Interview with Salini Vineeth, The Author of Everyday People
Updated: Aug 30, 2020
Salini Vineeth is a fiction and freelance writer based in Bangalore. Most of her prose revolves around the dilemmas of urban life. She loves to explore various forms of writing – short stories, essays, novella, and novel. She has worked ten years as an electronics engineer before turning to full-time writing. Her debut fiction novella – Magic Square – was published on Amazon in 2018. Her latest book is Everyday People – a short story collection. It was selected as a finalist in the Amazon Pen2Publish contest 2019. Salini has contributed to various anthologies published by Anonymous Writer, Literatures Light, and Eka publications.
Ravi: What’s your favorite short story?
Salini Vineeth: Short stories are one of my favorite forms of writing. So, it’s a bit difficult to pick and choose. I started reading with Malayalam short stories of Kamala Das and Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. I love the story, Neypayasam (Kheer/Payasam) by Kamala Das. I love almost all stories of Basheer, which has the right dose of humor, satire, and philosophy. In modern writers, I love George Saunders. I recently read his short story Pastoralia, and it has made a huge impression on me. I also enjoy reading Sherlock Holmes stories.
Ravi: The Best piece of writing advice?
Salini: Write. The only way to get good at writing is to write. Any amount of plotting, planning, or reading won’t help if one doesn’t write incessantly. Writing is a constant process and a craft that a person needs to perfect by doing it.
Ravi: Where do you write?
Salini: If you are asking about the medium, I always write on my laptop. If you mean the place I write, I have a little table in my bedroom, I write there. Before the lockdown, I used to go to a co-working space to write. I am a full-time writer, so going to co-working space gave me a feeling of being a professional writer. It helped me develop discipline in writing.
Ravi: Where do you get your ideas?
Salini: I often get my ideas from bits and pieces of conversation I hear. It might be a dialog between two people, or a discussion on TV. I keenly observe people, and that’s how I find plots for my stories. Also, some of the ideas have come from newspaper articles and essays I read.
Ravi: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Salini: I think it does both. Writing is an exhausting process for me. At the same time, I feel immensely energized after finishing a piece.
Ravi: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Salini: It greatly varies. I have been writing a novel for the past three years, which I have just started sending to the publishers. My debut novella Magic Square took almost four months. My second book, Everyday People, was a collection of eight stories. It took me almost six months to finish. This is exclusive of the editing time. I do a rigorous edit with a professional editor, which roughly takes one month. I also write travel guides, which takes 2-3 months to finish.
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?
Salini: I would have read more. Especially English literature.
Ravi: What is your favorite childhood book?
Salini: I didn’t spend much time reading children’s books, to be honest. I was content with Malayalam children’s magazines like Balarama. My serious reading started when I was in fifth or sixth standard. I had started with Kamala Das and Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. Both of them remain my favorite writers.
Ravi: What are your favorite literary journals?
Salini: It’s only after I entered into full-time writing in December 2018, I started noticing the literary journals. One of my favorite sites is Adda by Commonwealth Writers. I also read journals like Himal South Asian. The Bangalore Review is also a good magazine for writers.
Ravi: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Salini: I wish I could get rid of the constant interruptions during writing. I keep checking my phone and social media. I think I should give up that habit soon. As Joyce Carol Oates said, lack of talent isn’t the biggest enemy of a writer. It’s the constant interruptions during the writing process. It disrupts our thought process.
Ravi: What was your hardest scene to write?
Salini: Every scene is hard to write. But, I find the scenes with dialogs difficult to pull off. Writing natural-sounding dialog has always been a challenge to me.
Ravi: Do you Google yourself?
Salini: All the time 😊
Ravi: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Salini: Yes, I love hiding little secrets in my books. It might be in the name of the characters, or some incidents. I also place subtle references to popular culture. I often try to add an additional layer of meaning that only a keen reader will find. I think a keen reader would relish that reward.
Ravi: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Salini: Yes, I do. I have read every single review of my books. Good reviews, of course, elate me. They boost my confidence. I have had some really bad reviews as well. It was disheartening in the beginning. I used to doubt myself after a bad review. But, nowadays, I am trying to learn to take them rationally. No writer can satisfy every kind of reader.
Ravi: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Salini: Nowadays, I concentrate on reading fiction that challenges my beliefs about writing. One of the recent books I read, Pastoralia by George Saunders, has given me new insights about the form and language of fiction. I am also reading another book, “Schindler’s Ark,” by Thomas Keneally, which is there on my desk right now. It’s a rare cross between fiction and non-fiction. It’s the first of its kind that I am reading.
Ravi: What did you edit out of this book?
Salini: I tend to write a lot of drama. I am a very emotional and dramatic person myself. But, sometimes, when I read a piece or scene I had just written, I feel it’s too dramatic. So I try to cut out some. I also edit out anything that I feel the reader might find dragging. When I write, I have this conviction, I am writing for a reader, and I should respect his/her time.
Ravi: How many hours a day do you write?
Salini: I am a full-time writer. So, I write at least 5-6 hours per day. Some days I write for almost eight hours. Those are the most fulfilling days.
Ravi: How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Salini: I worked as an electronics engineer for ten years before I turned into full-time writing. I wrote those ten years as a part-time writer. I started working on my novel somewhere in 2015, while I was working.
Ravi: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Salini: I often research on the internet. I spend as much time as necessary to get satisfactory information. I also pick up things when I am traveling. I am an avid traveler. (well, before the lockdown!) I have traveled all across India, visiting the archaeological destinations. Travel has given me a lot of information to work upon.
Ravi: What’s the best way to market your books?
Salini: I think the best way is to create a readership for yourself. I believe there is a lot of marketing clutter in the writing arena these days. But, if someone wants to be a writer in the long run, concentrate on the quality of the work, get to know more people who share your taste. Keep writing on social media and connect with people on a personal level. Aggressive marketing may not be useful if a book doesn’t have the quality it claims.
Ravi: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Salini: I have one novel which I have just to sent to the publishers. I am waiting for a traditional publisher to take up my book. I am an obsessive writer and can’t bear half-finished books. So, fortunately, I have none.
Ravi: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Salini: I self-published my first book, Magic Square, on Amazon KDP. After it’s release, I went ahead and marketed it. I got in touch with many reviewers and readers. After I released my first book and started getting the reviews, I started approaching writing professionally. I started spending more time writing and reading. I started the contemporary novels and short stories. I also attended a few writing courses. Publishing the first book gave me the confidence that I could be a full-time writer.
Ravi: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Salini: I would have told my younger self to write more and not to restrain my thoughts. In childhood and adolescence, I was a bit conscious about what I wrote. I wanted my sentences to be perfect. But, now, I know there is nothing like a perfect sentence. Also, I would have told myself to read voraciously and to keep a diary.
Ravi: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Salini: One of the best things that happened to me is the friendship of many esteemed writers. They come from all age groups. When I published my first novella Magic Square on KDP, I met a lot of excellent writers there. Then I became a part of the Hyderabad Readers and Writers group, through which I came to know many great readers and writers. My writer friends have helped me raise my bar as a writer. I read their pieces and realize that I have a long way to go before I could call myself a good writer.
Ravi: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Salini: I have never tried to guess what readers might like or dislike. Because, whatever I write, I am sure there is going to be a group of people who would like it and another group who wouldn’t. So, there is no point in trying to impress any particular reader group. I write what comes originally to me.
Ravi: What advice do you have for writers?
Salini: Contrary to popular belief, writing is a tough job. It requires a lot of courage and hard work to live the life of a writer. People may not always approve of what you write. But, as a writer, you should have the courage to hold up your views. Also, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to write constantly. Rejection is a constant and bitter experience, and I am going through that phase now. You shouldn’t give up your writing, no matter how many reject mails/letters you get.
Ravi: What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
Salini: I haven’t subscribed to any magazines in particular. I read some of them online from time to time. I think there is a lot of free and great resources available online for an upcoming writer.
Ravi: Tell me about your recent book to our RaviReads Blog Readers?
Salini: My last fiction book was Everyday People; it’s a collection of eight flash fiction stories. It depicts the urban life in Bangalore. It was a finalist in Amazon Pen to Publish 2019 contest. Currently, I am doing the final touches on my upcoming novel. It’s again about the upper-middle-class in India. About the depression and career ambitions. About following one’s passion versus becoming rich and successful.
Thanks to Salini Vineeth 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.