Hey folks! How are you doing? Recently we got into an interesting conversation with Varuna Mehta, the author of ‘The Sublime Frangipani’. It’s been an enriching and fun filled conversation! Here we are, sharing some bits of it with you!
When was the first time that you realized you wanted to become a writer?
Varuna: Writing has been a passionate pursuit for me, for as long as I can remember, but I never imagined myself catapulting into a professional writer. Writing, for a major portion of my life, was a medium to express emotions that were overwhelming and needed release. It was much later, in my mid 30’s, that I realized that perhaps, it was my calling.
Tell us about your writing journey!
Varuna: I started writing when I was in school, at the age of 14. Being a sensitive, perceptive person, feeling things deeply came naturally to me. I started with writing poems, which garnered a lot of appreciation from my peers and mentors. That encouraged me further and for almost the rest of my school life, I kept writing poems and essays, some of which also got published in the local newspapers and magazines. My writing journey took a pause when I reached college. Being a Science student, I had too much on my plate and I could not find the time and motivation to write prolifically. For the next 10- 12 years, I wrote only in bits and pieces. The writing practice gained steam again in my mid 30’s, when I realised that in delivering my duties as an adult, I had allowed my creative profile to get overshadowed. It hit me hard and I resolved to start writing more often and mindfully.
What according to you is the most important part of your writings?
Varuna: My writings have always been reflective, sensitive and empathetic; they mirror what I perceive and analyse, albeit in an unprejudiced light. They usually talk about the commonplace occurrences, that we often forget taking note of, in the daily business of living. They also seek answers to the baffling questions, related to the existence of humankind.
Tell us about your current book!
Varuna: This book encapsulates my experiences with random observations…almost 100 micropoems that reflect the glory of nature and the acuity of life. One striking memory from my past in one of my childhood, when I used to sit by the window of my bedroom and ruminate over life, with my eyes transfixed on the beautiful Frangipani tree in our courtyard. I’ve made that memory as the focal point of the book and the rest has just cascaded out of it.
What is a message that you’d like to give to the writers out there?
Varuna: For anybody who aspires to be a writer, my advice is to be consistent in your writing routine. Like any other skill, writing is like exercising a muscle. Also, it is very important to be an avid reader, if you want to write impactfully.
What does your family think of your writing?
Varuna: My family has always been very supportive and encouraging of my writing endeavours. They give honest, critical feedback that is extremely helpful in gaining perspective on my shortcomings as a writer.
What is the next project you are working on?
Varuna: Right now, I’m juggling with some obscure ideas about what would follow. Fiction is one genre that I haven’t engaged in so far, so I want to challenge myself and come up with a fictional offering, the next time around.
Do you have any suggestions to help become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Varuna: Read, write and then read again. To be a fine writer, it is important to read good literature as it makes you absorb literary flourishes. By reading classic literature, you imbibe the richness of the language and the profundity of expression, which stands you in good stead, when you sit down to write.
What does literary success look like to you?
Varuna: If your book is able to strike a chord with your readers, if they can relate to the narrative that you’ve woven, the entire process of writing the book gets rewarded. It is of course an icing on the cake, if you manage to earn well from the book sales, but even if you don’t, critical acclamation and appreciative feedback also spell literary success.
How did publishing your book change your process of writing?
Varuna: When you think of publishing a book, you have to be responsive to the readership you are targeting. You have to review the book as a reader, before submitting the manuscript. You have to impartially analyse the feelings, it would generate in your potential readers and then make the necessary amendments. I, too, revise my manuscript thoroughly, before sending it across for publication. Although, I’m not in favour of too much editing, as it takes away from the simplicity and authenticity of the text.
What did you edit out of this book?”
Varuna: Some poems, that I initially wrote, felt a little out of place when I reviewed the manuscript. Even though I was tempted to retain them, I felt they did not match with the overall flavour of the book. So I had to remove them. A book gets written in the first draft, but there are various stages of edits that it has to undergo.
Who is your favorite author?
Varuna: There are way too many. My all- time reads are anything by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Khaled Hosseini, Paulo Coelho.
How often do you face writer’s block and how do you bring yourself out of it?
Varuna: Writer’s block is extremely common and there are days and weeks, when nothing worthwhile seems to emerge out of your creative pool. Yet, the only way to deal with it, is to write through it. Even if you feel that you are writing about irrelevant things, don’t give up. You can always edit later.
What are your hobbies apart from writing?
Varuna: I am a good singer and have a natural affinity for music, so listening to my favourite songs is a soothing activity for me. I also love to read a lot. I read anything I can lay my hands on; have always found the world of books more exciting than the real world.
What does a day in your life look like and when do you find time for writing?
Varuna: Being an educator and a homemaker, I have to plan my day meticulously. I start early, try and finish off my daily chores by mid- noon so that I have the rest of the day for aligning my teaching and writing assignments.
What inspires you to write?
Varuna: Life, in its entire spectrum, is my inspiration.
If you were a reader, what would you ask yourself being an author?
Varuna: I would be intrigued to know, what keeps me driven as a writer and how my writings contribute in making myself a better person.
You can buy a copy of ‘The Sublime Frangipani’ by Varuna Mehta here https://amzn.to/2TCJdsP