Please tell us about yourself
As a child she loved listening to stories, and grew up to spin her own yarns. As a journalist she followed business stories and her foray into fiction was on similar lines. Meet Vani Kaushal, a business journalist turned fiction writer, whose dream of releasing a book came true with ‘The Recession Groom’, a tale about an IT professional grappling with the global credit crisis. Currently, she spends her time reading fiction and working on her second novel. She also writes blogs and columns for ‘The Huffington Post’ and India Today’s ‘DailyO’. We caught up with her to know more about her.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
I hated Maths, Physics, Chemistry or anything close to these subjects, and wasn’t clearly the types to pursue engineering and medicine. I was interested in learning languages and thought about joining Foreign Consulates, but my parents felt that IAS would be a better choice. Sitting for an exam with a million potential candidates vying for one job? It didn’t make much sense to me! I am glad life took a better turn. I earned my Master’s degree in Economics from Punjab University, Chandigarh, where I was also a Gold Medallist, and an MBA degree from Kingston University in London. However, it was a programme in Mass Communications that set my foundation for a career in business journalism.
When did you start writing?
Books held a fascination for me from a very early age. But I never thought about writing until I started working as a journalist. I started my professional writing journey in 2002 working as a business journalist for ‘The Times of India’ and then ‘The Financial Express’. However, I did not want to limit myself to writing business stories and started work on a chick lit novel, only to abandon it a little later.
In 2008, I left the comfort of a full time job in India to pursue an MBA degree from Kingston University in London and witnessed first-hand how global recession affected the Western economies. As redundancies, bankruptcies and foreclosures became everyday stories, I often thought about how it’d affect the life of an average middle class Indian and his chances of finding happiness. That’s what prompted me to write my first novel, ‘The Recession Groom’. It is an entertaining story that tracks the journey of a young Indian IT professional across the period of global credit crisis and his adventures to find his ‘perfect partner’.
‘The Recession Groom’ is an international story with a strong Indian flavour and an important foreign female character. It is a light-hearted take on the Indian family value system and I have made every attempt to ensure that it engages readers from multiple cultural backgrounds and social milieus, quite contrary to popular authors some of whom present a hard-hitting satire on the Indian society thereby commanding a more mature readership.
What were the challenges?
It was in the year 2004 that I started working on a chick-lit novel. I am sure it would have read like an episode of Sex and the City had I completed it, but I soon got distracted. Clearly, it wasn’t the right time and nor was it the right idea.
Initially, when I started writing ‘The Recession Groom’ everything was a challenge, from writing a few pages every day to completing the final manuscript. I was working as Head of the Department of Business Studies at a London based college and teaching MBA students there. Most days I would come back home after a long tiring day at work, write for an hour or two and literally crash on the bed.
For the first few years, I faced a lot of rejections from literary agents and publishing houses across the world but I had a strong belief in my work and that kept me going. It took me two and a half years to complete my book and landing a publishing contract. Curiously, I tried to look for a publisher all across the globe and it was in India that I finally found one.
A good story touches your soul. The purpose of my writing is to create such stories.
I am an avid reader and take inspiration from many authors like Jane Austen, J R R Tolkien, George R R Martin, J K Rowling. Susanna Clarke is my new favourite and her book ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ tops my list of favourite books.
Among Indian authors, my favourites are Sudha Murthy, Chitra Banerjee Devkaruni and Shashi Tharoor. There are many others and I wish I could name them all.
What kind of research do you do before writing?
Countless hours of focused research. It may span a few days or many months. I have a background in Economics and Management and clearly, writing about an IT professional, the triumphs and tribulations of his life wasn’t easy. I needed to know the terms used in the IT industry, had to understand the routines of IT professionals, how they work on projects and in groups, what are their day today challenges and how they deal with them. I read up a lot on the internet and also had help from some friends and family members who are in this industry.
The challenge of balancing work life as a journalist?
It is a challenge to balance writing with a career. That’s the reason why I decided to quit my job and write full time. I blog and write columns but I make sure that it does not interfere with my writing routine. I wake up early and work through the day, getting up for lunch and tea breaks. I love to work in my bedroom. On good days, I can easily write five pages, and on my non writing days even twenty words are a head ache. When I am not writing novels, I’m reading books.
Advice for the writers?
One of the most important lessons I learnt was: haste does not pay anything. Writers must take their time to finish their manuscript, edit and revise their text and then submit it to a publisher. However, landing a publishing deal does not complete your job.
The next lesson I learnt was: unless you reach out to your readers, it is difficult to sell your books and make a mark.
Third lesson I learnt was: keep writing because your first book may not be a best seller but who knows your next book might break all records!
Read as much as you can across genres. Be disciplined about your writing. Don’t let anything disturb your writing routine. Believe in yourself, work hard and never lose sight of your goal.