To begin with, it is an absolute pleasure knowing a person like Yashodhara. I met her at the Harper Collins India’s office for the preview of her latest book Sorting Out Sid with a bunch of other distinguished bloggers and the discussion that followed was an interesting one. And that’s where the genesis of this interview lie, read on
Ques. How did your first book “Just Married, Please Excuse” happen? Did you always want to write a book?
Ans : Yes, I always wanted to write a book. However, I got sucked into the corporate rat race for several years. Just Married, Please Excuse is the result of two things – blogging, that I started in 2006 on ‘Y on Earth Not’, not at www.yashodharalal.com – and a complicated pregnancy in 2010 which was my wake-up call. JMPE was written on maternity leave, while nursing my twin sons.
Ans : I feel great about the fact that people who’ve read it have liked it, although I’ve noticed a couple of negative reviews too, so ‘everyone’ isn’t quite right ha ha…; but with all the new books coming out everyday, it’s becoming increasingly tougher to get it to folks who might like to read it! I’m trying not to let that deter me, though.
Ques. Tell us more about Sorting Out Sid and why should people read it?
Ans : It’s the story of a 36 year old man who’s going through a mid-life crisis including a divorce, dealing with a job he secretly hates, backstabbing friends…but since he’s the master of denial, he refuses to admit it. He’s a really funny character and I so enjoyed getting into his head.
Ques. Was it tough to think like a guy while you were writing Sorting Out Sid? Do you know someone like Sid in your real life?
Ans : Surprisingly, it wasn’t too tough for me to think like a guy. Once I got into his head, it was easy see the world through his eyes. There isn’t one Sid but definitely a bunch of people who’s idiosyncrasies have formed the basis for this character.
Ques. Coming back to the book, who gets to read the first draft of your book? And more importantly, what was your reaction when you read the first draft of your book yourself?
Ans : My sister is kind of my beta-reader as is a good friend of mine called Kunal Ganju. They’re amongst the only people I trust to read my raw work, and perhaps my mother. I think I’m already in editing mode the minute I finish that first draft, so I’m not really ‘reading’ my own first draft – it’s already etched in my head by that time.
Ques. The book is hilarious. Having read it myself and grinning from ear to ear most of the time while reading it, I want to know how tough it is to write humorous stuff? Did you ever feel insecure while writing it that the humour might not work with the readers?
Ans : I think humorous writing is actually what I’m most comfortable with, and I’m staying with the genre for the most part. So it comes naturally to me, and I don’t feel insecure. I’m sure there are a whole bunch of people who may not think it’s as funny, but I feel maybe they just don’t get it! Can’t please everyone, right?
Ques. How tough was it for you to find yourself a publisher for your first book?
Ans : Not all that tough, actually. But it took a long time. Most publishers were fairly responsive on email, but some took months to respond.
Ans : Ha ha. Well, I’m a marketing consultant, currently doing a part-time role with an e-commerce fashion company, so that’s interesting. I’ve done marketing for over 12 years so I know that domain fairly well. I’m also a Zumba instructor, and love this form of dance-fitness although I take classes mainly on weekends and in my own colony. I do a little bit of volunteer work at The Happy School for underprivileged kids. Finally, I have my three children, Peanut, Pickle and Papad and my husband Vijay and his dad, Papaji who lives with us so I try to get time with the family too.
Ques. What would be your advice to the people who are trying to write their first book?
Ans : Please read a great deal; don’t be amongst those authors who write without reading other people’s writing. And finish that first draft before you even think about self-editing – or you’ll never finish. Finally, please keep your expectations real. It’s tough out there. But like I said – it doesn’t deter me and it shouldn’t deter you. Assuming you love writing like I do, of course.
Ques. Why should one read your book? Anything that you want to tell a potential reader that the blurb of “Sorting Out Sid” doesn’t tell him?
Ans : You should definitely read Sorting Out Sid if you want to see how a modern Indian man would handle various complex relationships that tend to arise in today’s world. And if you like this sample from the Chapter ‘Sid and Brownie’ ( his beanbag, the only entity he opens up to with his real feelings):
‘Arrey … Khatam?’ Sid looked with surprise and confusion at his empty beer bottle. That was quick. He had intended to savour his first bottle, savour the feeling of an evening alone at home and the ability to do exactly what he wanted. Chalo, no matter, he still had a few bottles to go. He leaned over and stretched out to grab another bottle, singing out an impromptu and cheerful ditty.
‘Come here, my dear, you are so near…
Please have no fear, I love my beer…’
He ransacked his brain to come up with a last line that would do justice to the poet in him. But he could only manage a lame ‘And my name is … Sid’. He cackled at his own silliness. He had been going for the style of Urdu poets, like Ghalib. The last line of a couplet usually had the writer’s name inserted into it, as a sort of signature. It didn’t always work, he decided. Those Urdu poet guys weren’t practical, he concluded. No wonder most of them were dead. Still, they had churned out some pretty riveting stuff. Sid liked Urdu couplets and felt the urge to recite one, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember a single one at the moment.
He used his handy-dandy Swiss pocket-knife-cum-bottle-opener-cum-keychain to pop the cap off the second beer bottle and took another long, cold swig. He let out a loud ‘aaaah…’ as he leaned back and closed his eyes. He tended to get vocal when he got high irrespective of whether he had an audience or not. He just felt the need to speak, and it was nice to be able to speak without being judged.
He felt a fart coming, but held it in. He wasn’t going to fart on his favourite beanbag. It wouldn’t be fair to her. He patted her lovingly. It felt natural to converse with her at the moment. ‘Eh, Brownie? What has it been, fifteen years? We’ve been through too much for me to fart on you, right?’ Fifteen years with Mandira too, but wouldn’t mind farting on her right now, he thought, and immediately regretted it. That was low, below the belt, you might say. He giggled.
You can buy Sorting Out Sid on Flipkart here – http://bit.ly/sortingoutsid
The Kindle version on Amazon is here – http://amzn.to/1mUnKma
And if you have a blog, you can contact Yashodhara for guest posts/interview requests by leaving a comment at www.yashodharalal.com or write to her at yashodhara dot lal at gmail dot com.
Thanks, Yatin This was Fun! Yash