At 24, Nikita Singh is already a veteran romance writer of nine books. She has been writing from the age of 18, when she was studying for a bachelor of pharmacy at the Acropolis Institute in Indore. She has just graduated from a course in creative writing in New York and is interning with a literary magazine.
How are you so prolific?
I always knew I was going to at write books one day, but did not know I was going to take writing up as a career. I did not want to do pharmacy for the rest of my life. So I asked myself why not right away. I had this idea that became my first book, Love@Facebook. I know it sounds silly now.
How did you get it published?
I come from a conservative family from Barwaha, which is 60 km from Indore. We moved a lot, among Tier II and III cities. I did not get to study with the best schools. I did not have internet at home I when started writing. I visited internet cafes to submit my manuscript online with all the publishers. Pustak Mahal accepted two days after I sent it to them. My next book was with Penguin.
Why did you feel the need to study creative writing? With so many successful books to your name, you could have taught the subject.
I joined the course at 22. I am 24 now. I could have easily believed I know everything. But how can a 22-year-old claim to know everything about writing? I did not want to write the same book over and over again. I know how to be a successful writer in the commercial market, but I don’t think I would have got any satisfaction out of that. I wanted to write better.
But you are doing so well as a writer. Why do you feel the need to write better?
I am not the audience for the books I write. I exclusively read literary fiction.
I think Haruki Murakami has cracked the code. His books are literary, but so simple. Jhumpa Lahiri, too. These are writers I look up to and may follow them.
How important is it to be good looking to be a successful writer in India?
I know what is going on in India. For me, it is harder. People hold women to a different standard than they do men. I was doing an interview for Cosmopolitan today. The interview had a question: how was your first Ted experience? It reminded me why I stopped doing Ted Talks.
Why did you?
I was doing Ted talks at 19. I can’t even listen to it myself. I remember the backlash I received. I agree I did not have perspective. But this was IIM Calcutta. Those people insisted that a 19-year-old girl come and talk about what she thought. That is what I did. I agree I was not a good speaker. But people said, “Oh, she looks pretty, that is why people read her. That is so mean. These people are so cruel — so much older people commenting on a 19-year-old girl who did not receive the best education. People shame you if you are ugly, and also when you are not.
But you are naturally pretty, that must be an advantage.
I don’t want readers who go to a bookstore, open a book, look at the back cover, and buy it for the photo. The stereotyping of it puts me off. I just want to be a better writer with each book. So when you ask what others are doing on social, I do not follow anybody.
Do you try to look less pretty?
I struggled with it in the beginning -- maybe I should not wear this. It took me a long time to embrace the fact that I am interested in fashion, and I am okay being who I am. A lot of people I look up to have helped me in that. Arundhati Roy genuinely does not care. You can love or hate her, but she is very charming, and she is happy. I wanna be that.
What do you think of having readers as fans?
A lot of this has to do with the aspiration of writers. People have made writing a glamorous career. I am far from it, except for social media. There are a lot of books right now that I can’t say it is good that people are reading those books.