I have found it is a very, very different thing to write something while you're on maternity leave for months on end; and try to write something while you're handling a full time job and three babies.
I don't think I've written very much about the process of writing, so I thought I'd just start capturing it a bit.
To begin with, let's not get overly excited -the publishing of my first book is still far away - many months in fact, early next year is mostly likely. That's okay with me. I'm in no hurry at all. Just the fact that someone thinks it's good enough to print has got me started writing on a reasonably regular basis in the little spare time that I have.
About the book -it's going to be a book largely based on the funny side of marriage. As you may know, there are plenty of funny stories that I have on this subject. However, it wasn't as easy to write as it may sound. The first attempt I made, despite the good advice of my friend Parul, was very series-of-incidents loosely bound together in chronological order. I kind of fancied it a very Gerald Durrell or James Herriot style of writing, but it didn't really fly with the big publishers. I had to eventually change it around a lot into a story-type format, the more conventional 'commercial fiction' category as I later discovered this is called.
One of the smaller publishing houses, however,had caught hold of it in January because I had written to the CEO, through a contact at my workplace, asking for advice on how to go about getting published. His editor told him good things about the sample chapters I had sent on email and he offered to publish it. I almost said yes, because he was extremely convincing about how I should not 'get lost in the maze of large publishers'.
Even though I eventually did get accepted by a large publisher and may indeed get 'lost in the maze' (although I hope not and it doesn't really look like it given my experience with the very nice editor I interact with) I will be eternally grateful for this gentleman's encouragement - he is someone with decades of experience in the publishing business and he said something to me which I will never forget.
'I know what Indian writing lacks, my dear...and you've got it'. He gave me a very meaningful look, as I sat nervously on his sofa.
'I do?' I was surprised. 'Thanks very much'. After several minutes of more conversation, I asked him quite stupidly 'Excuse me, but could you tell me - what have I got?'.
He looked momentarily flustered but quickly said 'Why, humor of course'.
He also said later in the conversation 'You've got the makings of a real author. Not just a writer. An author'. This was possibly the first moment in my life when I really believed that something I wrote could actually be seen as worth publishing by someone who counted.
At that point of time, as I mentioned, I was almost convinced that I should just go with this godlike gentleman who was saying all these nice things. However, he wasn't talking large numbers at all; and fiction is not the forte of this particular publishing house. And I happen to have a Mami in publishing, who turned out to be my real guardian angel and guided in the whole process, because when I sent her the novel, she read it and then repeatedly told me to hold out for something bigger - to not be impatient. And that it did make a difference who published it.
I followed her advice, said no to the gentleman, and after a painful wait of a couple of months, quite miraculously, HarperCollins came on the scene and yes, they're doing it. The editor, as I've mentioned, happens to be a very very nice lady, and when she called me with the news, she said she had read it in the car on the way home and couldn't stop laughing and that her driver thought she had gone mad (exactly the kind of reaction I wanted) and that she really wanted to publish it.
The reason I'm disclosing this now is that I have recently received the advance cheque and it looks real enough although I haven't yet tried to bank it and think I might not ( plan is to frame it despite Vijay's protests) - but yes, net-net, looks like they weren't joking after all.
So that's it. The final draft of the book is with them. One has to finalize name. The cover design. And so on. Plenty of time for all that, but I think I will bounce some of the options off you guys as and when they get ready.
In the meantime, the other thing was that I was planning to write Book 2 as a sequel to the first one ; but when I discussed a loose fiction idea with the Editor, she liked the sound of the storyline and said I should try to write that as the second book, and maybe write a sequel to Book 1 as the third book.
'That's a more fun way to do it' she declared over a cup of coffee at the Coffee Shop at Vasant Continental.
So that's what I'm trying now. But it's tough on various counts. Firstly because as I said, I now have many more children than before and also a full time job. It's chugging along though with about thirty stolen minutes of effort each day and lots and lots of ideas in my head. The second level of challenge is that it's fiction! And I never thought I could do fiction, and yes, it certainly is different from anything I've ever done before. The good news is that I think I may be able to do it because it's coming along okay as of now - still needs lots of time and polish but may turn out decent. Not as funny as the first one perhaps, but yes, hopefully interesting.
Look at me - talking about Book 2 and Book 3 already. The gall. The insufferable overconfidence. But then again, why not? I'm not saying I'll be a big author. But I think I will keep writing, now that I've started. And as I've mentioned before, I don't think I'll be quitting my day job for it. If I quit my day job, it would be for other reasons than to 'focus on my writing career' ( especially since my writing career doesn't exist as of now!) . But I know this is something I want to do. I'll do it even if it hardly sells, although the darling editor seems to think otherwise ( A different kind of mass novel is what she calls it).
I'll do it simply because it's possibly the biggest personal ambition I've ever had.
Somebody pinch me.
If this is a dream, I'm okay being smack in the middle of it.