If wishes were horses, then Vidhya would love to travel through Macondo, Mahishmati, and Winterfell. In the lazy summer holidays of yore, when time was aplenty and gazing into the meadows, a national past time, in the musty pages of an old book, she discovered her joy of reading. One day, by the seashore, she wrote an abstract on life, and that defining moment kick-started her journey as a writer.She secretly believes time travel should be possible soon, which explains her constant pull towards nostalgia.
Her story ‘Nine Lives’ has been chosen as the Editor’s Pick of the Week. Juggernaut had a conversation with her about her story.
Your story is Editor’s Pick of the Week. Please tell us more about it, and its inspiration.
When I wrote this story, especially the ending, there were some interesting questions that I found myself in the midst of. What is reality? Who defines it? The relationship between reality and perception is often subject to interpretation. A dark background unfolds, and the reader is thrust into the mythical realm of Bandahar.
Two souls connected by their eternal love but forever destined for tragedy. Given nine chances to save the love of his life, the story is about Shikhanderi, an orphan warrior from Jahar and his love, Ishanya, the brave princess of Bandahar. And in each of their Nine Lives, they battle their perpetual nemesis Karmachakra.
The story is a spin-off tale inspired by the pivotal characters in my first novel ‘Aranghya & Jahar’, Part 1 of ‘The Bandahar Series.’ The inspiration for the series arrived from the gratification of creating my own realm, an alternate universe that I could inhabit, create and experience at will.
Do you have any particular rules or rituals you follow as a writer?
Well, one thing I try to do is to write a few words every day. On a good day, it is as good as 2000 words, on a bad day perhaps a 100. I have noticed that a consistency in my writing schedule improves my confidence and the writing cycle just gets stronger. When I am stuck for ideas or short of inspiration, I turn to prompts. Just pick up a prompt and begin an impromptu write-up! You might surprise yourself. I also enjoy doing flash fiction pieces intermittently. But yes, when I am writing a book, the one thing that helps me is outlining the plot and characters. It helps to split the chapters and create a plan for completing them, this brings some method to the madness. For example, I keep a short diary on my main characters, and sometimes I come across a particular nuance in day to day affairs, that I very much want to inculcate in one of my characters and voila it goes into my little diary. Finally, in the words of Stephen King, ‘To write is human, to edit is divine.’
Editing is like sculpting a fine statue, chiseling off the imperfections until you are satisfied with the outcome.
What got you interested in becoming a writer? Where do you go for inspiration?
I have always been a voracious reader and writing a book has been a lifelong dream. One fine day I began typing on my computer and the word count grew from a measly 3000 words to 22000 words in about two months. Of course, that was the first draft. There were many subsequent iterations. But, to answer your question, writing is cathartic. In each of my characters, there is a little bit of me and my experiences. What could be more gratifying than to be the God of your own little Universe?
My earliest inspiration for writing have been our own mythological stories with their grandeur and characterization. As a child, my mother would often put me to sleep with a wonderful story every night, usually accompanied by a moral or learning. It shaped my view of the world. Also I read a lot, could be either fiction or non-fiction. For, the more you read, the more you understand the world as it is, and it helps you to channelize your vivid imagination while creating your own book.
What’s that one piece written by you which is your all time favourite?
For now it is a flash fiction piece titled ‘The Soul Snatcher.’ It is again a short piece of outrageous fantasy, and has one of my favorite characters ‘The Kraal’ as the protagonist. The story was published in the winners’ page of Zero flash fiction for June 2018. It helped me to realize the immense power of a flash fiction story.
Your story could be part fantasy- how do we define the lines of reality in fiction?
True, my story is part fantasy. Somebody once told me, that much of what we are today is inspired by our folk tales. This is more relevant in India, which is rich in mythology with stories about different genres and cultures. Our reporting of modern day events often finds a metaphorical comparison to fictional and mythological characters.
Fiction allows you to take wide leeways with your imagination. But in doing so, it allows you to search and discover, to build your own reality in a parallel world.
Your bestselling authors and books list. Why do they make it to your list?
‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte is an all-time favorite. Heathcliff and Catherine are such multi layered characters, torn by their own struggles and search for happiness. ‘Siddhartha’ by Herman Hesse is another beautiful book. Poetic and eloquent, it explains in the simplest of language, the meaning of life and the unrelenting quest for self-realization. ‘One hundred years of solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is another delightful epic, the grand narrator Melquiades remains etched in my mind. I’m reading George R.R Martin these days and find his books quite engrossing. Amongst Indian authors, Ruskin Bond and Jim Corbett are my all-time favorites.
Any writing tips you’d like to share with fellow writers?
Write…write and write…also read….read and read as much as you can. This may sound clichéd, but it is the one practice that has worked well for me. If one is able to write even 500 words on a daily basis, that book that you have been dreaming about will be ready in about six months’ time. And of course, keep your first drafts to yourself. Sharing too much too early and inviting criticism can kill the plot or the characters of your book. And most importantly, believe in your book. There will be times when you want to give up, but a strong faith in your story will help you stay the course.
Read the story ‘Nine Lives’ here.