Today we have as our guest on ‘On Writing’, the talented and prolific author Sundari Venkatraman whose books can be found dancing around in the top 100 best sellers on Amazon kindle eBooks.
Even as a kid, Sundari absolutely loved the ‘lived happily ever after’ syndrome as she grew up reading all the fairy tales she could lay her hands on, Phantom comics, Mandrake comics and the like. It was always about good triumphing over evil and a happy end.
Her first eBook Double Jeopardy – a romance novella – was published by Indireads and has been very well received by readers of romance.
In 2014, Sundari self-published The Malhotra Bride (2nd Edition); Meghna; The Runaway Bridegroom; Flaming Sun Collection 1: Happily Ever Afters From India (Box Set) and Matches Made In Heaven (a collection of romantic short stories).
2015 brought yet another opportunity. Readomania came forward to traditionally publish this book – The Madras Affair – a mature romance set in Madras.
Thank you so much Preethi for giving me this opportunity to answer your questions on the “On Writing” series.
I have read that you were a bibliophile from childhood. While reading books, did you ever envision yourself as an author of one of such books?
Sundari: Yeah, I always loved reading, my earliest memory being at around three years of age. Of course, I had the advantage of having no distractions such as TV, internet and smart phones in those days. To answer your question, I never thought of writing till I was forty. Something opened up suddenly and I began writing after that.
‘The Madras Affair’ is your first traditionally published book. Your self-published books are constantly among the best sellers on Amazon and you have quite a fan following there. What difference do you think exists in being a traditionally published author and a self published one?
Sundari: Yeah, I have three novels; one anthology and a Box Set self-published under the banner “Flaming Sun”. For those, I had to do all the work by myself. Getting the cover done, ensuring that the editing and proofing was perfect – and that’s important, even when you engage someone else to do it; formatting the book and marketing – I was totally on my own. Though it appears difficult in the beginning, one gets used to it and at the end of the day, the royalty is truly worth it. You get paid more, sooner. And even better was that I could publish four books in the span of one year.
The best part of Traditional Publishing, for me, is the printed version of the book. I still think the Indian market is exploring eBooks and most of us prefer paperbacks over e-version. Here, of course, everything takes time as one needs to co-ordinate with a publisher and an editor. The advantage is that there are more heads thinking about the logical flow of the story and more. I must say though that The Madras Affair has not changed all that much story-wise since when I first wrote it. Yes, the manuscript has been tightened and reads crisper than before. And though I participated enthusiastically in ideating the cover, I didn’t have to do it all alone. The joy at the end of it all was holding the printed version of my book in my hands. One other major difference is that it took six months for my book to be published.
|The Madras Affair|
Sundari: The Madras Affair is predominantly a romance-drama. It also happens to highlight a couple of social issues. I am not attempting to teach people how to deal with their troubles or how to transform. The story portrays the life of Sangita, who’s had a miserable life until she meets Gautam. Even then, it’s not exactly smooth sailing as they are from totally different backgrounds. If you like reading love stories with a happy ending along with a lot of sizzling chemistry and family drama thrown in, then this book is for you.
I took 5-6 months to write the first draft that was 92,000 words long. That was in 2001. The final paperback has a length of 80,000 words.
I loved reading ‘The Madras Affair’. You have brought the characters to life. Did you base them on characters that you know in real life? They do seem real.
Sundari: Thank you so much Preethi. I am so glad you enjoyed reading my book.
No, I don’t know any specific character who is part of the book. You hear about a lot of people, you read about many. Then there are many incidents that impact your life, even without your being aware of it. The story kind of came out in a flow. I have dedicated this book to my best friend Pooja Gursingh and her husband Mukesh, who is someone I have never met. She was widowed after one and a half years of marriage. The idea of writing about a young widow got triggered a couple of years after I met her. Just the idea; no other resemblance to a real person.
Do you get Writer’s block ever? What do you do then?
Sundari: Writer’s block as I perceive it, is laziness to put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, in my case. I write when I feel like. If not, I read or promote on social media, which does take up a lot of time. I love blogging on varied subjects. My blog: Flaming Sun
You are one prolific author. Do you have a fixed writing schedule? What is your favorite time for writing?
Sundari: I don’t write every day. Most of the time, I write when I feel a story pushing forth from within me, insisting on having its say. Otherwise, if I feel I have a story idea that needs to be fleshed out, I write the outline on an excel sheet; create the character sketches with names, etc. I write when the mood takes.
What is the best review you have received so far for ‘The Madras Affair’?
Sundari: This is truly a tough question. :D I have received only glowing reviews so far for The Madras Affair. Okay, the one closest to my heart is from Shree Janani Sundararajan. That’s because she knows Chennai AKA Madras and could see the book from that perspective. Here’s her review: Janani's Review
You are a bestselling romance author. What is the best thing about writing romance?
Sundari: I have my head up there in the clouds and believe in “Happily Ever Afters”. That’s the only kind of book I want to read – the ones with happy endings. The same with writing romance – I want my readers to feel happy when they reach the end of the story. When I create the protagonists, I enjoy the challenge of their crossing the hurdles of human relationships and finding each other. I like creating strong-willed heroines and chivalrous heroes.
What is your best marketing strategy? How important do you think marketing is for a book to be successful?
Sundari: Best marketing is done via social media, which mostly is free. Yes, it takes quite a bit of effort and time while the reach is to one sector of audience. But then, it’s perfect for promoting ebooks.
Though many feel that writing should be the primary concern of the author, I think marketing is also a very important component. To begin with, I know my book best; as well as the back of my hand if not better. Who best to promote it other than me? With so many books hitting the market every day, how will the reader know that my book exists? Marketing is very important to let people know that such a book is there for them to read.
I have written a couple of articles on social media marketing. You are welcome to share them with your audience.
What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?
Sundari: 1) Keep writing; daily if you can. Even writing 200-500 words a day is good practice.
2) Read a lot; especially in the language you want to write in.
3) Whichever language you wish to write in, stay true to it. Ensure you know the language well for it to be possible for you to use idioms, metaphors and the like.
Thank You Sundari. I am sure our readers have a lot of information to take back after reading this post. Wishing you the very best for all future endeavors.
So if you wish to buy her latest book, click the links below. If you have already read her books, review it on Goodreads, Flipkart or Amazon. She would love to hear from you.