Meet the storyteller: Meghna PantConversations — By Neha K Kulkarni on May 30, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Meghna Pant is a financial journalist by day and a writer by night. She is the editor of a business magazine and has formerly worked as a TV anchor for NDTV Profit and Bloomberg-UTV. This is her debut novel and has been long-listed for the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award and selected as a top ten finalist in Word Hustler’s Literary Storm Novel Contest. The Punekar caught up with her when she was in the city for the launch of her debut novel One and a half wife as she spoke about her novel, the future projects and much more.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I work as a financial journalist with a business magazine and write during my free time. Prior to this, I’ve worked as a TV anchor for Times Now, NDTV Profit and Bloomberg-UTV. I have an MBA in finance, and an economics undergraduate degree. My short stories have been published in over a dozen literary magazines, across four countries.
Born in Shimla – where One & A Half Wife is based – I’ve lived in various cities around the world, from Mumbai and Singapore to Zurich and New York. I currently live in Dubai.
Writing to you is…?
The realisation of the truth of life.
What made you write your first book?
The longest I’ve ever stayed away from India was from 2008 to 2010, and when I returned home to Bombay, it seemed like a different place. I almost felt betrayed because I’d been carrying this image of old India in my head as the ultimate truth, while new India had changed to an extent where my truth had become deviant. That was also a time when reverse immigration had increased and divorce become more commonplace. There was a tectonic shift of the golden age from the US to India, and a raging debate about India’s modernity versus traditionalism. I combined these social realities as the narrative for Amara Malhotra’s story in One & A Half Wife.
Why did you choose the title “One and a half wife” for your book? Could you tell us a little about book as well?
The title ‘One & A Half Wife’ meshes together the two main sub-plots of the novel. The story hinges on the revelation of what a one-and-a-half wife is. Since the narrative leads to and from there, I don’t want to spoil the reader’s experience by divulging what it is. Best it remains a surprise.
How is Meghna Pant as a person? Would one see a resemblance between the protagonist Amara Malhotra and you?
A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment’s life – that is me.
Amara Malhotra is a quieter, sober and more obedient version of myself; the kind of girl my mother probably wishes she had. But I found courage in Amara’s growing strength and independence; I think her story is something a lot of people will identify with.
What are the obstacles that a first time author faces? Did you face any obstacles? If yes, how did you deal with them?
There’s a funny line I read somewhere: I like to think I’m the best author I’ve never heard of. Every first-time author probably likes to believe that too. The biggest obstacle a new writer will face is finding a suitable publisher and finding a loyal base of readers. But if you write well, and work hard at it, this obstacle will become a life-changing opportunity. My biggest obstacles were, frankly, my own fears – will someone publish me, will someone buy my book, will someone like my novel. I guess every new author will feel the same way.
A lot of young writers are coming out with their books. What do you think is the reason behind this?
India has always been a land of stories. Immersed in diversity, culture and history, every Indian is a natural storyteller. What’s changed is not the rise of young writers, but the rise of publishing houses – especially local ones – that are looking for new voices and willing to give debut novelists a chance.
Based on your experience what would you advice first time authors? What are the aspects that they need to keep in mind?
Don’t romanticize writing. Write first and think of getting published later. Write what you know best, in the style that comes most naturally to you. Write so realistically, that you begin to believe that your characters actually exist. Strange as it sounds, I feel as if my novel’s characters – Amara, Biji, Baba, Riya and Lalit – are out there somewhere, living their lives. And don’t fear rejection; if you’re not getting rejected, it means that you’re not trying hard enough.
Is passion for writing and a great story in mind, enough to be a good author? In your opinion what all does it take to be a good author and come out with a bestseller?
I’ve discovered recently that writing itself plays a small part in getting published. Publishers are inundated with hundreds of manuscripts a week, so it’s crucial that you stick to submission guidelines when approaching them and keep your full manuscript ready. If you find a publisher, be sure to work well with the team, and after your novel is out, be sure to invest a substantial amount of time and energy in marketing the novel. It’s a long journey to becoming a bestseller, and you’ll have to be prepared to be both an author and a brand ambassador of your work.
Do you have any other books in the pipeline?
My collection of short stories – some of which have been published in literary magazines across the world, such as Wasafari, Avatar Review, EGO Magazine, Muse India and DifferSenses – is ready for publication.
I’ve also finished the first draft of my second full-length novel based in – and between – India and China. It’s a dark comedy that portrays a family’s greed, lust and power, in the wake of geopolitical tension.
Favourite book: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Favourite author: Salman Rushdie
Non-writing passion: Travelling
Describe your ideal day: One where I can write all day long without disturbances
If not a writer, what would you be? Completely lost