Ruchir Joshi once told me that the biggest problem he had with writers who wrote their first books in their early twenties, or earlier, was that they’d seen nothing of life; how were they qualified to write? A very valid argument, despite the undeniable fact that I’m very unlikely to physically experience most of the things I write about no matter how old I get. In any case, now that I’m doing the all-out writing thing I have no life anyway, and I meet nothing except deadlines, so the whole living life thing is not happening – and all the people I know around my age who do have exciting lives obviously never have the time to write. Which means that having written your first book, you’re kind of stuck in a no-life situation, which of course perpetuates the problem.
Anyway, I digress. At the time, I think I pointed out that while I did not live, I did read, and watch other people’s lives, real or imaginary. Which meant that anything I wrote was likely to be inspired by books, films, TV, the media, friends, and voyeurism of other kinds – which is more or less exactly what happened. The problem there is, obviously, that your work ends up being a reflection of what you read, which lead me to discover my Golden Rule for Young Writers – if your own experiences interest no one except your family and friends, and you’re taking stuff from other books, make sure your references are clear and obvious, because otherwise you might have to face situations like this. If references are inevitable, stick them in the reader’s faces – your worst problem will merely be manic hate mail from not very bright people who think they’re the only ones who spotted it, which is fun at the worst of times.
Having said that, looking at the extracts quoted in the article, it looks pretty bleak, and it’s disappointing, given what a dream run Kaavya Vishwanathan seemed to be having. But who knows, maybe new information will surface that changes things. And there still was the very faint chance that it happened unconsciously. The Opal Mehta story should be a really interesting one to follow. What will happen to her? How will she fight this? What happens to her next book? What drama, what suspense. I need to go lie down.
And now I want half a million dollars. Quick.
Update: She says sorry, it was unintentional