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The Cover Story: Author of ‘A Year of Wednesdays’, Sonia Bahl, on what went into the beautiful, minimalist cover

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Author Sonia Bahl has always spoken about her cherished collaboration with the editor of both her novels: Pooja Dadwal, Deputy Managing Editor—Fingerprint! Publishing. We asked both of them to take us behind the scenes and unravel some of the workings of how A Year of Wednesdays came into being.

This is what Pooja Dadwal had to say.

Someone impossibly wise once said that knowing that now is all there is, and living every now for the rest of all your nows, is all there is to it. And if you do this now right, the rest will follow suit.

The story of A Year of Wednesdays began on one such now. But not between the characters. Not yet. The first now happened hundreds of Wednesdays ago, between the writer and her editor.

The editor who had collaborated with the writer on her first book. The writer who had never thought of writing a second one. And yet she did. The first book introduced the two, the second solidified their collaboration. But there was that in-between—there always is, isn’t it?— in which the editor, one fine February afternoon, finally coaxed the writer to send her anything, even a paragraph, of what she was writing next. No, not one of her screenplays, she said. (The author writes for the screen too. Or mostly for that.)

Pooja Dadwal (Editor)

The writer wasn’t, not on paper anyway—but aren’t we all writing stories in our minds and hearts always. And so the writer humored her—with an opening line sent in the space of a few minutes. Which the editor gulped down in a moment and asked for second helpings. Legend has it that the writer humored her editor again. And again. And again.

Lines, paragraphs, chapters, shared initially over WhatsApp, soon gave way to mail. The length increased, the story continued, but both never mentioned publishing. Not that it was a foregone conclusion—it wasn’t. Even though both now belonged to the same universe of books, publishing the story as a novel had never formed part of their conversation.

The story which had started as a message in February came to its conclusion in November. Only, it couldn’t. For that’s the other glorious thing about being in the now. After living in every now you manage to gather so many of them that they shine brighter than a thousand suns. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Specially so in the case of A Year of Wednesdays. It is the most superlative testament of the writer’s genius. And her heart. 

Sonia Bahl (Author)

And so the editor, who understood the literary weight of what lay in her hands, asked the writer if she’d consider bringing this out as a book. The writer, Sonia Bahl, agreed, eventually. And so started the formal literary journey of Seat 7A and Seat 7B, two strangers who meet on a flight from New Delhi to New York and end up talking through most of it. Actually all of fifteen hours and thirty minutes of it. Touchdown, and they go their separate ways . . . only, something stays. Something that refuses to leave. There are some knots which cannot be untied. Some bonds which cannot be explained away. All you can do is honour these. A Year of Wednesdays explores this very rarefied bond between people.

Heart aching and achingly familiar, the story gently manages to fuse itself not only into your thoughts but also into the very spaces between your thoughts. And in the bargain leaves you with an incredible wealth of emotions. Of being human. Of being alive. Indelible marks on ephemeral us. 🙂

A Year of Wednesdays: Behind the Cover

We asked author Sonia Bahl how the stunningly simple and Zen-like cover came into being.

“If the process of writing is a dream, the book cover represents the awakening.”

  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Clothing of Books

The cover for A Year of Wednesdays was a protracted, meandering, getting-lost-more-than-found journey. Here I must acknowledge the design team at Fingerprint! Publishing for working with me to find my way home. We started at point A, skipped point B, forked into dramatic detours, screeched into dark alleys, changed direction, and finally reached a destination we had definitely not anticipated when the journey began.

The book held so many themes. A moment in time when two unlikely people, from polar opposite worlds and world-views, are hermetically sealed in a common world for fifteen hours. A long haul flight. A forced  interaction due to a bizarre, near-absurd reason. It’s an amalgam of crackling moments of stiletto-sharp bantering and a brazenly honest sharing of what matters and why. Mostly, an uncanny, inexplicable connect that is entirely borderless. Age, time, place, religion, childhood, financial status, marital status, likes and dislikes don’t matter when you are sealed together for fifteen hours, never to meet again. The big one, which you don’t realize until it is much too late: the person will stay with you forever . . . maybe even change you incontrovertibly. Unconsciously paying homage to the Japanese notion of ichi-go ichi-e. Every encounter comes just once in a lifetime. No one encounter can ever come back. But it could last forever.

The cover art’s journey was almost as multi-diverse in thought as the journey of the two protagonists. It began with images of the sky. We worked relentlessly to communicate why it means much more than just the literal meaning of a plane in the sky. No matter which way we visualized it, it lacked in the richness, the fullness of the story. There were obvious, sometimes unimaginative, attempts to play with seats on a plane. Or a plane window juxtaposed with an unexpected view. Everything ended up being uni-dimensional, showing exactly what we were saying. Unable to create the perfect equation where one plus one will add up to the ah-ha of three. Seat 7B’s favourite number. Still, it felt imperative to acknowledge the sky. How could we not? There was such an undeniable role played by stars in their lives (without revealing too much). So we kept clocking up miles, kept moving down the star-studded flight path. The arresting beauty of a night sky, a stylised star map, a view of the changing skies across a long haul flight . . . all visually staggering. Some covers looked clichéd, others looked like they were textbook pictures for celestial lovers. We acknowledged it was time to opt for a dramatically different change in direction to get out of the loop we’d gotten stuck in.

Where was our true north? It’s A Year of Wednesdays. What can organically and emblematically embody the moving of time: one whole year? A year can contain multitudes. The passage of time, transformation, the cyclical nature of life, the ups and downs, the routine, the unexpected curve balls in the routines, birthdays, celebrations, important dates, daily minutiae, love, loss, redemption. And the inevitability of things. 

Nature. It says it every day, every month, every year. Naturally, eloquently, immutably. An artist’s impression of a leaf changing through the year became the understated, poignant symbol of all that we wanted to say. A subtle grey background, gave us the minimalist, Japanese aesthetic. A quiet nod to ichi-go ichi-e. The gold signature by the author, a suggestion from the editor, was used instead of typical font, to make the intimate story even more intimate.

We had landed. Home. To use Jhumpa Lahiri’s words, again: “The right cover is like a beautiful coat, elegant and warm, wrapping my words as they travel through the world, on their way to keep an appointment with my readers.”

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Books & Authors

Being authentic is the best thing you can do to yourself, even if it makes you vulnerable. Author Aruna Joshi [Exclusive Interview]

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Author Aruna Joshi With Her New Book, The Subtle Art Of Dealing With People.

Aruna Joshi is a passionate writer, heading the editorial department of a leading publishing house in Mumbai. Her area of work is spirituality, self-help, and personal growth. She left behind her successful 18-year practice of architecture to follow her purpose which is to bring about a positive change in people. Through her counseling sessions, she has helped many people to take their relationships to a new level and to lead a happy and regret-free life.

So below is our conversation with her. 🙂


Q1. Why did you call this book “The Subtle Art of Dealing with People”?

Aruna: As the name suggests, the book is all about people skills, and dealing with people is an art. Moreover, we are dealing with emotional beings. Emotions are delicate and difficult to analyze or describe, and that is what subtle literally means. So, I have called it a Subtle art.

Q2. Is this book about manipulating people or winning them over?

Aruna: This book is all about winning people over. Manipulation has a negative connotation. And people usually prefer to stay away from those who manipulate them as they are fearful of being taken for a ride or cheating. We can certainly find our way to people’s hearts by being who we are. We don’t need to be manipulative. You will find a lot of tips in this book to do so.

Q3. You speak about being authentic in many parts of this book. Does that not make a person vulnerable?

Aruna: Being authentic is the best thing you can do to yourself, even if it makes you vulnerable. We often try to create a false façade around us to protect our vulnerability; not realizing that we are moving away from our true self, our authentic self. And when we do that, we are depriving ourselves of the happiness and success in life. Not being authentic gives rise to a lot of conflicts within and one can never be peaceful and happy in that state. In fact, being authentic is easy. You don’t have to make any extra effort as that is what you actually are. You just have to recognize and acknowledge it. I have given several tips in the book on how to be your authentic self and how to handle the vulnerability.

Q4. Your book contains “pointers for the digital age”. How does one make relationships over zoom or digital mediums that seem so impersonal?

Aruna: These days we are mostly communicating through wires and machines. Many times even on zoom/online calls people prefer to keep their cameras off and voice on mute. It is difficult to connect with people in such scenarios. So, to develop relationships in the digital age, see to it that you can see and hear each other. Look in the camera and talk. That develops an instant connection. Follow the rules of people skills anyways. Greet and compliment others, inquire about their personal whereabouts, express concern and show that you care. All these will help establish a personal bond.

Q5. There is a chapter in your book called “How to Deal with Difficult People”. Do these techniques work?

Aruna: We find numerous kinds of people around us. Some are amicable, while some people give us a hard time. Some are lovable while some are full of jealousy. However, to be successful in life, we should be able to deal with all kinds of people. So, I have especially included this chapter in my book. Usually while dealing with difficult people, we try our best to change them but without any success. The bottom line to deal with such people is to “understand them and not change them.” Coming from this space will change your equation even with the most difficult people. In this chapter, I have given some case studies that will help you understand how to deal with difficult people.

Q.6 Have you always been a people person?

Aruna: As a child, I was an introvert. I use to shy away from people. I used to love being with myself and my close family. But as I grew up, I realized that although I was good in academics I never really flourished. I had huge stage-freight and I did not participate in any group activity. When this realization hit me, I started to push my boundaries and worked on my weak areas such as fear of being judged, low self-esteem, etc. After a lot of self-work, I now feel that I am reaching there. You will find the learnings from my life with examples in my book – The Subtle Art of Dealing with People.


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Books & Authors

Exclusive Interview With The Author of ‘Daughter of the Night’ Nandini Gupta

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Nandini Gupta is the author of Daughter of The Night who is studying Journalism and Dramatic Literature in NYU. She also has a Youtube channel on Lifestyle and is a fan of BTS.

Today we had some glimpses of our conversation with Ms. Nandini Gupta.


Q1. The MC (Main Character) of your story Laila is from Pakistan who comes down to Udaipur and it is mostly about her experiences that she faced on the way and her past that she discovered, so my first question is, is it loosely even based on the movie Veer Zara?

I remember watching “Veer Zara” as a kid because my parents loved the film. They always made me sit down with them to watch it and I always ended up in tears. Now that I think about it, “Daughter of the Night” might draw some connections to the film, but it’s not based on it. The idea was inspired by my love for Rajasthan and its rich culture and history, and Laila’s character is a mix of different characteristics from people I know and interact with within daily life.

 

Q2. Regarding this book what came first in your mind, The Characters or the Plot? And How?

The characters. Definitely. Laila’s character was the first character I thought of. To be quite frank, Laila is a mix of different people I know in real life. Portions of her directly relate to me, as well. When you talk about her curls, that’s something I have, so I put it in there because I wanted the character I was writing about to feel really personal and relatable. The plot sort of developed around her: what she thinks, how she acts, and why she does what she does. Once I had her character in mind and a vague idea for a plot, I molded other characters around these two things. But for me, characters always drive the story. As a reader as well, I love to get to know characters on a deep level. I want to understand their perspective and I want to feel like I’m a part of their life. This might stem from the fact that I’m a journalism student and part of the reason why I love being a student reporter is because I get to interview people I’ve never even spoken to before. In some cases, I really get to know them and that to me is really exciting!

Q3. You had another character Gulab as well who is indeed a very interesting character. So, what’s the trickiest thing about writing characters of the opposite gender?

Gulab’s character is interesting because she’s as much the hook of the story as is Laila. Without Gulab, this story would not exist and this puts a lot of weight on Gulab’s shoulders. The trickiest part about writing her was somehow making her relatable to Laila, who’s significantly younger than her. I constantly asked myself questions: Will a person of Gulab’s age say this? Do this? To write her well, I had to mix two different generations, which can always be tricky.

Q4. What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

I remember the longest part of the editing and revising process for me was the climax. Even though I didn’t completely change the climax, the way I wrote it in the beginning and what my readers see before them today are two very different things. Because the climax is what the entire story builds on to, it had to create a mark. And finding that mark wasn’t easy because the readers really need to feel connected to the characters to feel a range of emotions towards the novel’s end.

Q5. How much research did you need to do for your book?

The book deals with the history of two nations, so I had to research quite a bit for those portions. I also had to make myself very well-versed with Rajasthani culture, traditions, monuments, history, food, clothing, and so many other elements because a majority of the novel takes place in the state. Since I’m not originally from Rajasthan, making sure I understood the place and people was a priority for me.

Q6. What was the hardest scene to write in the book and why?

The hardest scene to write in the book was definitely the end when Laila’s going through a lot of different things, none of which she saw coming her way. I was swinging back and forth between giving my readers a lot of explicit detail to make them feel a certain way or leaving them with just enough information that would also serve the same purpose. In the end, I did go with the second option because I felt like everyone reads a character and story differently. So they deserved to feel the end in their own, personal, and most authentic way.

Q7. Last question, can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

All the blurbs provided by some of the most amazing people draw on various aspects of the novel. Something, rather some people not mentioned in the blurbs are the characters of Ibrahim and Asif. Each of them represents someone very close to me in real life. Even though they are minor characters, their role is irreplaceable in the novel. Fun fact: I enjoyed writing Asif’s character the most!


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We all need motivation, to convert our setbacks and failure into grand successes. Author Sudhir Singh [Exclusive Interview]

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Author Sudhir has come a long way, from his education and job in Delhi to helping the poor, helping NGO’s and finally writing his book The Ray of Hope which is received well by the people.

Today we had some glimpses of our conversation with Mr. Sudhir Singh.


Q1. Your book Ray of Hope is indeed good so is your first book, can you tell our reader a bit about your book?

Yes! This is my debut book. First of all, I am fascinated with the title “The Ray of Hope”; we all need motivation, to convert our setbacks and failure into grand successes. So I tried to put my experience with delinquency and accomplishment into this Book. This is very close to me because I lived this and keep motivated at my tough time as I write my book. I think this is a book about the challenges, hurdles, failure, The Hope, and attitudes of not giving up.

Everybody who has a heart! Honestly, my protagonist does not always succeed. They often get hurt, because they are not fictitious. They are either ‘you’ or ‘me’ and neither of us are superheroes in real life. Who do not win every battle; but we fight, and we fight till the end, we fight to survive. No matter how many times we fall and are torn apart, we get up and fight. That is how life should be lived. So, it is okay if you are going through something which is bothering you, keep fighting. This book is for those who fight daily and never give up. They always have hope for a better tomorrow.

Q2. What inspired you to write this book?

Writing a book is arduous than I thought and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. None of this would have been possible without courage, confidence, and patience. I was in depression for months in the early years when I had a lot of financial burdens and lost my job. Delhi was my dream city before I sifted myself from Prayagraj to Delhi. After losing my job city was like a horror house. At that time I was more punctual than ever before. I used to get up early and always reached at interview site before the mentioned time. I walked alone on street, transported without tickets, walked from old Delhi to South Ex. by foot.  As I count I attempted more than ten interviews and was disqualified in all.

I have lost my hopes but I did not give up, I tried and started home tuition in the defense colony and started writing in my free time, and made a temporary title “how an engineer turned into a teacher”?

That’s funny but I did & given four years on improving title and storytelling and now today after four years I have had this. I think setbacks and the dark days of my life are my great inspiration.

Q3. Your book is getting a good amount of visibility on social media, so when do you plan to launch your next book?

Next year in October, The Ray of Hope is a book that has a few questions, is this based on true, events? Did Raghu have a happy Life ever? What happened after the last story and how did Raghu stabilize a billion dollars company in just a few years. I think this is only a glimpse of the upcoming book, it will complete after the next launch.

Q4. Every writer goes through writer’s block, while writing this book have you gone through any?

When I decided to write “The ray of hope” without my father’s prior permission because he was not in support of my writing, the first challenge that I faced was vocabulary. As a Hindi medium guy, I had limited words but I didn’t give up. In the first few days, I did not write a single word just read it at the metro, at the canteen at the park everywhere I go holding a book and finishing some novels in one month.  After when I started writing I suppose to be a master in word meaning. Since then I have continued the process of reading and writing and now readers have this in their hands. I expect  “the ray of hope will give them a vision of hope and they will live their life to the fullest.

Q5. What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

I have a busy schedule with my non-profit. I am on a mission to help 1 lakhs unprivileged kids end of the year but in between, I managed my writing. I don’t bind myself with a timetable for writing I write whenever I find something notable either I’m traveling, roaring, or doing a party. Mostly I use my cell phone notepad to write some keywords. I always found that I have written some incredible stories when I was at the coffee shop or traveling by public transport.

Q6. Now that you are a published author do you have plans to make it your full-time career?

I’m not sure! The Ray of Hope is my debut book and maybe my story doesn’t get enough readers so I can’t take writing as a full-time. I’ll decide it after two or three bestsellers. Apart from writing I do farming for my living and help the needy through my End Hunger project. I only write when I’m free from these two. I love writing no doubt but I also love social service and farming and I give my first preferences to social service in all three.

Q7. How do you deal with poor reviews?

I have always been so excited to read poor reviews. I don’t take it negatively anymore, either I reviewed my someone or my writing, work  I always take it stepping stone to improvement. No one is perfect and nothing is perfect so if there is an honest review it helps to write my next bestseller. The poor reviews are telling what improvement is needed and if there is any review on any specific part I don’t take it seriously because a coin has two faces. Everyone has their point of view if I’m writing my thoughts on love it’s not necessarily everyone will agree with my view so they can comment on the behalf of their view. So I am comfortable with any type of review.

Q8. What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

Writing a book is not an easy task, and when you are writings self-help it increases your difficulties Ten times, sometimes it’s being quite boring.

As a mechanical engineer who wrote some silly sentence on between some long questions to increase its length in semesters exam, who believe the examiners never been throw word to word. So for him, it’s not easy to write a paragraph with a continuous flow and meaningful sentences with a stunning vocabulary.

But honestly, I enjoyed it a lot as a debut book every day I learned something new that why I say writing is my favorite part, and editing is my least favorite the 50k word count novel after editing left with you the only 30k word count but I hearty appreciate ton – Gina McKnight – “Writing is like riding a bike. Once you gain momentum, the hills are easier. Editing, however, requires a motor and some horsepower.”

Q9. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

Well, that’s a difficult question to answer unless you have written a couple of books set in different worlds. I have been working on inspirational settings for The Ray of Hope for probably 2 years before I really started with preparations to write it. This left me with a huge collection of ideas that I worked out at different levels of detail for various different worlds.

When I know sit down to start a new setting, I am starting with nothing. Saying that I started from scratch last winter would be just as wrong as saying that I have been working on the setting for 2 years now. But those experiences gave me skills and knowledge that now enable me to whip up a new set very quickly. I feel like if I write without having the basics of the world covered then I might make stuff up that I haven’t really thought about in the same way as the lore that I’ve written.

Q10. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting?

I say never give up! As I belong to a farmer family that lived in a small village of Prayagraj UP India. Prayagraj is a place where many people are from Bihar. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are Bhaiya & Bhai so you can call me to be a Bihari

“Bihari” is a word most probably used in Delhi & Mumbai areas to indirectly show you down and I have been called a Bihari when I used to live in Delhi because of my Hindi accent. But I never mind because they might don’t know Bihar is derived from the Sanskrit word? The renowned Mathematician, Aryabhata hailed from here. It’s called IAS producing factory and world oldest & largest library Nalanda library held here.

Above all, It has a Unique Bihari accent so I feel proud to be called Bihari, Being from a farmer family, being from an illiterate family, being rejected from more than ten interviews. Being my script gets rejected by many publishers. Being a Bihari I become “Author” a Bihari author.

When you have an attitude of not giving up you win. Failure comes when you give up. So never give up if I can do everyone can.


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