The latest edition of SheThePeople.TV's Women Writers Fest brought together several authors from across the country under one roof and it was nothing short of liberating and inspiring to watch these women writers up there on the platform.
The fest, which celebrated women authors from across the country, had them share the inspiration behind their writings and the nuances of the storytelling they swear by. Ranging from debut authors to experienced ones, we had everyone share their insights about the techniques of writing, the genres they prefer, and what it takes for them to continue their passion. One such author that the audience was super excited to have was none other than Andaleeb Wajid.
Andaleeb Wajid, who flew from Bengaluru to grace the fest, discussed her latest book series Jasmine Villa, her inclination towards the genres of romance and horror, how she's maintained a balance between traditional publishing and self-publishing, ad what inspires her to write with the speed of light.
Andaleeb Wajid at Women Writers Fest
Balancing between traditional and self-publishing
Andaleeb Wajid, who has got her books published across several traditional publishers, also turned to self-publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) a few years back. Wajid, who is known for her impeccable speed at writing, explains, "I moved to self-publishing because a lot of traditional publishers couldn't keep up with my writing. I wanted to publish what I was writing soon enough I was done writing the story, ad because traditional publishing takes a couple of years to bring the book out, it was difficult for me to wait because I had to move to my next one."
On the series Jasmine Villa
Wajid further spoke about one of her most loved three-part book series called 'Jasmine Villa'. When asked her integral reason for how the idea of writing this series pooped up to her, she responded, "When I came up with the idea for Jasmine Villa, it was something that I wanted to read. There are a lot of romance novels out there but there aren't many protagonists I could relate to. Villa has three sisters and each book is attributed to one of them, and it's really their how their stories are intertwined alongside keeping their individualities is what kept me hooked and what is keeping the readers hooked, too."
Jasmine Villa explores the story of three sisters who grow up in one house without a mother. The story shows how the three navigate their life growing up with a father and what it meant for them to get older, find love, enter the union of marriage with their respective partners and how the start of their new stories in their added families keep them engaged, inspired and self-reflect. "How the sisters meet people, fall in love and get married is how the story kicks in, and then what happens after marriage is what keeps you on the edge to read more.
Villa, which was earlier self-published by Wajid in 2019 was taken down by her after Westland Publishers took over the publishing rights and have been ever since looking out for sales and marketing for the book. This is where Banerjee asked Wajid's editor Sanghamitra Biswas about what generated her interest in Jasmine Villa. "This is an easy question to answer, but it’s also difficult because when you like something you know it will be like it. And that's the easy part, the difficult part is figuring out why you like it and taking it to the sales and marketing team. What struck or stayed with me with Jasmine Villa was the sisterhood the sisters share. We need romance amidst the grim these days and this book offers that, and more," she shared.
The genres of romance and horror
Most of Wajid's books teach romance in some form or another. Her storytelling explores various shades of romance, nuances of relationships and the work it takes to keep them alive. She adds, "Jasmine Villa was my first proper foray into romance where I was trying to write something a little more relatable, something that's more homegrown, something that people can enjoy and also feel. So, there's a lot of shame associated with reading romance. So, I wanted to write something that people would feel okay about saying that 'Yes, I read it and related with it.'"
Wajid's who is working on yet another genre of horror shared that although she, sometimes, does get scared by the shadow of a cloth on her wall suddenly in the middle of the night, she loves writing everything that horror entails. Asked why, and she responds, "There's a difference. When you're writing horror, you're in charge of the narrative. And I don't get scared by writing because I take breaks in between."
Wajid, who switches between romance and horror from time to time, added that it's integral to not feel monotonous with writing and therefore exploring new ways to write stories and maintaining a balance is a must.
Why self-publishing requires a plan and discipline
Wajid, who has published a large number of books, shared with the audience a few tips from her own journey. Asked whether she has certain strategies to go by, she responded, "Ideally, when you are the publisher yourself, so you have to decide. You have to make those decisions before you start. That's something that works for me because I plan, especially if I have to start a series - how many books, the protagonists, the ballpark of how you envision the story to come out."
Having said that, she added, "Sometimes, even that doesn't work and you can’t really determine if the decision will be successful or not, but when you're self-publishing, you’re in charge of your own successes or loss."
The writing process
Wajid writes with great speed, she has her way around her laptop, and it's her writing speed over the years that have helped her bring out more books in a short span of time than anyone ever. So what does it take to write stories? What goes behind the writing process? "I actually don't write endlessly. I write for about a couple of hours and then take a break. It's organised writing," she shared. Understanding how writing endlessly does get repetitive and monotonous, Wajid works towards clocking in hours in a disciplined way. She continued, "I sit down and write as I treat it like a job, but a job where I work for 2 hours at a stretch and then take a break. I plan ahead that if I'm writing this book, I'm going to write these many words today, or maybe a chapter or two chapters. There's a structure."
For someone like Wajid who has penned down several books, it may get overwhelming too because it's far from easy. There's a lot of hard work and effort required to not just write but also follow the due process of publishing. "There is a lot of hard work that goes into that also, you know, so each of my books is around 70, 75,000 words. So, it takes too much effort to write that much. And if it doesn't do well, it's of course disappointing. There are those ups and down."
Has she ever experienced writer's block?
So, I'm always asked this question, and I always tell people that rather than a block, I'd say I am sometimes stuck. But I plan extensively beforehand so I don't have to experience it. I give myself breaks between books and recharge myself. So, writer’s block as such hasn't been something that I focus on because, again, I plan out so much.
Does she worry about whether her audience would not like a certain book if there was infidelity involved in the story?
Yeah, I mean, I do take it into account when I'm writing. I don't just write positive things, there are negative emotions also. And as I said earlier, those books are high on drama and melodrama. So, there is a lot of stuff happening over there. I think at the end of it, what readers want is to be entertained. That's my primary job as a writer, to make sure that someone who picks up my book gets entertained. I do think about it and I try not to write about things that would make people too uncomfortable. I think there is a sort of in-built censorship also in certain ways for myself, which I also feel is very relevant, considering I'm an Indian Muslim woman, therefore, so many things come into play. So, those are things I keep in mind when I'm writing.
How ideas generate from everyday life
When someone from the audience asked her where she gets her ideas from and does she feel a lack of them at some point in life, the author shared an interesting and relatable insight. She said, "So, ideas are ongoing. The source for me is the world around us. So, I see something and something might strike me in a certain way and I make a note of it somewhere and eventually come back to it and make it into a book."
The source of ideas for me is the world around us. I see something and it strikes me a certain me, I make a note and it stems from there.
Is self-publishing financially empowering too?
Writing is not always financially empowering, not for everyone, and Wajid rightly explains why. "I always tell people, if you want to be a writer, don't quit your day job. But when you're self-publishing, to a certain extent, you can make money out of the book, but only if you write often. That is the kind of speed which is considered typical if you want to self-publish and you want to make money. So, whenever people ask me if they should self-publish, I always ask them, what are your goals? Why do you want to publish? If you want to publish to make money, fine. But be prepared to put in a lot of work."