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Interview with Akanksha Sharma

Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
A. Hi, my name is Akanksha Sharma, and I’m a compulsive reader and a new author. I am a parent of a cat named Toffee and a huge animal lover. On 15th August 2018 (the same date as my birthday), my book Don’t Let the Kitten Drive the Car! was published on Amazon. It’s been an amazing journey, right from writing the book to seeing it get published.

Q.2 How do you come up with the titles to your book?
A. Well, I brainstorm a list of titles. Then I share this list with my lovely family and friends. They help me select and shortlist the most memorable title.

Q.3 From where did the idea originate of donating your book sales proceedings?
A. From the moment I got the idea of writing the book, I was pretty sure that it was going to be a spiritual rather than a profit-oriented endeavor. The protagonist of the book is Aakriti, an absolutely adorable 10-year-old girl. She just happens to be visually impaired. Before writing the book, I was acutely aware that differently abled characters are severely under-represented in children’s literature. I wanted to write something that will fill this gap and will be able to reach a lot of people. So, that’s where this idea of donating book sales proceedings came about.

Q.4 What advice do you have for writers?
A. Rather than sharing personal advice, I’d urge all writers to read this amazing book called Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron. This book contains some of the best reading advice I have ever come across. Now, I won’t give away any spoilers. So, go ahead and buy this book now.

Q.5 If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?
A. It would have to be my favorite author of fiction, Harper Lee. I would cook an Indian meal for her, as something new for her to try.

Q.6 If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
A. I would tell myself to experience a lot of life. Also, not to put so much pressure on me. The best writing really comes from things that move and inspire you, as you really live your life.

Q.7 What are the most important magazines or websites for writers to subscribe to?
A. I think Reader’s Digest is a really good magazine for writers to go through. In the digital domain, the web is your oyster. I personally find ThoughtCatalog and Medium to be good spaces. I think writers should not lose themselves in reading the works of other people too much. They should carry a notebook or any other memory device with them wherever they go. In this way, they can note down ideas and observations as and when they occur. This is very helpful for future writing projects.

Q.8 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A. Well, the challenge comes in writing them a little realistically, and not to idealize or stereotype them too much. I think we need to be very conscious of gender stereotypes while writing so that we don’t end up perpetuating them. That would be a disservice to the progress of society and to the future generations as well.

Q.9 How do you select the names of your characters?
A. Honestly, it’s completely random. Although I do try to make sure that the names are not the same as people I know in my real life.

Q.10 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
A. Yes, I do read my book reviews. Touchwood, I haven’t received any ‘bad’ book review yet. But even if I had, I think I would be okay with it. Every person is entitled to their own opinion, and I respect that thing. Further, criticism gives me new perspectives into my own work, which is actually a good thing.

Q.11 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
A. Certainly, I don’t think I can live without writing. The writing process is like my relief from the external world. It’s so beautiful to be able to convey meaningful messages through your written words. This is a great responsibility that writers have to carry with grace and dignity.  I am not working on any new project right now, but I will be sure to update you when the time comes to announce something concrete. 

Q.12 How do you deal with the emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?
A. I feel that emotions are like the waves of an ocean. They come and go unexpectedly. There is definitely an emotional impact on myself as I am immersed in writing the story. Rather than blocking it or disregarding it, I allow myself to experience emotion completely. In fact, it adds color, depth, and genuine-ness to my writing. No writer can escape from emotions. 

Q.13 Does your family support your career as a writer?
A. Yes, they whole-heartedly support my career as a writer. I'm very lucky to have my family as supporters and genuine critics. 

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
A. I can become a night owl at times when I’m writing. Once I was just in the zone, and I didn’t even look up from my keyboard. Suddenly, it was four in the morning.

Q.15 What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
A. Simply doing my best every day to make people happy and to make the better a slightly better place.

Q.16 What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
A. I suppose authors buying huge volumes of their own books, and getting to the top of best-seller lists artificially, is one of the most unethical practices.

Q.17 Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
A. My mother, who has first been an English teacher, and is now a Headmistress, was the editor of my book. She loves to read books herself. That made her the perfect choice for me.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A. I would love to meet Elon Musk, as I really admire his brilliant mind and his vision to make this world a better place.

Q.19 What is your favorite book and why?
A. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my favorite fiction book. This book touches my heart, morals, and emotions in a beautiful way. It is a must-read for people to make them compassionate individuals who believe in humanity.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A.  The journey has been great but it has tested my patience a lot. As a writer, you have no choice but to be patient. The traditional publishing industry moves at a snail’s pace. When I decided to self-publish, my book was still under consideration by Harper Collins, Tulika and Ponytale Books

However, I decided that my message needed to go out there in the world sooner and wasn’t willing to wait a couple of years more for that. The benefit of self-publishing an e-book was that it made the book accessible to readers who are visually impaired, and who use a screen reading software. 

Furthermore, the book was converted into Braille on the insistence of a dear friend of mine, and now its Braille copies reside in the NAB (National Association for the Blind) library in Delhi. So yes, it has been an immensely sweet and rewarding journey.

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