Source: Vasundhara Singh
Neharika Gupta is a self-declared book aficionado. She has a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College for Women and a Masters degree in creative writing from Bath Spa University. If you’re into coming-of-age novels, be sure to check out her debut book, Adulting published by HarperCollins, which features three confused millennials and one very confused writer.
Q1. Your debut book, Adulting features three millennials living different yet intertwined lives. Being a millennial yourself, what was the easiest and toughest part of writing about this generation?
It was quite easy putting my challenges on paper and ascribing characters to them. The tough part was deciding where my story ended and theirs began. Once you name your characters, you give them a personality. So there was a point after which I couldn’t ask myself what I would do in a certain situation, but what would Ruhi, Tejas or Aisha do.
Q2. How do you know an idea is worth developing into a book? What does your writing process entail?
My writing process entails jotting down lots of ideas, and picking up and developing one or two ideas. The ideas list will keep expanding but spending time developing certain ideas is key. This is the most important thing for young writers to take away from this interview. It is also good to remember that some ideas won’t go anywhere and it’s not about getting frustrated but taking it as a writing gym. You need fifty ideas that won’t go anywhere but your next one will. It’s just practise. Like a writing muscle.
On knowing whether an idea is going somewhere or not, we all already know, being familiar with storytelling from a young age. We can watch movies and read books and criticise what works and doesn’t work. Stories are already within us. It just takes time and a little practice to get them to the page. There is a wonderful video on youtube called Ira Glass on the Creative Process which I highly recommend.
The best thing about writing is that we (mostly) will be able to tell when something is good and something is not. However this only seems to work when you take a break of some weeks from your writing and come back and look at it with fresh eyes.
I also think it is an intuitive thing you learn: dealing with ideas. When I was doing my Masters, we would get certain assignments every week to finish and bring to class. Those weeks, we would write 3-4 pieces of work. In the time we were left free to think and plan, our minds would work and many times the ideas would just come. You then put the idea down and tweaked it around on paper, even if you were not a hundred per cent sure where it was going. It’s much like how you get ideas for things on a regular basis, but these are about characters and what would be interesting in a story or a poem or even a novel.
Q3. Once you were done writing the book, what was your next step? Did you send your work to a literary agent or a publishing house?
To panic. I’m sharing this as a lot of people fear sending their work out. The next was to make a list of the leading publishers in the country and literary agents and email my manuscript to them. While I did not hear back on my unsolicited submissions from the publishers, I did get good responses from some of the same publishers after a leading literary agent accepted my manuscript and pitched it to them. So don’t lose heart when you don’t hear back but try medium and smaller publishers.
Q4. How difficult is it to navigate traditional publishing as a debut novelist?
I think it’s easy and hard at the same time. Tough because the royalties aren’t great and easy because the publisher takes care of most of the distribution and quite a bit of the marketing.
Q5. How much influence did your editor have on shaping the final product i.e, your published book?
We spent quite a bit of time brainstorming the title of Adulting. A second set of eyes is always good because it helps you point out plot flaws, places in the book where you can speed things up, slow things down and so on.
Q6. If you could change one aspect of the publishing process, what would it be?
I would make it easier for the author to communicate with the publishing house. A lot of times I feel that because of work pressure, publishers don’t have a lot of time to work as closely with the author as they would prefer.
Q7. Is there any myth or misconception about traditional publishing that you would like to burst?
There is a myth of traditional publishing houses being unresponsive and unhelpful. I would like to burst that bubble. I just think it is an extremely overworked industry and the marketing and sales departments in particular are very helpful. I would encourage authors to build a rapport with their respective publishing houses.
Q8. Do you have any advice for a first time author attempting to get noticed by a traditional publishing house?
Deal with your fear of rejection by sending your book to trusted beta readers at an editing stage. Get feedback from them. And so when you know your work is good, you can just assume rejections (there will definitely be a few) are nothing personal.
Don’t lose heart. Try medium and smaller publishers. Do consider self-publishing or those where you can meet your publisher halfway with the monies involved if it’s in your budget. You can publish ebooks on amazon and sell them at no uploading cost now.
Do keep an eye out for competition like Write India, Watty, and some by leading publishers. Juggernaut Books publishes young and debut writers as well. There are also tons of online journals and magazines like Coldnoon and Vayavya which accept submissions.
Q9. Would you choose to self-publish your future books?
Haven’t considered it. Really haven’t looked into this so can’t say for sure.
Q10. Has this quarantine given you more time to work on your next book?
Yes, it’s been great for sitting and staring aimlessly at trees outside the window. By that I mean, it’s given me a lot of space and time to think and work on my own writing as well as start Creative Currents, a creative writing mentorship programme for writing enthusiasts.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the author and her projects, check out her website: