We may cheer an Umesh Yadav or a Murali Vijay when they make a mark on the cricketing field, but do we know the details of the journey that brought them there? Yadav gave up studies after Class 12 and was rejected when he tried to join the army and the police. The son of a worker in a coal mine, he belonged to no prestigious cricket club but earned a ticket to the Indian team through sheer merit. As for Murali Vijay, he was a typical ‘bad boy’ at school, more interested in the cricket field than the classroom. He left home at 17, schooled his temper, chased his passion and went on to open for the Indian Test team.
Whether you are a cricketer or a creator, there is a long struggle before you can get noticed. What I have learned is that the paths vary, the journey may be tough or easy, but passion and persistence are the keys to success. You need to recognize your strengths, rectify your weaknesses, constantly reinvent yourself and reach for the stars! Be ready to face rejection before your effort can reach centre stage. Then it is consistent delivery that keeps your audience engaged. Or it is ‘Off with the old and on with the new!’ There are so many ambitious writers and so few publishers available that several hundred manuscripts are never published. Self-publishing is now an option, of course, but even here, your work needs to be singular in order to stand out from the crowd.
I started off my journey as a fan of Enid Blyton’s books in the school library – one book a day, as they would not let me borrow more! I studied English Literature, became the editor of the college magazine and did a writing course in the USA. My creative and writing abilities were honed in a long career as creative director in advertising and radio, and my work in corporate communications and e-publishing. A short story I wrote one evening on a whim started me thinking about writing a full-length novel. The love affair blossomed big time when I tasted creative freedom as well as liberation from the clutches of cranky bosses!
Today, I am a full-time author with five published books, spanning the suspense thriller ‘The Madras Mangler’, the rom-com ‘Love, Lies and Layoffs’ (HarperCollins) and three mythological tales, ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’, ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ and my latest, ‘Prem Purana: Mythological Love Stories’, all published by Penguin. The latest book, ‘Prem Purana’ was born from a suggestion by Vaishali Mathur, Executive Editor, Penguin Random House, that I should combine my strengths in writing mythology and romance. The three engaging stories speak of how Ganesha wins the hearts of Riddhi, Siddhi and Buddhi, how Ravana shared an unbreakable bond with the exquisite Mandodari and how Nala was torn from his Damayanti by fate and the choices he makes.
You will notice that I write in a multitude of genres and may wonder why. The fact is that these switches keep my mind fresh and make my book a fun read. For each genre, I need to change the language, the tone, even the rules of conduct that guide the characters and take my reader along. For instance, Pradyumna and Krishna marry many times, in keeping with the practice those days and I must make my reader understand this. It is exhilarating to describe battles on one end, romance by a lotus pond on the other, and to throw in serial killers and rakshasas in between! I think my zest for the story reaches out to my audience too. As one reviewer put it: ‘I got a feeling that Narayanan really loves the topic she has chosen, for it shines through in the energetic, sometimes almost loving story telling.’ My goal is always to entertain my readers with a book that races along, capturing hearts and imagination. And all the hard work is forgotten when a reader writes to you and lists the scenes and characters he or she loved!
An author’s journey is just as exhausting as it is exciting. Plot, character, pace, mood, suspense, climax – you have to toil over every aspect. You write, rewrite, laugh and cry. Finally, you send out your precious creation in the requisite format to the publisher’s submission id. You wait impatiently and then feel distraught when you receive a rote rejection. It takes courage and conviction to persist, to take another look at your manuscript and send it out to the next publisher. But you must do so if you wish to succeed.
Getting the first one published is not a surefire recipe for success either. Each book submission is reviewed by the publisher’s team on various parameters of story, interest quotient and very important – marketability. But finally, there is no joy comparable to holding the published book in your hand. Your heart races, you cannot stop smiling. And you send out a prayer (in the words of W B Yeats) to the readers who have brought you so far on your journey:
‘I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’
A big thanks to my publishers, reviewers and readers. And thank you, Storizen, for giving me this platform!
Check out Usha’s colourful website at www.ushanarayanan.com and interact with her on Facebook.com/writerusha or Twitter @writerusha
‘Prem Purana’ is now available at a 25% discount on Amazon India, in paperback and Kindle formats: http://amzn.to/2eNu2oT, and is also available worldwide. Ask for it in your bookstore as well!