It is about second chances, the weight of tradition and gender, and the line between happiness and selfishness.
Nillu Nasser – 11 December 2017
The Back Flap
Sometimes we can’t escape the webs we are born into. Sometimes we are the architects of our own fall.
Akash Choudry wants a love for all time, not an arranged marriage. Still, under the weight of parental hopes, he agrees to one. He and Jaya marry in a cloud of colour and spice in Bombay. Their marriage has barely begun when Akash embarks on an affair.
Jaya cannot contemplate sharing her husband with another woman, or looking past his indiscretions as her mother suggests. Cornered by sexual politics, she takes her fate into her own hands in the form of a lit match.
Nothing endures fire. As shards of their past threaten their future, will Jaya ever bloom into the woman she can be, and will redemption be within Akash’s reach?
About the book
What is the book about?
All the Tomorrows tells the story of newlyweds Jaya and Akash, who get married in a cloud of colour in Bombay. But Akash wants a love for all time, not an arranged marriage. Their marriage has barely begun when Jaya discovers him having an affair. In a moment of disassociation, she takes her fate into her own hands in the form of a lit match. The novel is about how they come back from that moment. It is about second chances, the weight of tradition and gender, and the line between happiness and selfishness.
When did you start writing the book?
The idea came to me four or five years ago, but I didn’t commit to it for a while. I started writing it in earnest during a writer’s workshop and it snowballed from there.
How long did it take you to write it?
I did the bulk of the writing over five months but with planning one side, and editing the other side, it took about three years of fairly consistent work. This project was like a jigsaw. It didn’t want to be rushed.
Where did you get the idea from?
Like all my stories, it started with one image I just couldn’t shake. Often it is triggered by what I have read in the news, or from people-watching. It’s usually an image that makes me curious. This time I just couldn’t shake one image of an older man pressed up against a window watching a family. He wasn’t a stalker. He was sad. The book grew from that image.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Yes, but I have to be careful here as I don’t want to give away any spoilers! I guess I struggled with putting characters I love repeatedly through the wringer. I wanted to be fair to them. I wanted them to learn. Their paths are not always easy. I also struggled with how close to stay to the story I had initially plotted. All the Tomorrows is my first book-length work, and initially I tried to manipulate my characters to somewhere they didn’t really belong. It’s a good thing my fabulous writers group told me to have another look at my projected synopsis. It was a good thing when I let the characters lead the way. That’s when the magic happens. Those moments, when everything starts to sing, and you begin to see all the connections, are like a drug.
What came easily?
The relationships, the love, and the loss. All that came easily. There was no question in my mind how these characters would act when they were put together, and we see them interact at different times in their lives. First as young men and women, and then as older ones, transformed and worn down by life. To me at least, their interactions seem authentic. That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you have to work harder at creating those bonds on the page, but this time I got lucky.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
They are fictitious. I borrowed from my own experiences, like all writers do. I was born in London, UK, but am of Indian origin. Indians can be very traditional, and those parts of the story weren’t a far stretch to write. I haven’t borrowed from real world people though. I’m more likely to borrow from myself. I dial up traits I have, or write in traits I’d like to have, or let my intuition and imagination lead me.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Oh, I don’t know where to start. Writers like Sarah Waters and Khaled Hosseini have such a vivid sense of place. I love how Cormac McCarthy isn’t afraid of being bleak, and how bold and piercing Margaret Atwood’s writing is. Jonathan Safran Foer draws me in with his simplicity and how he understands people, and then you have seminal works like Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, the lyricism of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Neil Gaiman’s world-building and deft characterisation. There is so much inspiration to draw on.
Do you have a target reader?
I used a diverse group of beta readers, and both male and female early readers have enjoyed the story, but my target reader is probably a woman in her twenties or older, who likes foreign travel.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
Once I have an image or a scene that I just can’t shake, I know it’s an idea for a story. I test it first by settling on themes, a setting and main characters. Then I write down as many possible scenes as I can think of on post it notes and put them in some sort of order. By this time, they are all over the floor and might be for days. They end up being all tatty from where the kids and cats have stepped on them. Eventually, something clicks and the story is starting to piece together in my head. I know what might work and what definitely won’t work. I start to go crazy about the messiness of the process and that’s when I know I’m ready to transfer the ideas to the computer and get started in earnest. A writing day itself essentially looks like this: drop the kids off, make a cuppa, and make sure I have enough words down on the page to not feel guilty at the end of the day. For me 1500 words is a good day, but it can swing either way.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I’m an awful tinkerer. I have to tell myself to forge ahead, but really, that only happens in the middle of the book. In the beginning, in particular, when I am trying to settle on a tone, and the characters are not flesh and blood yet for me, I am constantly tempted to change sentences, to get the flow just right. In reality, I think my writing process would be quicker if didn’t look back. Having said that, there’s usually very little I change before the story goes to beta-readers.
Did you hire a professional editor?
My editor at Evolved Publishing is Jessica West, and she is brilliant. We quickly found a rhythm working together. She’s insightful, has an eye for detail and is a tireless cheerleader. We met on Twitter years ago. When the publisher paired us up, we couldn’t believe our luck.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Yes, I do, usually something instrumental: piano music or classical. Sometimes the indie chill out list on Spotify. It has to be something fairly zen to lull me into a creative space. Anything else is too distracting.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I did, and I think I would have gone that route if it had worked out quickly. I had a lot of responses complimenting my writing but saying the book wasn’t right for their lists. Very soon I found out that submitting my work made me miserable, and distracted me from creating.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I’d been interested in the indie way of doing things since the very beginning, when I started meeting other writers on Twitter. Self-publishing isn’t for me, as I think I’d feel too alone. An author friend told me that they were happy at Evolved Publishing – a small hybrid press –and that they were open to submissions, and it seemed a great fit for me. I liked the control, the team work, the focus on editorial, and that they committed to me for a few books. I feel very lucky to have signed with them.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
Evolved Publishing has an in-house team. D. Robert Pease is my cover artist and he did such a wonderful job bringing my vision to life. It’s such a thrilling process, developing a cover for your book baby.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I have a marketing plan, developed together with my publisher. I also have a spreadsheet which is a helpful checklist of things I should and could be doing, but really, it’s so early in the game for me. The best thing I can do right now is finish working on my second book, and not get side-tracked.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
I wrote a blog post a while back about lessons I wish I had known at the start of this journey.
For me, it comes down to three things:
– Find your voice and don’t be afraid to be reveal who you are. Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. Some people will love you, and it’s those people who will seek you out. They will boost you, and they might even one day become fans.
– Don’t pass up the opportunities to make writer friends. People who will appreciate the mundanity and bliss of writing, who you can swap critiques with, who you can learn from and can give back to. It makes the hours at the desk more fun to be able to check in with peers.
– Only take this road if your passion will propel you through the daily grind of being a writer, facing the blank page, the possible rejections and disinterest, if you are persistent and can adapt to change, because the world of books is in a state of flux. If you can stomach that, then rock on, because the world needs your words.
End of Interview: