We are back with another author interview. Today, we have with us Priyanka Agarwal—the author of PiKu & ViRu. Priyanka talks about her writing aspirations, the route to getting her book published, and her inclination towards contemporary fiction. Stay on while we chat with her.
Image Credit: Sonika Agarwal
Though you come from content-writing background, what motivates you to write fiction?
To be honest, I had no idea I’d ever write fiction. In fact, I remember the day eight years ago when I was updating my LinkedIn profile and I wondered how the likes of J.K. Rowling had such a vivid imagination. I still expressed a dream in my profile to write fiction, though I had no clue how that would happen. But gradually, I learned that fiction comes out of our own experiences, thoughts and feelings, which every author expresses artistically and imaginatively. Most importantly, you need to have a good story to bind all this in. When that happened with me, I didn’t think twice before penning it all down and getting serious about it.
What were your feelings after publishing this book?
More than happy, I was anxious—what would people say, what if they hated it, what if nobody read it… But the response has been largely heartening. I still have moments of stress, but then they’re important, else I wouldn’t push myself to keep going and do better.
What are some of your favourite novels and authors?
I’m a pukka Potterhead! I also love The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Besides, I’m a huge fan of murder mysteries, with the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner being my all-time favourite. You wouldn’t be able to put it down till the end.
Do you think writing a book from the comfort of bedroom is possible?
It is, but after a while, it can take a toll on your posture and back. Better to invest in a nice, comfortable chair with proper ergonomics, no matter which room you work in. Try going to your office as early in the morning as possible, or head to a café or co-working space.
Where do you write from? Do you go to some specific place, like beachside or into the hills?
I don’t really have a writing zone. I usually write at home, but I prefer to people-watch for ideas. Hence, a Café Coffee Day or Starbucks is my preferred stop. Needless to say, a cup of coffee, green tea, or hot chocolate keeps me awake and energetic. Gardens and parks are great spots too.
What inspired you to write this book? Any tales to tell…
PiKu & ViRu is inspired by a period from my life. I was going through a dark phase two years ago when a few friends encouraged me to pen down my story in order to heal from the incident. At first, I didn’t want to write it and kept dilly-dallying. But soon, I came around to conceptualising a couple of web series. I sent them to a friend of mine for feedback, who, unknowingly and coincidentally, suggested I explore a plot similar to PiKu & ViRu. She added that she hated romantic fiction but was game to consuming something like that if I wrote it. That’s when I resolved to work on my story. I banged out a synopsis and read it aloud at an open-mike event, where it received a thunderous applause. The judge, a famous stand-up comedian, encouraged me to realise it into a full-length novel. And then there was no looking back.
What was your biggest learning experience throughout the writing process?
I’d always heard about characters developing a mind of their own, but to witness that first-hand was an incredible experience. I was particularly stunned when the cheque-gifting idea in the climax came from the ViRu in my subconscious. It was never part of the original plot. At the same time, you can’t afford to let these characters run amok. As the author, you’re the driver of your story, not them.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in as a story writer?
Having a great, strong story in the first place that craved to find a place on paper. Without that, I would never have had the much-needed foundation. Secondly, I was fortunate to cross paths with the right people at the right time. I shudder to think what would have happened without my beta readers, editor, and younger sister, the person behind my book promotions and the cover. The list is also incomplete without the scores of authors and writers who have supported me in my journey.
Any best piece of writing advice that you would like to share with new or struggling writers?
Live your life, travel and meet lots of people. Hidden in these experiences is something that will ignite a story within you that will force itself to come out. Note down anything interesting that goes on around you. Use your smartphone as your writing companion, not killer. And yes, develop a thick skin.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
That watching trailer reaction on YouTube is my guilty pleasure. (Though, I do that after seeing the film, not before.)
Any future books that you would like to discuss now?
Currently, there’s nothing on paper—all in my head. A chick-lit novel set in Mumbai’s real-estate industry, perhaps. I’ll begin dumping my thoughts, starting January.
Connect with Priyanka:
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/priyankadotagarwal