Welcome to the kickoff post for my
Bodacious Author Discussion And Spotlight Summer!
Yeah it’s a long name, go for the acronym.
Periodically, from now until the end of summer I will be hosting authors to discuss, share excerpts from their books, and/ or interviews. There are some amazing authors in my writing community. I wanted to share their work with my readers. If it’s not your genre, that’s cool too. Maybe you’ll like the next one. If you’re looking for something new, maybe you’ll see one that sparks your interest!
I love when I get to do author interviews. I have the privilege to be friends with some interesting authors that write in various genres. I have rather eclectic taste, not always sticking to the same thing. I read or have read across the genres as I’m sure most of you have as well.
My guest today is Shiv Ramdas, author of Domechild. A dystopian futuristic science fiction treat.
Welcome Shiv, to my little corner of the world. I read that you are a former radio host. Care to talk about that at all?
Well, it’s something I sort of dropped into and found that I quite enjoyed, because music has always been something that’s really important to me. It’s also a great learning experience from a writing point of view, because the one thing radio does teach you and fairly quickly is to have a healthy respect for the imagination of your listener. I found it to be an excellent signpost while writing too. One mistake writers often make is over-describing everything from people, settings and even internal monologues and gestures.
Christopher Paolini is an example that springs to mind. In radio, you learn pretty quickly that one of the tools available to you as a writer is your listener’s imagination. It takes a bit of a leap of faith to do it, I understand, but once you do, you’ll realise not doing it is essentially abjuring a very powerful tool in the creative process.
In short, I see it as a trade-off. As writers, we ask the reader for willing suspension of disbelief. If in return we give them new places to explore – explore as distinguished from merely being told about – well, that’s one way of making the whole greater than the sum of the parts, in my opinion.
How have you found the traditional publishing experience? (Things you didn’t know that were surprising to you, things you didn’t like – whatever stood out in your mind.)
It’s been interesting to say the least. The one thing you learn, and very quickly, is finding a publisher, whether it’s a small one or a Big 5 as I was fortunate enough to manage, is not the end of the story as one tends to imagine in the days of pounding away at the keyboard, it’s just about the beginning. Whether you’re Indie or trad, that’s one constant thing.
I’d say that if you do go trad, always keep in mind that your publisher is there to help you and even provide certain resources but at the end of the day, it’s still your book. A large publisher will do perhaps 250 books a year – you’ll do one or 2.
I’ve seen a lot of writers just sort of get detached from their own books because a publisher signed them – which is a terrible mistake, in my opinion. At the end of the day, an editor may well believe in you and your book with a passion, but it’s still your baby. Your child may have great teachers at school, but that doesn’t absolve you from your responsibility as a parent. That seems like the most appropriate analogy I can think of at the moment.
What inspired your idea for this book?
A conversation I had with a friend actually. It began in a workspace cubicle over a running joke about how his computer hated him because it hated his job. That was when I first started thinking about free will in the context of AI, whether artificial life had inalienable rights too, as we tend to believe intelligent life does, and perhaps most crucially to the story, what would happen if humans were to face a Gandhi in an AI context – a machine that not only wanted freedom but was prepared to use unflinching non violent resistance to get there. It was a thought that really moved me – and eventually led me to write Domechild.
Can you explain a bit of your development process – how it comes to you. Like do you see the characters, you created them to suit your story, or a combination or something else?
The best way to describe it that I can think of is the glasses with several different lenses that the optician makes you wear during an eye test. First it’s all blurry, and then as lenses get added or taken away, more and more of the letters on the screen come into focus and the clarity improves till you reach a point of optimum visibility where you can see everything you need to. That in a nutshell, is my process.
What do you think is the most important element in great writing?
Great is a very abused word these days, in my opinion, along with genius. As for writing, can one isolate elements in great writing? I’m not sure. Would a cake with fantastic icing be a great cake or just one with great icing? Great writing is about several distinct elements that come together and somehow manage to form a whole that’s better than each of them, or even all of them together. Characters, plot, turn of phrase and many other things, they all play a part, but in my opinion for something to be truly great, it has to actually supersede the building blocks that make it so. The Taj Mahal is not great because it has a great dome, or great proportions – it has something else too, that’s a bit undefinable , but stands out so strongly it’s the first thing that hits you.
That is a “great” analogy. I would have to agree that great writing for me, is the combination of all the parts that work together like an orchestra. Where do you write? Do you have a designated spot – a desk, or an office?
I have a desk, which I don’t use as much as I’d like. What I always need though, is a bit of space around my desk to pace – I do most of my thinking and plotting while walking.
What things inspire you and how does that inspiration manifest?
Anything and everything. It’s hard to say. Something one sees, hears, notices, or even randomly thinks about with no context whatsoever. But in my opinion, the single greatest harbinger of inspiration is the two simple words “what if…”
Have you been reading my blog? I can’t count how many posts I’ve made about “what if”. I would have to agree with you on that one, it’s the best inspiration for me as well. What would you say was your worst bad habit with your writing?
Editing while I write. I know one shouldn’t, but 2 books in, I still haven’t figured out how to manage not doing it.
Which is more daunting, beginning or the perseverance to finish, or cutting the “umbilical cord”?
Well, all three, actually. It’s as James Scott Bell said – the point of block varies from case to case (I’d say book to book) and it’s not a block, it’s The Wall. One must find a way to get over, under, around or through, but get past one must whether one prefers a ladder or a sledgehammer.
*laughs loudly* Thanks for that image. Now I have this image of Shiv with a sledge-hammer running towards the dome screaming. Do you struggle with discouragement, distractions, or lack of motivation?
Discouragement, not so much. I’ve been tremendously lucky in my first book, both with what happened and how it’s been received. There are times you doubt your output in terms of quality but I’ve realized the best thing to do is plug on. I’ve discovered that when one goes back, separating the good days from the bad is harder than one realizes.
What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
Never believe the people who say you aren’t good. Never believe the ones who say you are. Keep writing.
Have you ever jotted down your idea on a napkin, torn bag, wrapper, or sketched a quick drawing of an item on any of the above?
Quite the opposite. I rarely jot down ideas. I always have a ton in my head, and I use the ability of an idea to break through the clutter as the first filter of quality, so to speak.
Is there a celebrity that has inspired one of your characters? If so who?
No, not really. I tend not to base my characters on real people, at least not consciously.
Are you up for the Fast & Furious Challenge? You answer with the first thing that pops into your head.
Plotter or Pantser? Plotting Pantser.
Favorite author? Herbert, Le Guin, Tolkien, Philip K Dick, Douglas Adams, Pratchett, Wodehouse. You can pick one because I can’t 😀
Always the rule breaker! GAH – it’s ok though because I couldn’t pick just one either,
Favorite book? The Mahabharata or Dune. Both are eons ahead of their time and tell these vast, overarching stories with ramifications far beyond just the journeys of the characters.
Hobby? (ies?) Reading, music, and a bit of gaming too. It’s a fantastic way both to play out certain scenarios as well as just let thoughts settle in the back of your mind and cook themselves.
Favorite drink: When I’m working, tea or coffee – I’m equally fond of both. When I’m not, anything with chocolate in it.
Favorite snack while writing: I tend not to eat when I’m working, actually.
That’s good, it avoids crumbs in the keyboard. Favorite celebration meal: Seafood.
What music do you listen to while writing or do you: I always work in silence, actually.
Name two foods you cannot stand: Kale and bitter gourd. They are proof that everything about this planet is not good.
What is bitter gourd? Funniest moment online: Probably the time when I woke up to 3 friend requests from random people called Shiv Ram Das and variations thereof. Or the time I first discovered “Stick win everytime” or any of the other hilarious things the internet is so good at providing out of the blue.
Best day in the past year: Easy. Day I finished the first draft of the sequel. Yesterday.
Wow that must be an awesome feeling! There you have it folks, the down and dirty on Shiv! Isn’t he awesome to play along?
A SUICIDAL MACHINE. A CHILD WITH A SECRET THAT CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.
THE MAN TRAPPED BETWEEN THEM.
In the City, where machines take care of everything, lives Albert, an ordinary citizen with an extraordinary problem: He’s being blackmailed into becoming the first person in living memory to actually do something.
What begins as a chance encounter with an outlaw child swiftly spirals out of control as Albert is trapped between the authorities and the demands of his unusual blackmailer. Forced to go on the run for his life, he finds himself in a shadow world of cyber-junkies, radicals and rebels, where he discovers the horrifying truth behind the City, a truth that will make him question everything he has ever known.
Author Bio: – Shiv Ramdas has hosted radio shows, sold advertising space, helped design sets and worked in both print and online media. He has also written advertisements, radio jingles, and numerous resignation letters. Domechild is his first novel.
Write on my friends, write on!