Shriya Garg wrote her first book at 13 — yes! — before being published at 16 with Take One More Chance — a hilarious romance about Naina’s search for Mr Right, and finding love with her worst enemy. We asked her to tell us what it felt like to write a book as a teenager, then to be a published author before she was out of school. Read on:
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of childhood is a journal, which I’d scribble in dutifully every day. Short stories on mystical animals and poems making fun of my sister gradually morphed into longer narratives, until one day, I began to have vague ideas about a vampire novel (I was thirteen, and had just finished reading Twilight), and started writing.
Have you heard the quote, “He didn’t know it was impossible, so he did it.”
That was me. I never saw writing as a big deal, or something that was daunting, a chore. I was thirteen, and school was boring. So I’d spend a couple of hours every evening writing with pen and paper, and later transcribing to a computer screen. I didn’t tell a lot of people about it, and before I knew it, my novel was done!
A 16-year-old me hell-bent on owning the biggest private book collection in the world.
I was lucky that my parents didn’t pay too much attention to what I was up to, and there wasn’t any pressure to attend multiple tuitions, take dance lessons, and learn a musical instrument — everything my little cousin goes through now! I had the time and luxury to do what I wanted, and the innocence of childhood, which meant I didn’t think too much about why I was doing it, or whether it would help me in my career, or constantly think about what else I could productively give my time to.
Right now, I don’t think I can take out that much time to do something simply because I enjoy it, certainly not without doing a mental cost-benefit analysis. It’s the chartered accountant in me, I suppose!
I was quite content with finishing the book, until I did a simple Google search on how to get published. (Again, a huge thanks to my parents for letting me use the internet unchecked. That didn’t happen much in 2010 with eighth graders!)
Publishing it, however, was a different ballgame. I wrote one book a year, again just because I loved writing, and kept mailing them to publishers, not really hoping for a response. I read so much on how to write the perfect query letter that email etiquette was ingrained in my head, something my peers struggled with even in college!
It was not until my third book that publishers responded to my query letter. And the little hope was devastating. Until then, I’d never seriously entertained publishing dreams, but when my manuscript reached the last stage of acceptance, and then got rejected, I was crushed. My mother, the only one who knew what was going on, compared me to J.K. Rowling, and every other tragic heroine who had to struggle to make it.
Suddenly, one day, I got a call. It was a small, almost unheard-of publisher. My hands were trembling when he told me they liked what they’d read, and would like me to visit their office. I agonized for hours over the clothes that would make me look the most adult. I practiced my signature for days — it was going to be my official signature now. And when I finally went in and received the advance for the check (a measly amount which meant the world to me), my happiness knew no bounds.
It also taught me a very important lesson. You have more resources available at your fingertips than you can ever fathom, and your failures are your own. It was an important life-lesson that paved the way for every step and decision I took from that point on, and made my life a roller-coaster ride of a lifetime.
But that’s a story for another day.