Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
Natasha Sharma is one prolific writer. In less than 4 years she has published 9 books and is all set for the release of her 10th one.
tgbc: What does it mean to be a writer?
Natasha: To be a writer is:
• To give the many voices in my head, a fair hearing.
• To sit alone and giggle aloud at stuff that I am thinking about and believe that’s completely normal.
• To lie awake when a flurry of ideas hit me just as I get to bed.
• To feel immense joy when I wake up to a day of writing.
• To let my mind wander free in numerous and marvelous worlds of my choosing.
tgbc: Who are your book mentors?
Natasha: Anita Roy, my editor at Young Zubaan. I published my first book, Icky, Yucky, Mucky! with her in 2011 and am now publishing my tenth book, Squiggle Takes a Walk, also with her and Penguin (out this November). When it comes to a crazy, different, fairly mad story, Anita gets what is going on in my head, which can be a bit scary. In addition to her writing inputs, she gave me the confidence to burp, nibble my nails and dig my nose (pretend do) in public, accompanying me every step along the way. What more can I say about an editor like that? She’s a fabulous mentor!
Anushka Ravishankar and Sayoni Basu, my editors at Duckbill. I am blessed to have them in my life. They are fabulous mentors and I value their input on my writing and their judgment, as caretakers of my story. Anushka, with years of experience as an editor and writer is someone I turn to with all sorts of questions, in panic, when I am stuck, to share an idea and to vent. I truly value her as a mentor, an editor and a friend. Sayoni, in addition to her platypussy brilliance, is my plotter on all things mad when it is time to promote the book. Her enthusiasm to try out new things keeps the marketing gears in my head spinning.
Preeti Singh, dear friend and interviewer! When I started writing and the idea of getting published seemed an impossible dream, you were there to encourage, egg me on and help polish up my work.
tgbc: What do you do when you are looking for inspiration, or facing a writer’s block?
Natasha: I don’t like the term ‘writer’s block’. It makes ‘being stuck’ much more unwieldy and tough to get past.
When I am stuck, these are a few things that help:
• I take a shower. I seem to get a flood of ideas in the shower! The downside is that I probably end up soaping twice over since I get too distracted.
• I look for inspiration in the world around – little things people do and say can spark off a line of thought. It’s important to stay tuned and be out and about.
• Having said that, sometimes tuning out and staring into space or walking in circles around my dining table helps.
tgbc: Name one celebrity you want as your book fan!
Natasha: Any of the children’s book authors whose work I adore … the list is way too long to put down. In Bollywood, Hollywood or cricketer celebrity terms – anyone! The books can do with some star power publicity! Of course, if it’s Ranbir Kapoor or Aamir Khan, I’d be completely thrilled (for reasons that have nothing to do with books).
tgbc: A quote you swear by
Natasha: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
tgbc: Your comfort food?
Natasha: Mutton biryani. Has memories linked to my grandfather slaving in the kitchen to produce the most outstanding biryani. And me, seven months along in my pregnancy, with an insane urge to eat a home cooked biryani, slaving in a friend’s kitchen making it for myself.
tgbc: What song best describes your writing ethic?
Natasha: Am going to take the liberty of changing this to writing process/ writing mood.
When I am at the very beginning of a story with just a sketchy idea of characters and plot and not quite sure if this is heading anywhere, I’d say ‘Rolling in the deep’ by Adele, more for the mood of the song and the title.
However, once it is onwards to writing, it would most certainly be ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams.
tgbc: What super power would you like to have?
Natasha: Toughest question and it’s too wide a range of possibilities to narrow down!
tgbc: What is the worst criticism you were given? And the best compliment?
Natasha: I’ve received useful feedback on how to improve a manuscript, but luckily haven’t received anything that would qualify as the worst criticism ever.
Ah! But I did meet someone recently who asked me thrice what I meant by ‘children’s book author’. When she finally came around to understanding that it involved writing stories, using my imagination, pulling out stories from my head (yes, I did say all that), she ended the conversation with, ‘I hate reading. It’s the most boring thing in the world.’ I think that qualifies as the worst criticism for reading that anyone can inflict on a writer’s soul!
Best compliment, from a parent: ‘I’ve been made to read Icky, Yucky, Mucky! to my kids every night for the past few weeks and I can now narrate it by heart.’
Full-throated laughs, giggles, chuckles and gasps from kids as they hear me read a story have been the most satisfying compliments.
tgbc: What next?
Natasha:My tenth book and one I am hugely excited about, Squiggle Takes a Walk (Puffin/YoungZubaan) releases end November.
The fourth History Mystery, Razia and the Pesky Presents (Duckbill books), is under production and should be in bookstores by February 2015.
I now have to write the next book for Squiggle, the next History Mystery and another book, for which I have the characters in my head but I don’t quite know what to do with them as yet!