Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Hawa Mahal Murders at the Delhi Book Fair in January 2020

It had been years since I went to a book fair. I had heard that book fairs were packed with jostling crowds but I needed to narrow the gap between seeing and not seeing. After all, my crime thriller The Hawa Mahal Murders, was being exhibited at Vishwakarma Publications bookstall in Hall no.12. I had to be there! And I was, on the 12th of January, 2020. It was a Sunday and the grounds at Pragati Maidan were packed.

It was quite an exciting experience for me. Signing copies of my books, meeting strangers who were going to read my book and of course the general bookish atmosphere which I thrive in.

It was interesting to see so many young people there...students. Unfortunately, students don't have too much money in their pockets but it was good to see the eagerness to read even if most of them were looking for bargain books. There were families with children, lots and lots of them. It was middle-class India at its best and I loved it.

Related Reading: Sakal Times Coverage. and the Book Reading at Quill And Canvas or Meeting students at their MITWPU Book Club Launch

Book Reading at the Quill And Canvas in Gurgaon

Reading excerpts from The Hawa Mahal Murders at the Quill And Canvas in Gurgaon on the 11th of January 2020 was a unique experience. For one thing, I was reading excerpts from my book at a cosy art gallery and book store called the Quill And Canvas in a glitzy mall. It was the third time I was doing a book reading and I found myself slipping into the mode very easily this time.

Book readings are a way to reach readers in different parts of the country, even if huge crowds don't make it on the day itself. The flyers go out and advertise the reading and that counts for a lot. All in all, it was a satisfying day. More so as I met members of the online group, Senior Reading Racoons, a little later, at the same venue. I talked about my book, challenged them with a mystery quiz and yes copies of book were sold.

Related Reading: Pagdandi Book Reading and Sakal Times Coverage. or The Hawa Mahal Murders at the Delhi Book Fair in January 2020.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sakal Times Coverage

I was lucky enough to have The Hawa Mahal Murders covered by a prestigious newspaper like Sakal Times.

They announced a Pagdandi book launch in their daily newspaper. This was a second launch of a book, at a book cafe on the 14th of December 2019. The first launch was an official launch at the Pune Lit Fest on 20th of September 2019. This event took place at Yashada, in Baner.

An announcement in Sakal Times.

A great author interview! This appeared on the 13th of December 2019.

And finally, the review! Loved the title of the review. This appeared in Sakal times on the 15th of December 2019, a day after the Pagdandi event.

Related Reading: Reviewing Reviews! (A summary of all reviews at the end of 2019, three months after the launch of my book)

Reviewing Reviews

It's been three months since the launch of my book, The Hawa Mahal Murders, and when I look back I have a lot to be happy about. 40 reviews on Amazon and 44 ratings on goodreads, almost all of them positive.

Pretty good for an unknown author without a famous publisher pushing out free review copies and an author without any pull to get reviews done by famous people and famous publications.

Here is a review scrapbook made from excerpts from reviews.

On Goodreads

On Amazon

I had done a short review of reviews just a month after the launch when I had about 10 reviews. And even something before that on reviews about a week later. I think as authors we all feel starved unless we get reviews!

Books which are pushed by famous publishers usually get pre-launch reviews, scores of them. I had none. However, in a month I had got about 10 reviews which I found quite satisfying because the only thing that pushed these reviews was my book.

As for the not-so-good reviews, they are very few of those. I am open to constructive criticism, but strangely the reviewers who gave me constructive criticism, gave a very good star rating as well! They really liked my book but pointed out some things which they didn't enjoy that much, like the number of characters for instance.

The few of the critical reviews had factual errors, and those I ignore. One reviewer said the main character was called Shalini (it's Smita), another said that my book had too many Indian words (ignored), another said characters used bad words at times (ignored), another said that necrophilia was mentioned but it didn't have any relevance to the story. This last is a wrong fact. Maybe the reviewer read the book in a hurry. I am not blaming anybody because some people don't like complex books. But as they had free copies and were "forced" to review I guess they misinterpreted some of the facts just in order to get done with it. These are not my readers so it's okay.

I have some wonderful reviews from true readers, readers who bought my book, read it, enjoyed it and reviewed it. To these readers, I am grateful.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Pagdandi Book Launch and Book Reading

An event was organised at Pagdandi, a book cafe in Baner, Pune, on the 14th of December 2019. My crime thriller The Hawa Mahal Murders had a mini-launch at this book cafe, and it was accompanied by a book reading and a quiz. I had a lot of fun! This was the second book launch, the first being the official launch at the Pune Lit Fest, on the 20th of September 2019.

These were several promos made for the mystery quiz!

I had done a book reading at the Pune Lit Fest too, but this was somehow more fun! Maybe it was because I had had the experience earlier, but I wasn't tense. I was relaxed and enjoyed reading excerpts from my book.

The winner of the mystery quiz was Vardayani.

Related Reading: Sakal Times Coverage. and the Book Reading at Quill And Canvas, or Meeting students at their MITWPU Book Club Launch or The Hawa Mahal Murders at the Delhi Book Fair in January 2020.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Are debut novels the worst or the best of an author's work?

The dictionary calls a debut "a person's first appearance or performance in a particular capacity or role." And an author is a "writer of a book, play...etc" This could be taken to mean that a debut author is one who has written a book for the first time. This is how the public sees it.

This is highly unlikely. All authors have written something or the other before their book goes out in the public eye. Some have even written and discarded novels. Therefore, when the world talks about debut authors, they aren't actually referring first time writers, they are referring to first time published authors.

But why quibble on words? As the title of this post says, the purpose of this post is to analyse whether the first published work of an author is the best or the worst.

This is what the Wiki says about debut works.

Often an author's first novel will not be as complex stylistically or thematically as subsequent works and often will not feature the author's typical literary characteristics.

This is apparently because authors haven't yet figured out their own unique style or perhaps because they like to do what everyone else is doing.

The examples given are J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937), Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman (1969) and Charles Dickens' The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837).

Another school of thought believes that debut novels are actually better.
Ayana Mathis says in The New York Times:

A debut novel is a piece of the writer’s soul in a way that subsequent books can’t ever be.

This kind of rings true. So what does this mean? Are debut novels the best work of a novelist? Or they are not? There are many examples of debut works which are the author's best.

Here are 10 debut novels which are the authors' best work: Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Donna Tartt's The Secret History, Richard Wright's Native Son, Renata Adler's Speedboat, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and there are many more.

Here's my take on it. If a writer publishes a novel when he/she is ready, and the writing mature, then yes, the first published novel is likely to be the very best. This is because a novel doesn't just have to have the writer's soul in it, the style and clarity of the writing matters. It is a combination of the two which makes a novel brilliant. And the mature writer has already written a lot of stuff earlier, maybe poems, maybe short stories, maybe journalistic pieces or just creative writing in a diary.  This is why the writer's style has already been developed.

When a writer publishes early, the novel may have flashes of brilliance (the reason why it was published in the first place) but the writer hasn't yet developed a unique style which is the hallmark of a great writer.

Both these type of writers are called debut novelists and are clubbed together when they publish their first novel, but the truth is that they are very different breeds.