yourself.

Chapter 1

Two young girls enter a shop in a lane, adjacent to a busy road. There is a yellowing shopping complex on the main road, thronged with shoppers, but the two girls are looking for something else entirely.

Both the girls are pretty and Sonia whose birthday it is today, smiles at the shopkeeper who looks back, somewhat startled and he smiles back hesitatingly. His shop is a tiny square, and barring the entrance, the entire wall space is packed with clothes hanging off racks. The other girl, Reema, asks him to get all his latest designs.

A lone mannequin stands at the corner, dressed in a pale-yellow summer dress that reaches its knees. It’s old, the plastic eroded in places, and the grin on its face almost macabre. The dress however, looks new. The shopkeeper pushes the door to an inner sanctum and steps inside, asking them to wait.

Sonia looks at Reema and shakes her head, looking sceptical. ‘Really? You think he’ll have something good here?’

Reema nods. ‘You want something mind-blowing, right? This guy has the best imports I’ve seen. Remember that maroon top I wore the other day to Sunita’s party? Got it from here,’ she says.

Sonia looks thoughtful, her hands inside her pockets, and nods. She looks around the items on display with a great deal of interest. Lots of floral prints and soft material but what she’s looking for isn’t here.

Sonia’s eyes connect with the mannequin’s for the barest of seconds and she turns away as the man walks back inside the store.

‘See this, madam,’ he says, showing her three dresses that are on hangers. Sonia’s eyes widen, but not in appreciation. She looks at Reema and shakes her head slightly. She doesn’t want to hurt the shopkeeper’s feelings, but these are not the kind of clothes she would ever wear. One of them is a knee-length dress in baby pink with pink hearts all over it. It has a sweetheart neck which only makes it worse. The other two are somewhat better in terms of colour—one is blue and one is green—but their designs are extremely kitschy.

Reema understands the look on Sonia’s face.

‘Bhaiya, show us some of your new designs?’ Reema asks him. He brings more. Sonia hates them all. She begins to feel terrible about rejecting everything he brings. She’s about to tell him enough when he gestures towards the mannequin.

‘How about that one, madam? I put it on display just today,’ he says. Sonia walks up to the mannequin and inspects the dress it’s wearing. It looks promising.

Eager to make a sale, the shopkeeper looks relieved when she doesn’t say no immediately.

‘Do you want to try it on?’ he asks. Sonia looks around in surprise. Where?

‘You can go inside and try it. There’s a mirror there too,’ he says. Reema is checking something on her phone and looks up.

‘Aryan just confirmed. He’s coming,’ she tells Sonia whose face lights up. Reema rolls her eyes. Sonia’s crush on Aryan is becoming a little too apparent. To be honest, almost all the girls in class have a crush on him, but Sonia is hoping to catch his eye this evening at her birthday party.

‘Okay, I’ll try this dress,’ she says and waits for the shopkeeper to get her a new piece. But he moves towards the mannequin instead.

‘Wait, don’t you have any fresh pieces?’ she asks.

‘Only piece, madam. I put it on just a few minutes ago before you came,’ he says.

There’s no space for him to undress the mannequin however, and so he lifts the mannequin and takes it inside, beckoning Sonia to come with him. Sonia looks at Reema who nods.

Go, she mouths the words.

Somewhat uneasily, Sonia follows the man to the windowless room inside that is packed with cardboard boxes and cartons. It’s a storeroom, Sonia thinks with dismay. Small and claustrophobic.

Reema is just outside, Sonia tells herself as the man places the mannequin in the centre and peels off the dress carefully, handing it to Sonia.

‘Try it and see. There’s a mirror also,’ he says pointing to the mirror on one side of the room and leaves.

Liked it? Buy the ebook on Juggernaut here.

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Ten Questions I was asked

Kanchana Bannerjee, fellow writer and friend whom I interviewed for my blog sometime back, returned the favour and asked me ten questions on her blog. You can read the full interview and visit her amazing website here – http://www.kanchanabanerjee.com.

Meanwhile here are her questions and my answers –

Q1. The series of stories that you are doing with Juggernaut, how did you come up with the idea? What’s the duration and how many stories are you doing?

A. To be honest, the idea was from my editor Trisha actually and I jumped on it. She wanted me to write a set of short stories set in a Muslim milieu, something that was second nature to me when I started my writing career. I hadn’t written short stories in a long time and the entire process has reawakened the joy of writing short fiction for me.

Q 2. Is there an underlying theme you are adhering to?

A. No theme as such. As I mentioned in the above answer, they are just set within a Muslim milieu.

Q 3.Typically, how long do you take to write these stories?

A. It depends on the idea really. Sometimes an afternoon, sometimes a couple of days at the most.

Q 4.When you write, what comes first to you; the plot or the character?

A. In a novel, it’s always the plot. In short stories, an interesting character acts as a trigger to write the story.

Q 5.You started with Young Adult fiction, then moved on to romance. You’ve done a brilliant horror story, and quite a few romances. Any particular reason you moved away from YA?

A. I love writing. Period. I don’t want to be confined to any genre but I realise there may be practical reasons why I cannot choose a certain genre like maybe crime fiction because I wouldn’t be able to do accurate research. Young Adult fiction is my first love. I haven’t moved away from it completely. I am going to return to it soon in fact! I’m so glad you enjoyed the horror story! There’s a series of horror shorts coming out on Juggernaut as well as a horror novel that’s coming out next year.

Q 6. Which genre you enjoyed the most and which did you find the most challenging?

A. I love writing romance. Despite being a very cynical person, I love writing about the chemistry between two people, what makes them tick, that first glance, that unspoken thing that only the two involved know. But then, I’ve realized writing horror is just as fun. So I try and bring a little bit of romance inside the horror as well, as I did in It Waits.

Q 7. What’s your writing schedule?

A. It’s like a proper job. However, I used to write whenever the mood struck me. Now I’m more organized and write only in the morning. The rest of the day I take off for editing and other work that comes up as part of my life of being a ‘jobless’ writer.

Q 8. Do you wait for inspiration to strike? Give us a few examples of how some of the stories you have written have come to you?

A. Fortunately, I’ve never had to wait for inspiration as such because there are multiple ideas crowding in my head and I can give space to only one at a time. But there have been instances when an idea would come in just because of the way I’ve seen something and it gets stuck in my head. Examples, okay. I got the idea for When She Went Away when I saw this man and woman having a very intense conversation while I was at a tailor. I couldn’t help but keep looking at them even though I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I couldn’t forget the expression on that man’s face. That somehow evolved into the story of a girl whose mother leaves her family and goes away with the man she had loved when she was in college. Then, for Asmara’s Summer which is set in Tannery Road in Bangalore came about with a ‘what if’ scenario. What if a girl from an upper middle-class family is forced to stay here for a month. How would she manage? Tannery Road is the very opposite of posh and clean.The main story of It Waits with the bracelet causing the transformation came to me in a dream!

Q 9. You’re one of the most prolific writers, I know of. Have you experienced a block? How do you stay energized to write so much?

A. Thank you. It’s all thanks to Allah that I’ve never experienced a block but I deliberately gave myself a year off from writing in 2014. I had finished writing When She Went Away in December 2013, and it was officially my 10thbook. I felt like I needed a break although to be honest, I couldn’t wait for 2015 to begin so I could start writing again. Also, I’ve decided not to take such breaks in future. I hope I can write as long as Allah wills it. I remember being rather worried when at a book launch, Kamila Shamsie mentioned what her aunt Attia Hossain had said, that writing is a muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I don’t intend to lose my writing muscle!

Q10. What’s next from the pen of Andaleeb Wajid?

A. Okay, where do I begin? The romance short stories on Juggernaut will come to an end in August but there will be horror short stories coming out soon. I don’t know the frequency they will be published though. There’s a somewhat slow paced, old school romance coming out later this year with Amaryllis, which has taken a very long time to publish. It’s called The Sum of All my Parts. Next year, I’ve got a contemporary romance/chick lit type book that Penguin is publishing, and then there’s the horror novel as well. That’s it, I guess.

 

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Happening in exactly a month – A book reading at iBrowse

I realised just as I was sitting down to write this post, that the book reading is on 9th June, exactly a month from now. Marianne De Nazareth (a well known writer herself) conducts these book reading sessions at the iBrowse Club which is a book club at Catholic Club.

I’ve had the pleasure of being their guest twice already, once in 2011 for my second book Blinkers Off and then once last year, for Asmara’s Summer. The attendees are serious readers and they’re there to talk to writers, ask them questions and pick up the book if they like it enough.

So, we’ll be discussing my book The Crunch Factor on 9th June. The Crunch Factor was published in mid-April by Hachette is available online and in bookstores as well. For those who have read my previous books, especially More than Just Biryani, please do understand that although this book is about food, it’s nothing like the biryani book.

The Crunch Factor is a contemporary romance with two young people who are confused (as most young people in any generation are) about the choices they have and who they want to spend their lives with. It’s also lighthearted, frothy and fun and I had such fun writing it.

So if you want to talk to me, ask me questions about the book etc, drop in at Catholic Club on 9th June at 6 pm. Here’s the invite:

 

Some come off to Catholic Club and say hi!

 

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A Sweet Deal

For those who don’t know, Juggernaut published one of my cutest/sweetest romances in early April. It’s called A Sweet Deal. Download the book from the website/app here.

Meanwhile, here’s a free preview.

 

 

Chapter One

What to do when you drop your Kindle in the toilet?

Rumana taps out the question on her phone, her fingers shaking slightly.

The search throws up several ideas. The most common suggestion – put the Kindle in a bag of rice and not switch it on. But Rumana’s gaze is snagged when she comes to her favourite author’s name. Stephen King. She taps on the link and the website opens.

‘If you drop a book into the toilet, you can fish it out, dry it off and read that book. But if you drop your Kindle in the toilet, you’re pretty well done.’

‘Fuck,’ she mutters as she stares at the dripping Kindle she’s placed on the sink. Her mother had hated it when she took books inside the loo. And when she got her Kindle, it was obvious that that was going inside too. Placing her phone carefully on the window ledge, Rumana gets up, zips up her jeans, and purses her mouth.

Bag of rice, here we come, she thinks as she washes her hands and then pushes her wavy hair away from her face. But no one tells me whether I should wash it once more, just in case, since it fell into the toilet. Ugh.

Neharika will be of no help. An avid paperback reader, she’d scoffed at Rumana when she bought her Kindle. Rumana would often smile at her friend sweetly whenever she pulled it out from her bag to read during the interminable waiting they had to do – waiting for the café name to be registered, or the contractors to show up with the labour during their months of preparation. If she was without a paperback, Neharika couldn’t do anything but sketch or doodle on her faithful but battered Samsung Note 2, her only concession to technology apart from her laptop.

Maybe it’s time to throw it away, Rumana thinks as she looks at the Kindle once again. It’s gross to think about how it slipped from her hand and fell into the toilet with a splat. Yuck. Thankfully this had happened right after she’d entered the loo, or else there would be no doubt she’d have to throw it.

But now? She can’t bring herself to do it. Her Kindle has been with her for years, her companion on long flights and train journeys and sometimes even on the awful commute to work when she’d take an auto and not her scooter. It’s not just the question of getting another one. It’s this one that she’d miss.

She picks up her phone, pushes it inside her pocket and walks out of the loo, game face on because it’s going to be a busy day. It’s a Saturday and the café has been booked for a birthday party for the following day. Parties are good for business, and the owners, Rumana and Neharika, have a ton of work to do.

***

‘This menu needs something more,’ Neharika says as Rumana picks up her apron and ties it tightly around her waist.

‘Like?’

‘I don’t know. I’m so fed up of this Frozen theme. Sick of it,’ she mutters. ‘We’re doing the centrepiece cake, that huge thingy with the Elsa figurine, blue buttercream and snowflake cupcakes, Olaf cake pops, party favours with snowflake cookies…’

‘Nothing savoury?’ Rumana asks as she looks at the notes Neharika has made on a sketch pad.

‘Umm…’

‘Look up something on Pinterest? I have to find me a bag of rice,’ Rumana says as she looks around their store room.

‘For what?’ Neharika trails behind her, pencil tucked behind her ear.

‘Never mind,’ Rumana mutters. ‘Just check Pinterest and see if there’s some way we can come up with some cheese based savoury treat which can fit into the theme as well.’

Neharika frowns at her and then heads back to the café counter where she powers up her laptop and starts browsing.

‘Jackpot!’ she yells sometime later, startling Rumana, who has been pouring rice into a plastic bag. Shaking her head, Rumana tries to take the bag of rice back into the bathroom without Neharika spotting her, or she’ll never hear the end of it.

Kindle packed into rice, she looks around for a place to hide it until it dries completely. She stashes it on a shelf on top of the sink and heads back outside.

‘Cheese puffs. We can make them look like the trolls!’ Neharika announces.

‘Awesome.’

Rumana gets started with work. They’d opened the café, Not Too Sweet, six months ago, and it’s been a slow, painful process. Every bit of money they’d managed to save as corporate drones in their previous lives had gone into the cafe and it would take some time till they broke even. Until then, it was a slog fest.

They had a smart-mouthed twenty-year-old who helped them out with all their outdoor chores. He also doubled up as the waiter during opening hours.

‘I hope you texted Vinod,’ says Neharika as she starts the batter for the cake.

‘I thought you did,’ Rumana says, handing her the flour.

Neharika glares at her. Before Rumana can reply, the door opens and Vinod lounges in empty-handed.

‘Bloody hell,’ Rumana mutters. ‘Stop. Stop right there before you enter.’

‘Huh?’

Despite being on the verge of twenty-one, Vinod has still retained the sloth-like ways characteristic of teenagers. If he gets behind the counter, he doesn’t move until they physically kick him out.

‘We need you to get these things,’ Neharika says, scribbling everything on a paper and handing it to him.

He stares at the list like it’s a vile snake.

‘Money?’ he asks.

‘I thought…’ Neharika looks at Rumana who stares back at her balefully.

‘Babe, we need to communicate better and not look like such fools,’ Rumana mutters under her breath as she pulls out the cash box from the drawer. The birthday client had given them an advance, which should hopefully cover all the costs.

‘Especially in front of him,’ Neharika agrees as she watches Rumana count the money and hand it to Vinod.

Vinod leaves the way he came, slowly, as if each step he took is boring the life out of him. Rumana sighs loudly.

‘It’s a good thing we have all the essentials and just need those few extras,’ she says as she lines a cake pan with baking parchment paper.

‘I think we’re going to be really behind as it is,’ Neharika says.

They work in silence. There’s a lot to be done before the café opens at 12.30, drawing the small lunch time crowd that drops by for their grilled sandwiches, pastas and bakes. The party starts at 4 p.m. tomorrow and they’re going to have to work through the rest of the day and most of the night to have things ready in time.

Vinod returns two hours later with all the things they’d asked for. Blue and silver balloons, edible blue ink, blue and silver sugar balls, cupcake liners, cake pop sticks, the works. Vinod is a good-natured boy but his laziness is legendary, and yet he works for them because Rumana has known Vinod all her life. He’s her family driver’s son and his father had often despaired about what would become of him when he dropped out of school in class eight. Since then, he’s been wasting time, not sticking to any job until Rumana came up with the café plan. While he still needs prodding every now and then, he manages to get their work done, which is more than they can say.

They can’t afford more staff right now, although if all goes well, they’ll soon hire a chef who can handle most of the work while they could focus on developing their business.

Vinod slaps a glossy flyer on to the work table between them.

‘What’s this?’ Rumana asks, picking it up with her flour-covered hand.

Neharika, who is getting the white chocolate frosting ready for the Olaf cake pops, turns to look and is surprised to see her best friend’s face turn pale.

‘What happened?’ she asks, wiping her hands on her apron and walking towards Rumana who hands her the flyer in silence.

It’s an advertisement for an upcoming patisserie. And by the looks of it, it’s going to be a really fancy place. The worrying part is that Daniyal’s Desserts is opening literally next door. It’s the kind of competition that could shut them down in weeks.

Liked what you read? Then download the full book here.

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Micro-horror stories I wrote for the Juggernaut blog

Juggernaut asked me if I could write creepy scary stories in 50 words or less. Challenge accepted, I said. And this is what I came up with, and their illustrator helpfully upped the creepy levels.

Pigeons are evil
The Collector of Faces
I did dream about this once. Hated aquarium fish ever since.
Sentient cars could be a thing!
Caught in a tumble cycle
Groundhog day comes to your neighbourhood park

 

Everyone loves a nice, chilling, horror story no? If you have any micro horror stories to share, send them over to Juggernaut, hmm? They’re going to give away free digital copies of It Waits to the best stories. You could also download it from the Juggernaut app/website here – https://goo.gl/DW5t10

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It Waits

A long time ago, no wait, this isn’t the story, this is what really happened, a long time ago because that was when I was in school. So yeah, a long, long time ago, when I was in std. 6, my class was squashed into this classroom which had been converted from a dormitory. For some reason, our classroom was really far away from the rest of the middle school and most of the time we rejoiced in it because it took teachers forever to trudge up to our classroom from the main buildings and it shaved off at least ten minutes from each class.

 

What was interesting was the moody atmosphere that would brew over the classroom when it rained or when the weather was a little cold. Perfect for telling of ghost stories in those little interludes before the teachers came. Another girl and I often took turns to tell everyone these ghost stories. Of course, I didn’t know any ghost stories of my own, and I was mostly telling them stories of black and white Hindi movies I’d seen (which I was very sure no one else would have and they were more atmospheric than scary). The other girl of course petrified us with her stories of vampires (they were not stunning or gorgeous or desirable back then. Just blood thirsty creatures whom no one could kill) and at night I often woke up in cold sweat thinking that surely something was lurking somewhere.

 

Now years later, I’ve tried my hand at writing something scary-ish. A small but important part of this story actually came to me in a dream and I clung to it because I thought it was a great story. It took me a year to find the right publisher for it, someone who was willing to give this absurd and fantastical story a chance and Juggernaut was that publisher. In fact, this was the very first book I signed up with them last year, even before Will the Oven Explode.
And tada, here it is! After some heavy duty editing (much of which I cried and grumbled and cursed my way through, and yet it was so important, so I’ll just shut up now), It Waits is up on the Juggernaut website. Download, read and tell me what you think?

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6 signs you are about to be dumped

So, relationship advice is not really my thing. I listen to friends when they want to vent and commiserate but that’s about it. I feel rather inadequate when it comes to giving advice.

The reason why I’m talking about relationship advice is because in my book, Will the Oven Explode?, my protagonist Ayn has no clue that her husband is not happy. Not until he walks out of their marriage, leaving her stunned.

So, according to the Juggernaut blog, here are 6 signs that you are about to be dumped. Don’t be like Ayn. Be forewarned.

Also, it’s been a week now, since the book was published on Juggernaut and the response has been overwhelming and fantastic. In case you’re not aware, Juggernaut publishes books on their mobile app and now website too. So, Will the Oven Explode? is in e-book form only for now, and is priced at Rs.30 (yes).

Download the book today and do rate/review it on the website. Would also love comments etc here too.

 

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Thankfully, the oven didn’t explode!

I’ve always found baking very therapeutic. No wait. Glamorous. It was why I tried my hand at it from the time I was 12. Several rock hard cakes and broken molars later, I’ve managed to get the cakes right. But last year I kind of miscalculated the size of a baking pan for my son’s birthday and got one that wouldn’t rotate inside my microwave/convection oven.

Ideally, I should have removed the batter into smaller tins but that was *such* a pain because I’d already lined this tin with baking parchment and I was lazy to redo the whole thing. So I went ahead and pushed the pan inside and managed to bake the cake, despite my oven’s protests. So, what happened was that the pan would rotate, get stuck and go beep, beep, beep. Then I’d pause the timer. Open the door. Turn the pan a bit and close the door. Rinse. Repeat.

Obviously, this kind of misuse has hurt my oven. It has not been the same, ever since. It creaks, groans and makes the most horrifying noises, to remind me that I have done irreparable damage to it. Once I was reheating something and it started making a lot of loud beeping noises that sounded like a precursor to an explosion. I immediately switched it off and stepped back, but thankfully, the oven didn’t explode, that day, or ever.

But it was like someone switched on a bulb right above my head. That’s a wonderful name for a book! Write it down.

I decided to do one better and write down the book too.

So, here we are people. Will the Oven Explode? is available exclusively on the Juggernaut app. And the good news is that the book is available as an e-book on the Juggernaut website as well!

What are you waiting for? Hit the download button already and come back to tell me what you think of it!

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In all its crunchy glory

Ta-da!

Here’s the cover of my new book:

 

 

cover_final-1Isn’t it lovely? I’m so excited! In fact, I’m fresh out of words to describe how cool it is.  I’m just waiting to hold it in my hand (December, 2016, come soon!) and I’m also nervously waiting for reactions from readers.

Sometimes, some characters walk into my head and demand I write a story for them. That’s what happened with Aliya and Sameer.

Aliya is this modern, straining-at-parental-controls young woman, who foolishly decides that getting married to Kamaal might give her a measure of freedom. Because he owns a restaurant and yes, because he’s hot.

Of course, nothing goes according to plan. Her ex, Sameer, literally the one who got away, turns up at the restaurant and he’s actually the head chef. And uff tauba, his hotness, do not even ask.

What’s a girl to do? Huh?

Pre-order here and wait. It will be worth it! Promise!

 

 

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An award shortlist!

I didn’t expect to be back here so soon. Honest. I thought the next time I blog, it would be for some big cover reveal for the food+romance series. But was I wrong! I woke up this morning, blearily sent off kid 1 to school, tried to catch a few winks before kid 2 would ask for breakfast, dreamed something weird in the interim, checked my phone when Facebook and Google Photos reminded me that last year, on this day, we launched When She Went Away.

Aww, I thought. It’s already a year! Then I went about doing other boring stuff like making tea and again checked Facebook on my phone and there was an announcement from Goodbooks.in about The Hindu-Goodbooks Awards shortlist.

I thought to myself, heh, I never make it into any of these. So I shouldn’t even bother checking because it just feels so godawful when I don’t see my name there. And then I clicked the link, scrolled down and sorry to use an awful cliche, but my heart literally stopped.

My name was there! For When She Went Away. I blinked, hit refresh, waited for page to load through the disgustingly slow internet connection and then expected to read some other name instead of mine. But no! It was my name out there! Woo!

I immediately shared the link with Sayoni, my publisher at Duckbill and because I couldn’t wait for the ticks to turn blue, I called and told her and both she and Anushka were thrilled. The rest of my day has been spent hitting like on everyone who congratulates me on Facebook. Naturally, we have been very productive today, my dears.

If you haven’t read the book, you can order When She Went Away from Amazon here. To read the e-book, download the Juggernaut app and read it here.

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Food+Romance

 

While I’ve been out of the blogging scene, I’ve been busy writing. Yes! I’ve written two books and the third is 3/4 written and all have the theme of food+romance.

What is that, you ask? Well, it’s not yet a genre (really? I need to check) but I realised that I love writing about food and somehow a romance creeps in, even when I, ahem try to write horror. So I’ve decided to make it my new thing.

The books all revolve around people who are involved with food. For instance, there’s a food photographer and a hot chef in The Crunch Factor (being published by Hachette soon), a food blogger whose only claim to fame was that she blew up an oven, in Will the Oven Explode? (Juggernaut, also soon) and as yet unnamed book about two neighbouring cafe owners who can’t figure out if they hate each other or have the hots for each other (also Juggernaut, and since I’m still writing it, definitely a little later)

And by God, I’m having such a blast. So, I guess you understand why I haven’t blogged since April. Been busy writing, folks! So, come back soon, because I’ll definitely post cover pics and other information here, on the website first, followed by my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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My latest baby, Asmara

Sometime in early 2015, I was beginning to slightly panic. I hadn’t written a word in all of 2014. It was a self-imposed sabbatical from writing because I’d already written ten books by then, seven of which were published by the end of 2014. I thought I needed to stay away from writing, recharge my creative batteries as it were. The moment 2015 rolled along, I knew I had to get started, but I had no idea what I was going to write.

I scribbled random notes, tried to get excited about it but nothing really worked. So I thought that it will happen when it will and well, it did. The main character, her motivation and what really drove the story kicked in suddenly one day, and I had a very brief concept note for this new book. Normally, I’m super lazy about naming my characters. I usually name them whatever pops into my head at the moment. And just then, for some reason, the name that came to my head was Asmara.

I was excited and sharing my excitement was Pooja, my friend and colleague (who’s responsible for this photo by the way). I showed her the concept note, fleshed it out a little, and then sent it off to a couple of publishers. Let’s say I was pleasantly surprised when it was snapped up by Penguin. Okay no, make that ridiculously pleased and shout from the rooftop happy when Penguin said they wanted to publish Asmara’s Summer.

Of course, I still had to write it. And that was what I was secretly worried about. I was ending this year long drought of words, with a book that had already been signed up by a publisher. What had I been thinking! What if I couldn’t write it? Or what if they hated what I write?

If you know me, you know that I try and avoid thinking of all this when I write. I write firmly inside my bubble where no one can get in unless I let them. So I devoted most of March and April to writing it and I finished it like way before my deadline was due. Ha. I still had my writing mojo, bitches.

Editing for Asmara began and whoa – I realised that Asmara was being edited by the world’s most stringent/dogged/tenacious editor I’ve ever worked with. Niyati Dhuldoya. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever worked *this* hard at a manuscript during the editing stages, in my life.

Anyway, like they say, bringing out a book is like having a baby and after all that labour pain, you kind of forget what the fuss was all about and you want to have another baby too. Same here. I got excited about another idea the same year, August to be exact. This time I decided I was going to write the book and then send it out. And that was how my contemporary romance The Crunch Factor came about. Ahem. I haven’t announced this anywhere else as yet, but The Crunch Factor has been accepted at Hachette and is being published in November, 2016!

A year that began on a doubtful note, ended with two books being written and accepted for publication. I can only hope things get better than this!

You can ogle away at Asmara’s gorgeous cover, designed by Abhishek Choudhary. And yes, Asmara is officially published and there’s a book launch on 30th April at Atta Galatta. Do drop by if you’re in the area!

Asmara's Summer Invite

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A book launch is not just a book launch!

There’s a huge difference between your first book launch and your (no idea which) later ones. The first noticeable difference is that you’re no longer nervous. You’re also not worried about how many people will turn up and will it just be family and friends like last time. Or the time before that. Because it’s taken me all these books to realise that a book launch maybe many things but it’s above all, a celebration of a book. In the midst of coordinating with various celebrity guests and other such hassles, one tends to forget that and focusing on these things creates a situation where the author is tense and worried.

So here’s the thing. The very fact that the book exists is nothing short of miraculous. You conjure up the book based on just an idea in your head. You write all fifty thousand words (or more) and then if you’re lucky, you land publishers like Duckbill who give their everything to your book. And by that, I mean everything.

They work with you on the book, they make it probably two hundred times better, and they come up with a book cover that completely wows you and everyone else. And it doesn’t stop there.

Anyway, so the book is ready, but doesn’t reach until the very last minute thanks to courier glitches. Your publishers move heaven and earth to make sure you get at least three copies before the launch. They even send off twenty copies through a friend who’s flying to Bangalore from Delhi! You manage to make sure the book reaches the other very sweet author (Jane D’Souza Gopalakrishnan) and your English Literature teacher (Dr. Shantha from college) two days before the launch and hope they have time to go through it.

You call up your family and invite them to attend. This part is very important because I have to make sure I’m inviting them as I would, to a wedding. So you can imagine how I’ve had to invite everyone for all the book launches every single time. Yeah, but the nice thing is that almost everyone turns up. Because like I said, it’s a celebration of the book.

I’ve never been this *unstressed* over a launch and it probably had a lot to do because it was at Atta Galatta, an independent bookstore which is one of my all time favourite stores here in Bangalore. Of course, Lakshmi and Subodh Sankar, the gracious hosts and owners of AG have a lot to do with that feeling of comfort.

So, on 18th October, we all got together at AG for a celebration of my 8th novel, When she Went Away. Friends, family and colleagues turned up in full force! My mother surprised me by bringing a Shahi tukda sweet, all packed into small cups for all the guests and everyone loved it. The book was launched and the three of us got into a spirited discussion about the book. The audience got involved and we went on for quite a bit. The theme of the book was intriguing (after all, how often does a mother leave her perfectly all right family and go away without any reason?) and a lot of people asked questions, not just about the book but about my writing process as well.

Jane had some interesting questions to ask while Dr. Shantha offered some sharp insight into the character of the protagonist and her mother as well. All of us at the launch felt like we were in a classroom (not any class but the Optional English classes she took for us)  once again, listening to her speak so eloquently. And magnificently!

We ended the day by taking plenty of selfies and pictures and the best part was the potluck dinner at my aunt’s house after the launch. Much yummy in the tummy happened!

What better way to bring a book into the world than with family and friends, all with you to celebrate?

Some pictures of the event.

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Book no. 8

Hello! I’m thrilled to report that book no. 8, When she Went Away is coming out in October, 2015. My lovely publishers, Duckbill, finally gave the go ahead and asked me to share the cover with the world at large, so here I am.

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This book is a young adult novel, and I’ll be sharing the synopsis soon. Duckbill is one of the publishing houses I really respect and I love their work. I’m thrilled to be publishing a book with them.

I’m all agog on social media, sharing this cover with everyone, clogging up their timelines and causing people to probably block me. But it’s an amazing feeling when you can share the cover of a book that you’ve written with the world.

When you start writing a book, that first page, those first few lines, those doubts –  believe me, it takes guts to forge ahead and just write. And write. And that is just the easy part.

Editing, marketing and publishing all these take up so much time and there’s a whole lot of effort that goes into it. So yes, the day I get to share the cover with everyone is indeed a special day. And no, it does not grow old. Even if you’ve already published seven novels.

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