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Interview with Neha Rautela, The Poet of Becoming a Butterfly

Neha Rautela is a poet, writer and editor from India. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various international anthologies & journals.

In Our Own Words', ‘The Art of Being Human Vol.–4 An anthology of International Poetry’ publications of Brian Wrixon Books (Canada), PEN International Austria’s book on Malala, Lovelets– by Butterfly and The Bee and All About Books Global, India, Persona by IIM–C, Synthesis – duet poetry by Poiesis, Zest of Inklings, Harvests of New Millennium to name a few. Her short story ' Rainbow' got published in Blank Space, an anthology of short stories. The warrior heart, December edition featured her story 'She loved again'. She truly believes that art is cathartic and loves to indulge in colors. She is a dog lover and stands for being kind to animals. She worked as a fashion influencer for Myntra.

Ravi: What’s your favorite short story?

Neha: The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde.

Ravi: The Best piece of writing advice?

Neha: Read a lot, the more you read the more ideas you come across. More characters to learn from, more plots to discover. Also, practice. Write as much as you can in a day. It takes years to improve your craft. I started writing when I was in tenth grade and after posting my poems on, getting feedback, reading and analyzing other poets' work, I definitely improved on my own. And got first published at the age of twenty-two.

Ravi: Where do you write?

Neha: I tend to write my first drafts in rough copies or my diary. Then I re-read my work and edit it till I am satisfied with the final version. Also when there is no diary, as in I'm sleepy or outdoors I write in the notes of my phone.

Ravi: Where do you get your ideas?

Neha: Most of my poems are confessional in nature, so I don't have to go too far looking for inspiration. Also, anything that moves me finds expression in my work. Also sometimes reading also helps you get acquainted with interesting themes.

Ravi: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Neha: Both. It definitely energizes me, in fact writing is a compulsion. Whether I feel happy or sad, thoughtful or touched by a particular incident, I have to jot the experience down. The process of writing is cathartic for me, it both alleviates my pain and helps me deal with the trauma I've experienced as a child. At times when I get exhausted with the editing part or when I'm facing writer's block, I turn my attention to painting or drawing illustrations and come back where I left later.

Ravi: How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Neha: Well so far I've written a collection of poems. It took me a year to write those, editing the first draft, then giving it to my friends and fellow poets and writers to review and finally to professionals to edit and leave remarks. When I write a novel it would take me a year or two for sure.

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?

Neha: Well as a teenager I mostly explored classics like the novels of Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. If I had to do it all over again I would definitely read more in languages other than English - like Hindi and Urdu.

Ravi: What is your favorite childhood book?

Neha: It is 'Pride and Prejudice ' without a doubt. The book was prescribed in our course in eighth grade. This was the first novel that immediately made me fall in love with the phenomenal writing style of Austen. I still remember reading other books by the same author, sitting for hours in the library with my friends.

Ravi: What are your favorite literary journals?

Neha: The New Yorker, Sahitya Academy, The Harvests of New Millennium and Muse India.

Ravi: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

Neha: I guess doubting myself so much and being a bit hesitant about a new idea.

Ravi: What was your hardest scene to write?

Neha: Writing about my childhood was the hardest, living through that mental and emotional abuse was difficult.

Ravi: Do you Google yourself?

Neha: Yes I do, everytime an anthology or journal I have submitted my work to is published.

Ravi: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Neha: Yes, my poems and short stories have many layers. Not everyone will be able to comprehend that it's more than meets the eye.

Ravi: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Neha: Well my first book isn't published yet so I can't say book reviews but I accept criticism gladly because only honest opinions about your work can help you improve it.

Ravi: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Neha: Yes, short stories by Manto made me think differently about fiction.

Ravi: What did you edit out of this book?

Neha: Well I looked out for grammatical mistakes or sentence formation errors and then gave the manuscript to my friend and fellow poet Tabassum Tahmina Shagufta Hussein to edit. American publisher Jonathan Lambert is doing the final editing.

Ravi: How many hours a day do you write?

Neha: Well mostly an hour or two.

Ravi: How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?

Neha: Well I'm still a part-time writer but plan on becoming a full-time one.

Ravi: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Neha: Well I connect to the people who have lived through what my protagonist feels. For example for my short story She loved again I contacted a Polish World War II veteran. I saw movies on the topic, noteworthy among them was 'Escape from Sobibor'. It took me a month to research this short story.

Ravi: What’s the best way to market your books?

Neha: Well having a reader base helps. Aggressive promotion on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter helps. Also one can hire people who specialize in doing the job for you. But the most important thing is the quality of your work. If it's really good, readers will recommend it to their friends.

Ravi: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Neha: My first collection of poems 'Becoming a Butterfly ' is in the editing stage and illustrations are being drawn. I will then send it to the publisher also I have started working on my first novel.

Ravi: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Neha: I don't think publishing my first book will change my process of writing. It will remain the same more or less.

Ravi: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Neha: Do not get discouraged if people around you don't read your work or encourage you to write. You will find an audience later who would not only appreciate your work but also help you improve it.

Ravi: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Neha: I'm friends with Dr. Nitya Prakash, Samir Satam, Parul Rastogi, Sujata Parasher, Sumit Sehgal , Aprilia Zank, Daniela Voicu to name a few. They tell me what they think of my work and help me improve it.

Ravi: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Neha: Well I guess I try to keep a balance between the two. The readers need to get hooked to your plot and relate to your character for them to be able to accept a new idea.

Ravi: What advice do you have for writers?

Neha: Dream big, don't ever give up on your aspiration to become a famous writer or poet just because things aren't working right now. They will in the future. Read a lot, connect with others in the literary field because you will learn so much from your fellow writers and keep writing.

Ravi: What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?

Neha: The Literary Herald and The Writer's Digest are some of the magazine's writers should subscribe to.

Ravi: Tell me about your recent book to our ravireads Blog Readers?

Neha: My recent book is my first book ' Becoming a Butterfly '.

This collection tells the story of various phases an individual goes through. Metamorphosis is the main motif in the collection. The three parts being – Innocence (caterpillar stage), Hurt (pupa stage) and Healing (butterfly stage).

In the Caterpillar stage, I explore the pain of a difficult childhood, while the disadvantages of living in a dysfunctional family dealing with alcohol problems. It has poems that speak of pain, hurt, realization and redemption. Just as the caterpillar learns to survive on its own and transforms into a butterfly, I too survived verbal abuse, tears and negligence. This book is my journey of forgiving and moving on.

In the second stage (Pupa) I explore a romantic relationship -a devastating break up, a kick in the gut. Emotions that accompany an end of a relationship, emotions that are common as well as personal as everyone deals with them differently. This section portrays the intensity of such emotions.

The third (Healing) or in the butterfly stage, I learnt to break free from all the toxic emotions and memories that tied me down. I learnt not only to exist but to live.

Thanks to Neha Rautela 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.

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