Sweet Privy had some interesting questions.. read on :)

What a lovely bunch of questions..Bloggers and book lovers  like Privy are a boon to new writers. Do visit her space for more author interviews and book reviews.

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Today @Behind the book we have Ms. Bhargavi Balachandran the author of the newly released book The Crossover Year.

The book’s blurb says:

“Meet Sri Anuprabha, aka Anu, a twenty-nine year-old banker who is terrified of entering her thirties. She dreams of quitting her job at the bank, sporting yoga pants and traipsing around the world. Her world turns upside down when things go awry and she is faced with the prospect of spending her days watching Tamil serials. She comes up with a five-point plan for reclaiming her life back before she hits the big 30. But things are never as simple as drawing up a flowchart in real life, are they? Especially with a ghastly recession rearing its ugly head. Anu bumbles through the corridors of domesticity and travels on a fun-filled roller coaster ride in a bid to discover her passion in life. Along the way, she meets new people, experiences crazy things and learns some hard lessons in marriage, friendship, parenting and life.”

This is the author’s second novel,  the first one was a romance  novella  called Seven Across that came out in 2012 . Let’s get into a conversation with her to know more about her and The Crossover Year.

Extending a warm welcome to Reviews and Musings to you! It is a pleasure having you here and thank you so much for your time.

Thank you so much for the warm welcome, Privy. I am super excited about connecting with all of you  and sharing more about the book.
1.    The Crossover Year – can you tell us more about it?

Its the story of 29-year old Anu , who is a banker  and is  intensely unhappy with her job. She quits work and goes on a journey of self discovery. The book broaches several serious topics like sexual harassment at work , parenting, work-life balance , passion in life , marriage  and friendship, but does so in a light-hearted and funny (hopefully!)way.
2.
     Having a female protagonist, was it intentional or was there any specific reason you wanted the tale to be narrated from a female POV?

It is the story of a woman’s journey, and considering the fact that it is recounted in a light-hearted way, I had to do it from the POV of a woman. So essentially I didn’t have a choice – the story chose to be told from a woman’s POV. Also I find it easier to writer from a female POV and think it would be a challenge for me write from a man’s perspective.
3.  
      What are your views on the Indian Woman of today’s times – the juggler of home and career?

Ah, that is the crux of this book! 9to 5 jobs are a thing of the past and women no longer see work as something that will helps bring in a few bucks. For many of us , our work gives us our biggest sense of identity. Now, add a demanding family and children to the equation and we have the perfect recipe for heartburns. All around me , I see examples of explemplary achievements by Indian women and I cannot but think about the amount of hard work that goes into being successful and balancing aspects of personal life at the same time. Don’t we all want to be super-women , being able to juggle work and home and tackle them both with equal panache? This is exactly Anu’s predicament!

4.   Was it a passion you always had, to become an author?
I remember when I was about ten years old , a friend and I wrote some stories on a pink chart paper and tried selling them to unsuspecting adults in our colony. Other than this , I don’t think I  have really harbored a dream of becoming a writer. I have always loved reading and writing, but it was always for my own amusement. Then, blogging happened and I discovered that I had several stories inside me waiting to be told.

I blog at Bedazzledeternally.blogspot.com and Hyphenatedsemicolons.blogspot.com. However , after the arrival of my little one , I haven’t found much time to blog.

5.  This book is more of a chicklit genres, a usual light reads which are scarce in current Indian Publishing market. Didn’t it bother you?

Ha Ha! I think that the word chick-lit is the most abused word in Indian publishing. I’d probably take offence if someone told me that all chick-lits are brainless and full of fluff. According to me there are just two categories of books – good ones and bad ones . I am not talking about fancy words and flowery language when I say good books. To me a good book makes an honest attempt at conveying whatever it wants to convey and is unpretentious. There is space for the Arundhati Roys and Preeti Shenoys to peacefully co-exist here.
6.  
      Please share your experiences about getting published with the aspiring authors. How has been your journey till here?
Anu’s story was written almost five years back. Writing was the easy part, what followed was a nightmare. I had sent the manuscript to four publishers and three of them wrote back within three months saying they couldn’t go ahead. One publisher was excited, but wanted me to edit the book to almost half its size. By the time I edited it and got back to them , the commissioning editor who had asked for the edit had resigned and Anu’s story was orphaned again. In hindsight, I feel I should have spent  a lot more time on the manuscript before sending it out. When I was about to give up on the book and move on to the next , I read an article about literary agents in India. I was intrigued and decided to mail my manuscript to an agent. He promptly got back and told me that Anu’s story had to be told and that if we reworked the manuscript a bit, publishers would gladly take it up.I spent months re-writing it. However, despite re-working, things didn’t really work out. We were all baffled and for almost a year there was no news. Then out of the blue , the agent mailed me saying that he had found a publisher. That was three years back. There were points when I was ready to give up and move on, but somehow I think this book was fated to come out. It was just a matter of time.
Our Indian publishing industry is at an exciting stage where publishers are willing to look at unsolicited works and are on the constant look-out for new voices.  All you need to do is keep writing and sending your stuff out to publishing houses.  Good luck !

7.   What is that one good thing and one bad thing about becoming an author?

Every author will tell you this that seeing their book in print is almost like giving birth to a baby. It is intense, has a lot of pain and toil attached to it ( the edits most definitely are!). But  all that doesn’t  really matter when you hold the book in your hands. It’s your baby; it’s a part of you. You have breathed life into something that didn’t exist before and you have a book to show for all the long hours you spent cloistered in your room toiling away. That’s the good part.

When you write a book (even if its a work of fiction) , your thoughts and prejudices creep into it. Its almost like you are carving a part of yourself and putting it the open for the whole world to gawk at. It can be a little unsettling if one is not very sure of oneself.  But that’s how life is: where bouquets fall, brick-bats will also exist. Also , unless you are a best-selling author , there is no money in this pursuit. You do it because you want your stories to be told , not because you want to become a millionaire. So if you don’t have a backup job , things can be very frustrating. Some really good writers fail to make a mark, while mediocre books manage to make it big. That’s publishing for you.
8.    If there is one thing that you could change in the book what would it be?

Oh, lots of stuff. Every time I re-read it , I find ten different things I want to change. I’ve realized that Anu’s life is written and I need to move on now. She might be flawed in some ways , but there is nothing much I can do about it and that gets me to stop obsessing. I have new Anuprabhas to obsess about now 🙂

9.  We would love to know your future projects or any other books you might be working on currently.

I have four manuscripts at different stages of completion. All of them are of different genres and I have no clue which one would get completed first.

1    Any message for our readers and all those aspiring authors out there.

Just keep writing religiously- at least 300-400 words every day. Writing is like any other skill – it just gets better with practice. Read like there is no tomorrow – only that way you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Network with fellow writers and your potential readers, as publishers don’t just want a book , but a pre-packaged author who can sell books for them. Yeah , publishing is like any other business.

And  lastly , don’t ever give up, because if you don’t have faith in what you have written , how are you going to get someone else to like it ? Good luck !

Thanks a bunch for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts, Privy. You’ve made me introspect about what really attracted me to writing this book in the first place. Blogs like yours are a blessing for new writers like me. Stay blessed!  

A huge thank you for sparing some of your precious time to be with here today, we would like to wish you all the best for all your future endeavors.

Interview at Pebble In The Still Waters

Jaideep from Pebble in still waters wanted to know more about The Crossover Year and me .What a lovely bunch of questions..Thanks Jaideep.Read on.. 
She is an entrepreneur, a book addict, lover of arts, a mom to a naughty toddler and an author of two books. Her latest book, The CrossOver year is a funny book about a woman’s search for her identity. She used to have a day job analyzing balance sheets once, but traded that in for the privilege of working from home in her pyjamas and running behind a lil’ imp.

We all welcome Bhargavi Balachandran…

Your real name and pen name?

Both are the same .I don’t believe in hiding behind aliases or writing something that I would be ashamed of later. Which is why even the romance novella that I published first was published in my name. 
  
Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

We moved around quite a bit around the country when I was a kid, as my dad was in a transferrable job. I must say I was lucky enough to see and experience different things at a very young age.

About your education

I did my Bachelors and Masters in Management. I was a science student in school , but decided I had had enough of Amoebas and vernier callipers and Hydrochloric Acids and decided to take up management. 

What career did you plan during your education days?

I remember wanting to get into the IITs. But that phase didn’t last long and then I wanted to do my MBA. I did end up doing an MBA and working for random companies for 7 years, but Literature and the Arts have always been my twin passions.  


What languages you can speak and write?

English, Hindi and Tamil.  English happens to be the language I think in, so I am not great with the other two languages when it comes to writing. I am pretty ashamed of this and am forever in awe of people who can manage to write in several languages. 

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

Inspiration comes from everywhere, every single day. I don’t think I can name a particular person.    

What hurts you most in this world?

Hypocrisy and excessive negativity.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

I don’t think I’ve faced any challenge of earth-shattering magnitude till now. But I did go through a period of self doubt when I had trouble getting my book published. After almost five years after I wrote my first draft , this book has been published I firmly believe that the universe has a way of sorting the kinks out and all we have to do is keep swimming- keep swimming even when our limbs scream out in exhaustion. So , yeah going with the flow and trying harder was my way of handling it.    

If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?

I live vicariously through the protagonists of my novels. It would be lovely to get into the skin of anybody else and get to know him/ her only to find out the deepest darkest secrets residing inside another person. I have always wondered about what made Hitler do those evil things that he did. So maybe I would want to spend a day as HItler, just so that I can understand what made a human being hate another life so much.       


What is your favorite genre and why?

I like humour – on legs and in books and that would be one of my fav genres. I also like reading chick-lits, crime/ psychological thrillers and literary fiction. I hate pretentious books and feel that anything that doesn’t entertain me / make me think is not worth my time even if it happens to have won the Bookers or some high-brow award.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

Twenty years back, a friend and I scribbled a few stories on chart paper and tried to sell them to unsuspecting souls and that was probably the first book I ‘published’. However, I started writing seriously only after I started my blog in 2008. MY first book was written sometime in 2009.What started as a catharsis is now a need. I’ve realised that I have too many stories brimming inside my head, waiting for an outlet and only feel better once I’ve written them out and breathed life into characters that live in my head. It almost is like a mad hatter’s party with the characters waiting to crawl out of my head. The purpose is to tell stories.  

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

I started freelancing for magazines and newspapers in 2008, but my first book was published in 2012. It was a romance novella titled Seven Across. My second book (a full-fledged novel) was published a few weeks back. Here’s the synopsis of The Crossover Year 

“Meet Sri Anuprabha, aka Anu, a twenty-nine year-old banker who is terrified of entering her thirties. She dreams of quitting her job at the bank, sporting yoga pants and traipsing around the world. Her world turns upside down when things go awry and she is faced with the prospect of spending her days watching Tamil serials. She comes up with a five-point plan for reclaiming her life back before she hits the big 30. But things are never as simple as drawing up a flowchart in real life, are they? Especially with a ghastly recession rearing its ugly head…. Anu bumbles through the corridors of domesticity and travels on a fun filled roller coaster ride in a bid to discover her passion in life. Along the way, she meets new people, experiences crazy new things and learns some hard lessons in marriage, friendship, parenting and life. The Crossover Year is a funny, yet heartwarming story of a woman in search of her identity, and a chronicle of her hilarious quest for discovering her inner mojo. Bring out a platter of cookies and a steaming mug of chai, and join Anu on the ride of her lifetime.”


What are your forthcoming writings?

I have 4 more manuscripts in different stages of completion. With a toddler and a business to run, I don’t have enough time to write or read as much as I would want to. The next book mostly will be a crime fiction which I have been writing for the last three years.

What are your future plans?

I don’t believe in making plans and I feel that the best laid plans always go awry. So, in essence there is no Plan A or B. I take life as it comes, one day at a time.

What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?

When someone spares a few hours from their busy life to read your book, I think it is essential that the book make them say ‘Paisa vasool, yaar”. What I do ensure is to make sure that I proof-read the manuscript several times ,so that it doesn’t have any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.
The last thing you want is for your book to be tossed aside because you spelled ‘Animal’ as ‘Animales’. 

Your dream destination on Earth?

I love travelling, so to me the prospect that I could choose any country on this planet makes me feel like a kid in a toyshop. But dream destination..umm.. Greece, maybe 

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

I am an Indian by birth. I’ve lived briefly in the Middle-East and Australia, and have visited 5-6 other countries. Needless to say, my bucket list is fairly long! 

Your favorite time of the day?

Evenings and Mornings (Maybe because I abhor getting up early, but love sunny mornings.)


Your zodiac/ sunsign?

I am a typical Gemini.It certainly feels like I have a Mr Jekll and Dr Hyde inside me 🙂

Your favorite color and why?

I love colourful stuff. But my favs are white and black. Nothing can beat the classic elegance of that combination.

Your favorite book and why?

Again, Kid in a toy shop problem. It would have been easier for me to give you my top 100 list :). Some of my favourites are The palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee , The Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandana and Angela’s Ashes by Frank Mc Court. The first two books are lush, dreamy and poignant works. the third one is the funniest memoir I’ve ever read.

Your favorite celebrity and why?

My current favourite is Jerry Pinto . I read his book ,Em and the Big Hoom and could think of little else for a while. Then , I saw an interview he had given and couldn’t stop myself from saying”What a rockstar!” to my friends at every opportunity.I think intellectuals with a passion for life and their craft easily impress me.. 

Your favorite food?

Out and out foodie . But give me anything with cheese or chocolate and I’ll gobble it up. Favourite cuisine would have to be Italian.

Some quickies: Sun or Moon,
Sun

Laughter or Smile
Laughter

Morning or Evening
Both

Coffee or Tea
none , but Tea if forced at gun-point 🙂

Mountain or Sea
Sea

Long Drive or Short Drive
Long Drive

Silence or Conversation
both

Water or Fire
Water

Air or Earth
Earth

Mars or Jupiter
Neither

Moon or Sun
Sun

Tulip or Rose
Tulip

Red or Blue
Blue

Left or Right
Right

Glance or Stare
Glance

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote

Make lemonade when life hands you lemons.

The last line of your autobiography would be…

“And she lives on”

Links :

The crossover year now available in Flipkart here http://bit.ly/1byZRsK

On Bharat Book’s ebay shop here http://bit.ly/1e761ES @ Rs. 138 with free shipping

On Amazon here http://bit.ly/1gr302r ( both Kindle and paperback versions are avbl)