Six kinds of people you meet at book clubs in Delhi

‘You’re everywhere,’ cried a guy who came to three of my Meetups in Delhi over the same weekend. Yes, I was. Two weeks in Delhi and I wanted to meet, chat and listen in to what the crowd in the capital city was reading. What kind of book was it buying and what kind of writing was it pondering on. And I wanted to tell them about my book, my writing experiences and the crazies I’d learnt.

So I met four different book clubs, did a lecture at Jesus and Mary College and at National Institute of Fashion Technology and mostly met all ages of people and had a ball. Plus discovered that I’m sticking to running for fitness on my own. (Thanks Kay, for that!) But it was fun, to meet all kinds of people in Delhi. The kinds who read books, the kinds who write them, the ones who sell them or publish or market them and the ones who love to talk about books without really sitting cozily with one. Here are the kind of people I met in Delhi’s book clubs.

The curious kinds

They are the ones that come to meetings/gatherings to listen in. They’re usually open to ideas, exchanging information, helpful, impressionable and actually hear things you might be saying (reason you have to stop saying vague things you’ve been saying all your life). They want to know you, your book, as well as how you wrote it. They have a lot of questions and are open to ideas.

The gifting types

The whole reason they’re there at the meeting or gathering or panel or even your own book launch is to come up to you and give you their own work. A signed copy of their work or an excerpt. That’s it. They’re not there to listen or even to talk or to read, but to promote their own written work. Well, I appreciate gifts in any form, especially books!

The selfie hogs

Oh yeah, they’ve attacked the book clubs too. They won’t buy your book (probably don’t buy any books really), but would want to get a photo of themselves with you to post online and boast and who knows what else?

The excuse types

They feel slightly guilty at coming at a do without picking up the author’s book. (Perfectly okay, since you might not actually like the said book) But the excuse-breed, gives you reasons why they’re not picking up your book. Reasons like ‘I don’t have money today. I will order it online.’ or ‘It’s cheaper online. I’ll order it there.’ Or they’ll just smile, and sneak out without saying bye. Even though they had the most questions in the session.

The smugs

They are the kings and queens of the world. They already know everything, even though they’re attending a writers’ session. They come loaded with preconceived notions about the writing, publishing and marketing process (having not gone through it). Their questions are usually hidden assumptions, pandering to a need to be proven right. ‘You put the ‘Mature readers’ cover to sell the book, right?’ ‘You have a connection in the industry right?’ ‘It must be easier to sell a book if you’re a girl/boy/drag queen/naked.’ Oh, and they never buy the book.

The naysayers

The ones who feel nothing is right in the industry of writing and publishing. No one buys books, no one publishes the right kind of books. No one is sensible out there. Someone should buy Indian author books, someone should publish amazing books, someone should. And no, they don’t buy the book either.


Oh, well. It’s Delhi after all. :) Here are a few photos of the various thingummies I did.

Know of any other Delhi book-reading kinds? Type away below.

 

 

 

 

Debut happened with Radio One and Radio City

Super duper excitement happened while I was in Delhi. First of all, I saw spring come into the city after six years. It’s fabulous, by the way, that end of winters before they crash into the searing hot summers of the city. The city was blushing and blooming with colours all over, Fall tussling with Spring. And I can vouch for it, for was driving from one end of the city to the other, meeting people, signing books, talking about the art and craft of writing books (knowledgeably at that!).

RJ Ginnie who is the superstar host of the show Suno Na Dilli over at Radio City 91.1 has this to-die-for-voice. In real life, she’s chilled out, friendly and an efficient producer who rocks her studio without any assistant. This was the first time I’d entered a studio and I was so excited. It’s been a secret dream for me, to be an RJ since AGES. So secret that I didn’t even remember it, till I entered the space. We tested and then crashed onto a single take of the whole show. And here’s what happened. (Disclaimer: Keep volume low for the rather screechy voice. No choice there!)

Post the recording, Ginnie was fascinated by my rather non-authorly behaviour (jumping around, gleefully) when I asked her to click a few pictures of me. But they’re worth it, aren’t they? And she didn’t mind too much, else she wouldn’t have agreed to come to my book launch later in Delhi, where we had an energetic discussion on everything tantrism and Anantya Tantrist. Before the launch, she’d completed the book and loved it too! (Thanks girl, you rock!)

The second radio interview happened at Radio One, 94.3FM with RJ Chris. She’s a darling, soft spoken, genuine and we spoke at length about death. There has been a recent death in the family and we wondered together why we as kids are taught how to dress up, how to cope with homework but not something at nuts as death, which lingers all around us always. But the interview itself is not so dark. It’s about Makaibari tea, my favouritest in the world (I stole a little of it from my friend Kay, after my stash got over) and about why I’m so fascinated by tantrism. Check it out below.

Fab launch for Cult of Chaos in Delhi

#Delhi #Booklaunch #Rocked

Super duper excitement happened while I was in Delhi. First of all, I saw spring come alive in the city after six years. It’s fabulous, by the way, that end of winters before they crash into the searing hot summers. The city was blushing and blooming with colours all over, Fall tussling with Spring. And I can vouch for it, for was driving from one end of the city to the other, meeting people, making new friends, signing books, talking about the art and craft of writing books (knowledgeably at that!).

The end of my Delhi trip was with a formal launch of Cult of Chaos, which HarperCollins organised in association with Oxford Bookstore and QuizCraft Global. The idea was the same as the launch in Bangalore a month before: a quiz on everything paranormal and supernatural and then a discussion about Cult of Chaos. About 70 people turned up. The house was full, more were standing in the aisles, including me and it was a young bustling, energetic crowd, with a few kids. Manasi, an editor from HarperCollins introduced the book beautifully. Sidhartha, the handsome bloke from QuizCraft offered a rocking quiz to attendees. RJ Ginnie, who kindly accepted my request to do a discussion and ask me probing questions, made the talk about the book so much fun. Most of them who attended had a good time (and told me it wasn’t a boring book launch. Including a few peeps from HarperCollins). So see, heaven had been achieved.

Except it wasn’t just that. A lot of the people who turned up were from my school, college, post grad, ex-office pals and family. For me, more than a launch, it turned out to be a series of reunions with old friends, swapping notes, hugging, crying a bit. They were all there for me, proud, excited, supportive. Wow. Am touched, out of words, giddy and rather exhausted. So here’s all the madness. In photos and comments as usual.

Since I don’t really remember much of the event myself, here’s what two literature students who were there at the quiz and stayed till the end, thought about it. They interviewed me post the event and wrote for a really nice website called ReadersClubDelhi.Com. They were well prepared with a tight questionnaire, so check out the video below if you want to see me fumble and skirt difficult questions.


Oxford Bookstore CP and Harper Collins India in association with Quizcraft Global organized a quiz – Witches and Vamps : a quiz on paranormal crime on 28th March to celebrate the launch of the novel Cult of Chaos, a tantrik thriller by Shweta Taneja. 

The event began at 3:20pm with an introduction by Mansi, editor at Harper Collins and was taken over by Siddharta Gopati, the quizmaster for the day. There were sixteen teams and three rounds – written, audio-visual and still image.

The questions were thrilling and the atmosphere electric.
Written round included a few questions from Cult of Chaos among the other questions. Audio-visual round was an out of the world experience with short video clips of movies like The Conjuring and The Exorcism of Emily Rose being played to be identified by the teams.

IMG-20150330-WA0006The quiz ended at a thrilling note and left the participants awestruck and yearning for more.

Manjulika’s angel, The Reluctant Quizers and SFF were the round winners. Sawalon Se Darne Walewon the overall quiz. All of them were awarded the prizes by none other than Shweta Taneja.

After the distribution of prizes, the author was in conversation with Ginny about her book The Cult of ChaosHere is a small excerpt from the conversation -

Ginny: As we know The Cult of Chaos is a fantasy, what was your research and preparation for the book?

Shweta: I did my best research and tried to keep the book as indigenous as possible. I read sixty books on tantrism, asked people about their experiences and folk stories. The blood of my book is Indian, unlike the western magic world fantasies.

After the conversation, the floor was open to questions and an interesting assortment of questions was thrown at the author to which Taneja answered with smiles and incredulity. More serious questions regarding her novel and protagonist were also asked.

A stunning quiz, interesting discussions and a few laughs and smiles, the evening came to an end. Check out an interview with the author.


Would you like the supernatural quiz in your city? Contact me!

Witches and vamps attack Delhi this Saturday

Oh. So much excitement.

It was an experiment to launch Cult of Chaos, an Anantya Tantrist mystery, with an occult quiz in Bangalore. The format worked so well, that my publishers, HarperCollins wanted to do it in Delhi too. So I’m super excited to announce Anantya Tantrist is heading to Oxford Bookstore, Delhi this Saturday to entertain you.

There will be a quiz on everything paranormal and supernatural. There will be freebies like blade-shaped bookmarks and giveaways and book prizes and snacks and laughter during the event. I confidently promise it’s going to be a blast. As much as the book is. So just come over!

===============

Oxford Bookstore and HarperCollins 
present
WITCHES AND VAMPS
A QUIZ ON PARANORMAL CRIME
to celebrate Shweta Taneja’s
CULT OF CHAOS
an Anantya Tantrist mystery
 
Think you know your supernatural sleuths? 
To celebrate the launch of Cult of Chaos, the first book in the Anantya Tantrist detective series, author Shweta Taneja takes you on a dark mission through detective thrillers, supernatural mysteries and investigators who dabble with devilish crime. So brush up on popular occult shows, comics and books and get ready to stun her with your psychic best. The duel is on!
For all ages.
DAY: 28th March
TIME: 3pm – 5pm
VENUE: Oxford bookstore, Connaught Place, Delhi
A quiz so scary, we had to have it in broad daylight
=================
To see photos and updates, connect with the event on Facebook or Google+ 
Here’s the invite if you want to download it.
witches and vamps 2
Leaving you with a gallery of photos from the Bangalore event.

On the front page of The Hindu

Oh my.  This is the fourth time the kind girls over at MetroPlus, the magazine of The Hindu, have done a story on me (see herehere and here) . And I remain amazed at how everyone I seem to know reads this newspaper in Bangalore. I am flooded with messages, tweets, emails and phone calls everytime a story comes out.

Mini’s interviewed me twice now and every time, we giggle together as friends and as people who enjoy poems about old age.  She messaged me a month ago to tell me how because she was so involved in Anantya’s adventure, she could  reading ignore her fear of flight (she was flying internationally). It was the best compliment ever!

Cult of Chaos, The Hindu, Hyderabad, Feb2415

Here’s the interview.

Shweta Taneja talks about the anger of Anantya, the tantric detective heroine of her latest book

There is a new gumshoe in town. She is Anantya Tantrist, a tantric detective solving horrific crimes in the supernatural underbelly of Delhi where magic seamlessly mixes with the mundane. The Bengaluru-based Shweta Taneja talks about the genesis of Cult of Chaos, where the feisty, foul mouthed Anantya makes her debut.

Can you tell something about the genesis of Anantya?

Anantya came to me from a now-failed novel. It was a revenge saga in an epic fantasy world. I spent months building up the world and then realized that I wasn’t excited enough about the story. So I left it and started to work on Ghost Hunters of Kurseong instead. Meanwhile, Anantya stayed in my head, an angry protagonist, a powerful magician. Then one day, while reading a detective story, I suddenly knew that she was an occult detective. Anantya’s anger is a reaction to a frustration in me on everyday violence on women. On the other hand, I did want to create a heroine who does all those things that are usually reserved for alpha male detectives – spews gaalis, has no-regrets sex on the go, is stubborn, talented and emotional.

Why did you set the story in Delhi?

After the book was created in my head, I knew it would be based in Delhi. The capital city is a fascinating mix of layers of history, combined with arrogance in power and violence. It has not belonged to anyone historically, but everyone feels a claim to it. Also, having grown up in Delhi as a woman who had to be aware of where she was walking and keep a layer on, I wanted to revisit Delhi with Anantya.

Is the weird quotient as much as you wanted or did you tone it down?

The weird quotient was one of the reasons that many publishers rejected it initially. Even HarperCollins had doubts, so I requested them to come on the table to discuss this. Thankfully they agreed and we signed a contract. In the final editing process, though the language was softened and toned down, all the scenes, the story and the plot are exactly how I wrote it.

Drugs, sex and cinema — what about rock and roll?

The second adventure of Anantya Tantrist, which I am currently polishing and editing, has a pretty weird scene in the middle of a rock show. With Anantya Tantrist and her world, I want to explore all things that are considered vices or a taboo by the mainstream society.

Cult of Chaos is very different from Ghost hunters… Does genre hopping make you schizophrenic or does it come naturally to you?

With Anantya Tantrist, since she has a very unique voice you would feel it is dramatically different from my other books, but I see a connect. Both belong to the mystery or thriller genre, though the treatment in each is quite different. I do tend to challenge myself with each thriller that I write.

The book makes a strong case for the feminine principle. Would you describe Cult of Chaos as a feminist text?

I would rather not describe the book as a feminist adventure, because of the problematic ‘male-bashing’ tag to the word nowadays. It’s definitely about a woman, a strong willed woman who has gone beyond social relevance and taboos. In the book, I’ve taken immense pleasure in consciously turning everyday gender scenes on their head. To call it a feminist text would be unfair since you won’t use the word ‘masculine text’ for books or movies that have a male point of view.

The characters including Nawab sahab, Kaani and Prem Chokra are super colourful…

Aren’t they? I loved creating each and every one of them. Nawab is just so dramatic and still insecure after so many centuries of living a life of a ghost. Kaani, though talented takes his own time to describe things. I think their uniqueness comes from the fact that each of them is eccentric in their own ways.

There are stories that Anantya doesn’t tell… is that saved for future novels?

Yes. I’ve signed a three-book contract with HarperCollins on Anantya Tantrist mysteries, which means you will definitely read three books of her adventures.

I am already in the middle of the second book, where you will find out a little bit more about Anantya. The third book will be mostly based in Banaras, where she comes face to face with her past. Books four and five will head to explore her matriarchal past.

How come a novel set in Delhi is so filmy — it seems a Bedardi Bar can only be in Mumbai!

Oh, that’s a little unfair to say. Delhiwallas love both movies and drinking. Actually the love of both these things, with cricket is the only thing that binds us all as Indians. We all love movies, and all love to drink. I can even imagine Bedardi Bar in Bangalore, an illicit little dingy place which is run by supernaturals in the Pete area.

Anantya’s reaction to technology (as mysterious to me as tantrism was to others) is refreshing. Was that by design?

Yes. All of us who’re technology connected tend to forget that we’re only a very small percent of the population of this country. There are people whose life doesn’t revolve around technology. Who are not online or use gadgets. And they don’t need to in their everyday life. Since I am a technology writer myself, this weaving of technology, science and tantrism as an alternate science has been quite fun to build up.

Could you tell us something about the cover design?

Isn’t it just fabulous? I am so, glad that George Mathen agreed to make it.

I so wanted to ask him to do the cover. Even then I did and he agreed, even though the pay was pittance. He’s so sweet that way. I sent him a five-page cover brief, he read it, discarded it and created something completely different and fabulous.

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Five tips to a spectacular book pitch

First of all, congratulations of writing down your dream work! That’s a huge achievement. Now you’ve to do something that might be much more difficult. You have to summarise your book, which can be anywhere between 50,000 to more than a lakh of words, into a little, nightmarish thing called a ‘pitch’. A cover letter or email which you will send across to editors across the country. That one pager which will make all the difference on whether the editor will even pick up the first chapter of your manuscript.

Focus it well

We authors might be great at long form but when it comes to creating the right pitch, many of us fail miserably. In this scenario, the concept of an elevator pitch is quite helpful. If you meet a stranger in an elevator (the speedy ones), what will you say your book is about? You have five seconds. Do this exercise again and again till you cut all the vague meat off your book and know EXACTLY what to say about your book. Then write the email you’re going to send a publisher.

Be brief and precise

Any good publishing house gets a whopping number of book pitches a day. They call it the slush pile, because a lot of them are badly written emails, unclear and confused. Editors don’t have time to wade through each of them. They go by instinct and a well-written, focused email will always turn them on. It helps to know what each editor is looking for. So instead of a generic email to all, try and send a personalized one to up your chance. 

Edit it well

There’s a reason why editors are called ‘editors’. They are worshippers of grammar and spelling and the rules of language. They crave for great books, but one thing that completely alienates them is a badly written cover note. So once you’ve prepared your pitch, read it, edit it. Keep it there for a day or two, look at it with fresh eyes and edit it again. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes or badly structured sentences.

Be professional

You might be emotional about your book, but most editors will look at it with the possibility of its salability. Any kind of emotion, overconfidence, pleading, moral stance completely turns off most editors. Editors represent a business which wants to make money off the books they publish. So it’s best to be professional about it. Make a level headed, clear pitch, put in exactly which genres the book belongs to, who is the target audience (no, the whole wide world is not going to read your book) and how it can be sold and marketed. Your pitch should be creative but also focused and professional.

Do take advice

Know of an industry professional? Ask for help. Discuss the pitch with your initial readers, see what they say about your book. You’re just going to get a few seconds of attention from every publisher that you’re going to send your book to. So make sure the pitch is the best you can prepare. Spend some time over it now so that the chances of your book being accepted increases.

Here’s wishing you success! For more tips on writing, head to this section.

(Also posted at: HuffingtonPost, JaipurWomenBlog)

Cult heads to China and reviews

Oh, it’s such a treasure, when someone else posts a photo of Cult of Chaos over at social media, tagging me. And there are so many spaces online for these little delights. The book’s been sighted at various stores in Mumbai and Delhi and I’ve been informed on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and other places. But the best picture ever was this over at Twitter via @hershbhardwaj.

“@ Your book at @ stand in my friend Bob’s hand. Going to China. Had hard time exlpaining what a tantric is. He kept saying black magician.”

B-QxBTZCUAAaA_i

I mean, how cool is this? Anantya’s a desi chick and till now, the book is just published in India (the only way you’ll get a copy out of this country is by opting for one over at Goodreads giveaway). I am hoping that Bob comes back to me and tells me if he could connect to the book at all, if Anantya was fun for him. Would be nice to know that and maybe I could think about other international markets for her.


On another note, I had two great reviews on two different blogs.

B00kr3vie3ws.com

Debdatta, not only came to the book launch and bought a copy (as well as made her blogger friend buy one) but also did this lovely review of it. Isn’t she a treasure?).

“Oh my! This book is a result of an amazingly creative and imaginative mind at work. The blurb of the book and my dismal summarization of it do no justice to the world of Anantya Tantrist. You have to read it to experience it.”

Read the complete blog on her website here.

Fantasy-smorgasbord.blogspot.in

Sachin runs an amazing fantasy book review blog (it’s a great place to find new titles if like me you’re into SFF stuff) so I was so glad when he called it ‘mindboggling’. Here’s a bit of what he wrote.

“Personally, what really excited me about the book was this mad bubbling brew of ideas and imagination that somehow gelled with an urban day-to-day setting (Anantya chugging along the crowded Delhi-Gurgaon highway cursing the traffic, for instance cracked me up like crazy!) and still made me shiver with both fright and anticipation. It’s a refreshing change from the genre as is now popular in India – where Fantasy is only inspired by mythological stories or perhaps a mix of history entwined with Dan Brownesque mystery-thriller format. Shweta goes on to break the mold and doesn’t check her punches – running amok with her imagination to give us a colorful account of a supernatural world juxtaposed against a modern-day Delhi where Apsaras do item numbers, CBI has special sections to deal with crimes of the “sup” nature and Tantriks are over-ground.”

Read the complete blog over at his website.

 

 

Terry Pratchett on the need for fantasy

More than a decade ago, when author Terry Pratchett won the Carnegie Medal award for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, he talked about fantasy and how it was so important as a genre to explore society. I’ve been heavily inspired by this fabulous author’s work and everything he says is gospel truth for me. So when I found this delightful speech by him  on the Carnegie website, I just had to share it with you (and remind me too). Take each line seriously and incorporate into your work. Now.

Over to you Terry. (Wow, never thought I will say that!)


I’m pretty sure that the publicists for this award would be quite happy if I said something controversial, but it seems to me that giving me the Carnegie medal is controversial enough. This was my third attempt. Well, I say my third attempt, but in fact I just sat there in ignorance and someone else attempted it on my behalf, somewhat to my initial dismay.

Quotation-Terry-Pratchett-yourself-Meetville-Quotes-82112The Amazing Maurice is a fantasy book. Of course, everyone knows that fantasy is ‘all about’ wizards, but by now, I hope, everyone with any intelligence knows that, er, what everyone knows…is wrong.

Continue reading Terry Pratchett on the need for fantasy

Fantasy writer. Author. Daydreamer