Shuchi Singh Kalra is a writer, editor and blogger based in India. She has been writing since 2005, and has freelanced with popular magazines such as Femina.in, Good Housekeeping, Home Review, Parent & Child, Vista, Dogs & Pups, Women’s Era and Time ‘N’ Style among many others. She also writes a monthly travel column for Investors India. She is the owner of Pixie Dust Writing Studio, an editing firm that services a global clientele, and the Indian Freelance Writers Blog, which is a fast-growing resource for Indian writers.
Shuchi started writing fiction only recently and has written a short story in anthologies such as Love Across Borders. Her first book, Done With Men was published by Indireads. Before she took to writing, Shuchi was an Optometrist at one of India’s leading eye hospitals and she believes it was the best decision she ever made. A self-confessed travel junkie, she now leads a happily nomadic life with her fauji husband and livewire toddler.
Thank you Shuchi for agreeing to this interview.
At the outset, could you please tell the readers about yourself?
For the most part I am a thinker and a dreamer who spends her time poring over books. I live in my own idealistic little world and am cruelly jolted back to reality every once in a while when earthly responsibilities beckon. I have been writing professionally for over seven years now as a freelance writer and editor, and I also run a small firm that goes by the name of ‘Pixie Dust Writing Studio’. While I have contributed to some anthologies in the past, Done With Men is my first solo offering.
I hold a degree in Optometry from the Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry. Realizing that I wasn’t really cut out for the profession, I went on to pursue a Masters in English Literature just for the sheer love of it. I spent my growing up years between Libya, Lucknow and Hyderabad, and now I roam the length and breadth of the country with my fauji husband and a toddler. When someone asks me “Where are you from?” I really have no answer because I feel that I belong everywhere and yet nowhere. I love traveling, books and food, not necessarily in that order. Oh, and Bollywood!
From an optometrist to a writer, how did this transformation come about?
I have always been fond of writing since I was a kid – it was something I was good at and I would often pen down my thoughts in a personal diary. While I enjoyed it, I never thought of it as a viable career choice (I come from a generation where everyone was expected to crack IITs and PMTs). I worked as an Optometrist at a leading eye hospital in India and soon realized that peering into slit-lamps and prescribing glasses wasn’t my thing. I took up some freelance writing assignments to earn some extra money during my internship and only then did I realize the scope of it. Not surprisingly, I quit my job as soon as I could and got into it full-time. My family thought I was crazy to dump a seemingly good and lucrative career prospect to become a full-time writer. But as I look back, I believe it was the best decision I ever made.
You have written hundreds of articles. What motivated you to write a full fledged novel?
I have had the author itch for as long as I can remember. Writing and publishing a book has been on the top of my bucket list and I tried to write my first novel when I was ten years old. I watched a sci-fi movie on television and liked the story so much that I decided to pen it down as a novel (in one of those huge, hardbound registers). That was my first (plagiarized) attempt at novel writing.
Every time I would go to a bookstore, I would imagine a book with my name on the cover sitting on the shelves and visualize myself signing copies for eager readers. I have nearly half-a-dozen incomplete manuscripts lying in my computer, and as many story ideas in my head.
What were the challenges faced while writing the book?
I had a lot of fun writing ‘Done With Men’ and it was smooth sailing for the most part (except for the occasional writer’s block). The real challenge was marketing it – I wish the process wasn’t as time-consuming and energy sapping.
Is the book based on someone you know or heard of?
A friend of mine was telling me about her sister who went on a vacation to recover from a bad breakup and landed up injured in the hospital. That sparked the idea for this book and I just cooked up a story around it. Most women will be able to relate to Kairavi, the protagonist, because she is so real. She is the quintessential modern, urban, working girl who loves to travel and is a writer. Like any single girl her age, she is has her own wonky ideas of romance and is clumsy enough to land into trouble at the drop of a hat. Many of her personality traits are borrowed from people I know. In fact, she is modeled after a random girl I spotted while walking around in Nainital. I was in the process of sketching out Kay’s character and that image of the girl just stuck. The choice of name also has a long story behind it – it means “moonlight”, which is also the meaning of the name I chose for my daughter. I just wanted to establish some kind of connect between my first biological baby and my first literary one.
The cover of your book, Done with Men, is very nice, did you have a say in designing it?
Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it. I didn’t have too much of a say in the cover design which is a good thing because Mariam Iftekar – a very talented artist from Pakistan – has handled it pretty well.
What kinds of books do you read? Who is your favourite author?
There are just too many! I have been a voracious reader since childhood and I never missed a chance to bury myself in a book. From the Bronte Sisters to Enid Blyton, and Shakespeare to Sophie Kinsella, I’ve lapped them all up. I believe that my writing style carries the influence of all the authors I have read till date.
When you pick up books to read, what is your favourite genre?
While I enjoy most genres, chicklit holds a special place in my heart. Whether I am traveling, feeling blue or just plain bored, nothing lifts up my mood better than a lighthearted chicklit novel. I think the genre works for so many women because the characters are just like us, and are going through the same day-to-day problems. Then there are BFFs, clothes, shoes, fluffy romance, humor, lively pink covers – what’s not to like!
Which book are you currently reading?
Revisiting ‘The White Tiger’ by Arvind Adiga.
What is the next project that you are working on? When is the next book scheduled for release?
At the moment, I am working on another frothy romance than involves a plus-sized girl. The character is very close to my heart because fat girls never get to be heroines (which is so not fair!). Other than that, I have a couple of half-baked manuscripts, which I am trying to develop further. The fantastic response from readers has prompted me to put my freelancing business on the backburner for a while and focus more on my role as an author. If all goes well, my next one should be out soon.
Any word of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Read the kind of books you want to write. Most importantly, chart out a schedule and stick to it. Write a little every day.
Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with your readers.
Social Media links of Shuchi Singh Kalra for readers to find/follow/like:
website: www. shuchikalra.com
Buying links for Done with Men:
Next on the Author Interview Series: Interview 15: Priya Narayanan on 29th July 2014