“I think my characters have to be everyday people for me to want to write about them and for readers to want to read my stories; they should be able to spot these characters around them” Shefali
Bookaholicanonymous is extremely delighted to present this interview with Shefali Tripathi Mehta-an author with a heart of gold. Doubly delighted because she is from Bhopal...a city close to my heart!
About Shefali Tripathi Mehta: She is a Bangalore-based independent writer and editorial consultant for e-learning courseware. Author of What Were They Thinking!-a book on observational humour –and-co-author of Ek Prarthana, a coffee-table book, she has published short stories and poems online and in anthologies. Shefali writes on social issues, travel, parenting and disability awareness in newspapers and journals. She volunteers with the charity, Arushi and curates Gond art to support tribal artists.
Is 'Stuck Like Lint' your first fiction novel?
Yes, though my short stories have been published earlier in anthologies.
The story is based on a relationship between an author and an editor? Is any part of it based on your personal observation?
part as such, but yes, it comes from one’s observation of people, their
apparent and real relationships.
How important is a cover do you think for a book in telling a reader about what to expect inside?
The cover is very important especially for a first book by an author. Readers who know very little about me, my writing, may be drawn by the cover to pick it up, to read the blurb and flip through to pages to decide if they want to read it. I really have benefitted a great deal form this attractive and evocative cover that also presents the essence of the story.
How do you develop your characters?
I write at one go and am not a disciplined writer in the way that I sit on my desk with a plan to write a story. I have to wait for a premise to run in my head, sometimes for weeks or months before I can sit down and write it. By then I have lived with the character/s long enough for them to be real for me and then it just flows.
Most of your characters are everyday people...your take? This in relation to your characters in the book
I think they have to be everyday people for me to want to write about them and for readers to want to read my stories; they should be able to spot these characters around them. A reader wrote to me that the child in the story, Coffee Break was just like his daughter of the same age. How wonderful is that! I didn’t have a particular child before me when I wrote that character – that baby was based on babies in general.
Tell us something about your book 'What Were They Thinking!' -a book on observational humour
I wrote What Were They Thinking over long years while commuting for work, watching people and noting their idiosyncrasies. We fume at people who crowd at entrances blocking the way, push doors that say PULL, touch food on display that they will not buy but if you think about it, it’s actually quite funny how people are seemingly not even aware of how they are behaving or don’t seem to bother enough. The book is a light take on such observations.
You are also co-author of Ek Prarthana, a coffee-table book, what is it about?
Ek Prarthana is a collection of 50 posters on disability awareness by Arushi, the non-profit I am associated with. These posters have pictures of our children with disabilities at Arushi clicked by the ace photographer, Zishaan Akbar Latif and has beautiful, evocative captions by Gulzar sa’ab. These posters are displayed in exhibitions all over the country and I first translated the captions in English when they were exhibited at the American Centre, Mumbai. So, when we decided to bring these out in the form of a coffee table book – I translated Gulzar sa’ab’s captions and wrote the accompanying text.
You have written short stories and poems...where have they have been published? Which story and poem has been appreciated the most?
Coffee Break and Echo Point received a lot of love when these were first published in online journals that are now defunct. I have published poems with Muse India and one set of poems called, Sea Songs received very positive feedback http://www.museindia.com/Home/AuthorContentDataView and a part of a poem published in Cha, An Asian Literary Journal also received much love http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/1849/462/
You also write on parenting, travel, social issues and disability awareness...where do you write?
In the past I have written for The Hindu on parenting and travel. Now I mostly write the Sunday features for The Deccan Herald, some travel and reflections. On disability awareness and inclusion, I have mostly written on behalf of Arushi for Confluence, a journal for the ‘Sarvaa Shikha Abhiyaan’.
What do you do for Arushi?
I take care of their media and communications requirements.
art...how do you support it?
I first met the Gond artists in Bhopal to buy paintings for my home. The paintings I got were so exquisite that friends started asking me to bring some for them each time I visited Bhopal. Before I knew it, two of the famous artists started giving me their work saying, didi, sell it for us. It was very daunting in the beginning. But I held exhibitions in Bangalore and the response was very good. I want the artists to receive a fair price for their creativity. Every time I sell something on their behalf, I call to tell them that I’m sending them some money, the happiness in their voices makes up for all the disappointments I feel for not being able to help them more.
Bookaholicanonymous wishes Shefali a bright prolific writing career ahead...here’s looking forward to more books from you...cheers!
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