I’m excited to welcome Savita Kalhan on the blog today to talk about her debut novel The Girl In The Broken Mirror. She’ll be discussing the significance of the quote that opens her novel and the writing process itself, as well as sharing some helpful tips for writers beginning or yet to begin the publishing journey.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Savita Kalhan was born in India but moved to the UK when she was very young. She graduated with a joint honours degree in politics and philosophy from the University of Wales. She was a Batik artist and teacher before she turned to writing. Her debut novel the Long Weekend is described as ‘an intensely compelling thriller’ which addresses the issue of stranger danger. Her recent books include Stories from the Edge and Even Birds are Chained in the Sky. Savita lives in London. You can follow her on Twitter @savitakalhan.
ABOUT THE GIRL IN THE BROKEN MIRROR
Jay’s creative writing exercise is to write a fairy tale, ending ‘and they lived happily ever after’.
But the way her life is panning out she’s not sure it will ever reach that stage. Jay is an only child whose father died some years earlier. Her father believed that well educated girls could make successful independent lives. Now she has to move with her mother to her Aunt and Uncle’s house where her cousins live. Her aunt is a particular kind of Indian woman with super strict rules for girls and boys. Jay will be expected to have only Indian friends, if she has any at all. How can she see her school friends, Chloe and Matt?
But being forced to conform to conservative Indian customs and traditions is only the beginning of a nightmare for Jay. When her life implodes, how can she hide the shame and how will she find a way to keep going?
ON WRITING THE GIRL IN THE BROKEN MIRROR
Hi Nadia! Thank you so much for inviting me here on your blog.
The Girl in the Broken Mirror was published by Troika Books on May 1st and it has been the most amazing six weeks! The love for the book has been immense – it has blown me away.
This the quote at the beginning of the book:
“THERE ARE MANY STORIES THAT ARE NOT ON PAPER.
THEY ARE WRITTEN IN THE BODIES AND MINDS OF WOMEN.”
– AMRITA PRITAM
Amrita Pritam was a writer and poet in the middle of the last century, and she was renowned in both Pakistan and India for her writing. She wrote about Partition, about the loss of humanity, and particularly about the extreme violence against women. “…When I saw the atrocities committed during the partition, I felt as if the whole of womankind had gathered together its mental anguish and moulded my soul from it,” she said. She was writing at a time when women writers were not taken seriously, men wrote about women as objects of beauty, comparing them to flowers, whereas Amrita’s work focussed on ‘woman in search of her identity through struggle.’
Writing at that period in time meant she was constantly under attack. At various times, her poems were banned, she was personally attacked for being ‘immoral’ – she smoked, she got divorced from the man she was engaged to at the age of four and married to at 16, yet remained friends with him, she was a Sikh but met and fell in love with Imoz, an artist. They lived together but never married. She began a literary magazine Nagmani, and encouraged and helped younger, lesser known poets and aspiring writers to contribute, and she interviewed women writers and activists.
So, if you have read The Girl in the Broken Mirror, or are yet to read it, you will see that it is very apt that Amrita Pritam’s words begin my book.
A writer’s journey from idea to finished manuscript is often a tough one, full of pitfalls and disappointments but also moments of pure exhilaration – usually when you’re holding the first copy of your book in your hands!
Here are a few tips:
- Know your market. If you’re writing for under 12s then check out language, themes etc, to ensure they are age appropriate. If you’re writing for 8-12 year olds, you don’t want a manuscript that’s 80,000 words long!
- Find out as much about the publishing industry as you can. If you are writing for ages 1-16, join BSCBWI – British Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. You can join even if you are not published. They run workshops, socials, writers’ groups, conferences where you can meet agents and publishers. I can’t stress enough how important it is to network and to meet other writers.
- Buy The Writers and Artist Yearbook – it’s an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to be a published writer. This was how I got my first agent.
- Read submission guidelines carefully. In the book you’ll find lots of guidance on who to submit to – it’s important to read this carefully because if, for example, your novel is a fantasy epic, you don’t want to send it to an agent who is not interested in that genre.
- Make sure your sample chapters are as perfect as they can be and that they hook the reader. There is nothing more off-putting than a submission that is full of spelling mistakes, typos, the wrong spacing, or a boring opening – you want the reader to ask for the whole manuscript.
- Work on a good cover letter and try to personalise it – find out the name of the agent/editor you’re sending it to rather than using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
- Perfect your manuscript. If you are lucky, agents may get back to you asking to see the rest of the manuscript, so don’t just perfect the sample three chapters you sent off initially. Make sure the whole manuscript is ready.
- Once you have a book deal, join The Society of Authors – they give lots of advice, all confidentially, and run really useful workshops amongst other things.
- Be ready to promote your work. Unlike the old days when publishers did all the promotion and publicity for writers, it falls on writers to do a lot of work publicising their books. So find out what other writers do, what works for them, what might work for you.
- Don’t give up. Rejection is part of the process. There may be very many of those before you find your way to the elusive book deal. So don’t give up on writing. Write something else. If that doesn’t get anywhere, then write something else. Having several manuscripts sitting on the shelf at home may feel depressing, but you never know what might happen. In the publishing industry what’s in vogue changes frequently; it can go from historical to dystopian, or contemporary to magical, vampires to wizards, etc. Unless you’re very lucky, it’s only if you persevere, develop a tough skin, and carry on writing and submitting that you might get published. If you don’t, you won’t.
Nadia, thank you so much for having me here today! If any of your readers want to know more about me here’s my website www.savitakalhan.com, or they can tweet me @savitakalhan. I’d love to hear from them!
Thank you for your time, Savita! And for sharing these helpful tips. The Girl In The Broken Mirror is out now with Troika Books. Order the book on Amazon UK or Book Depository and add it to Goodreads!