Puja Guha interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Mar 24, 2017 12:04:10 AM
Puja Guha interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from her website: Puja Guha is the author of Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction, the first book of The Ahriman Legacy, which is currently in progress. She began writing in 2010 by participating in the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). She started with her first book, inspired by the many thrillers that she read growing up.
The idea for The Ahriman Legacy struck her during a family vacation shortly before she participated in Nanowrimo. She was reminded of some nuances about the Kuwaiti political system that became the inspiration for the first book.
Since then, she has written Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction. The sequel is currently in progress and she hopes to have it ready for publication by next summer. She has also completed another novel a family drama that is primarily set in Sudan to be released in the next few months.
She has lived in Kuwait, Toronto, Paris, London, and several American cities including New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Each of these cities show up with varying degrees of prominence in her writing, along with places that she travels to, for both work and pleasure.
Puja is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with work experience in finance and health care consulting. After completing a master's degree in public policy from London School of Economics and Sciences Po, she is now working as an independent consultant on international development programs, primarily in Africa and South Asia.
Amazon book links:
Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction http://bit.ly/ahriman
The Confluence http://bit.ly/ConfluenceIntl
1. How do you pronounce your name?
Puj-ja. Pretty much exactly as it’s spelled, which is what my parents intended. 😊
2. Where are you currently living?
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
The most important thing is to do the work, and by that, I mean the actual writing. I’ve learned a ton about all the different aspects of writing since I first started out, including the writing process, advice from other authors, publishing, marketing, etc., but none of it amounts to anything if you don’t spend the time to do the writing.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I grew up living and traveling all over the place and I love putting the places that I visit into my writing. I spent my teenage years in Kuwait, so my first book is mostly set there. I travelled to Sudan for international development work so that’s the primary location for my second book. The next book that I have coming out is set in Paris, with the one following set in London. Still to come are spy thrillers set all over Africa because of my travels there for work.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I’ve self-published two books with a third and fourth about to come out during 2017. My biggest insight is that marketing is hard. Getting the word out about your books, being visible to the global audience especially amongst everything online, all of that is hard. I’ve tried a lot of different things, many of which haven’t worked, but I’ve learned to use an experimental mindset. Try something out, if it works, great. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too, but then try something else.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
My eBooks always sell way more than my print books. I’m a fan of alternative publishing because it reduces the time to market. It can take two years to find an agent and a publisher and by going alternative, I can write more and publish more.
7. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Don’t procrastinate your writing—make a schedule and stick to it. Being a real writer means making the time and making the sacrifices required to hone your craft. We’re all juggling too many things, and writing can be tiring and exhausting, especially if you’re handling a full time job, family, other commitments, etc. Sometimes it might feel hard to justify spending time on writing because at the end of the day, it is just for you as an individual. That said, you still have to do it. If you think about writing, if you want to write, then you have to find the time and give it to yourself.
8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
The most surprising thing I’ve realized is that ideas are easy. Good ideas are a dime a dozen, and I have ideas for new books all of the time. What’s hard is execution—keeping up with all of those ideas floating around in your brain. I’ve come to accept that I will not live long enough to write all of the books that I have in me as ideas, which is both daunting and amazing at the same time.
9. How many books have you written?
I’ve published two books – a spy thriller called Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction and a family drama called The Confluence.
Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction is the first of a series. I’m planning a launch of the sequel Road to Redemption for this summer, with the third book in the series coming out at the end of the year.
10. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
I don’t think there are any shortcuts here. Most importantly, write a lot and read a lot. Read books in different genres and learn about how they build tension, romance, action, etc. Movies can also be great for this. They use a very predictable structure that can help writers examine and set up the structure of their stories. It’s worth taking a look at the book Stealing Hollywood: Screenwriting tips for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff if you’re interested in learning from movies. She has some great story breakdowns that have really helped me think through my plots.
The other answer to this is a good editor. A good editor can help to identify the turns of phrase and style that you use and take it to the next level. My editor has certainly helped me to improve my writing, both in terms of style and substance. I’m very glad to have her!
11. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
This is a tough question. I think the broader answer here is go with your gut and you’ll come up with something good. Some more specific ideas though are to drop a few red herrings or more obvious twists into the plot so that people think they’ve figured it out, and then you can hit them with the real twist.
12. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
There’s all the obvious answers to this from a marketing perspective—a good cover and a tantalizing title and description. What I think is more interesting is what really calls to readers. This is more of a secret sauce in a way because it can appear in so many different ways. Why did books like Harry Potter and Eat, Pray, Love become international phenomena? The root of the answer here I think lies at the heart of the stories—character and concept. The characters in stories like that speak to the reader, perhaps because they empathize with the protagonist or antagonist, or because the setting calls to them? It’s hard to tell.
I strive toward that level of connection with my readers by making my characters and settings as real as possible. For example, I draw heavily upon my own experiences traveling and living around the world. I use real moments that I’ve experienced, in anything from the description of a newspaper article or to help the reader visualize a new city or event.
13. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
This is something that I’m still really building and working on. I go to conferences such as Bouchercon and C3, and time / budget permitting would like to go to more. I also run promotions a couple of times a year on each of my books to help get more visibility, along with working with other authors to help each other publicize. I’m open to loads more ideas though!
14. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have waited so long to publish my first book Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction. I finished the first draft in 2011, but sat on it as I (slowly) edited and spoke to people in the publishing industry. In the end, I decided that the process of waiting to look for an agent, publisher, etc., wasn’t for me, but I still sat on the book too long before finally publishing in 2014.
15. What saying or mantra do you live by?
Anything in life that’s worth having, comes with trials worth withstanding.
This is from a song called Lift Me Up by Kate Voegele that I heard in 2008 for the first time. The whole song is filled with mantras, but whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed I try to remember the meaning behind this.
16. Anything else you would like to say?
Thanks so much for doing the interview!