I’m not averse to risk, I write to break stereotypes: Meghna Pant
Meghna Pant harboured no dreams of being a writer when she was young, though she did dabble with writing. She wrote her first short story when she was 19. It was called Aberration, and was published online. The plot and characters stayed with her for months before she gathered the wherewithal to finish the story. Meghna points out, “But the discipline of writing, its stark loneliness, does not usually appeal to the young and skittish. So, I did what all Indian children are taught to do — I acquired degrees — an undergraduate degree in Economics and a double Master’s degree, including an MBA. After completing my education, I worked in corporate finance and then switched to business journalism. So, I never saw myself as a writer,” she says.
She started writing seriously only 10 years ago, though at that time, it was only short stories. To improve her craft, she took several writing courses in New York, USA, where she was working. She adds, “The idea for a full-length novel, One & A Half Wife, came only in 2010, and that’s around the time I also started putting together short stories that would come together in the collection Happy Birthday! The moment I saw One & A Half Wife on the best-seller list in a bookstore in 2012 was the first time I let myself admit that I was a writer. And I’ve not wanted to be anything else ever since.”
Her latest book, How to get published in India, has received tremendous response and is perhaps one of the first comprehensive books on writing, publishing and selling a book. Meghna adds, “I wrote this book to help thousands of aspiring writers who are struggling to get their manuscripts published and achieve their dream of becoming a published author. When I started out, I didn’t have a degree in literature or mentors or connections, and I spent years learning how to get published and sell my books.”
Pant adds that she’s always wanted someone to come up with a book like this. “The entire process was intimidating, frustrating and confusing, and I kept hoping that someone would write a book like this. It would have saved me a lot of time, effort and money,” she says.
The author who put 10 years of her experience as an author behind the book, shares that Indian publishing is different from any other model. She believes that the problem is that no one has ever written about this world before. With her book, she wishes to break this opaqueness and allow people a glimpse into the inside world of publishing.
Meghna finds it baffling that in India, authors have to write in only one genre to maximise their sales. “I’m not one of those risk-averse writers who treat writing like a spreadsheet or formula. I write the book that needs to be told by me and I write to break stereotypes, not adhere to them. For example, I wrote short stories at a time when people told me they don’t sell, and then, I sold them. There is magic in self-belief. Therefore, aspiring writers should write what they want to, not what the market tells them to, and then create a market for themselves,” she concludes.
What’s next? What are you working on currently?
My new book, The Holy 100, with a new twist on the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Gita is coming out soon. I’m also working on two novels, one loosely inspired by my personal experience as a domestic abuse survivor, and the other, about the war between India and China.
What about writing do you enjoy the most?
I savour the form and discipline of literature to weave life’s chaos and senselessness into linearity.
Do you plan to collaborate with your brother (comedian and author Sorabh Pant)?
We haven’t planned anything yet, but I do love the idea.