24 October 2015
Jazz Singh and Zeenat Mahal talk about their latest book, about reading and writing, and about inspiration and friendship!
Thank you for dropping in to talk to me.
How fabulous for your fans (I’m one of them, in case you didn’t already know) to get a book that features a story each from both of you! I’m talking about your latest offering, “Twice Upon a Time”. Have a look at the cover – it is very lovely – artistic and vibrant!
Jazz: Thank you Reet for having us on your blog. It means a great deal to be interviewed by an author whose books I have enjoyed immensely.
Zeenat: Same here, Reet. Love your books. Thank you for having us.
- How did that come about, two greats in the same space?
Jazz: Love the compliment. Thank you. Makes me feel exalted and gives me a swollen head. I wish it were true.
We both had stories that were more or less ready and Zeenat suggested we publish a 2-in-1. I thought it was a great idea and here we are.
Zeenat: I started chatting with Jazz about writing and publishing as a new Indireads author in 2012, and we have been chatting ever since. Haha. I so value Jazz’s friendship, her feedback on my books. It’s so great to have a writer friend I can discuss things with, without hesitation. Twice Upon a Time is our celebration of this wonderful friendship.
- I notice that you are going indie with this one, although you are both traditionally published authors. Care to tell us about that decision? How scary was it?
Jazz: Quite nerve racking actually. We went through the usual pangs. Should we? Shouldn’t we? What if…? Getting a handle on the actual process of publishing took a while.
But look at me going on as if I did it, when it’s Zee. She needs a standing ovation.
Zeenat: Aw, Jazz is too kind. But she is right about the nerve-wracking bit. We were like babes in the publication woods. But all’s well that ends well. I hope the book does well. For us both I think it was for the experience of self-publishing and it paid dividends there.
- Tell us something about your respective heroes? Why do you think we will adore them? Will we?
Jazz: Gaurav has a sense of humor. He is protective and indulgent, but gives Aanya her space and respects what she does despite the difference in their situations.
Zeenat: I have shamelessly followed the stereotype of the Pathan with Sheru: he is gorgeous, he loves hunting, and his honour means everything to him. He loves fiercely, and fights fairly. I think he is my most adorable hero.
- Do you look for images to inspire you when you are creating characters? Care to share some of those images here?
Jazz: I don’t really. When I’m writing and the conversations start is when I imagine the physical appearances of my characters – strange as it may sound. The attitude and the thought process determine how they look.
Zeenat: I have certain images in my head when the character comes alive in my mind. So the way they dress, they speak, they look, comes together for me as I eavesdrop on their conversations with each other.
- What is your favorite genre to read? How has it influenced what you yourself write?
Jazz: This is difficult to answer because I go through phases. I haven’t read too much fiction in the last few years but came full circle with romance when I started to write in the genre. So I guess that’s what’s influenced my writing. Reading fiction is very inspiring and now I catch myself studying how an author has treated something. It’s all a huge learning experience – back to school kind of thing.
Zeenat: I mostly read fantasy, literary fiction, and mainstream women’s fiction, but I also enjoy non-fiction like biographies, books on history, writing, literary and critical theory.
Everything I have ever read influences me.
- Has any real-life event, personal or public, ever begged to be written into one of your stories? Could you share it with us, please?
Jazz: The romances of my friends. They are now eager for me to tell their stories! Hugely camouflaged, needless to say, but yes, that’s where I take inspiration from at the moment. But it could be anything. I actually met a man who gambled on horses for a living, so I put that in Sunshine Girl – Aanya’s father bets on horses. The story around that is fictional except that little snippet.
Zeenat: I think everything I see, live, breathe, is in one way or another, a part of what I write. It’s an unconscious process of re-representation. One thing I have to admit, you’ll find many grand old dames in my stories because they are all inspired by my grandmother. Mostly my women love books because my grandmother, my mother and my sisters were all readers.
- Of all the attributes of a well written story, which is the one that pleases you the most?
Jazz: The dialogues and the emotions.
Zeenat: Language. There is nothing more pleasurable for me than to read an unusually worded sentence about something ordinary, something that we may all have felt, or done, or seen and then a writer will show you that same thing in a completely new way. Magic!
- What one or two things absolutely irritate you in a book, and would most certainly make you put the book down immediately?
Jazz: Poor language and poor editing. Also if a book is too thick and unwieldy to hold or if the font is too small, I don’t bother with it.
Zeenat: I agree with Jazz about language and editing. Poor editing is the worst sin in publishing. Things like long dreary descriptions and casual language that has not been polished is a huge deterrent for me as a reader. Editing is the cornerstone of a good book.
- When do you write? What is your writing space like? What do you use, pencil/pen and paper, or a gadget?
Jazz: I seem to be writing all the time when I’m at home. Even my favourite pastime, reading, has taken a back seat.
I use either a PC or laptop to write. The PC ties me to a place but it’s hot in that room, so that’s seasonal. If it’s the laptop, then anywhere in the house is good.
Zeenat: I write when I can. Sometimes it’s in snatches every day; at others I don’t write for weeks.
I have no specific ‘space’ but I think I should have one. I might be more productive if I did.
I use what is available. When I sit down to write with the objective of writing, I usually do it on my laptop. But sometimes it happens that I am in the middle of something and an interesting character starts having a conversation. Then I grab a pen and paper, any old receipt in my bag and scribble away.
- Your advice to starting authors – one thing they MUST do and one that they should NEVER.
Jazz: Write and never give up.
Write because you have a story to tell or because you love the process of writing, not to get published. That will follow.
Zeenat: Sage advice, Jazz. Also, read a lot. Read books on writing. Read blogs on writing. Open up a twitter account and follow writers, bloggers and engage with them on writing.
One thing you should never do is take a bad review to mean that you are bad at what you do. It means someone didn’t like your style, or that you still have things to learn. That’s never a bad thing. It means you’re still alive. Someone wise said that we truly die not when we stop breathing but when we stop learning. Use every bad review as a stepping stone.
Thank you again! Loved having you over.
Twice Upon a Time is available here
They assure me that they love chatting with readers, so don’t hesitate!