An interview by Vinita Kinra
Shuchi Singh Kalra is an author, freelance writer and editor based in India. Her first book Done With Men was an Amazon bestseller and her short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Love Across Borders, Stories for my Valentine and New Asian Writing. Shuchi is the owner of Pixie Dust Writing Studio, a writing and editing firm servicing a global clientele and Indian Freelance Writers Blog which is a one-stop resource for aspiring writers in India. When she is not daydreaming, she likes to travel, read, bake and lurk around on the Internet.
Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Shuchi! Tell us about yourself.
Shuchi Singh Kalra: Thank you – it’s a pleasure to be here! I am a trippy old creature with my mind torn between several different places at once. I daydream and write books, all while handling a toddler and a business.
Vinita Kinra: What sparked off the idea for your latest book?
Shuchi Singh Kalra: My next after Done With Men is due for a late 2015 release, hopefully. It is about a plus-sized girl named Roli and her journey from an insecure teen to a confident young woman. Her story explores body image and self-esteem issues, and how she navigates the society at different stages of her life, wearing her size proudly on her sleeve. Of course, the story has the romance angle, too since it is a romantic comedy. I have always felt that plus-sized girls have been severely underrepresented as protagonists in commercial Indian fiction, although there are many books around this theme from Western authors. It’s high time curvy women had their day in the sun in Indian fiction, don’t you think?
Vinita Kinra: Share with us the moment when your heart said to you: “I want to be a writer!”
Shuchi Singh Kalra: Well, my heart has never said anything otherwise! It is a different matter that I never thought of taking up writing professionally because it was hardly considered a viable career option when I was in school. I usually wrote for myself in the form of poetry, journals, letters and stories, but I never got any of them published anywhere (and sadly, now there’re all lost). I started writing professionally in 2005 when I just couldn’t hold myself back and desperately needed a way out of a soul-sucking job.
Vinita Kinra: Tell us about your publishing journey.
Shuchi Singh Kalra: Luckily for me, I didn’t have to go through the agony of pitching my manuscript to publishers for my first book (I had to do that for my second, so I know how traumatic it can be). My journey as an author was a slightly unconventional one. Naheed Hassan of Indireads had approached me to edit for them and she eventually suggested that I write a book – a chicklit to be precise – because she believed I had the voice for it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Vinita Kinra: If you could summon the genie, which author from the past or present would you like to become and why?
Shuchi Singh Kalra: I admire so many of them that it’s hard to pick. I’d love to be a cocktail of Haruki Murakami, Sophie Kinsella, Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Alice Walker, Ruskin Bond … but then I’d just go insane. I guess I’d settle with being the best possible version of myself.
Vinita Kinra: How do you de-stress when plagued by frustration due to lack of ideas or inspiration?
Shuchi Singh Kalra: Yes, that happens more often than I’d like, and my best strategy is to completely detach myself from whatever I’m working on. I usually step away from the project for a while and start something new and completely different just to reboot my thoughts. Escaping into the lap of nature instantly floods my mind with ideas, but I find that baking, gardening or reading also work fairly well.
Vinita Kinra: What role does your native city play in shaping your writings?
Shuchi Singh Kalra: I belong to Lucknow, but I have lived and worked in several cities, which is why I don’t find myself rooted to any one place. But the constant moving about has perhaps been the best source of inspiration for me as a writer – the colorful tapestry of experiences, places and people have all made their way into my writings.
Vinita Kinra: If you were not a writer, what would you have been?
Shuchi Singh Kalra: Incomplete and unhappy. I just HAVE to write, even if it is only for myself.
Vinita Kinra: We would like to get a taste of your writing with a brief excerpt from your latest book.
Shuchi Singh Kalra: “I think he’s marking his territory…it’s a very alpha thing, you know,’ suggested the Thought Bubble and I decided that I quite liked the idea. His territory. I’m now his ‘territory’! It sounded sweet, in a very primeval, Neanderthal kind of way.”
“Noooooo!Noooooo! Noooooooo!” I rubbed my hand against the sheet till the skin turned red and sore.But all the rubbing and scrubbing wouldn’t make it go away. It was permanent, that tattoo. The tattoo that said ‘Done With Men’. And it hurt! What on earth was I thinking? My habit of thinking out loud was bad enough, but tattooing my thoughts onto myself? This wasn’t happening to me.”
“Darling? Did she just call him ‘darling’, or was it ‘dahling’? There was no reason to panic. There were plenty of la-di-dah women who referred to their dogs, drivers, and other la-di-dah women as ‘dahling’. It was a perfectly normal thing to do in la-di-dah world.”