Interview of Deepa Agarwal the Author of The Hangover of Choices
How did you come up with the idea of the book ‘Hangover Of Choices’?
I work in the space of Diversity and Inclusion-brining in gender equity in corporates and designing mental health interventions. This involves conducting workshops and other facilitated activities for women across sectors and different sections of the society. Some commonalities that I have observed are that of a negative body image, the feeling of ‘am not good enough’ in spite of reaching pinnacles of success in the outer world and other stressors.
As a counsellor and a student of philosophy, I have come to understand the futility of the need for external validation, the need to stand out in a crowd, fears, and other related aspects where one seems to feel that they have no control over their own lives
All of this gave birth to The Hangover of Choices. I wanted to present these ideas to the readers, in a simplistic and engaging format, rather than making it perspective. The intent was that of self-discovery. And therefore, these concepts have been packaged in the form of fiction.
What all difficulties did you face while getting published this book?
The presentation style of the book is a bit unique. Written in first person, as the protagonist is recalling her memories, she becomes both the actor and the viewer at the same time. It therefore has been written entirely in the present tense. Editors who went with a checklist approach to editing, were not comfortable with this contemporary approach of the book. Their traditional style would have changed the entire narrative of the book. Finding the editors, was my biggest challenge in publishing The Hangover of Choices.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My earliest experience that language has power came when I was probably 12 years, and I had to write an essay in Hindi for a competition. My dad helped me to write this essay and taught me that in those few lines I had the power and the ability to influence the readers to change or atleast, provide some thought-provoking ideas. It was here that I realised that writing has power and that I possessed within me the ability to express through it.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I did not find it difficult to write characters from the opposite sex. Each of the characters seemed to flow and after a point, their gender did not have a bearing on them. They were just people, who were part of the storyline.
What does literary success look like to you?
The intent of my book is for the readers to self-discover and recognise the importance of self-action and a strong inner self. Literary success for me will be when my book has motivated and encouraged them to explore these ideas for themselves and be able to apply it in their lives.
What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
Writer’s block to me happens when there is no flow, when I have to struggle to write. On days, it seems very easy and free-flowing. When the writing is not smooth, that’s the day I face writer’s block. This can last for a day, or sometimes for several days at a stretch. During such times, I change my routine and try to re-kindle my inspirations.
Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?
My book has not modelled any characters from people I know. Each of the characters came into it on their own. In fact, I think modelling after someone I know would have been the exact opposite of therapeutic. It might put pressure to project them in a certain manner, which may have blocked them from evolving on their own.
What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?
The sex scenes were the difficult ones. Initially I was holding myself from elaborating but that would mean not being true to what the book needs. These scenes took more iterations than some of the other scenes.
What characters in your book are most similar to you or to people you know?
I see a little of myself and many other women I know, in both the main female characters in the book.
If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
I would thank them for appearing in my life and allowing me to tell their story to the world. They were my constant companions for many a days and many a nights. I would love to have a drink with them!
Any tips for the budding writers?
I have 3 tips, based on my experience.
- Consistency and Discipline is key. I hear many people saying that they write when inspiration hits them. But if you are an aspiring writer- book or even blogs, then maintain a discipline and a schedule to write. Writing everyday, will help you to get into a rhythm and even if some days you may delete what you have written, continue to be consistent. You will find that inspiration will hit you more often!
- Be careful about who you take feedback from when you are still in the early stages of your work. Many great writers either get derailed or even completely lose their confidence if the feedback is negative, especially if it comes from a closed one. Your first reviewer should be someone who is not your inner circle but has your best interests at heart. Someone whom you trust will provide you with an objective feedback and not try to re-write your work from their perspective.
- Treat good or negative feedback equally and remain objective through it all.
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