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Published by HarperCollins, the book documents the life of 29-year-old guest relations manager Aisha Bhatia, as she juggles her career, a lousy boss, partying with friends and a mother who is ever on the lookout for a suitable boy for her.
In an e-mail interview with rediff.com's Sanaya Dalal, Advaita takes us through the writing process and shares some tips on how aspiring writers can get their work published.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your family and your educational background.
I am a hotelier by profession and have worked and studied in India and abroad. I have a kid sister who is a lawyer from the London [Images] School of Economics; I live at home with my parents and a St Bernard.
In the last five years, I have called six cities home -- so it's been a pretty nomadic existence. I have, however, been in Delhi for nearly two years now, which is a record of sorts for the recent past. I have a real relationship of convenience with this city -- I dock here every once in a while and it's getting to be one of my favourite places.
I travel extensively. Every month, possibly for half the month, I am out of town. I have a real passion for the Indian Railways -- I think it's the best way to see and appreciate our diverse country.
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I don't want to talk about education right now, I am desperately behind on MBA assignments. I work a six-day job, have a novel to promote and my MBA studies -- let's just say my cup runneth over!
What inspired you to write Almost Single and when did you decide to really sit yourself down and start on it?
I have always written but it has been a very private endeavour, mostly an attempt to make sense of the world around me. The idea for Almost Single germinated as a result of some of the experiences that surrounded me. The rapid way in which the concepts of love and courtship are evolving and continue to do so. Also the fact that the 'hunt' was not necessarily the fiefdom of the male of the species.
As for sitting myself down and writing, well, I can be quite obsessive and do one thing and nothing else, and then there are days when I would go nowhere near the book. I need to disconnect and feel that urge within me to start writing again, some sort of trigger.
How much of your work has been inspired by your own life and experiences?
Bits here and there but it's mostly fiction, even the inspired bits have been used in a mostly contextual manner.
What has been the reaction of your friends and family to your book?
I have great friends and family, and their support has been tremendous. I kid around sometimes saying that I have the strongest sales force because I have friends all over the country and they are totally tracking the book.
As for my work -- their feedback has me on edge because I share extremely candid relationships with my friends so I know if it's not working I am going to hear about it. But they are just happy that I went out there and did what I wanted to do and the book came into being, since getting published can be tough.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I am an avid reader and have a particular liking for the suspense genre, right from my Nancy Drew days to Agatha Christies, and the present conspiracy theorist books. I also read lots of biographies, I am a bit of a history enthusiast. I love books on the Mughal Era, historical or fictionalised accounts on the Taj Mahal are always welcome.
Did any other work inspire you to write your book?
It's hard to say who in particular influenced me since my reading habits are so diverse, but there are books and characters that I love -- like Breakfast at Tiffany's or characters in movies like the one Julia Roberts [Images] plays in My Best Friend's Wedding -- I love honest characterisations that lay themselves bare and allow themselves to be picked apart and are liked despite some glaring failings or frivolities, characters who are themselves and tell the world to bring it on, Aisha is like that as well.
How did you go about writing Almost Single? How much work did you put in each day and did it involve any research?
On days that I write I can write for about 8 to 10 hours without a break -- I don't have a time of day that I am partial to either. And then there were days when I never wrote at all and immersed myself in other things. I was writing about the world of hotels, which I am very comfortable with, however, there was some amount of research but nothing major.
Once I was done with the first draft, I sent it to Harper and it turned out to be good enough.
Was it a struggle to get published or was the book snapped up by HarperCollins right away?
I was fortunate, I sent out the initial synopsis and got call backs for the manuscript. There was Harper Collins and another major publisher who were interested in the book. Harper got back to me first and I was predisposed towards them because I appreciated the way they had treated me when I approached them with my book, so the decision was easy.
Also a quick trip to my bookshelf confirmed that interestingly enough most of the books I owned were published by Harper. Some of my favorite authors are Harper authors. I think they are a very contemporary and forward thinking publishing house, not at all staid. It's been a great experience.
Was it difficult to break into print?
In my mind, yes; in actuality, not really. I have found (usually) that there are more obstacles in one's mind than there are out there in the real world.
What are your plans for the future? Is another book in the works?
Writing has always been a part of my life that will never change. I don't look at it as a career but more as a part of who I am. I'm a multi-tasker, and don't let any one thing define me. There will be more books, there will also be other things that I will do -- not necessarily in the public domain. So I'm going to live it as it comes along.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
May I stop here? Three is my favourite number.
Want to buy a copy of Almost Single? Click here
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