With the Kriti Festival just around the corner in September that celebrates South Asian Arts and Literature, I catch up with masala marinated author Rajdeep Paulus, who will be there when the event takes place at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Young Adult fiction writer who is much acclaimed after the success of her debut ‘Swimming Through Clouds,’ talks with me about what inspired her to start writing, taboo issues in a teen romance genre, and advice to all you aspiring fiction writers who are suffering from the dreaded writers block!
Please tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I have one of those hearts that feels at home in a bunch of places. Canada. Dominica (in the Caribbean). Chicago. And now New York City. My parents named me, Nari, when I was a kid, which translates as hurricane, because I stormed through the house all day long, always looking for the next adventure. I guess that might explain why I loved stories from the get-go. A chance to leave the world without leaving my bedroom. And around fourth grade, I began penning my own tales, but not until about three years ago did I tip-toe down the writers’ path, wondering almost daily why I hadn’t tried sooner. I love the places words take me.
When I’m not hanging out with my fictional friends, my four princesses keep me busy. And as of late, I’ve been biking with hubby who’s training to peddle from Seattle to NYC next summer for Cycling for Change. He’s my best friend and I’m thrilled to have a partner who gets me to walk through this life together.
An ‘F’ graded by your English teacher inspired you to become a writer right?
Did you write a story that you handed in?
The grade was technically and A over an F. F for grammar and A for content. So I had to work on the technical placement of the comma and get rid of all those messy dangling phrases etc. I can’t recall what the writing assignment was but what I do remember is by the end of the year, I worked up to an A/A- … never made it to A 🙂
Despite the ‘F’, her feedback was that you had potential. How did that inspire you to become an author?
She was the first teacher who told me that she really enjoyed my writing. And when I approached her after school to tell her I feared telling my parents that I wanted to major in English in college rather than pursue the expected pre-med route, Miss Trosko gave me the courage to step up and tell my parents my dream to be writer by saying, “Life is full of change. We’re always changing. You’re allowed to change your mind.” She said exactly what I needed to hear.
Describe your writing style.
I’m a bit of a spontaneous writer, even though I’ve been outlining more and more with each new novel. For example, on any given day, I sit down and decide to write a scene that I feel like I can enter fully so I can really make it come to life. Thus far, I’ve written in first person POV, simply because I feel closer to the characters’ journey and inner thoughts as they work through their reactions and emotions that come with each challenge. I also love what one editing class taught me: To ask yourself to think of five things your character will do in any given scene. Then choose the sixth thing you think of to keep it fresh and unpredictable.
What are your favorite novels?
I love novels that make me cry my eyes out. Or wince from disbelief. Or soar from a love story that was written so well, I fell in love right along with the characters. And of course those stories that I find myself cheering for the characters as they get closer and closer to overcoming their obstacles. Wonder is brilliant. As is The Book Thief. But I loved I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier. And A Separate Peace too. And Hunger Games (the first book.)
I also write a few stories here and there. But I’ve been in a limbo for the past few years (that dreaded writers block! Grrr).
What advice can you give me, and what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A. Writers write.
B. Let your friends read your writing, because the feedback makes your writing stronger.
C. Good is better than fast (from my Agent, Chip MacGregor.) Be patient and write your best story, not what you think someone out there wants to read. Trends come and go. Your voice is what makes your story distinct so keep writing until you find it.
For your debut novel, ‘Swimming through Clouds,’ you explore issues such as the sex trade and domestic and child abuse.
What inspired you to write about such strong issues in a seemingly teen romance?
That’s a great question! Simply put, I wanted to give teens some deeper topics to think about it but not leave out the sweet romance that stamps the teenage experience, like that first real crush or first kiss.
‘Swimming through Clouds’ has received top praise from critics and readers alike and plenty of honors.
How did that feel to receive such acclaim for your first novel?
Blessed. Humbled. And sometimes I freak out and think, what if I can’t write another book as moving or as powerful. But then I take a deep breath and keep writing.
‘Swimming through Clouds’ and ‘Seeing through Stones’ both take place in Chicago.
Will you continue to use Chicago as setting for your novels?
I love Chicago, but my next novel takes place in NYC. I also have a few more stories that are in the works that take place in other places. But I’m sure I’ll be back in Chicago, fictionally speaking, in the future.
I see you are a big Bull’s fan. Who do you think was the MVP of the team this season?
This past year, I think Jimmy Butler rocked the court. And Noah is one of my all time favortie players, but I heart Derrick Rose and can’t wait to see him come back this upcoming year. Hoping he can make it to the playoffs without any major injuries. 🙂
Thank you for your time Raj, I wish you continued success!
Thanks so much for having me!! Appreciate it.
Go to Rajdeep Paulus website for more information on this talented author by clicking here. Follow her on Twitter, or check her out on her various social media channels.
Rajdeep Paulus’ novels are available to download by clicking here.
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