Born September 2nd 1981
Born atDo you mean city or time? Chennai
City of residenceChennai
- Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce
- Sophie Says: Memoirs of a Breakup Coach
- How to Stop Your Grownup From Making Bad Decisions – Book #1 in the Nina The Philosopher series
Judy Balan is the author of the bestselling Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce (Westland), Sophie Says: Memoirs of a Breakup Coach (Westland) and How to Stop Your Grownup From Making Bad Decisions: Book #1 in the Nina The Philosopher series (Harper Collins). She has also written short plays that were part of the Short + Sweet Festival, been a columnist with Hindustan Times Brunch and is the author of the immensely popular blog Woman and a Quarter.
She’s the Creative Director at Raising iBrows, an audience engagement agency in Chennai and is a self-confessed L-board Parent to her eight-year-old daughter, Kiara. All of Judy’s work falls under the comedy genre and she hopes to someday create India’s first English sitcom.
Fantastic Four – Four of my favourite writers / books
A Few Good Men, Social Network, The West Wing, Newsroom, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and others – Aaron Sorkin He’s a television/screenwriter but for me, a writer is a writer. And I don’t think there’s anyone I admire more or wistfully wish I’d turn into someday. I think Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was one of the best shows ever written. It got cancelled after one season in 2007. Still breaks my heart.
JK Rowling Do I need to elaborate? I’ve not shut myself in a room for that many days and yelled at anyone who dared to knock, as much as I did when I read the Harry Potter series in one go. That’s never happened to me with any other book. Magic.
Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais (for giving me The Office. Although I love the U.S version.) Again, TV writers mainly, and some of my favourite comediennes as well. Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone hanging out without me (and other concerns) are both delightful.
Elizabeth Gilbert I love everything about Liz Gilbert’s writing – the disarming honesty, the adorable, self-deprecatory humour…she’s just so wonderfully articulate and has a way of touching your soul.
Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes and Ariel Leve Always grateful for Bridget Jones. Also, Marian Keyes and Ariel Leve are two writers worth mentioning. For making me laugh. Marian Keyes is laugh-out-loud funny while Ariel Leve is extremely dry.
Tell us about your earliest attempts at writing. When, where and from whom did you learn the nittygritties of writing?
I’ve always been writing (albeit never consciously) – I think my first literary work was a letter I wrote to the principal of my school when I was in Class I. I had a stomach ache and wanted to go home and I presented my case so earnestly, the principal showed the letter to my mom and couldn’t stop laughing. I had just learnt the word ‘reasonable’ and was dying to use it in a sentence, so I had written “I have a stomach ache and want to go home because…( blah blah blah)…if you think I’m being reasonable, please call my mom.”
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
The shower. Really! I stand under the shower and voila. You should try it.
What does your typical writing day look like?
I have a full-time job so that leaves the weekends free for writing. I tell myself that I’ll magically turn into a morning person the next day, rise at 4 am and keep writing till my eyes fall out of their sockets, yada yada. But I end up oversleeping, starting post 11 am, getting distracted by the Internet, trying again, deciding to ‘take a break’ and watch a TV show, find out that it’s already late afternoon, feel guilty, start writing again, get stuck, consume way too much Nutella and along with it, a fair amount of self-loathing, decide to walk it all off at 5 pm, feel superior to all the people who don’t exercise by 6 pm, come back and eat the whole fridge, start writing again at 8 pm, manage to make some progress by 10 pm, feel very pleased with myself and decide to crash early so I can become a morning person and rise at 4:00 am the next day.
What is one habit / trait of yours that makes you effective / productive as an author?
I’m either completely invested in something or entirely indifferent to it. I’m like that about everything – from the people in my life to the TV shows I watch. I just don’t understand middle ground and moderation. This makes me a difficult person to have in your life but I’ve noticed that when it comes to work, this is my strength. I channel all my Type A compulsions into work and it’s the best feeling ever. My tendency to be obsessive and emotionally intense helps me stay thorough on any subject of interest. I either know something or I don’t. If I’m interested in something, I’ll make sure I know everything there is to know about it. And that helps with work!
What is the one thing that you recommend every aspiring author should do?
Contrary to popular belief these days, it’s pretty essential to writing!
On a more serious note,
And if you can’t travel,
– it’s the only way you can travel to places you can’t get to physically, and it’s the only way you can be many different people in one lifetime. And that’s important ‘cause it helps you get characters spot on – and oh,
Tell us something about yourself that very few people know?
I have heard God’s voice and He sounds nothing like Charlton Heston.
Does technology (the Internet, software tools) help you in your writing process? If yes, can you tell us about them?
Not really, I just use Word on my laptop. What helps is finding a wi-fi free zone and parking yourself there till you’re done with work.
Is there any other way in which technology can help you in your work as writer?
For research, yes, of course, the Internet helps. But ideally, that should be phase 1 and then when you move into writing, just turn the wi-fi off.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Stephen King is one of my favourites. Not for his macabre novels, but the stuff he has to say in general about writing and life. He’s so profound and delightfully no-nonsense. He’s also very active on Facebook. So is Elizabeth Gilbert. Mindy Kaling’s tweets are as funny as her shows. Jerry Seinfeld recently discovered FB and he’s also fairly active on both Twitter and FB. He has a nice new show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee – it’s basically a talk show with other comedians, but it happens on the road. Alain De Botton if you love pop philosophy. He’s my latest intellectual crush. He’s very active on Twitter and FB. I also adore our very own Anuja Chauhan. She’s witty, matter of fact and unapologetic on social media. Just the way I like it.
Can you tell about what you are currently writing and other works in the pipeline?
I’m currently on a deadline to complete the second book in the Nina The Philosopher series. So yes, I’m working on that. I’m also working on a sitcom (because I’m a dreamy fool) and a radio show.
A question regarding 2 fates your first book, which was hugely successful. You wrote Two fates as a parody of Chetan Bhagat’s 2 states, do you think the readers got the parody or saw it as a sequel to 2 states?
Most people – to my immense frustration – didn’t get the parody. Even after I spelt it out. And yes, many thought it was a sequel and worse, ‘a tribute.’ Almost everyone thought it was the story of MY divorce – a forgivable assumption, but the story of MY divorce would probably fall under the Stephen King genre, you know?
You are a celebrity blogger, a relationship expert of sorts – this reflects in 2 of your books, “Sophie Says” and “Nina The Philosopher”, where the protagonist writes a blog and a large part of the narrative is through the posts. Which of the 2 hats (tags) do you prefer – blogger or author? and why?
Haha, I’m no relationship expert. I’m touched when people write to me about their relationship problems but it always confuses and amuses me. I mean, here I am, telling you that I’m divorced and I only have a history of failed relationships. What makes you think I’m good at this stuff!
As for the tags, they are just that. Blogger, author, what do these things even mean? I’m a writer. I believe if I’m a good writer, I’d be able to write for any medium. Which is why I’m hell bent on sinking my teeth into every medium there is – sitcom, radio, standup, film, advertising, everything.?
Nina irks her teacher with her questions. Teachers and parents alike still get annoyed with (children’s) questions. Do you like to answer questions?
I enjoy it from time to time. Especially when said questions are sharp and ahead of the child’s age. I usually don’t have answers. But I’m just as annoying as most parents when it comes to dealing with incessant questions. And I do drive MY Nina absolutely nuts.
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PlusMinus’n’More: Thank you Judy, for being our guest on F-pages and sharing with us your experiences as a writer.