Saturday, 14 April 2012

Words with Malika Gandhi

Thanks to Malika Gandhi for this interview

What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?

My day job is being a home maker and dropping my two boys off to nursery/school. It is a full-time job!

What books have you written so far?

I have written one book, Freedom of the Monsoon. This is my debut novel. It is set in India in 1942-47, during the Quit India Movement. The novel explores love, loss, sacrifice and the need for justice. It is romantic as well as shocking. Domestic violence is shown too, which is seen time and time again, but where no one can help. The novel is not factual, but there are references to real-life events and situations during that time. Gandhi, the leader of the Quit India Movement, is mentioned many times and his work is referenced here too. The story revolves around the point of view of five central fictional characters – Rakesh, Dev, Pooja, Amit and Sunil – and they take us into their world, showing us the affects of the Quit India Movement.

What works in progress do you have?

Currently, I am working on the sequel, which will be quite different to the first book. Although it is still based in India, following on from the Quit India Movement, which is Partition, it will be an Indian romance centring on one main character, from her point of view.

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

Freedom of the Monsoon took me two years to write and that was when my children went to sleep. So between 9pm and 2am sometimes!

Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants?

My style of writing is very much jumping back and forth as I like to show what happened in the lives of the character beforehand, and sometimes the character’s thoughts take us back in time too.

Why do you write?

I like the freedom of the words. It allows me to express myself and bring me out into a world where I can let my imagination explore.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing for a long time, since my university days, dwelling on short stories and writing a diary, where my ideas and thoughts appear. But, I didn’t begin to seriously write until two years ago, with Freedom of the Monsoon.

Where and when do you write? ­ Do you have set times?

I don’t have set times as it is difficult with children. My concentration peaks when all is quiet at night.

Which character from your books do you like most / are most like?

My favourite character from my book is Pooja as she goes through so much and loses a lot too. Before her marriage she is abused, and after she is abused and raped by her husband. She is a lovely character who has grown with my writing.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

Reading books by Roald Dahl and CS Lewis inspired me to write. Their fantastic storytelling made me want to put pen to paper and just write.

What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?

A story has to come from your heart; you have to be passionate about what you write and about your characters. This will show in your work.

Have you ever based a character on someone from real life? And did you tell them?

I haven’t based a character on someone from real life.

Fave things: animal? food? drink? film? colour? band? song? place? item of clothing?

My favourite things:
Animal: elephant.
Food: pasta and Paneer (Indian cottage cheese).
Drink: has to be Diet Coke!
Film: oh there are so many, but I love When Harry met Sally and You Got Mail.
Colour: blue.
Song: no particular song, but I like variety.
Place: anywhere where there is sun, sand and sea – preferably HOT.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do/who did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an author when I was a kid, or an artist as I love to paint and draw. I now have the opportunity to showcase my work through my book (the illustration on my book is my own).

Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?

My dreams are still some way ahead before I can reach them. I believe a dream will always expand once you reach a certain level. As for now, I am happy that I have become published, but I don’t want to stop here.

You’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Miguel Street by VS Naipaul
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Who is your favourite character from any book and why?

Like so many, it is from a Classic – Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, for his brooding personality, which is logical and romantic at the same time. I also love Jo’s character from Little Women. She is endearing, and kindles inspiration and ambition!

Ah Mr Darcy is one of my faves too... what a man! I love that book. But, since watching the superb BBC adaptation, I'm always going to have the image of Colin Firth coming out of the water... -- Vickie 

Which three authors would you like to take to the pub?

I would like to take JK Rowling, Kathryn Stockett and VS Naipaul.

Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?

I am self-published. The experience is tough as the marketing is all down to you, but it is also exciting to be in control of your own work and what direction you want it to take.

How do you find the marketing experience?

Very hard. As an Indie author who is very new, finding people and groups who may be interested in your work is the first thing, but it is getting them to like the idea to buy, which is hard. Every moment I get, I am thinking of new ways of promoting my work, and the people I speak to have helped me.

What advice would you give other writers just starting out?

To never give up and keep persisting as that is the only way you will achieve your dream goal. Be patient also – which is one thing I am still learning.

Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?

It is about my book, but I have also posted some articles on the history of India and an interview with my fictional character, Pooja. I plan to do more.

What other hobbies do you have?

I love to paint and draw, and I love films. I love to read and always have a book with me.

If you won the Lotto or a major publishing contract, what would you do with that dosh?

I love to travel so that would be one of the things. I would also put some money away for my boy’s university education and a considerable amount towards the beginning of their future.

Complete one of these stories in 100 words or less…
1. There was once a wee worm called Fred…
2. In the deep and darkest reaches of the dank forest...
3. One day Charlotte decided she was going to change the world...

In the deep and darkest reaches of the dank forest, a woman crouched with her daughter, hiding away from the crazy man. She was afraid to use her magical aura; she knew she mustn’t abuse it. The Lords wouldn’t forgive her.  There would be consequences. She had been warned. Sarina looked at her daughter of three. She had been touched by the aura – she knew it. Her bronze locks shone and shimmered, a slight vibration and her hair would glow. She had to hide Petal somewhere, out of reach, out of sight forever...

What question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?

Do you think Traditional Publishing is better than Self-Publishing?

My answer:
In the current climate, both have its advantages and disadvantages.  It is getting harder for publishers and authors as there is so much competition. It has come down to the author to do most of the legwork, whether published traditionally or self-published, especially as a new, unknown author. It is nice to get the backing of a traditional publisher, of course, but if that doesn’t work then try self-publishing.


To win a copy of Malika's book, just leave a comment... she'll pick out her favourite :)

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