In the ‘Author’s Corner’ series we shine the spotlight on promising first-time female authors. Hope you enjoy reading some fun facts about them!
This week we talk to Urvashi Gulia, the author of My Way Is The Highway, a book about a young woman who sets off on a road trip – and ends up meeting people she has never known and doing things that she has never done!
If you had not become a writer, what would you have been?
An artist or a potter. Maybe a designer. I love creating things, telling a story. Stories are powerful things. And to think of it, no matter what I would have done, I would have always been someone who wrote on the side. I was a closet poet and writer for years till a friend once accidentally read some of my poems and the look of complete shock on her face first scared me (I thought she hated it all!) and then made me laugh when she kept gushing about them. That was when I first decided to put some of my work in a public forum and I set up my first blog with just my poems on it but I came out of my closet in a way.
What is the best thing about being a published author?
For now the fact that it feels pretty unreal, almost like something is happening but hasn’t sunk in properly. And the sense of achievement and even disbelief to an extent that comes with those emails from strangers telling you how much they loved the book and how they are inspired to follow their own heart after reading words you have strung together. Reading feedback is very humbling at the same time.
But the fun part, and this is mostly for my friends, is how they introduce me as a writer now and before I am done trying to brush it off and being embarrassed they start raving about the book… and then rave some more! I think they are all having a lot more fun with it till now than I am. For now I am having a blast with my parents’ reaction. They still haven’t come to terms with the protagonist’s habits or her love for using curses.
Since I am away from India right now I still haven’t seen the book on a shelf or in a shop. I think it will finally hit me right and proper when I see it in a store. I can’t wait for that.
What is the hardest thing about writing a book?
The complete honesty with which you first have to write it and then working with the fear and insecurity as you first hunt for a publisher and then see the book come to life. For me the post-writing phase has been the hardest part of having written the book: the rejection, dejection, endless waiting to hear from publishers and agents, and the feeling of feeling absolutely lost. I sometimes feel like I had a baby and then voluntarily put it on display for the world to love or hate, to reject or accept, and to critique. It’s not easy to put yourself out there at public mercy. And if you are total stranger to the business of books, just treading into that territory as someone aiming to get published can be the most nerve-wrecking and testing experience. But like all things, if you really want it, it’s worth the work and the wait and even the risk.
If you were a man, would there be anything different about your book?
It would definitely be less buoyant and full of dry humour. But I guess if I were a man I’d still be a lot like me in the sense of how I take life and how I view things. Maybe my protagonist would have been a man and in that case most likely he would have been on a bike trip.
Who was the first to read your book? What was their first reaction?
I ruminated over the characters and story for four years. And when I first started writing it I wasn’t sure at all if I had anything concrete to work with. I brushed it aside and then a few months later, reworked the first 5000 I had written and sent it to a very close friend who loved it. It was then that I decided to take up the challenge of finishing it.
The first person to actually read the full book was the first commissioning editor I had contacted while I was halfway through writing and she rejected it. I was shocked. She had been so excited to read the whole manuscript after the first 15,000 words that I actually quit my job and finished the book in the next 3 weeks. From 15000 words I went to 70,000 and even proof read the entire manuscript in 18 days. It took me a week to get a grip on myself after that.
Looking back I can’t even imagine how dejected I had felt. And then more rejections followed. So I sent it to my closest girl pals and when they all called back within days to say how awesome they thought it was is when I decided to really keep pushing myself to find a publisher. One of them even came with me to the first literature festival I ever attended just for moral support.
One book you would love to have written?
I’ll be greedy and pick two actually. We The Living by Ayn Rand and Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar. But if I were to choose one of these two as well, I’d go with We The Living. There is so much love, loss and triumph in those pages. I cried after I finished reading it for the first time… It is for the same reasons that I fell in love with Cuckold but this time I reached for a coffee after I was done reading. These books stayed with me for days after I had read them; made me go back to them. That’s what I really want to achieve as a writer. Make people come back to my work for different reasons at different times.
Future literary plans?
For now my first-born so to speak is taking up all my energy and attention. But I have been toying with an idea and been chewing on it this last year, so I guess that will be my next attempt at telling a story and it will be nothing like this one now.
Thanks Urvashi! We look forward to your next book as well!
*Photo credit: Urvashi Gulia
Previous Interviews in Author’s Corner:
Kiran Manral of The Reluctant Detective
Ameera Al Hakawati of Desperate In Dubai
Judy Balan of Two Fates
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