In the chair today is my friend Malika Gandhi, born in Bombay (as it was called then, now known as Mumbai). She now lives in the UK. Hello Malika.
Malika's new book "Freedom of the monsoon" deals with Indian Independence.
I can see people comparing the book to the Raj quartet or Far pavilions, how do you feel about that?
It is probable that Freedom of the Monsoon will be compared to many books written on the British Raj and Indian Independence, but I believe all books on the said subject is different and unique to the style of the story-telling. Within the subject of Indian Independence, many issues are related to the reader. Freedom of the Monsoon looks at the treatment of Indian and English inmates within the prison grounds, domestic violence, the caste systems and the Anglo-Indian division, the Hindu marriage and many more. These are all sub-plots which work for each individual character.
You and I have been chatting a while, but for those new to your work, would you please be kind enough to give us a short resume' of your new book please?
Freedom of the Monsoon isn’t told from a political point, neither from a British viewpoint but from the viewpoint of five, Indian individuals who face the impact of the Quit India Movement. The reader will feel and ‘see’ the tension, the horror and constant scare that lurks in every corner during this time. There is also a sweet romance, an acquainted love and the hope for a beautiful relationship.
Your biography said you are from Mumbai but moved to the UK, do you miss India?
As I moved to the UK at the age of two, I haven’t “known” India very much and I feel as England is my “home”. I have visited India several times and have loved the atmosphere, the food and my relatives. That is what I miss.
As Amazon has just opened up an Indian link, I expect you are quite excited about the possibility of sales in your homeland.
I am very excited! I am hoping that many Indian readers in the sub-continent will be interested in Freedom of the Monsoon. Indian Independence happened over sixty years ago but I know the Indians of now are proud to have a free country.
Freedom of the Monsoon is a story which will touch India and I hope Indian readers will take to the ebook in kindle.
As a published author, what part of the trade did you find most frustrating?
Marketing an unknown book and author is very hard and then there comes the question of ongoing sales. When marketing and promoting Freedom of the Monsoon, I rely on feedback and/or comments from the various social lookouts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and my blogs. This gives me an understanding of how well the book has been perceived.
On the days when there is no interaction or activity on the social fronts or I have been away from working – whether writing or promoting – I find it very frustrating. This part of the job has to be fun and for that, an author has to be continually active socially.
Did you have to ask many publishers, before you got accepted?
I contacted many literary agencies and publishers for Freedom of the Monsoon. With a lot of competition out there, it was taking time and effort to be accepted. I opted to self-publish Freedom of the Monsoon and I am glad I took the indie route. I now have a published novel I am proud of.
Are there any genres you would like to try to write but feel you cannot?
I love to write novels for children/teens. I also love paranormal writings. I have never felt that I cannot write that certain novel. I have a zest to try new things! I have read and studied many novels in those genres and I hope to have a few books written in the near future.
I tend to write cross-genre, have you any thoughts on moving genre, or will you keep to the area you are writing in now?
My second novel, which I am currently writing is partly historical and partly paranormal. I think it is good to try writing other genres and I encourage anyone who would like to get into writing, to try a multiple of genre writing.
I ask this to all my friends who write, was there a time when you thought. 'This is not going to work!' And thought about giving up.
Loads of times! I have lost count of the times I have wanted to give up but something in my heart made me carry on. I am grateful for that.
Who would you say was your biggest influence?
The books I have read as a child and my mother who read to me religiously, have influenced me. Then as I got older, my teachers and the two great children’s authors of all time – Roald Dahl who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and C.S.Lewis, who wrote The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.
Have you suffered writer’s block? If so how did you get past it? What advice would you give to anyone thinking of writing a book?
Writer’s block is something all authors dread. On the many occasions it has happened to me, I have left my manuscript for a few days but I didn’t forget about it. I think of possible plots wherever I am – in the shower, on the bus or whilst washing up. I also brainstorm and this is a great tool to unlock writer’s block.
Anyone thinking of writing a book, I suggest brainstorming at first and jotting down notes and ideas which will turn into plots, then chapters and then a novel!
Before we leave, I must say in some ways your book intrigues me as my late father was in India at this time. He mentioned that the British Army Mutiny caused by the troop withdrawals had not been done properly. Do you mention this or is your book from the viewpoint of your people?
There is a little part in the book, where a character mentions Mangal Pandey who was the catalyst of the Mutiny war. Mangal Pandey was a great sepoy (an Indian soldier). He defied the East India Company in using rifle cartridges that were coated with the fat of the cow and pig.
To use the cartridge, the Indian soldier had to bite it. A cow is a sacred animal to a Hindu and the pig is seen as a dirty animal, hence it is against the Muslim faith. Defying using the cartridges angered the East India Company and they tried to punish Mangal Pandey – but he took first aim and shot a British officer.
The Indian Mutiny began when Mangal Pandey was hanged (more about The Great Mutiny can be found on my blog www.malikagandhi.wordpress.com under the category Indian History).
I thank you, for your time in answering the questions Malika. Is there anything you would like to feel I left out that you wanted to say?
Writing is personal and rewarding and if anyone wants to try their hand at this don’t let anything or anyone stop you!
Please can you add a short sample of your work? A short biog if possible and a photo to help readers know you better.
An Excerpt of Freedom of the Monsoon:
I jabbed at the dying embers. ‘It’s our turn, Dilip. Now, it’s our turn.’ Dilip puffed on his cigarette and rolled out a few circles into the air. ‘Are you sure? Rakesh, what about your family...about Dev?’ He tapped his cigarette, letting the ash fall to the ground.
I gave up trying to revive the smouldering coals and rolled up my shirt sleeves. I snapped the stick in half and began to doodle in the ash instead.
The heightened wind extinguished the fire, allowing a rise of wispy smoke escape to the sky. The clouds chased each other across the darkness; the stars playing hide and seek. A dog barked in the distance.
‘You know my history. I have to do this,’ I said.
‘Even if it will cost you your life? Last week, you know—Mohan was hanged. He was caught handling explosives.’ Dilip said this matter-of-factly.
I shook my head. Mohan was a good man; he’d died a martyr...like so many others. ‘I am not important. I can sacrifice my life to free my country if I have to. What about you? Your parents are old. You have a wife and two young children and one on the way. They depend on you. If something happens to you, then who will support them?’
Dilip looked me in the eye. ‘If I die, I will be shahid – a martyr. My family would be proud. I have discussed this with Rakhi and she has no qualms. She will support me all the way and my children—I want them to grow up in a country free from the rule of the Raj. I am prepared to die to give them that chance.’
I had to respect him. ‘Good. It is settled then. Who else is involved?’
He dropped his cigarette into the dead fire. ‘Two other men. I will introduce them to you tomorrow.’
Malika Gandhi's Biography:
Malika Gandhi lives with her husband and two sons in the East Midlands, UK. She is a homemaker and in between caring for her family, she writes her books and dabbles in a little painting too. She loves to experiment with different mediums, such as oils, acrylic and watercolour.
Malika was born in India but moved to London when she was two, where her father was already settled. She travelled with her mother and brother. She has lived in London, studied in Southampton and moved to Leicester after her marriage, which is where her husband and his family live. A girl moves in with her in-laws after marriage, at least for a short time.
Malika loves to watch movies, visits art and history museums and is curious about the universe.
Links to purchase Freedom of the Monsoon:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Freedom-of-the-Monsoon-ebook/dp/B0070VV9TI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340393350&sr=1-1 – Amazon UK
http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-of-the-Monsoon-ebook/dp/B0070VV9TI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340392877&sr=8-1&keywords=freedom+of+the+monsoon - Amazon USA/INDIA
http://www.feedaread.com/books/Freedom-of-the-Monsoon-9781908895660.aspx - Malika's publisher
Links to her blogs:
http://malikagandhi.wordpress.com/ - About Me, My book and Everything else
http://unicornsreviews.wordpress.com/ - The Unicorn’s Book Reviews
Mailka has told me that during September, she will be running a blog tour.