Born 24 January
Place of BirthCalcutta
City of residenceDelhi, though sometimes I float about in Bangalore
- A Shadow in Eternity
- A Shadow in Eternity 2: The Key of Chaos
- A Shadow in Eternity 3: The Timeless Land
- Satin: A Stitch in Time
- There’s a Ghost in My PC
- Slightly Burnt
- Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean (co-edited with Kirsty Murry and Anita Roy)
Payal Dhar’s flights of fancy help her seek out new life and new civilization—mostly in her fantasy novels for youngsters. She has seven books for young adults under her belt, plus numerous short stories for both big and little people. She’s also a freelance editor and writer, and writes on computers, technology, books, reading, games and anything else that catches her interest. Visit writeside.net to find out more about Payal’s work and play.
Fantastic Five – Five of my favourite books
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee I first read this at 12 and later as an adult, and was astounded at how differently I saw it, though it was just as wonderful. It also introduced me to a world and to ideas I’d had no inkling of.
All Things Bright and Beautiful – James Herriot Technically, this isn’t one book, but an omnibus edition of three of the British vet Alf White’s loosely-autobiographical tales, set in the spectacular countryside of the Yorkshire Dales. It was after I read this that I knew I just had to go see the place.
I am Spock – Leonard Nimoy A lovely autobiographical account of how the late Leonard Nimoy dealt with the cultish identity that the popularity of Star Trek bestowed on him. Interestingly, it followed one titled I Am Not Spock (which I haven’t read), where he attempts to distance himself from this Spock-self.
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer The disturbing and haunting story of the disastrous Everest expedition of 1996. The veracity of some of the events described have been questioned—and especially Anatoli Boukreev’s account is a great follow-up to this—but that does not take away the unputdownability of this volume.
Fingersmith – Sarah Waters A story of deceit, romance and intrigue set in Victorian England. A shattering twist in the middle of the book makes this an intriguing, suspenseful novel.
Tell us about your earliest attempts at writing. When, where and from whom did you learn the nittygritties of writing?
It started about the age of 7 and were mostly rather derivate of the Enid Blyton stories and novels I used to devour. I think people were too polite to tell me that those stories were ghastly, and thus a monster was born. I continued to write a great deal of cringeworthy stuff through teenage, moving on to non-fiction—sport and technology—as a profession. It was only in my late 20s that I worked up the nerve to do what I’d always dreamt of: write a novel.
Nobody taught me to write (I don’t think it can be taught) and, in any case, I haven’t ‘learnt’ it yet. It’s a kind of a process, a discovery that I’m pretty sure goes on and on as long as one is willing to try and explore.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Hard to say. They just pop up from anywhere. It could be something I heard or read or saw. See my answer on Goodreads. There is also a link from there to what Neil Gaiman has to say about his source of inspiration.
What does your typical writing day look like?
I don’t have a typical work day because it changes depending on what I’m doing—writing a book or writing the stuff that pays my bills. But broadly, I’m a night owl, which means 9 a.m. is the crack of dawn for me.
What is one habit / trait of yours that makes you effective / productive as an author?
What is the one thing that you recommend every aspiring author should do?
Writing is highly unlikely to keep you fed and clothed and sheltered by itself; writing for children definitely won’t.
Tell us something about yourself that very few people know?
A corollary to that:
Does technology (the Internet, software tools) help you in your writing process? If yes, can you tell us about them?
Yes. Because I love computers, gadgets, the Web and so on, I tend to put a certain amount of ‘tech’ in my books. On the other hand,
(I need to turn off the WiFi to concentrate sometimes.)
Is there any other way in which technology can help you in your work as writer?
The Net has made research so much easier.
Information is now available at the touch of a button.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others? (include websites, blogs or Twitter profiles, etc).
Her style of narration was so lucid and so easy to fall in love with, but oh-so-hard to do.
Can you tell about what you are currently writing and other works in the pipeline?
At present I’m working on a follow-up novel to the Shadow in Eternity series, but my publishers aren’t interested in it, so the project is languishing somewhat.
Apart from that, a sequel to Satin—which ended on a cliffhanger much to the rage of many readers—is planned.
Finally, I have a vague outline of a fantasy novel that I need to put down on paper before someone else thinks of it.
Komal makes a huge deal out of disclosing what Sahil said to her. Was that essential? Was it for suspense? Is it the way that Komal really feels? Or did the structure of the story place that constraint on you?
We see Sahil and Vikram only through the eyes of Komal – why couldn’t they speak for themselves? How did they discover their sexual preferences / orientation?
From my end, it was mostly a reflection of Komal’s state of mind and her internalized homophobia that she was forced to confront. It was a matter of not facing facts, of being in denial. Komal didn’t want it to be true and more than that, she didn’t want to think what would happen if it was true. [Disclaimer: However, once a book is out there, it doesn’t really matter what my intentions were. It’s what readers make of it and how they interpret that is more important.]
As for Sahil and Vikram’s perspective, they couldn’t speak for themselves because this was a story that Komal told. They could, of course, tell their own story, but that would have to be a new one.
In class 12, most people don’t know what they want to be. Even those who have a definite aim are indirectly driven by social expectations. Do you believe that each person has an innate “vision statement” (what they are meant to be in life) and will everyone identify their mission in their life?
All this talk of mission and vision makes my eyes glaze over! I think everyone is different. In class 12, my sister had been 100 per cent sure of what she wanted to do, whereas I had been blissfully clueless at the same stage in my life. It is sad that so many youngsters are pushed into doing things they may not want to by parental or social expectations or by financial and other constraints. In an ideal world, everyone should have the time and space to find something to do that they enjoy and get excited about.
You review books, write about technology and you write fiction – which (in your opinion) do you do best? Which gives you the most satisfaction?
All three, but at different times and in different ways. Writing fiction requires a different kind of energy and input, which can be thrilling but extremely sapping. Writing non-fiction, especially technology, can be very solid and reassuring.
Find me at
Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/payaldhar
PlusMinus’n’More: Thank you Payal, for being our guest on F-pages and sharing with us your experiences as a writer.