Author Interview: Neelam Saxena
Neelam Saxena Chandra works as an Additional Divisional Railway Manager, Pune. She is an Engineering graduate from VNIT and has done her Post Graduation Diploma in IM&HRD and also in Finance. She has completed a summer course in Finance from the London School of Economics. She has authored 4 novels, 1 novella and 6 short story collections, 31 poetry collections and 13 children’s books to her credit. She is a bilingual writer; writing in English and Hindi. She holds a record with the Limca Book of Records -2015 for being the Author having the highest number of publications in a year in English and Hindi. She has won II prize in a poetry contest organized by American Embassy and in a National poetry contest organized by Poetry Council of India, 2016. She has received, Sohanlal Dwivedi Puraskar for children’s literature by Maharashtra state Hindi Sahitya Akademi for the year 2018, Humanity International Women Achiever Awards 2018, Bharat Nirman Literary award in 2017, Premchand award by Ministry of Railways, Rabindranath Tagore International Poetry award, Soninder Samman, Freedom award by Radio city for Lyrics along with other awards and honors. She was listed in Forbes as one among 78 most popular authors in the country in 2014.
Her short story collection “Lines of Fate” remained in the top 10 on bestsellers list on Amazon (India) since its release and was under no 3 on new hot releases for almost a month.
Ravi: What’s your favorite short story?
Neelam Saxena: My favorite story is “Fist Love’, which is a very delicate story in which a mother has to take a decision of choosing between her daughter and husband, who dotes on her. This is from my short story collection “Lines of Fate”
Ravi: The Best piece of writing advice?
Neelam: Go deep into each and every character of your story. Think about how he or she would think in the given circumstance. Remain in that skin till you complete the story.
Ravi: Where do you write?
Neelam: Not under any tree! 😊
Well, my favorite writing place is either in my verandah or in my room. However, it doesn’t really matter where I am writing, I am oblivious of the surroundings since I am lost in my story.
Ravi: Where do you get your ideas?
Neelam: Everyday incidents that have actually occurred around me, those I have heard or those I imagine a character to be caught in have given me ideas for my stories.
Ravi: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Neelam: Oh, it is the most wonderful source of energizing me, especially since I am involved in such a hectic job. A good story or a poem is that potion that enthuses me to work throughout the day or week.
Ravi: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Neelam: There is not a strict mathematical formula. I wrote one of my novels, “Can I have this Chance” in two months. However, for certain books, I took years since I felt it wasn’t moving the way I wished it to. I basically wish to work on a book till I am personally satisfied that it is worth presenting to the readers.
Ravi: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Neelam: I don’t think that I would have done anything differently. Though I hadn’t really comprehended that I would be a well-known author someday, I think I was already on the path. I used to read a lot, do a critical analysis of books that I read, and make notes. I had already begun my writing journey as a poet and a few of my poems were published in the newspaper “The Hitavada” when I was a child. Also, life was a great teacher and it enriched me with many different kinds of experiences. I still have so much in my mind and heart that I could write fifty more books 😊
Ravi: What is your favorite childhood book?
Neelam: I used to be very influenced by the classics as a kid. In the beginning, Enid Blyton and then Agatha Christie used to be my favorite, but I soon moved on to the more thought-provoking ones such as Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, etc.
Ravi: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Neelam: Maybe my job! Haha!
Ravi: What was your hardest scene to write?
Neelam: Hardest scenes to write are the ones that are your personal experiences in life – those that have shattered you once upon a time. But, as is said, writing is cathartic, and it is writing those scenes that make you think more rationally as you also think about the other characters and why they acted in a particular manner. In a way, writing is like meditation.
Ravi: Do you Google yourself?
Neelam: Yeah, once in a while. Just to see what’s being written about me on social media. Often, a few things come as a great surprise.
Ravi: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Neelam: Of course! I think every author does that! As a reader I used to love finding out such secrets in the book of the author that I would be reading, and I love that my readers find out that for themselves too in my books.
Ravi: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Neelam: Yes, I read all my book reviews. Good ones encourage me to write more. Bad ones make me understand which areas I need to work more upon. I have learned a lot from every review – good or bad!
Ravi: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Neelam: Fiction is not only a very vast subject; it is also limitless. Times have changed. Mystery, thriller, fantasy is a hot selling item. I have read them too, and am also trying my hands in fantasy, however, it is relationships that interest me more. (And with relationships, comes the society and the thinking of the families involved, the city or village, the country, learned, etc) I think, most of my books are on this particular aspect. And though I have written so much on it, there remains so much to be written.
Ravi: What did you edit out of this book?
Neelam: You mean to say out of my short story collection “Lines of Fate”? Well, there was a story which I had written earlier, but which upon second or third reading didn’t seem to fit the theme and I removed it from the collection. Also, the story which most of the readers have liked the most is “The Class”. It was written differently earlier. However, my publisher suggested that it could be made more powerful and I rewrote most portions in half an hour!
Ravi: How many hours a day do you write?
Neelam: I don’t follow a fixed schedule. It all depends upon the free time I get after my job and family. There are days on which I write for three or four hours and there are days when I don’t get to write at all.
Ravi: How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Neelam: I am still a part-time writer!
Ravi: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Neelam: I am a person who goes more by heart than my mind. I know that if I write in a particular genre, my books will sell more. However, I prefer to follow my heart, for, after all, it’s the passion that drives me to write.
This particular characteristic of mine shows in my stories too. Most of my stories are based on inter-personal relations and rather than research, it requires imagination. However, if I write on a particular topic that until requires research, I don’t even begin the book until I have done my complete research. For e.g., in my novel “In the Flickering of an Eye”, I had to do a lot of research.
Ravi: What’s the best way to market your books?
Neelam: Earlier, I never paid attention to marketing. The publishers were doing that and I felt, it is enough. However, social media has made deep inroads into marketing now, and I too have begun to use that technique.
Ravi: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Neelam: I think, I am having eight or nine unpublished books and maybe four or five half-finished books. I will complete them/publish them as and when I get time.
Ravi: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Neelam: My first book came much later after having established myself as a writer. I had begun by publishing in reputed magazines/journals and when my first book came, I had already made a name for myself. My first book was just a means to satisfy my urge of seeing my name on a book.
Ravi: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Neelam: I would tell my younger self, “Do not worry about anything – just keep writing! One day, you are going to go very far. Don’t worry about the end – just enjoy the journey!”
Ravi: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Neelam: I am friends with almost all the well-known authors of the country and elsewhere. Reading them, discussing with them and interacting with them gives me new insights into the journey of writing and makes me a better writer every day.
Ravi: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Neelam: Yes, naturally! Who wants to read what has already been said by many? I have been complimented many times for being unique and presenting things differently!
Ravi: What advice do you have for writers?
Neelam: Read a lot. Use lucid language. Don’t run after fame – let fame come to you.
Ravi: What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
Neelam: It all depends upon the genre in which one is interested in.
Ravi: Tell me about your recent book to our Ravi Reads Blog Readers?
Neelam: My latest book is my short story collection titled “Lines of Fate – First Love and Other Stories”. It’s published by AKS Publishing house and Jashn Events.
Often a simple encounter on the path of life can change one's entire future. “Lines of Fate is a collection of such selected, distinctive and unique tales from different walks of life. When a dice is rolled, one does not know what the outcome will be. Similarly, in an encounter between people, the aftermath is simply indefinite and unidentifiable. Maybe, the lines of fate decide the final outcome. Twists and turns are a part and parcel of each of these stories, written in simple, easy-to-read and lucid language.
A lot of reviews have already been written about the book on social media, on Amazon, as well as on GoodReads. I suggest the readers read them and then decide whether you wish to have “Lines of Fate” in your collection.
Thanks to Neelam Saxena Chandra for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to email me at the address on my contact page.