Who is Shweta Taneja?
I’m a river. I run, dance, flicker, flowing from one space to another, never still, never in one place, always absorbing, always changing. As I flow, I drink in rivulets of ideas, gushes of new thoughts, of voices I hear, things I read, people I interact with, and leave behind stories I create, at various places before moving on. That’s me, the person, the dancer, the storyteller. Writing is the medium to bring out these stories I dream of.
Professionally, I’m a full time writer, as an author of speculative fiction, a journalist and a communication consultant for NGOs and startups. I see it as a business. Sometimes the money’s good, sometimes it’s thin, but I carry on because I like the freedom to do whatever I choose to that particular day. Though it sounds fantastic, working on your own can be quite difficult. When there’s no one to tell you what project to do, how to manage time, what to do in a day, there are lots of decisions you need to make. You need to be disciplined, very self-motivated, crawl through the bad days and never think about the balance in your bank. On the other hand, you get showered with praise, awe, respect, meet fantastic, fabulous people and thinkers and can take a whole Monday off to sleep, read that book you wanted to, and stare at a painting or travel on a whim and call it experiencing life and research for your book.
Do you balance writing with another day job? How do you do it?
I try to be disciplined about my working hours, keeping a 9-5 job (one I like!) and taking weekends off. First half of the day, that’s about 4 hours, I write, constantly, switching off the phone and internet. It’s later, once creatively I am spent for the day that I look at other commitments – communication projects I’m working on, publicity, talks, workshops, or even articles that I have to write for other magazines (Livemint, Discover India, Scroll, HuffingtonPost to name a few).
About the book
My latest book How to Steal a Ghost @Manipal is a story of a student, Twinkle Kashyap who shifts to Manipal University following her crush Rohit Dandi, a senior. Rohit sends Twinkle off to intern with a parapsychologist professor and steal his ghost hunting secrets. But a string of mysterious murders complicates things and force Twinkle to delve deeper into the supernatural world and look deeper into her heart too. With seven short stories and an overarching plot, the novel charts out Twinkle’s adventures, her experience of the paranormal, and her travails as she goes from ghost to ghost. It’s a coming-of-age story combined with paranormal legends, folklore, horror and humour.
What made you write this book?
I wrote this story because I wanted to read something like this. I was desperate to read a female student’s paranormal adventure in a new university. Since I couldn’t find any, I thought, well, I’ll write it! I set the story in Manipal University for it’s such a unique mix of modern and ancient. The university is surrounded by the mysterious Western Ghats, the ancient town of Udupi and tradition-based Mangalore and the Coastal area. It’s an unusual blend of cultures, tradition and because of its exposure, modernity, and is a perfect mix for ghost hunters. I absolutely fell in love with Twinkle, who in the beginning of the novel is so unsure and insecure of her abilities and ends up becoming one of the strongest characters. I love how she strong she grows by the end of her first year in Manipal.
Read an excerpt from the book
What do you thing the readers will love about the book?
Reader feedback has convinced me that they like the unusual paranormal romance, unexpected twists and the fact that sometimes it’s horror, but it isn’t really. It also has a few laughs. However you define it, it’s a good story, and as a writer, that’s what I want to give to my readers.
Tell us more about your body of work
In the last seven years, I’ve published three novels in the speculative fiction genre and two mythology graphic novels. I love to weave local folklore and legends into our experience of the modern life and also reflect on our perception of others (be it aliens, monsters or ghosts) and what it says about us. My first novel, Ghost Hunters of Kurseong (Hachette India) explored legends set out in Kurseong, a tea hillstation in West Bengal. My second novel, Cult of Chaos, an Anantya Tantrist mystery (HarperCollins) is the first of three books which will release in 2017 and 2018. It’s a female tantrik detective who solves supernatural crime in Delhi. The world is a mix of myth, legends, history and colourful rakshasas. The Manipal book, as you know explores legends in the Western Ghats. Of my two graphic novels, Krishna Defender of Dharma (Campfire) is an international bestseller and been reprinted a few times now. It’s on the must-read CBSE list too. My other one, The Skull Rosary (Holy Cow) on dark tales of Shiva was nominated for Best Writer and Best Cover in ComicCon India 2013.
Other than fiction, I’ve written more than 200 articles in the fourteen years that I’ve been a journalist. Currently I write with Mint, Huffington Post, Scroll, Discover India and others. Read my blogs: www.shwetawrites.com
Why do you write?
I write because these characters crop up in my head and bang inside, demanding to be let out. I write because it’s addictive and I have no other choice. It’s the highest I’ve ever felt, and also the lowest. It’s hard, but I’m not going to leave it anytime soon. Usually I stick to a strict schedule for writing. I divide the plot into approximate chapters and write one or two chapters a week. If in a week I’ve slacked off, the weekends go off working.
Your advice to aspiring writers
If you want to be a writer, the first thing that you need, which is I think a very individualistic thing, is the desire to write, the passion to create something new, to express a story, a character in a new way.
(Look out for more tips on writing by Shweta in an article next week.)
About the Author:
Shweta Taneja is an author based in Bangalore. She’s written seven books and two hundred articles in a career spanning fourteen years. She’s a Charles Wallace India Writing Fellow (UK, 2016) and was shortlisted for Best Writer Award in ComicCon India. Her latest book How to Steal a Ghost @ Manipal is out with Juggernaut Books and climbing the bestselling charts.
Author: Shweta Taneja
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
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