1398th BLOG POST -->>
Sheeja Jose is one of the rarest authors who work hard on their books and writing skills which has led two of her books getting released within the time frame of an year. Not many author opens up in interview as Sheeja has done and I really appreciate the way she have answered each and every question. And yes, let me add, she is one of the beautiful authoress out there. Now you can go ahead towards reading this interview. Haha!
1. Sheeja Jose, how has been your journey from last year to this year as a writer and publishing two novels in such a short time?
In one word – tough! In detail, it was a great journey. I worked almost 20 hours every day without any holiday. Goodbye Girl and Gone with the Bullet were tough ones. Writing the first draft was always enjoyable. It’s such a pure joy of the journey. But real work happens after the first draft. I could have taken it bit slow but I wanted both the books in the same year. I have to admit, I have learned so much more in the last year than I have in my previous ten years in this industry. Uncovering the world of crime and unravelling layers of shocking and sad details has made me a better human. I met some wonderful people in this journey. They are still part of my life and writing like S. Hussain Zaidi, Merlin Joseph and Mohan Nadar.... I would have never met them if it wasn’t for my book. Hussain Zaidi made a huge impact in my life and my approach to writing. I cherish every pearl of wisdom I have learnt from him. My friends Shridhar Raghavan and Arijit Biswas stood behind me like rocks. Merlin sacrificed her holidays for reading and re-reading Gone with the Bullet. Friends like Ketan Sadani and Navneet Choujar were there being in two different time zone. They showed me the value of friendship. I have many more names who contributed in a different way to this books and my writing journey. Yes, I earned every one of these experiences and for that, for them, I am eternally grateful.
2. We have found a basic trend in both of your novels that it had something to do with a female protagonist but still didn't have much of feminine touch to it. Tell us something about this.
My protagonists are teenagers in both the books. Well, they were like any other girl growing up, they were protected and loved by their families and were falling in love with boys and figuring out the sexual curiosity they face at that age. Then something happens; life changes, their dreams shatter, their survival becomes their priority. This world is not for pacifists. I wish I could say otherwise. Let me tell you a small example. If anyone grew up in a joint family or for those who have siblings you know the smartest one always gets whatever he/she wants. In schools, the soft spoken boys and girls always face the bullying. As they grow competition is tough, only the aggressors or the go getters march ahead. This is not something new. We all know ‘Survival of the fittest’. Our concept of evolution is based on this. Only 1 in 14 million ejaculated sperm reaches the fallopian tube and fuses with the egg and becomes a life. Now you know what I mean. My protagonists eventually shed their vulnerable feminine approach and tears. They chose a grimy path and stick with it. They are intelligent, smart and better than the rest. However we can see that they still have emotion, longing for love and affection. They miss their family. They still dream to be protected by a man, sleeping next to him holding, him tight. But that’s not where their priorities lie.
3. Your first book was almost 400 pages while your 2nd novel is also above 300 pages. How do you manage to write long stories in such a short period of time?
I worked every single day. I haven’t travel out of Maharashtra in a year and a half. I didn’t have any festivals or bank holidays. I hardly met my friends during this time. I couldn’t devote time for the movie script assignment I was signed for. I returned my signing amount and, luckily, another one got delayed. I left my handsomely paid Creative Director job. All I did was writing and publishing.
4. Tell us something about what inspired you to write "Gone with the bullet"?
My first book Goodbye Girl was an unusual revenge drama. I explored the psyche of the victims and criminals alike. It opened a very brutal world where we are scared to acknowledge facts that are as real as you and me. It spooked many. Then when I wanted to write the second book, I wanted to look at crime in a less dense way. At the same time, I wanted the book to be a psychological analysis of looking at crime through a different angle. I was challenging my own ability to write one of those kinds. It was a risky approach, not usual for Indian writing and probably even for international writing.
5. How did you associate with Whitewall Publishers? And how has been your collaboration with them till now?
Until the Gone with the Bullet book launch very few of my friends knew that Whitewall Publishers was started by me. Becoming a publisher was never in my to-do list. It all happened during one of my meetings with a top publishing team in India. Goodbye Girl was submitted to Penguin for publishing though I had the slightest hope they would pick something up from an aspiring author. To our surprise, that’s what happened. In the first week of reading it, they asked to meet me in Mumbai. I was on cloud nine. My friends celebrated, and we were anxious about the next step. Then their chief editor suggested some changes. They wanted the girl’s journey without a family back ground. They were excited about the intelligent plotting in the manuscript. But I wanted her to be one like a next door girl who grown up in a perfect family as a perfect child. Then I told them “Sorry, I don’t want to change.” It shocked them. My friends all proclaimed how stupid I was. I was stupid. But I had a great feeling about Goodbye Girl and I wanted to keep her alive as the way I gave birth to her. My ignorance of the complication of getting a book out helped me too. Once I got into it did I realised the amount of work and money I needed to start a publishing house. But I enjoyed the process. I learned a thousand things. I met wonderful people who influenced me in my life and writing. In short, when I look back, though still it was a stupid decision, I am happy. I am glad that I can help other new authors in a small way. Two books in a year from new authors is my next target.
6. When are you coming up with your 3rd novel and if possible, can you please give us some insight about it.
In 2016 for sure. It’s a romantic story. I have a beautiful title of the book I will start writing next month. I need a break now, desperately.
7. How was the launch of "Gone with the Bullet"? How are you associated with renowned journalist, S Hussain Zaidi and critically-acclaimed movie maker, Sriram Raghavan?
I can’t be more grateful. I had the best names associated with crime next to me, though it still gives me butterflies. I was really nervous about being on the stage with them. These are the people I look up to and adore. So imagine my situation! And everyone who came for the launch made my day. It was a huge turn out beyond my imagination. Though we had the launch at the Oberoi mall, we couldn’t accommodate them and they stood through the whole event. That was so kind of them and very encouraging for a new author. Then the shock of my life came in the form of Chief Guest S. Hussain Zaidi. I have no idea what my chief guest and special guest were going to say. Everyone knows Zaidi is a veteran crime journalist and the bestselling author of many crime books and many movies under his belt and above all a proud Penguin Publisher. I met Mr. Zaidi and his team when Penguin picked up Goodbye Girl to publish. It was he who gave me the insight of the book world. I was completely new in this industry. I was so glad to see my favourite author as publisher too. Then the changes suggestion came from the chief editor in Delhi and I decided to go ahead with as the way it is. However, I was so blessed he still encouraged my writing. When I got stuck with the publishing and writing, I had Mr. Zaidi to look up to. He was generous in parting his wisdom and encouraged me to write better. When he explained this in his speech, I was overwhelmed. It showed us just how great a human being he was. He appreciated my determination then, and that is why he was there at the launch. I can never thank him enough.
I have known the Raghavan brothers and their family for over a decade now. As I don’t have my family here, I can say, they have really made up for it. They are all well read, motivated to do wonderful things in life and have a loving and adorable mother who reads my books as well as helps me with my writing. Shridhar Raghavan, Shivam Nair, Arijit Biswas, are those three people I send anything I write to first and then Merlyn Joseph. I narrate the stories in details to Mr. Zaidi in between his busy schedule. I valued their suggestions. I think I am blessed to have great people in my life. Still one has to find her/his own way. They can’t write for you. They all can just guide you.
8. You looked very hot and beautiful and looked no less than any Bollywood actress at your launch. What do you do to remain fit and maintain an ideal figure?
I am blushing now. Thank you, that’s a bonus compliment anyone would like to hear. I eat without worrying about my figure. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. And I of course I inherited it too. So thanks to my parents.
9. What are your dreams as a writer and where do you see yourself after 10 years?
Nothing can give me as much happiness writing has given me. I loved the journey with my characters. I see writing more books without worrying about genres; though crime is my favourite. And I see myself directing the movies written by me. After ten years, I see myself travelling more, developing the habit of reading, writing books, making movies, and supporting aspiring writers and movie makers. I tell Mr. Zaidi, his approaches to new authors and the support he showers on them gives me a reason to give back the same to others and be a better person.
10. Any words for your fans who are the reason behind your books' success.
Thanking would be just taking away my gratitude I have in my heart for them. Without them, me or any authors would never be inspired to write because it is a long and lonely journey. Only you can keep us going ahead. Pick up the email id, write to them even if love their book or hate it. You have no idea how much it will help us. It helped me immensely. It gave me a reason to write better, and to write more. Only love and hugs.
sheejasthoughts ( though i have hardly any here :)