Celebratory Reading: This Bestselling Author Acts By ‘The Surprise Touch’ And Sketches Her Characters To Life!
Shalini P. Sawkar, born and brought up in Bengaluru, is a celebrated Indian author scaling global heights with her literary accomplishments.
While the global or one may say, nationwide COVID-19 lockdown has taken the Indian economy by a storm, the only comforting experiences it has resulted in revolves around catching up on light and heavy reading.
Browsing through some great reads, both fictional and non-fictional all this while made me stumble upon a book named 'Confessions Of An IT Employee.' Authored by Shalini P. Sawkar, the book is a treat to the soul! Relatable, inspirational, and thought-provoking are the three terms that strike my mind and define the storyline of this contemporary Indian fiction novel.
All in all, it left me intrigued throughout to a level where I got in touch with Shalini. And, of course, gained some meaningful insights to her journey as an author. Beginning her career as an IT expert herself, Shalini has donned many hats – as an IT engineer and author. She started her career in 2014. Later, she went on to become a full-time author in 2017. She has also authored some addictive, suspense thriller and amusing books and short stories like When I Find You and The Murder Of Jay Shekhar to name a couple. The latter has earned her 'Top 100 Debut Authors of India' award by Criticspace Journals.
Since then, she's grown her portfolio of novels and diversified. Her latest book, Confessions Of An IT Employee, marks her entree into writing modern fiction and weaves themes of passion and recognition of inner selves through a story rooted in an IT firm. Shalini streamlines about what it's like to write for the modern youth, what makes a good story, how to capture the audience's attention, and how to hold your own as a storyteller.
Divya: You've written three books – When I Find You, The Murder Of Jay Shekhar, and Confessions Of An IT Employee and several short stories. Kindly brief us about the books and the process.
Shalini: Sure! Let's get started. I would love to take you through the most cherished journey I've had so far.
When I Find You is a suspense thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat. The character of Nikhil catches a last-minute flight from Delhi to Bengaluru on a personal mission, but it is only the beginning. Will his journey bear fruit or be an utter waste of time? Meanwhile, another character, Vidya, is meddling in matters she ought not to interfere in at all. With devious intentions and dark secrets buried deep, you will have to read the book to find out who will win in this battle of wits!
The Murder Of Jay Shekhar is a brisk thriller, with a reveal in the end. Jay Shekhar is a travel buff, has an insatiable hunger for adventure and strange quality of befriending men thirty years older than him. He lives in the suburbs of Bangalore. From encountering a surfing accident on the shores of Goa, to trekking the hills of Ramnagara, Jay is a tough nut to be knocked down. Who is lurking in the woods of Ramnagara? Will Jay's habits ultimately cost him his life? Is love rekindled when two old flames come face to face? Does your fate depend on the company you keep? Find out in this murky tale of lost love, jealousy and murder.
Confessions Of An IT Employee is a contemporary Indian fiction novel. It's an inspirational story of four engineers: Sanchita, Alisha, Nishant and Bhoomija. They are battling societal norms, discovering their passion, finding their true calling, and having the courage to follow their heart, despite their current situations such as bosses from hell, relationship issues, or the sluggishness of mundane routine.
So far, my books have appealed to both readers and non-readers, and I'm grateful for all the good reviews they have been receiving!
When it comes to writing thrillers, I think the challenging part is to make sure the punch in the scene has the right effect. If it doesn't shock me, it wouldn't shock anyone else. Hence, the challenge in the process is to surprise me.
Divya: Where'd you get the idea of short stories instead of a full-length novel?
Shalini: I wanted to give the readers a quick bite of thrill; hence I chose to write my mysteries When I Find You and The Murder Of Jay Shekhar as short stories.
Divya: How do you come up with names for your characters?
Shalini: Naming is one of my favourite activities while writing a story, though it can sometimes become tedious. I name my characters based on the meanings and how it matches their traits or their role in the plot. You'll find several Google pages open on my computer with baby names!
For instance, my character Eepsa means 'desire.' Bhoomija means 'earth,' she's a character from a village and very much connected to her roots.
Divya: Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to your writing?
Shalini: My family and friends have been immensely supportive. My sister, Soumya, is my in-house grammarian. She reads all my stories multiple times and helps make them better! My mother always narrated stories to me as a kid, so maybe I picked it up from her. Also, my father loves traveling, and I’ve been lucky to visit many nations, which definitely helps trigger my imagination.
Divya: Picture this: You feel uninspired, and you've sat at the computer for an hour without conquering any words. How do you get your creativity flowing?
Shalini: I would close my computer, and go out for a short drive, exercise, or call up an old friend, and come back to my writing afterwards. Sometimes, after a day or two. Meanwhile, I would also vent out in my journal as to how I could not get any writing done.
Divya: Are the stories old or new? Do any real-life experiences inspire them?
I write contemporary stories set in the present day. Although they say there is nothing new under the sun, I believe in looking at an idea with fresh eyes and staying true to my voice to ensure the story is original and unique. The places I have traveled to, the people I've met, and the conversations I have had have inspired parts of my stories.
Divya: How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book?
Shalini: I have always wanted to be an author, ever since I turned ten! I wrote two books in my childhood and got the chance to be interviewed at the local radio station—RadioCity 91.1 FM at the age of thirteen.
I took up engineering and worked in the software industry for a few years. But, I think the seeds of that dream of becoming a writer had sprouted in me at an early age, and after I grew up stories began to knock on my door once again, and all I wanted to do was to make that dream come true!
The reasons behind the books are the ideas that come to me. I note them down and turn them into stories.
Divya: Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?
Shalini: I write for about two hours daily when I'm working on a book. I plot my stories and chart-out characters on paper, but I write the stories on my computer.
Divya: Do you write every single day?
Shalini: As far as possible I do, but on some days I take a break.
Divya: Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions, or similar events?
Shalini: I love to interact with my readers via my social media handles. Perhaps, someday soon, I would be able to meet them in person at such events!
Divya: Aren't writers supposed to be solitary?
Shalini: No, not at all! I enjoy meeting people and have a good circle of friends. But, when I sit down to write, yes, I close the door and put my phone away.
Divya: Can we recognize your hometown in your books?
Shalini: Yes, Confessions Of An IT Employee sets in Bengaluru. When I Find You and The Murder Of Jay Shekhar got set in multiple cities across India, but you will find a little bit of Bengaluru in them.
Divya: Are you planning to adapt any of your stories to the screen?
Shalini: Yes, we are currently looking to do so. I would love for my books to get adapted to the screen.
Divya: How difficult is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?
Shalini: Well, that depends on one's passion, perseverance, practise, and patience. And also, a little bit of luck!
Divya: Are you going to keep writing and doing only part-time work, or do you see yourself eventually going back to a full-time, corporate-type job?
Shalini: At present, writing is my full-time job. Honestly, I never thought one could love their work so much until I began writing stories. Mondays are my favourite days of the week now! And, I am always up for any job related to writing and storytelling. Mentioning that, I wouldn't go back to a corporate job role.
Divya: Do you like audiobooks, physical books or e-books better? Why?
Shalini: Paperbacks are always fun, but I also like e-books, because I can get them faster, and read in the night with the lights turned down.
Divya: What is your most unusual writing quirk?
Shalini: Haha! I like to add an element of surprise in my stories. Probably, like a twist in the end, or an unexpected revelation.
Divya: Do you feel like it's most important to have A) Strong Characters B) Mind-blowing Plot twists or C) Epic settings?
Shalini: I vote for strong characters and mind-blowing plot twists for creating engaging stories. The setting is usually inherent in the plot.
Divya: What was the hardest part of writing your author bio? What is your favourite time to write, and why? How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?
Shalini: Initially, before my first book was published, the most challenging part of writing the author bio was filling my experience as a writer. Thankfully, that isn't the case anymore. I write in the morning or at night; I can get into the story faster when there's no activity happening around me.
Writing has helped me overcome depression. Each story that I write makes me view life differently, makes me a better person, and brings me overall joy.
Divya: What is your favourite genre to read, and why?
Shalini: Thriller and fantasy, because escapism! We all want to dive into stories to escape the world we are living in, and yet, come back from them, understanding ourselves a little better.
Divya: What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?
Shalini: I have a star named after me in the Cetus constellation.
Divya: What does being a successful author look like to you?
Shalini: If I'm able to write my stories engagingly, and convey a message or an idea through it, I know that I'm doing my job aptly. But, readers' love for my stories is what makes me feel like a successful author! When they tell me that they can relate to my characters, and they could visualize the entire story playing in front of their eyes like a movie, it makes me feel delighted that I have achieved what I set out to do.
And I'm also grateful that The Murder Of Jay Shekhar has earned me 'Top 100 Debut Authors of India' award by Criticspace Journals.
The interesting yet humble interview indeed ended on a positive note. And, the charm and persona Shalini possesses moved my soul. A down-to-earth human being who is driven by her love and passion for storytelling, Shalini has done it all. From brisk thriller to suspense to inspirational to modern fiction, her work speaks well for her dedication. I wish Shalini P. Sawkar the best of all! May we celebrate this bestselling author more than ever.