From writing successful cross-genre books, the authors are back with a new book on Parenting – “13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting” to tell the people that it is not the theory but learning on the job that all parenting is in an exclusive interview

Kiran Manral:

1. Being a mother, an author and working at SheThePeople.TV – full time, you’ve been doing a lot of work! Describe and enlighten us with the journey so far?

I think it is all just great fun being busy—it keeps one on one’s toes and doing something. But having said that I don’t want it to seem like I’m underplaying what it takes, it is a lot of hard work, time management, prioritizing and discipline. I recognize also that I am lucky enough to have great support at home, my mother in law completely looks after the home and the domestic staff which frees up a lot of time for me to work. I only got back to full-time work a couple of years ago, when my son was much older, and I have immense respect for the women who manage to work full time when their kids are young. I don’t think I would have managed either work or home or child competently back then.

2. Most of your books are based on parenthood, centered on women/womanhood. Does it fascinate you to write on such issues? What motivates you to write on these topics?

Parenting is a journey that I shared with my readers first on my blog, Karmic Kids, then through Karmic Kids the book. And of course, women and womanhood are domain expertise. I think I take a little of writing what you know and mix it with a bit of write what you don’t and that makes it fun for me.

3. Your previous novel, Missing Presumed Dead is a psychological thriller and deals with the monsters in the head and how they can be very real. What made you shift to writing a psychological thriller? Any real-life incident motivated you?

I’ve been shifting genres constantly, it is a really bad habit I have, and most unsettling for my readers. I blame this on my low boredom threshold. This story for Missing, Presumed Dead began primarily with the thought about how women are vulnerable when they are depressed or have mental issues and how they must struggle to stay afloat. The characters and the story came from there.

4. When it comes to parenting, how do you feel parents should deal with their children? (any situation you can share)

I believe strongly in parental instinct. As parents, we know how to handle our children instinctively, and what works for one parent and child might not work for another. What happens is that there is so much information overload that we have this parenting instinct drowned out by it. Also, there seems to be certain competitiveness amongst parents when it comes to parenting. I think, like water, children find their path. As parents, all our task is to make sure they have a safe and happy childhood. As for a situation, I think for me the challenge has always been to step back and not micromanage my son’s studies. It was always a source of much conflict between us, but since I decided to let him guide his own studying schedule, I find him much more focused and motivated than when I was constantly on his back and nagging him.

5. What kind of research have you been doing while authoring the book 13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting?

I did read up a lot of research on various aspects of parenting, spoke to domain experts as well as parents, as well as read up on parenting books to figure the core message each imparted. Apart from this, I also looked at the lives of inspirational achievers to see if there was something from their childhood, from how they were raised that we could adopt as parents, to strengthen our parenting.

6. Do you think a few people may differ with you regarding some events that you have written? How do you deal with such situations?
Absolutely, and I welcome it. Parenting is not a one size fits all prescription. Each parent is different, each child is different. Within the same family both parents won’t parent in the same way nor will two children be alike in their nature and behavior. I would think a parent needs to find a way to parent that does not compromise on the basic pillars of parenting, and yet be adaptable enough to find a solution that works for them.

 

“I’ve been shifting genres constantly, it is a really bad habit I have, and most unsettling for my readers. I blame this on my low boredom threshold.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                      – Kiran Manral

 

7. Today’s youth almost embrace atheism or are agonists. Are you a religious person? Do you feel that forcing religion on the youngsters is right or wrong?

Well, I am completely a non-religious person, and religion was never forced on me as a child so perhaps I am the wrong person to answer this question. But yes, I think I would rather have a child exposed to every religion to realize the beauty of every religion and recognize that all religions aim to reach the divine within every human.

8. Which genres do you enjoy reading the most? Which you don’t enjoy at all?

I love fantasy, humor, young adult, and some literary fiction. Thrillers I find difficult to read unless the language and character development is good. The crime genre I can’t read at all.

9. What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

That getting published is only the start of the battle, the actual stress comes from the promoting of the books.

 

 

10. Anything you would like to say to your readers?

Your reading muscle is like every muscle of your body. Work on it, be a discerning reader, make reading a habit

11. What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?

I use social media to talk about my writing, and share links, reviews, etc. I’m very disciplined so I do my scheduled posts and move onto my writing and my bread and butter work. I think one needs to invest time and effort in promoting your book as much as writing it although I don’t do as much as I should be doing. I also do offline events like readings, the reader meets, lit fest appearances, book signings etc.

12. What projects are you working on at the present?

There are a few in the draft stage, I don’t know which one will work out and emerge as a complete manuscript.

13. Being a parent, what advice you would like to give to the existing/about to be parents?

Enjoy the ride, they grow up too fast. Step back and know you don’t have to be the ‘perfect’ parent, but only you are perfect for your child.

14. What do your plans for future projects include?

I never plan.

15. How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Anything that gets writing across to readers, is welcome to me. I, unfortunately, can’t read on a device, but I realize that it is convenient to carry around. And the internet and digital age have revolutionized printing and publishing in a way we could have never imagined, it has democratized access and made gatekeepers to publishing redundant.

 

“I love fantasy, humor, young adult, and some literary fiction. Thrillers I find difficult to read unless the language and character development is good.” Crime I can’t read at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   – Kiran Manral

 

16. Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

I enjoyed reading the classics—Dickens, Austen, Mark Twain, as well as Enid Blyton, JRR Tolkien, and others as I grew. I think I got my love for language from them and my finicky nature about the sentence and flow from what I read back then. I believe the cadence and beauty of language is something we are losing out in given the bid to be pacy and catchy. I love P G Wodehouse and I think his sense of humor completely influenced my writing

17. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, which they need to know?

Well, I write across genres, but re humour, I would say it is infinitely tougher to make people laugh than to make people cry.

18. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

With 13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting, Ashwin was very clear this was not going to be a preachy book but instead a book that was a friendly, accessible guide to parents and which made them feel that this was not a difficult task, but something they could easily do. I think with the structure, the examples we’ve quoted and the simple yet humorous style, we’ve made this a fun read with easy takeaways.

19. What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was the least useful or most destructive?

Reading. And reading. Reading because it gave me the tools I needed to write, language, grammar, syntax, structure, etc all came from all the books I read. Also reading was the most destructive because one reads writers and despairs that one would never ever be able to write that beautifully and it can be sapping to one’s writerly self-esteem.

One-liners/One word based answer questions

Please respond to these questions in one line or one word wherever possible –

1. Your all-time favorite author/writer?

P G Wodehouse

2. Do you believe in writer’s block? Did you have it anytime or not?

Nope. And I don’t indulge in it even if the words don’t flow.

3. Your favorite place to write your book(s)?

At my desk on my desktop.

4. Research and then write or research while writing? Which one do you prefer?

Research then write AND research while writing. Both happen.

5. What do you do in your free time?

I have no free time. I keep myself busy.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

It actually doesn’t work like that. Somedays you write. Somedays you research. Somedays you rewrite and revise. And most days you write between bread and butter work and your day job.

7. Do you Google yourself?

Doesn’t everyone?

8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Nope, I don’t hide them, I put them out in the open so no one suspects they’re secrets.

9. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I don’t write for work. I write for pleasure. Work is my day job and my projects.

 

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Ashwin Sanghi –

1. From writing to historical, political, mythological thrillers like The Rozabal Line and the Krishna Key to writing a book on parenting. How does the shift happen?

It’s not too difficult if one takes oneself less seriously. I have always had a fear of being compartmentalized—being called a “historical fiction” or “mythological fiction” writer. That’s why I challenged myself to co-author crime thrillers with James Patterson. In fact, that process taught me how to write books in collaboration with other authors and hence the 13 Steps Series was born. At the end of the day, everything is a story. The structure, style and sensibility changes, that’s all.

2. Are you influenced with all the history and mythology stories as a kid that was told during your childhood? Or the interest came later in life?

During my growing up years, I always had some of my grandparents and uncles or aunts around. They would tell me stories from the epics. I would supplement those with the tales I read in Amar Chitra Katha comics. In the 1980s we would watch the Ramayana and Mahabharata TV serials together as a family. My maternal grandfather was a voracious reader and poet who would send me a book each week to read. At the end of the week, I had to send him a one-page letter about why I liked or disliked each book. I did not realize it but that process was silently creating the storyteller in me by hardwiring my brain. The stories that he would narrate to me and the ideas in the books presented by him were my greatest inspiration.

3. Managing your business to writing books, it’s a plethora of activities such as researching, reading, creating a plot out of it and then writing a bestseller, what goes in your mind when you see a lot to do in front of you?

I am an obsessively organized person. A decade ago I was a businessman who was also a writer. Today I am a writer who is also a businessman. I start my day at the office rather late by 12 noon. It is possible for me to do that because I am no longer actively involved in my family’s business. I usually write in the mornings from 5 am to 9 am, which explains why I have to start my day late. My evenings are usually spent reading and researching. I spend several months on research. For a typical Bharat series book, this could be six to twelve months. I then spend around three months on the plot. The plot will usually have every twist and turn in the story planned chapter-wise. It is only after these two stages that I start writing. Detailed plotting ensures that I do not allow the pace to slacken except my own choosing. I am not a great writer but I am a decent rewriter, so I rewrite the manuscript several times before it goes in for editing. All in all, two years is the average from beginning to end.

4. What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?

The reaction of my father. He had built up his hopes that his son would earn his MBA and return to the fold of the family business. Instead, he saw his dreams go up in smoke. But in spite of that, he remains so very proud of my achievements. That was the biggest surprise.

 

“At the end of the day, everything is a story. The structure, style and sensibility changes, that’s all.”

                                                                                                                                                                                      – Ashwin Sanghi

5. How do you deal with criticism when some mistake happens while writing (maybe some medical fact goes wrong, a historical error occurs) in your books?

Again, it’s simple. Apologize to your readers and laugh it off. These mistakes only matter if you take yourself too seriously.

6. Do you consult with professionals like historians, archaeologists etc. during your research process?

You owe it to your reader to invest time in research. There is too much of slipshod research these days in the world of mytho-fiction simply because it happens to be a trend. When you tell a lie—or spin a fictional tale—close to the truth you make it more believable. That’s why I use history, mythology, theology, and even anthropology and science to make my stories more believable. The nature of the research varies according to the book. For example, Chanakya’s Chant simply involved multiple readings of the Arthashastra and the Mudrarakshasa. The Krishna Key involved travel to Mathura, Dwarka, Somnath etc. The Sialkot Saga involved interviewing people who had lived through Calcutta and Bombay of the fifties and sixties. Keepers of the Kalachakra involved teaching myself quantum theory.

 

 

7. A piece of advice for aspiring authors/writers!

One: don’t simply think about being a writer… start writing. Two: don’t quit your day job… it could be a while before royalties can sustain you. Three: don’t think of yourself as a writer but as a storyteller… words become irrelevant if your story is great. Four: become thick-skinned… rejections and criticism are part of the process of evolving as an author. Five: if you do become a success, keep your feet on the ground and understand that the words are not yours but a blessing from Saraswati.

8. Financial stability and pursuing your career to earn a living or chasing your dreams, which one you prefer? What advice you would like to give to today’s youth/kids?

Both are important. Lakshmi is financial stability. Saraswati is creativity and inspiration. The only Hindu deity that can keep both these devis together is Ganesha. Be like him.

9. As a parent to more than one child, people often put comparison among children. What do you feel about this? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Can’t really answer this from personal experience given that I only have one child. Comparisons are a natural instinct and hence cannot really be wrong. What is wrong is allowing those comparisons to be vocalized such that they affect the psyche of our kids.

10. Any significance of number 13 in your books? Your earlier book was titled 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck and now 13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting. Are you a follower of Numerology?

Have you heard of triskaidekaphobia? It’s a Greek word used to describe the fear of the number thirteen. Down the ages, there have been several reasons why the number thirteen has been considered unlucky. Theories include the absence of the thirteenth law from the Code of Hammurabi, the fact that Judas was the thirteenth to sit at the table of the Last Supper and the fact that Friday the thirteenth began to be viewed as an unlucky day. When I wrote my first book about luck, I used the number thirteen on purpose to indicate that astrology, numerology or superstition has nothing to do with luck. The number stuck around for the rest of the series.

 

“Both are important. Lakshmi is financial stability. Saraswati is creativity and inspiration. The only Hindu deity that can keep both these devis together is Ganesha. Be like him.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                       – Ashwin Sanghi

 

11. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

A wise man once said, ‘Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories.’ In this age of hyper-information, parenting is much like tap-dancing in a minefield. Today, there is information overload and conflicting advice from multiple ‘experts’. What Kiran and I wanted to convey was the fact that parenting is about trial and error and, most importantly, common sense. I think we have achieved that.

12. What are your thoughts of converting your books to movies? Any such project on the cards in the future?

I think that we are storytellers and the language or format of the story should not matter. You can have a hardcover, paperback or ebook. You could read in English, Hindi, Tamil or Marathi. You could consume the story as a book, novella, comic book, video game, movie, TV series or web series. Mere forms of the same story. Two of my novels are currently under adaptation—The Sialkot Saga for a web series and The Krishna Key for a movie.

13. Being a parent, what advice you would like to give to the existing/about to be parents?

If we as parents love and understand our children unconditionally, we will know that we need to acknowledge that they are independent creatures with emotions and feelings all their own. Expecting them to behave as we want them to is unrealistic. Once we accept that they have minds of their own, and we parents need to step back, offer well-meaning advice if asked, and ensure conversations on agency and consent are dealt with. And of course, be there if they want to confide or vent their woes.

14. Being an Economics student, do you feel Opportunity Cost exists? Do people often ignore/neglect the opportunities that life presents to them?

The Roman philosopher Seneca observed, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” What happens if you are unprepared? The opportunity slips by and “luck” does not play out. Sure, that is a cost. An opportunity cost is an opportunity cost.

One-liners/One word based answer questions. Please respond to these questions in one line or one word wherever possible.

1. Your all-time favorite author/writer?

Dan Brown

2. Do you believe in writer’s block? Did you have it anytime or not?

There is no writers’ block that a peg of whisky does not cure.

3. Your favorite place to write your book(s)?

My study.

4. Research and then write or research while writing? Which one do you prefer?

Ideate, then research, then plot, finally write.

5. What do you do in your free time?

Read.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

Four hours in the morning.

7. Do you Google yourself?

Sure—I need to know if I exist.

8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes, sometimes even I can’t find them.

9. If you didn’t write, what would you prefer to do?

Become a bartender.

 

This interview first appeared in Storizen Magazine February 2019 Issue.

 

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