Have you read Rana’s article in Tehelka (link via Kitabkhana)? If not, you really should – its quite wonderful, and Im an even bigger fan of his now.
Theres just so much to identify with…Im sure he speaks for a whole lot of writers. He certainly speaks for me. About a lot of things Im very unhappy about.
What makes it even more interesting for me is that Rana is Foreign Published Literature, and hence completely A-list. For me, I had to face the alarming reality that a lot of my reviewers clearly knew nothing about fantasy at all, and even more alarmingly, werent interested – and were probably only doing a review because it was a Penguin book.
The profiles were truly scary as well. Jai (thats when I first met him) was the only one who had read the book and knew the genre, and it was such a huge relief talking to him. But mostly (and almost completely now, a year and a half down the line) it was about the publishing process – how did you do it? what advance did you get? who else is publishing you? what is the process of getting published? – and to know how i felt about that, read ranas article.
Still, I have to say that while it was disappointing that I couldnt really talk about work, the profiles were fun to do – shallow though it may sound, i thoroughly enjoyed sounding off about myself, though the primary source of enjoyment was that my ‘near and dear ones’ would enjoy seeing my face in the papers. And the experience was fabulous – i really hadnt pictured myself posing for pictures, ever. And while the conversations were never about literature (beyond, maybe, what are your favourite books?) it was all new and exciting. I was officially a C-list celeb for two months. It hurt that most of the people and papers i was talking to neither knew nor cared what i had written, though. Because after the two giggly phone calls per profile were done, it was spectacularly empty thinking that the interviews might easily have been because I had just started a designer condom store or something like that.
It might have been easier for me than it was for rana on some counts, though – in the sense that i had no particular expectations, and had been warned that this is what it would be like. So I more or less knew no one would know what fantasy was (its the same as Harry Potter, right). I also knew I wasnt A-list, and so should be genuinely grateful for whatever publicity I got. And the 3-4 genuinely good reviews I got sent me over the moon. Also, I was working as a journalist at the time with a magazine which was almost completely about ‘celeb’ interviews. So at the core of everything there was always a large degree of sympathy for junior features journalists and what they had to go through.
Still, I remember recent conversation with Delhi Times journalist at Namita Gokhale launch. Youve written a fantasy novel? Whats your number? Whats your name? Whats your book called? What is it about? Whats the story? Whats a fantasy novel? Oh, whats the difference between your book and Harry Potter? When is it coming out? Oh, its already come out, when? OK, whens your next book coming out? Whats it about? Whats your name again?
But Im not complaining, really. She wasnt a book journalist, and she was just there covering a book launch (which never has anything to do with the book, if newspaper reports are to be believed).
And there are some really good reviewers/critics in this country, who write reviews and pieces about authors which could have been in papers anywhere in the world, and know so much about books they make me feel completely illiterate. YOu know who you are, so I wont bother to link.
Im a part of the system now. And Im kind of used to it. I entered it voluntarily, after all. I know that the writing i do wont win awards, or big international advances, and i wont make the IWE A-list unless I write an L-book. But its all huge fun anyway.
Kind of lost track of what I was going to say there. Go read Ranas article again. Thats very well thought out.