Today on 'On Writing', we have the Bestselling Novelist Neil DiSilva sharing with us his experience.
With three published books to his credit, Neil D’Silva has become an identifiable name in the world of Indian literature. His first book, Maya’s New Husband, stayed on the Amazon India (Horror) Bestseller Ranks for nine months, reaching the coveted #1 position several times. His second book, The Evil Eye and the Charm, topped the Amazon India (Horror) charts as well. His third book is Bound In Love, which debuted at #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases the very next day of its release.
Let us find out more about him and his works through this pleasant chat.
You write horror fiction and you are prolific. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It is both correct and incorrect to say I write horror fiction. I would like to think I write on human relationships. The core of all my stories is about how people interact and react to each other. The other element, i.e. horror, comes in later if the story so demands. Hence, I need to only seek inspiration from the world around me. Being a keen observer, I closely observe how people behave with each other. Subconsciously, everything that I observe and experience becomes a part of my stories.
How different is Bound In Love from Maya’s New Husband? Do tell us about your books.
Maya’s New Husband was my debut. It is the story of a woman named Maya who finds herself trapped in a marriage with a person who has a very disturbing other side. The story is crime-horror and has elements of Indian ritual practices and cannibalism. Bound In Love is my third book. It is a short-story collection of different sides of human relationships. I have covered some highly controversial topics such as incest, sex reassignment, pedophilia, extramarital relationships, BDSM, etc. in this book. I have written another book as well, my second actually, which is titled The Evil Eye and The Charm. This was also a short-story collection based on the Indian lemon-chili superstitions. All my books belong to different genres, but I am surprised at how all have been received well by my readers.
Do you research before setting out to write your book?
I had to do quite a bit of research for Maya’s New Husband. The story has certain elements that needed a sensitive approach, and hence it was necessary to get the facts in order. The Internet has made it quite easy to conduct secondhand research, but I also try to get some firsthand accounts where possible.
What according to you is the most difficult scene to write?
According to me, the most difficult scenes to write are the in-between scenes. When I start writing, I have the main turning points of the story in mind. I know the scenes were the major twists will happen. However, it is necessary to go seamlessly from one point to another, and this should be interesting as well. These in-between parts, according to me, are a good test for an author’s worth. It is important not to bore away the readers during these portions. I use them constructively though. When there’s no major plot marker happening, I use my words to flesh out the characters a bit more. It helps establish the story better.
Do you edit your own books or use the services of a professional editor? How important do you think editing is for any book?
I am friends with a few writers who act as each other’s beta-readers and editors. Along with Varun Prabhu, I run the editing service Pen Paper Coffee as well. So, usually Varun reads my work, and so do some other people including our mutual writer-friend Aindrila Roy and my wife Anita. We provide substantive comments to each other for all our books. As far as our editing needs are concerned, we trust each other more than any outside service, and it has paid off richly so far.
Which form of fiction writing comes easily to you? Short stories or novels? Do explain why.
I enjoy writing both though I write short stories more for the simple reason that they are less time-consuming. There’s also the fact that I am usually inundated with ideas. Sometimes it happens that I get a dream and I feel, “Oh, this would make a fantastic short story!” and I stop whatever else I am doing and write that one. Writing novels is much more satisfying, though. It is like building a land of your own and inviting readers to visit. However, it is strenuous to write them. You need to keep track of a lot of things. In conclusion — writing short stories is more fun but less satisfying, whereas writing novels is more work but several times more satisfying.
You have a regular job as a teacher which in itself is a very demanding job. When do you find time to write?
I have been able to streamline my routine this year. I teach for 4 hours in the afternoon each day, and the mornings and evenings are spent with my writing-related work. I go for a walk in the mornings when I think over what I plan to write that day, which could be just a scene or two. There are also editing projects through Pen Paper Coffee that I devote a few hours in the mornings for.
Do you have any specific rituals or superstitions associated with your writing process?
I have begun to believe that one should not speak much about their writing until they are ready to publish. There’s a reason for that too — if the word gets out much, I tend to lose interest. With my forthcoming projects, the shock value of the announcements is going to be a major part of my promotional endeavors. Apart from that, there are no rituals or superstitions. I write when I can.
Which part in the whole process of creation of a book do you dislike the most? Writing, Editing, Querying, Publishing or Marketing? Why?
That should be the querying part, because I haven’t tried that out yet. Since my books have been self-published so far, I haven’t had the “pleasure” of querying. Even for Maya’s New Husband, I was approached with a traditional publishing offer, so I did not have to move around much. I have received an offer for Bound In Love as well, but I am yet contemplating on the pros and cons of the offer.
Do you read your reviews? How important do you think a review is for the success of a book?
I read each and every review with the greatest amount of patience, and I read them over and over again. I have received more than a hundred extremely detailed reviews for Maya’s New Husband and a large number of blog reviews and mentions. I have bookmarked all of them and I go through them whenever I get time. Almost all of the reviews are positive, but there are those stray sentences which speak on how things can be improved. Those matter a lot. A writer must pay heed to what is working and what is not. It helps the next book become a better one.
Which international author is your idol? Which work of his would you recommend to your readers?
Along my reading life, I have picked up several inspirations from a lot of people. However, if we speak only for the present time, I have two major inspirations — Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. I admire both of them for different reasons. I love King for the way he creates an environment with his words, which appeals to all the human senses. That’s an important hallmark of horror writing. And I admire Edgar Allan Poe for the magic he creates, for his sheer literary intellect. Not a single word is ever out of place in his writing. I’d make King’s Gerald’s Game and Poe’s The Fall of Usher, The Telltale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven compulsory reading for all writers of horror.
What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?
1) Edit your works. A lot. The largest part of a writer’s job begins after writing the words ‘The End’. Read your works out aloud. That helps in picking out the small mistakes and inconsistencies that might escape you otherwise.
2) Read. It is sad to see how many writers of today proclaim — at times with pride — that they don’t read. It just doesn’t work that way. If you don’t read, you might be able to tell a good story but without the linguistic structure to back it up. That way, you might be able to attract a certain class of readers for a short time, but your work won’t have the lasting quality.
3) Keep a marketing strategy in place. It is important to get your book read by as many people as possible, and that’s why you need to attract attention. Every book needs to be marketed differently. Also remember, to build your own personal reputation along the way, for every author is a brand with an identity of his/her own. You need to discover yours and then put it forward for the world to see.
Wonderful! Thank you Neil for excellent tips and the interesting answers. Wishing you the very best in all your future endeavors.
Amazon.in Book Links:
All books are also available on Amazon.com.
Read more about Neil D’Silva, and his short stories, on his website
So buy his books, folks.
Until Next post