For the Love of Books

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It’s no secret that reading is an excellent pastime. You can imagine characters, places, scenes just the way you want them to be. Books allow your mind to be creative and they explain the thoughts going through a characters’ minds while performing an action which lets you connect with them better and immerse yourself deeper in the story. Hyderabad’s rich association with literature dates all the way back to the 15thCentury; when the Qutb Shahi Dynasty encouraged the growth of Deccani Urdu in poetry. Hyderabad, which is more famously known as the City of Nizams, owes its cultural heritage to the 150-yearlong rule of the Nizams. They brought Hyderabad to the centre stage of elegant and soulful arts, and literature and that legacy continues to shine till date. Hyderabad hasn’t let go of its roots, with the old and new parts of the city perfectly dovetailed to give any aspiring writer an overdose of inspiration. And for those who love to have their hands on an interesting piece of literature, sit back and read. We also spoke to two of the renowned authors who are from Hyderabad.

 

Pearl Kolleri is a very ordinary, nondescript sort of person, hence very media shy but she also happens to be a global bestselling author and evangelist. She writes under the pen name PB Kolleri. Her mystery novels have hit the #1 spot on US, UK, Canadian and Australian book websites numerous times. The eBook versions have also been nominated for literary excellence on Kindle several times in different categories and countries. “I cannot take any credit for the sort of literary success that I have been graced with. I think that my work and consequent success has been directed and guided by a far higher source than anything I could have possibly achieved on my own steam”. she says.

What are some common traps for aspiring writers?

The greatest trap for anyone – be it an aspiring writer, doctor, designer, chef or engineer, or anyone for that matter, is to aspire for exponential success by thinking that ‘we’ are the captains of our ships and the masters of our destiny and that it is by ‘our’ effort alone that success comes. There is a greater design and higher purpose to every life. If your life’s purpose is to be an author, you will find your steps guided accordingly towards writing. And you will find yourself astonished at your own success. My advice to fledgeling writers is to be open to that higher guidance. We are all tools in hands that are far mightier than we can fathom. Ask for clarity. ‘Ask and you shall receive’. Have faith that your path will be shown to you clearly. It is only when we start walking in our life’s true purpose that genuine success can come in any field of endeavour. It’s important to have patience, sometimes it can take a while. Personally, my path became clearer much later rather than sooner in life. How I wish it had been the other way round!

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

It rather depends on the genre, I think. I can’t see how emotions would help someone publishing a book on software code or cloud computing for example. I’m guessing it would detract. Come to think of it even in fiction, a cool mind is far better. You know, people often have this image in their minds about authors being a romantic lot with their heads in the clouds. The truth is, most authors who have any true global presence or commercial success (that is; those who publish international bestsellers) are no different from global entrepreneurs. The international publishing industry is a massive labyrinth and to make any name for yourself at all, to even make a dent in it, you need to have a very good idea about branding and managing your books and maintaining an overall international web presence for your books. Writing a book is just 10% of the work involved in the entire publishing process. There are over a hundred steps before and post writing a book. For example, before you can even decide on a genre, you need to clearly identify your target audience, demographics and your target readership countries. Seen in that light, it’s not any different from running a business really. Hence, coming back to your question, being overly emotional in this field can have a negative impact and bog you down. Also, in any creative endeavour, you will have critics – that’s guaranteed. If you are emotionally strung, it’s likely going to affect your creativity and take away from your productivity. I personally think it helps to be centred and have a cool and calm mind as an author.

What’s your favourite book?

That’s easy. Dante’s Divine Comedy has to be one of the finest books of prose ever written. And unless one is fluent in Italian, Mandelbaum’s translation of Dante’s Inferno is by far the finest version. Beats Longfellow’s and Musa’s or even Applebaum’s translation of Dante any day. The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham comes a close second. An absolute favourite.

Your favourite authors?

Far too many to choose from but I have to say that for everyday sort of reading, Somerset Maugham, Alexander McCall Smith and P.G. Wodehouse take satire, human experience and humour respectively to an altogether different level. Absolutely brilliant, and Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie remain the undisputed czars of mystery till this day.

Who is your inspiration?

Definitely Somerset Maugham.

What does literary success look like to you?

A Mercedes and a healthy bank account. Just kidding, although I’ve been blessed with those too. As I mentioned, I think I’ve always been guided by a higher source in all that I’ve done in the literary field, and now as an evangelist, so I can hardly claim any credit for the success that I’ve been lavished with, despite my being painfully media shy.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The writing part takes only about 25 days, bearing in mind, that when I’m in writing mode, I manage with 2 hours of sleep daily and write continuously for about 18 hours a day. The research into the historical details of the era and characters that I write about takes longer. Then there’s editing and formatting of course. On the whole, anywhere between 3 to 6 months.

What genre are your books?

Historical Murder Mysteries and Biblical Theology.

When did you decide to become a writer?

When I was about ten years old but the spirit literally moved me to become a professional author in 2013.The entire process got ‘slightly’ delayed by 25 years because I was too blind and too caught up with my corporate career, ‘paying my bills ‘so to speak, to see my true calling. Once I got married, my husband took care of the bills; bless his heart, while I stayed at home and took care of our baby daughter and started writing books in my spare time. And to my astonishment, it turned out to be a very successful venture. But I could not have even begun my literary career without my family’s unconditional support.

Why did you choose this route?

I went within and asked for guidance and I was shown my calling. My life’s purpose.

What is your favourite quote?

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

– W. Somerset Maugham

What advice would you give to aspiring fiction writers?

Please, please, stick to storytelling if you’re just starting out. As the old joke goes, autobiographies are only interesting if you are Steve Jobs, Paramhansa Yogananda or Princess Diana.

What do you think would make a good story?

For mystery writing, I’d like to say something clichéd like the atmosphere and the build-up but the truth is, that the best mysteries are the ones that make you scratch your head in the end and say – ‘Now, why didn’t I catch that clue.’ The clues must be well hidden yet in retrospect, once the mystery is solved, they must be clearly visible to all. I usually hide the clues in the best possible place there is to hide anything – in plain sight. Mystery writing is so much fun because it’s like creating a clever crossword and a jigsaw puzzle in one.

The theological works, on the other hand, are far more intense and spirit driven because they come from a higher source than one’s own limited consciousness.

How can our readers discover more about you and you work?

Most book websites, including Amazon, have a detailed listing of all my books in different formats and editions. The first few books in the series are available in both print and digital versions in India. But I’m afraid the latest print books are available only in USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan among others. And although the latest print books are also available in India via Amazon, please bear in mind that since they are international imported editions, they are priced higher. The digital versions, on the other hand, are available at par in India. To find out more, you could just Google ‘PB Kolleri’ and you’ll find a host of international websites to choose from based on your country of residence for both digital and print books.

 

She is someone who gets joy out of any time spent with family, nature and all things beautiful. She celebrates life. “Whatever I do I do from within my heart and the process becomes a celebration. Thinking and saying positive is another ingredient that makes Sonika Shandilya. Just as I feel things to write I also feel music to dance.

 

What are some common traps for aspiring writers?

Trying to imitate their favourite authors could fence them. Maybe trying to write something in which they themselves don’t believe in. Getting discouraged if they don’t find a publisher will hammer them down. Love for their writing and self-confidence should help them nudge the hammer aside. My first novel ‘Joy all the may – Kids’ did not find a publisher but here I am beating the drum for the success of my second novel which has been published by Srishti Publications.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

No one can be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly. You should be able to feel emotions through your eyes, ears, heart and skin if even a good line is to be written. I am referring to the emotions in both humans and nature. To describe a particular mood of the page, the writer should understand what the characters are feeling, whether it is night or day that could make them feel that way. And if it is night – is it the full moon if at all a day goes with the mood of the page then what day – windy, foggy, bright, rainy there would be many things which should be felt by the writer if the correct mood is to be given to the page. In every page, this process will have to go on. The writer creates his own characters but some freedom should be given to the characters as well. They will also guide the writer to some extent. To be guided correctly, the writer should be able to feel their emotions.

What’s your favourite novel?

A beautiful day whose breeze has lyrics of fun, its sunlight lights my mood, the thumping feel of my family around me giving a rocking effect to the beautiful day is my favourite novel. Yes I can read it every day. The words of this novel have to felt to be understood. The novel of each such day is my favourite. Cannot pick one.

Your favourite Author?

NATURE. I read it in flowers – so many different kinds of them, each blooming beautifully in words of the novel. The moon and the moonlight together produce words with a silvery halo which spread all through the novel. All the novels written by nature are bestsellers.

Who is your inspiration?

The love of my parents, brother, in-laws, husband and Sons is my inspiration.

What does literary success look like to you?

It is one more thing to celebrate in the celebration of Life. My belief in myself and some people who believed in me have been proved right. I had anyway planned to keep on Writing but now with this literary success I can make other people read what I write and make them believe what I believe in.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It takes around two and a half years to write a book. But if I get more discipline and regularity in my writing Schedule it can take two years.

What genre are your books?

My first book which is yet to find a publisher is a Realistic fiction and the one which is published is a Romance Novel. My third which I am half way through is also realistic fiction. But I plan to write mostly Romance.

When did you decide to become a writer?

When both my sons went to school I was missing them. So, I started writing about them which became my first book Joy – all the way Kids. I always enjoyed writing descriptive answers while in MBA so always had a flair for writing. When I started writing ‘TINKLING OF THE BELL BEFORE IT RINGS’ I was sure I will find a publisher.

Why did you choose their route?

If the route has different Landscape while walking when you imagine something and you find it just at the next turn. Beautiful Surprises greet you on the way. Pleasant MIRACLES bare themselves for you. The route to writing is this and much more. Do you still want me to tell you why I choose this route?

What is your favourite quote?

“The ageing of the grapes produces intoxicating wine just as long relationships become intoxicating and give a high” by Sonika Shandilya

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Words should come from the heart. Keep your motivation in the heart which will always be able to break the traps of ‘ if’s and buts’ laid by the mind. You need not fence yourself with any strict routine as creativity needs to flow with freedom. But yes the manuscript should not be kept waiting for too long as this will make you lose contact with the characters. If you don’t have a story, start with something and the characters can also guide you if you are totally involved with the Story. Stay with your characters all the time then they will hop on to the things around you telling you what to write e.g. in my book ‘TINKING OF THE BELL BEFORE IT RINGS’ I saw woolly clouds in the sky. Sakshi and Jai got engrossed in the clouds too. One of the chapters has them talking about the Clouds. One should not repeat adjectives. Words or sentences should never sound monotonous. Imagine in your mind and then make it flow into words.

What do you think would make a good story?

A good writer will make a good story. It is the skill of the author that makes the readers enjoy and feel the story. It is the power of narration that makes everything sound interesting. If a good story finds a bad writer, the story will get bored and sleep through the novel.

How can our readers discover more about you and your work?

Readers can discover me and my work by reading and enjoying my Novel ‘ TINKLING

OF THE BELL BEFORE IT RINGS’. The book is available at all major bookstores across India and at Amazon worldwide. It is available in metros, tier 2 cities, tier 3 cities, airport shops, metro stations. Readers can visit my Facebook page Author Sonika Shandilya.

 

Here some of the books clubs for you to join

 

Tale Tellers Troupe

Tale Tellers Troupe is an 872-member-strong storyteller group that aims to make the art of storytelling stronger as the year’s progress. Their current mission is to help people overcome stage fright through the practice of effective communication. The group is open to members of all ages and holds storytelling sessions for 3 hours on any given topic and language based on all sorts of literature. The members believe that the simple art of storytelling can transform the already powerful nature of a book. You can become a member for free and catch up with the group once every two weeks.

Follow them on Facebook (Tale Tellers TroupeIndia)

Hyderabad Authors and Readers Association

HARA is an association that only invites readers but also authors, aspiring authors to join, share, learn and enrich themselves. A monthly meeting is conducted to ensure the creative flow. They also organize meet ups related to special events, competition, workshops and knowledge sharing sessions. They believe in giving every individual a platform to raise, write and remove the hurdles like tools and technology that might be a hindrance in the reading, writing process of an individual. The association is open to all platforms.

Website: https://www.meetup.com/Hyderabad-Authors-and-Readers-Association/

Hyderabad Literary Festival

Since 2010, the Hyderabad Literary Festival has attracted a huge crowd of people who are completely immersed in art and literature, both out of interest and professionally. The fest explores both ancient cultures of Hyderabad and Secunderabad as well as the modern trends of Cyberabad. The fest invites world-renowned writers of all regional languages as well as Indian-born writers in English. Workshops are conducted, attracting a crowd of avid readers and aspiring writers, making this fest a must-go if you are in the city. The 2018 edition will be held between 26 and 28 January.

Follow them on Facebook (Hyderabad Literary Festival)

Hyderabad Book Club

Established in 2010, the Hyderabad Book Club has gained popularity ever since, with over 500 members. They are open to all readers and writers. The club members participate regularly to meet discuss and exchange interesting reads. They also promote budding and upcoming authors. The club is open to anyone who has a strong love for the literary art form. They conduct workshops as well as competitions for all its members to stimulate their ideas. If you are looking for some ideas to discuss, be a part of the group.

Website: www.meetup.com/Hyderabad-Book-Club-Meetup

 

Do you sometimes find yourself completely devoid of ideas to write a good story? If so, you’re not alone in the world of authors. Writers’ block can be tough to handle; thankfully there are multitudes of ways to get inspiration to write. The atmosphere plays an important role in cooking up the right concoction to induce a creative flow. Also, it’s a good idea to constantly change your atmosphere when you are seriously considering writing a book. If you’re tired of bookstores, libraries and parks, head over to a book café for an entirely mesmerising and powerful wave of inspiration. Book cafés, as the name suggests, blends the pleasure of reading a book with delectable short-eats and drinks. If you’re planning to visit a book café, make sure to tag along with your favourite book or keep an eye out for the small library each such store has.

 

Here are some of the best spots in Hyderabad

Whiteboard Cafe

With the beautiful white interiors, charming seating arrangement and being a perfect place to offer solace for all the writes, Whiteboard Cafe has a lot more than just books to soothe your taste buds, mind and soul. All the budding entrepreneurs, if you’re  looking for a realm of the ideas and solutions without getting bothered by anything, this place is the one destination for you. It’s a must-visit if you are in need of freshness.

Location: First Floor, Bullet King Towers, Sector II, Opposite Cyber Gateway, Madhapur, Hyderabad, Telangana.

Contact: 99496702252

 

Coffee Cup

This is the perfect hangout for all the book buffs out there. Located in Sainikpuri, this is a haven for writers and readers alike. The place also has a magnificent sit-out terrace for all the nature lovers. Along with a wide range of books The Coffee Shop has an array of board games to choose from. If you are in the company of friends, you can read, play and eat all under one roof. Bests on the menu include the hot coffee, nachos, hot chocolate and club sandwich.

Location: E- 89, Sainikpuri, A.S. Rao Nagar, Behind BP Petrol Bunk, Above Canara Bank.

Contact: 040-33194792

 

Beyond Coffee

This café pulls you in with its warm and cosy atmosphere. It is popular among the youth and has a huge fan following, all of who vouch for its great ambience. Beyond Coffee has spacious seats for you to relax, lounge around and read to your heart’s content and an enormous menu to choose from. It also organizes Salsa classes, so you can attend it with your partner. If you love video games, consider visiting this café every day. Bests on the menu include an English-style breakfast, coffee, and pancakes.

Location: Road No: 36, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad.

Contact: 040-33165063

 

Lamakaan

Indulge yourself in binge reading while nibbling on some good food and adoring the mind-boggling artwork, far away from the ever-growing hustle bustle of Hyderabad city. Being touted as the cultural hub, this place celebrates art, conducts Qawwali sessions and film screenings that could definitely sooth the creative soul in you.

Location: Off Road no. 1, Lane before VengalRao Park, Diagonal to GVK Mall, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad

Contact:  9642731329

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