Five-time author Renita D’Silva is interviewed this week on her writing life and inspiration behind her bold, colourful novels that confront difficult and often taboo issues from within India, the country from which she hails and describes as “a land of disparities.” In her books, Renita explores the invisible threads and secrets that both bind families together and tear them apart, taking in themes as diverse as emigration, adoption, rape, eating disorders, arranged marriage, forbidden love, cultural dislocation and the healing power of cooking.
What were you like as a child?
I was a bookworm 🙂 Once I discovered the magic of stories I was loath to leave that world and disappeared into it as often as I could. When I was not reading stories, I was creating them in my head. (Not much has changed there!) ‘You and your imagination!’ was a sentence I often heard in cadences ranging from exasperated to annoyed.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
It was a dream I secretly nurtured but always thought out of my reach. I only started writing in earnest when my youngest started nursery. And then I knew. Punishing though it can be, it is only when I write that I am truest to myself. Writing is for me, what I must do. It is who I am.
Why did you choose to write in your particular genre or field?
While writing I seem to gravitate towards family dramas, the secrets we keep from those closest to us and how they affect everyone involved. The ever-changing, constantly evolving dynamics between family members intrigue me.
I am riveted by identity, roots, what makes us who we are. I like the thought that an ordinary person whose life is headed along a regular path can make an about turn based on one choice. One bad turn. I also like how the choices a person makes can reverberate into the future, like an earthquake causing aftershocks both big and small. I like how as humans we are all flawed. We try to do our best but sometimes, our best is not good enough. Sometimes, our best turns out to be the worst thing we could have done.
I set my stories in the India I grew up in, a land of disparities, of breath-taking beauty and toxic pollution, of chaos and noise contrasting with the agonised silence of women who are not heard, of people who are as kind as they are bigoted, of spicy food and spicier gossip, of paan-chewing matrons and arranged marriages, of girls who yearn to grow into the women they want to be but are restrained by a culture that levies boundaries on them.
Can you tell us something about your journey to publication?
The process of publication was a huge learning curve. I come from an IT background and did not know any publishers, agents or authors. So, when I penned ‘The End’ on my first draft, I googled what to do next. The one suggestion that stood out, that was reiterated many times, advised new authors to get a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook and send off their manuscript to agents who represented books like theirs. And that is what I did. But I was impatient and sent the manuscript off before it was the best it could be. I got some very positive feedback with a few agents requesting the full manuscript but they all came back with, ‘Get back to us when you have worked on it.’ So I worked on it and sent it off again and this time they said it was good but that they were not taking on new authors due to the recession. I had all but given up when I saw an ad for Bookouture in Mslexia. And so I sent my manuscript off to Bookouture. And they said yes!
If you had to choose one or two of your favourite books or authors of all time, what /who would they be?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my favourite book of all time.
Before you were a writer, what were you doing?
I used to work in IT, programming and testing software.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?
Do not send your manuscript out before it is the best it can be.
Try not to let rejection get you down. J.K.Rowling got rejected umpteen times before Harry Potter was unleashed on the world.
Believe in yourself and keep trying. The published author is someone who has picked himself up after each rejection and persevered. With the advent of the e-book and Indie publishing, there has never been a better time to be an author. It only takes one publisher to say yes and they are waiting just around the corner.
When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax?
Read, cook, spend time with my family.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I am permanently battling self-doubt, trying to write over the voice in my head which tells me it is all rubbish and asks me why I bother.
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
Oh there are so many. I love travelling and want to experience the world. Short term, I would like to visit Edinburgh, especially during the festival.
Can you give us a peek into what you’re working on right now?
I am currently working on my next book, once again set partly in the UK and mostly in India.
https://rebeccastonehill.com/wp-content/uploads/1-1.jpg7391686Rebecca Stonehillhttp://rebeccastonehill.com/wp-content/uploads/mtbsdpgw.bmpRebecca Stonehill2016-02-20 14:50:132016-02-20 14:50:13Guest Post from Author Renita D'Silva