Gone are the days when books by authors from the West dominated our shelves. Now, that space is increasingly being taken up by young Indian authors whose writing is vibrant, personal and clicks instantly. These authors are creating their own space, where childhood memories of paper boats floating in the rain and heartbreaks during college years, are more evocative than fiction of the West.
Hindustan Times interacted with such authors from the tricity who had their first works published even before they completed their studies, to understand the challenges of starting early. Some readers consider the trend a welcome change after conventional literature, others feel best sellers can’t be taken as seriously.
Personal accounts inspire
Today’s young writers are not afraid to experiment and don’t mind sharing their personal stories with readers.
Sumrit Shahi, author of novels like 'Just Friends' and 'A lot Like Love...A Li’l Like Chocolate'
Sumrit Shahi, the author of Just Friends, claims that he did not even think of publishing his text initially let alone it becoming a best seller. “At 17, I published my first book. At 20, I was writing my first TV show (Sadda Haq, Channel V) and today at 22, I'm in talks to write a movie. All this happened because I never saw writing as a job but purely a passion,” says the writer who believes that if one invests in one’s passion, one wouldn't even know when it becomes a profession.
Tishaa Khosla, author of the 'Pink or Black' series
Similarly, for Chandigarh’s Tishaa Khosla, who is pursuing her masters in English in the UK, writing became a profession only after she discovered her passion. “Creativity can’t be measured in the short and long run,” she says. Khosla’s first book, Pink or Black, which she wrote when she was 16, was not only nominated for the Golden Quill Book Award, but also sold over 1 lakh copies.
Writing as a career?
But, how viable is writing as a profession? They might be young but the new generation is aware of the flipside. “A book may do well but it is not necessary that it will make the author rich. In that sense, publishing is a viable business not writing,” says Khosla. Shahi agrees as he, too, believes that “being a full-time author in this country isn't exactly the safest bet”.
“You've to find work that offers sustenance but doesn't take you away from writing entirely. Like all other unconventional careers, you've got to put in that extra effort and make it happen,” says Shahi, based in Mumbai at present.
Bitten by love bug
Apart from that, one can’t help but notice the young blood’s love for penning down romantic stuff out of personal experience. Or going by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief of every generation’s need to write its own books, it surely works. “Pink or Black did well because I wrote it for my generation, to discuss teenage issues,” says Khosla, who even wrote the sequel, Pink or Black 2.
Similarly, Rohan Sharma, a content writer in SAS Nagar, whose first book, 30 days...Love Is Blood Good, as the title suggests talks of love, lies and deceit. “The novel will engage readers in the 18-35 age group and is slated for a formal launch next month,” he says.
Tool called social media
Reekrit Sarai, author of 'As I Turn 20' and 'Impluse'
Meanwhile, the organiser of Panchkula Literary Festival, Reekrit Serai, whose first book, As I Turn Twenty, was published when he was just 19, also emerged out of the urge to woo his lady love, Radhika Panickar. “Writing, in the beginning, was a way for me to cope with growing up, and well, a girl always has a big role to play. As for mine, she made me become a better writer,” says Serai, who went on to become the managing director of Rumor Books India with his soon-to-be partner Radhika. Having been in the shoes of an aspiring author, Serai takes young authors seriously. He understands the space they come from and feels though they might not have the kind of money required to market their books, they have a tool in social media. “But, you can’t depend on it completely. The solution is simple – I’ve seen it from both ends of the spectrum – write a story with all your heart. Research properly. Spend a little on marketing to reach out to the right readers. If people like your writing, they’ll want more. If they don’t, don’t give up. Write again, start a blog. Post on Facebook. Join a writers’ club. Go to literary festivals,” he says.
Small publishers help
While Serai might be lucky to have his own publishing house, others like Shahi and Khosla had to struggle and approached smaller publishing houses. It wasn’t any different for authors of Heartbreak in Progress, Chitra Batra and Ritika Nandwani, whose novel was released in May. “We had finished writing in 2013 but it took us two years to find a publisher!” says Batra. Rohan Sharma, who hasn’t found a publisher yet, plans to meet local distributors to promote his novel.
It’s said the real work of an author begins once the book is published. “Promotions are important but a not-so-well-written book will never do well in the long run. I’ve seen books that are not marketed at all, but are still selling because people love the story,” Serai believes.
As for Shahi, the same can be attributed for any profession in a world where it is important to sell one’s product. “It's a fickle space out there today, we write for youngsters who have many distractions,” he explains.
Writers and their works
Sumrit Shahi- Just Friends, A lot Like Love...A Li’l Like Chocolate, Never Kiss Your Best Friend
Tishaa Khosla- Pink or Black, Pink of Black part 2
Reekrit Serai- As I Turn 20, Impluse (compilation of short stories)
Chitra Batra and Ritika Nandwani- Heartbreak in Progress
Rohan Sharma- 30 Days... Love is Bloody Good
WHAT SENIORS SAY
Genre of new times
I think this trend of authors starting young can be attributed to the mushrooming of publishers in our region. Those passionate about writing feel they can start young. It’s almost like making a quick buck, getting fame fast, but one must understand that these bestsellers shouldn’t be confused with serious literary works. This is a genre of new times.
Nirupama Dutt, writer and translator
Personal diary can’t be novel
I am a little ambivalent of this trend. I believe if you add years to your life, you add experience to do a better job. While I can’t pass judgement since I haven’t read any of the novels by young authors but from what I hear, it shouldn’t be as though a personal diary takes the shape of a novel, simply because a wider audience will be able to relate to it.
Neel Kamal Puri, author and columnist