Saturday, March 25, 2017

Meeting With Chandana Roy - Author of "A Good Girl"

It is always pleasure to connect with an author. "A Good Girl" by Chandana Roy has captured lot of traction in female-centric genre. Let try to understand Chandana's journey through "A Good Girl".

Can you brief us about your educational and professional background?
I graduated from Sophia College, Ajmer and went on to earn my Master’s degree in Zoology from Government College, Ajmer (affiliated to Rajasthan University, Jaipur).
I worked as a part-time lecturer while still a student. Within months of completing my post-graduation, I was appointed as a lecturer by Rajasthan University. I have also taught in Loreto Convent, Delhi. Before writing my novel A Good Girl, I had been teaching biology for over twenty years to the undergraduate students of Troy University (Alabama) at their Sharjah campus.
Apart from studies, what activities were you associated with during school and college?
I was an all-rounder – apart from being the topper in school and college, I actively participated in all the programs and contests related to debates, music, dance, art and writing. Sports was a notable exception – I was never too athletic and I regret that very much.
Please tell us about your passion for books.
I am an avid reader – my father subscribed all the magazines and bought all the latest books available in three languages – Hindi, English and Bengali, so the love for books was inculcated at a very early age. My favorite authors are Rabindranath Tagore, Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shankar, Ashapoorna Devi (among Bengali authors). Shivani, Amrita Pritam, Malati Joshi, Mridula Garg, Dharamvir Bharati, Mahadevi Varma, Mannu Bhandari, Munshi Premchand (among Hindi writers). Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse, James Hadley Chase, Somerset Maugham, Leon Uris, Arthur Hailey, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Arundhati Roy, Anita Desai, Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vikram Seth, Khushwant Singh, Amit Chaudhary, Victoria Holt, Aldous Huxley, Charles Darwin, Nevil Shute, Irwing Wallace, Liane Moriarty… the list goes on…(Among English authors). 
When did you start writing?
I have been writing and getting published ever since I was a little girl. My articles and poems were published in in the children's section of the local newspapers and magazines. A poem written when I was in the 6th standard won me the first prize at a poetry contest run by BBC London's Hindi Service.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I have always been a writer, but writing was mainly a hobby because the pursuit of science came in the way of any writing ambitions I might have harbored at the time. But there came a point when I decided that I had done enough of college teaching and freelance writing, and it was time to give up those jobs to be able to write the novel that was brewing inside me for a long time and was clamoring to get out.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Nothing much except that my book reaches more and more readers.
Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured to accommodate your writing?
I live in the UAE with my businessman husband – my only son lives in Virginia with his wife. I wake up early, post a few tweets on Twitter and then head for the kitchen. I am not too fond of cooking, but I do it dutifully and with a lot of dedication nevertheless because I believe in eating homecooked healthy food. I work in the kitchen till 11 a.m. and then switch on my laptop. Somedays, there are too many fan mails and messages to answer, but I still manage to write for about 3-4 hours every day. My main distractions are my other two hobbies – I am heavily into photography and singing, and at times, I tend to spend all my time photoshopping or recording a song instead of writing.
Is this your debut work? If not so, what have you written?
I have written hundreds of published articles. Before writing my first novel, I had been writing regular columns and articles for several UAE magazines and newspapers (including Gulf News and Khaleej Times) for many years.
I have also written many poems but have not yet tried to get them published. I started a couple of blogs but am not able to post much, time being the main constraint.
What genre are your books?
A Good Girl is not your average boy-meets-girl love story, so it’s not a romance novel.  Nor is it a classic, although Amazon, India has categorized it as Classic Fiction. You can call it Contemporary Indian Fiction.
Can you describe your current book in few lines? What’s it about?
Set in India and America, A Good Girl is the story of a beautiful young woman haunted by her scandalous past and caught up in a struggle to reinvent herself after her whole life is turned upside down by one bad choice she had made as a naive teenager.
Give us an insight into your main character(s)
My protagonist Ellora Chatterjee a beautiful young woman – she is the quintessential good girl whose happiness revolves around making others happy and who wilts with guilt every time she displeases or disobeys her elders. She falls in love with a famous cricketer and pays a heavy price for it. The news of her romantic involvement with the debutant batsman makes national headlines. Overnight, sweet and shy Ellora turns into a sexy poster girl chased by the college hooligans, shunned by her prudish classmates and condemned by the parochial population of her small town.
Now in her early thirties, Ellora is once again facing a tough choice that will scandalize her community. Is she bold enough to follow her wayward heart all over again?  Will she take charge of her own happiness or will she spend the rest of her life trying to make others happy?
Where did you get idea for this book?
The idea came not from just one, but several sources. In my more than two decades of teaching career, I have come across many young women whose lives have been in shambles because of a love affair or misplaced trust. Let us say A Good Girl was inspired by a very pretty teenager who was caught in the car with her boyfriend and was sent packing to her ancestral village in Pakistan by her irate parents. Another student of mine was swiftly rusticated by the college authorities after she was caught with her boyfriend in the washroom by the security guard. I never saw those girls in college again, but I have always wondered how their lives must have been influenced by that single error of judgment. My small town had its share of scandals. A junior got expelled from college for writing a love letter in blood to the then heartthrob Rajesh Khanna. Nowadays, when you watch these MMS scandals on the news channels, you cannot help wondering what price those naïve but precocious teenagers must be paying for giving in to their hormonal urges and trusting boyfriends who are actually devious and dangerous scoundrels.
How much research did you do for this book?
A Good Girl is not period novel, nor is it based on any real-life character, so like any other work of fiction, it mainly required imagination rather than heavy research to write it. However, before writing about any plant or any setting, I had to do some research to make sure that those trees were found in those settings and were abloom in that particular month.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Jai Sehgal - the handsome surgeon who's single but not ready to mingle. Tall and fair, he has the assured, yet laidback air of someone who knows he is good looking but is not overtly concerned about it. Many of my female readers have confessed to have fallen in love with him. 
Who is your least favorite character and why? (If applicable)
None. All my characters are my babies and I love them all – some I love slightly more, but that doesn’t mean I love anyone any less.
What was the most difficult part about writing your latest book?
I am still trying to write my next novel, but the time management is the main problem. Ever since my novel got published and became a bestseller, I have been spending a major part of my time in answering mails, promoting my novel, attending various literature festivals and book fairs, speaking at the literary events where I am invited as a guest speaker. All these activities leave me with very little time for writing my next book.  It’s a great dilemma - trying to divide your time between the fruits of your earlier work and tending the new sapling, not yet born but demanding all your attention.
Can you tell us response you get from reader for "A Good Girl"?
I don’t have the latest figures, but A Good girl has probably sold more than 10,000 copies by now. It has consistently been among the top 100 classic fictions on Amazon, India, it’s current rating being 4.5 on Amazon and 4.2 on Goodreads.
What are you working on at the minute?
It is too early to divulge the subject. 
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
Not thought about it.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
  1. You must read a lot. Reading good books is like attending writing workshops. You imbibe so much just by paying attention to the writing style, words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. 
  2. You must write a lot. Reread every passage after a reasonable gap – you will find so many flaws. Then rewrite. Rewrite till you get the rhythm and the grammar correct, till your sentences start making sense – till your writing starts sparkling. However, do remember Hemingway’s advice: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”
  3. You must edit and format your work before you submit it to an agent or publisher. Manuscripts that are not properly formatted and are full of glaring error are asking to be rejected.
  4. Be mentally prepared for a long and arduous struggle before you get published.
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