A New day; a new surprise! Here I come to you with a juicy interview with a very talented writer and a close friend Kirtida Gautam, Author of #IAm16ICanRape
Hi Rakhi, thanks for having me for this interview.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Tell me something about you and your background
As a child I was a poet before I understood the meaning of the word poetry. I composed my first couplets at the age of four. But because of an emotional set back and the pressure of being a top ranker of my class, I gave up writing for more traditional career option of engineering. But one year at tech school and I knew my heart is not in engineering, so I quit it and joined Arts school to study psychology and linguistics. I also did Diploma in Performing Arts, dramatics.
After my post graduation in clinical psychology, I was confused if I should go to the USA for higher studies or pursue my lifelong ambition of becoming a film-maker. As my parents are extremely supportive of me in all career choices, I went to Mumbai to pursue film-making career.
While I was working as an assistant director, my boyfriend (who is now my husband) Mrityunjay Gautam advised me to join a film school to take formal education of the medium. I joined Film and Television Institute of India, Pune for screenplay writing because that was the shortest duration course. Alas, I had no idea that lion has taste the blood! It’s at FTII, under the wings of Anjum Rajabali Sir that I realized that I am a writer! I am born in this world to tell stories!
I have written around 8-9 short stories, treatments for films and television.
I have written a full-length screenplay, a romantic comedy named Ha, Ha, Hi, Hi- it’s a story of a boy meets girl with the backdrop of Indian festivals.
I did research for a show named Dharampatni for DJ’s Creative Unit. I wrote broad story for television show Jodha Akbar for Balaji Telefilms.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
What my main character Aarush Kashyap does that makes him special is that he MANIPULATES. He is a sharp mind quite capable of making fool of people and he does it effortlessly. He is a God of manipulation.
Why I chose manipulation over any other trait as point of emphasis is that in India, the society has been manipulated to believe the things which are not true for eternity. Don’t get me started about that, I can go on for pages after pages!
What draws you to this genre?
I am a clinical psychologist by profession. Psychology is the subject that helped me regained my sanity back as a person. I strongly feel that mental health must be a high priority in any progressive society.
So, writing a psychological fiction which combines my two best loves- psychology and writing- on one plate was a delicacy for my mind.
How much research do you do?
I researched and read huge amount of literature on rape and sexual violence for one and half years before I put the first word on the novel on paper.
I personally felt that the retribution for Aarush could have been fiercer, what do you say?
Read the next book, my goal as an author is to make readers cry for Aarush. I know that is a task! I personally believe in theory of karma. There is no retribution before atonements for the sins.
Why did you decide to say the story mostly from Aarush’s family’s outlook?
Rudransh Kashyap is the protagonist of the story from the day it is conceived. The treatment of the story was written only from his point of view. The events of the book take place around Aarush. As both protagonist and antagonist are Kashyaps- they occupy most of the pages of the book.
Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?
No, never. For me writing is very personal, almost like meditation. I can’t work with other people while I write. After my first draft is done, my younger sister Payal Desai Chopra works very closely with my books. My husband Mrityunjay Gautam also brainstorms with me for hours to help me with technical details about the book. For example, the court scene of the book #IAm16ICanRape: The War AGAINST Rape Culture, is the result of 5 hours of brainstorming (over few evenings) with Mrityunjay.
When did you decide to become a writer?
As I said, I didn’t decide it. I was a writer. I just forgot it for a few years, like Hanuman of Ramayana. Lol.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
When I write my novels, my family works very hard not to hate and abandon me. I become a zombie. Now that I am writing my third novel, I am getting more control of the process but while writing #IAm16ICanRape: The War AGAINST Rape Culture, the situation was so bad that I would sit on dining table to eat and in no second I am in my zone. People will look at my face and realize, I am gone!
My family tolerates me and how!
So, when I write, I write like this. I write all the time till the book comes out.
And therefore I have to take break between two books. To come back to the real world. It’s like taking camps. I come back, pack my stuff, and leave again for the next camp.
Where do the your ideas come from?
When I read about Nirbhaya case on 18th December, 2012- I don’t read newspapers, so I mostly get news little late- I felt such strong empathy with this woman that is difficult to put in words. And when I heard about this juvenile loophole of the system, as a psychologist, I was like what the fish!
I distinctly remember this moment when I felt unparallel rage. I read in an article that the psychologist attaining the juvenile in Nirbhaya case was happy with his progress as the juvenile had learnt to make namak-para. What is the progress? Is he in the rehab center to learn occupational competency? No. He is a person who committed sexual crime. The whole senselessness of system baffled me.
I went to my mentor Anjum Rajabali Sir with a one page pitch of the story. He told me, your anger is great. Now channel it wisely.
That is when I decided to write #IAm16ICanRape: The War AGAISNT Rape Culture.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I follow the Method of Writing closely. It takes me a long time. But I meticulously follow the process in which I write outline and character sketches in great detail. But good part, when the actual writing part comes, my characters often take over the story and make it hundreds of times better than what I wrote at step-outline stage.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I have reached the stage of Apotheosis as a writer with the book #IAm16ICanRape: The War AGAINST Rape Culture. I can write a whole book about my journey as a writer J
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Since the time I started writing my novels, fortunately I am not meeting the biggest challenge I faced as a writer BEFORE I started writing novels- writing the characters whose motivations are not solid and consistent. That is most difficult to write.
For my novels, I have made a point to dig in the psyche of my characters till I find out their EXACT motivation to behave the way they behave- and man they surprise me!
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
My latest book, the second book of Yin Yang Series was difficult to write because, I can’t say why. You will have to wait till I am psychologically more prepared to reveal more about the book.
Hopefully, we will have another interview after second book and then I will tell you.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
As Samvedana says in the first book, the Hero/Antihero takes an 18 stages journey to reach to the destination called- Freedom to live.
The second book is the journey of Antihero from stages 13 to 16- and therefore the names of the chapters are:
· Refusal to Return
· Magic Flight
· Rescue from Without
· Crossing Return Threshold
The book I am writing at the moment, the third book, is the journey of stage 17 and 18.
· Master of Two World
· Freedom to Live
What are you working on at the minute?
I am working on the third book that will take Aarush Kashyap to the final stage of Hero’s Journey- the freedom to live.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
Marketing the book, all the stories are amusing!
I didn’t know what a blurb of book is, there are bloggers who write about books, there is something called Facebook page and Facebook communities.
Everything I did to market the book is what I learnt AFTER 20th May, 2015. I was determined to spread awareness about this book. I didn’t want my failure as a marketing person to be a reason why a book that deserves to be read (I don’t say this as an author but as a mental health professional) should not succeed.
So, I have done quite some stupid things on the way, like spamming people’s accounts and getting banned from groups!
Fortunately, I also met friends like Mrityunjay Gautam, Rahul Sasi, Ritesh Kala, Aindrila Roy, and Debra Holland who taught me patiently how to behave in cyber space. I am grateful to them for their timely advises.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
Social media marketing is the new Game. The writers need to take it with pinch of salt even if they don’t like it. More often, if a writer does not like social media marketing- s/he is doing it wrong! Writer should not mistake social media marketing with what they are supposed to do as a writer- WRITE. But yes, they need to understand the rules of this space. It’s a great way to connect with likeminded people.
Which social network worked best for you?
Facebook, Twitter, Blogging
I have not tried any other, so can’t say if they work or not work for other writers.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
To do- Write a book you can donate your kidney to be read EVEN IF it is NOT your book. Your book is the most important thing. I won’t have worked so hard to promote my book if I would not have believed in from the deepest recess of my mind.
To do- While marketing your book, be sociable; give others what you want to get from the world. Be kind. Be polite. Be meaningful.
Not to do- Don’t clutter other people’s space. Don’t spam. Don’t criticize others because they don’t believe in what you believe in.
A quote from one of my favorite books, The True Believer by Eric Hoffer is, where everyone thinks alike, no one thinks much.
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
Yes, I did a press release. My book was launched by my mentor Anjum Rajabali Sir, which in itself was like a dream come true moment for me.
I also recently had a Goodreads.com book give away.
I have used Facebook Ads heavily to promote the book and spread word.
Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Nope, still figuring it out. I think staying consistent in spreading the word about book goes long way. A tipping point comes where efforts start to pay back.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I didn’t work hard to create a platform for the book BEFORE release of the book. It’s a mistake. I am already working to build the platform for second book.
It’s a personal joke I crack with my CORE team- my first book is a daughter, she came in this world to give, to spread unconditional love, to NOT ask what is there in it for me.
My second book is a son; he comes in the world believing MISTAKENLY that he is the superior one. He is born to rule over the galaxies. Meet the antagonist of my second book to know why I say this. Tongue in cheek humor is intended.
Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
· Lack of proper marketing
· Lack of committed team that lives and die for the success of the book
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
Brilliant tool to create awareness for the book. Audiovisual medium has unparallel superiority over just a simple blurb. The video trailer of my book was created by my husband. I often tell him that between two of us, he is the creative one, I am the methodological one.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Giveaways are a part of marketing campaign of the book. There is no reason why a good marketing campaign should not have budget for it. As a first time author, I can’t tell someone, I have written a good book, if I have believe in the book, I can simply give them a copy and say,
Why don’t you read what I write?
For #IAm16ICanRape: The War AGAINST Rape Culture, my readers have come back telling me, I have written a compelling book and they will read my future works. That is building author-reader relationship, which is a lifelong process. Some of my readers have become my close friends in cyber space. You are one of them.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
· Writer every day
· Exercise every day (I am trying to walk my talk, let’s hope for success)
· Don’t think you are mad when you spend more time with imaginary people and don’t know the name of your next door neighbor.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
It was a long interview, lol. I truly had fun answering the question, but I think you have covered a great ground. There is nothing at the moment which I can add.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/KirtidaGautam/e/B00Y1KP4O2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/KirtidaGautam/e/B00Y1KP4O2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
It was purely my pleasure. Thanks for connecting with me and thanks for taking out time to draft this interview.