Monday, May 23, 2016

Encounters - Someone's Always Waiting by Sumana Khan Interview


ENCOUNTERS is a potpourri of five sumptuous stories involving a 
motley crew of protagonists. Skating along the borders of fantasy and 
paranormal themes, the stories track incredible and poignant journey of
 self-discovery, tracing the cathartic aftermath of fleeting encounters.








Sumana was born and raised in Bengaluru, Karnataka, where she went on to graduate with a BSc in Electronics, much to the surprise of her teachers, and relief of her parents. In what can only be described as a quirk of fate, she ended up as an IT consultant - a role she essayed for more than a decade. She then moved to the UK where she quit her job and pursued academic and literary interests. The result of this pursuit has been two Masters, one published book, quite a few manuscript drafts, and above all, being stone-broke perpetually. She currently lives in the UK with her husband and several books.  


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1.          When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Well, there was no eureka moment as such. In fact, I don’t remember having had any firm career or life ambitions as such. Financial independence was important for me, so to that extent, I pursued a corporate career.  Even so, I knew that it was just a job, and it did not define me – the way practicing medicine defines someone as a doctor. Writing was always a part of my life in some form or the other. It was a natural choice – a progression of sorts to move to full-time writing. No other activity gives me as much pleasure as writing…it’s like a mental gym.
2.          How long does it take you to write a book?
I took about 10 months to write my debut novel. When I say write, I mean the literal act of writing. But writing a book involves much more than simply starting off at chapter 1. I think the inception and incubation takes a longer time where one gets the narrative, character arcs etc sorted out in one’s head. I don’t think that 10 months can be taken as a benchmark. 
3.          What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I wish I did stick to a schedule. But my life is quite chaotic because of my academic commitments, and as a homemaker, I can say chores are never-ending! But I do tend to have better writing productivity in the mornings. Not just in terms of word count, but in the quality of the content. There are pockets of time when I neglect everything else to complete a substantial set of chapters. I also tend to scribble a lot in my notebooks, when I’m not “writing”. Eventually these scribbles take a life form.
4.          What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Well, I wouldn’t call it a quirk…but I think I write better when I’m seated in front of a window, where I’m able to see a tree J The more trees, the merrier. Luckily, I live in a place where I’m afforded this view.

5.          When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first book, Kaivalya, came out in 2010, and the second edition was published as The Revenge of Kaivalya by Westland in 2013. I had just turned 600 in 2010 (this is how we calculate age in the galaxy I come from) ;)
6.          What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not writing, I usually have my nose buried in a book. Or, I’m mostly watching a movie…I’m a huge movie buff. But it all depends on whether the sun is out that day (it’s a luxury in this country) – if there’s beautiful sunshine – I head out for a long walk by the riverside.

7.          What does your family think of your writing?
I think they enjoy it…at least they pretend to J  
8.          Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
(Lecture alert!) You have to set your own benchmark actually. Imagination and good writing go hand in hand during the creation of a good book. The writing part - it is a craft like any other – so practice makes (near) perfect. Take for example a painter…an artist. There is a technical skill involved – she should use the right kind of brushes, brushstrokes and medium. The artist studies the classical and contemporary masters – learns from their techniques and gets to understand her own style. Why should it be any different for writing? I disagree with the notion that you don’t have to read anything for you to write well. I know India has seen very successful writers who demonstrate this sentiment – but at the end of the day, it simply comes down to one considering oneself as an eternal student of the art. I think this openness to learn whilst you engage in an art is vital for creativity. No singer has ever said, damn, I sing well so there is no need for me to listen to any other music except for my own voice.
You must read widely – there are no greater teachers than the all the masters of literature. These are the books that teach us how to draw out a character, how to develop a plot, how to lay structural foundations for the story. Grammar is as important to the writer as the brushes and palette to an artist. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, if you are serious about writing, humility to the craft is a good starting point – give it your all like the artist, the musician, the lyricist.
9.          Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Readers do reach out to me occasionally. The most common messages I get are:
-     They discuss the characters they identified with the most. These messages are very dear to me – it is magical to see the characters I created perceived in a totally different light by the reader.
-     Some request me to “get it made into a movie”…some even suggest the actors/actresses – such messages leave me feeling very elated!
-     Some more demand why I’m not marketing my book enough…and that I must “do something”. The Book Club has been my action to this request J 

10.       What do you think makes a good story?

This is very subjective. In general I get hooked to great prose, strong narration and well-etched characters. In particular, a good story will be propelled by the characters and things don’t happen “conveniently”. A good story will also not have the author show up anywhere, in any form and impose his/her prejudices on the reader through the characters. I like cracking conversations, where dialogs move the story forward. 

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