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Interview with Sonam Chamaria

Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself?
A. I’m Sonam - a Tarot card reader, Chakra healer, doodle artist, blogger, and full-time investment banker. I published my debut ebook From Stressed to Sorted, a new-age self-help book targeted at millennials. I have been reading Tarot cards for over 14 years and have used my learnings in my book. I was born and brought up in Kolkata, studied Economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) Delhi, followed by an MSc from Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, UK, and I am currently living in Bangalore.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
A. I have an initial idea for my second book but haven’t started writing it yet.

Q.3 When and why did you begin writing?
A. I have always been writing since I was a kid in school. But didn’t start writing properly until February 2016, when I started my blog SoulSpeak with Sonam, which is now being read in 151 countries.

Q.4 What do you want readers to take away from your book?
A. So many things - how to deal with stress-inducing daily situations through practical hacks that take less than 5 minutes to implement, how to tweak your subconscious minds to lead an improvement in your life, and how to be happier. It is self-help without the Gyan, presented in a crisp 134 page read with a unique blend of fiction, non-fiction, exercises, and handmade doodles.

Q.5 How do you come up with the name of this book?
A. I believe the biggest hurdle I faced before my book’s launch was coming up with a title. My first working title for my book was ‘Happiness Hacks’. I was in love with it, until one day, I thought it was too simplistic. Further brainstorm yielded the title ‘A cup of happiness’, which was discarded on the grounds of not being clear enough. It was after much deliberation that the title From Stressed to Sorted popped up. And at that very moment, I knew - this was it. It took us (me and my sister) weeks to come up with it.

Q.6 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A. To start sooner. If I could turn back time, I’d want myself to write my first book earlier, so that my mom could be there when I launched it. That’s my only regret.

Q.7 To craft your words, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
A. Not really. Although I did write some parts of my book while I was traveling in Europe last year. But I don’t need to travel, as such. I mostly write at home. And once in a while, I like to take my laptop to a coffee shop to write.

Q.8 When was your last memorable learning curving?
A. I’d say it’s still on. My biggest learning challenge as an author has been knowing how to market my book effectively and to get more people to pick a copy. I believe that is the toughest part of being an author.

Q.9 How do you deal with lingering, creeping thoughts of doubts and fears?
A. Generally, I don’t let myself delve deep into negative thoughts. When they come, I distract myself with another thought, a relatively positive one. Sometimes, I pick a book to read, watch some inspirational videos, or simply go for a walk. As an author, the fact that my blog was loved by readers across the world has given me confidence in my writing style and I never doubt that I don’t write well.

Q.10 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
A. Yes, I do read them all. The good ones obviously make me happy. As an author, nothing gives me greater joy than to know people can relate to my book and that it is helping them lead happier lives. As for negative ones, if one reader happens to dislike my book, it’s okay. It’s just one point of view and I choose not to take it personally. In fact, a chapter in my book deals with exactly this kind of situation and stresses the importance of unlinking yourself from the negative words of others. I have only received one negative review to date and I did not let that question my writing style or quality. Unless the criticism is constructive, why bother?

Q.11 Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
A. My sister Neha, from brainstorming names for my book to discussing the content for hours, she has been a huge support throughout, and it wouldn’t have been possible without her.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
A. I do. I choose to not push myself to write on days I don’t feel like. For me, a writer’s block is a signal for me to stop and try something else. More often than not, when I return to my manuscript after 2-3 days, the block is gone and inspiration flows.

Q.13 Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
A. Energize - 100% of the time.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
A. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t organize my thoughts or chalk out a plan before I start writing. I have never, to date, planned out the structure of my chapter/blog post/story before I start. I simply start writing and go wherever my creativity takes me. Most people find this strange and hard to believe.

Q.15 What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
A. Receiving rave reviews from random strangers for my debut ebook, winning Influential Women 2K20 award and discovering that my blog has been read in 151 countries across the globe.

Q.16 Tell us about your writing process?
A. I have no process, to be honest. I just pick my laptop whenever I feel like writing and start typing furiously. Ideas flow very fast in my mind and I rarely ever pause to think what I am going to write. I don’t have a set routine or time that I devote to writing. Some weeks I don’t write at all, others I write a lot. I take it as it comes.

Q.17 Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
A. My sister Neha is a professional editor and was the obvious choice. She has been through the entire journey with me and our ways of thinking match a lot. As a non-fiction author, it was very important for me to choose someone who ensures that the original ideas are not changed and are conveyed as is, and who better than her to understand my concepts?

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A. Enid Blyton - she is a huge reason why I got into the habit of reading as a child. And also, my mother, because I miss her, and because I could not meet her at the end, on account of not being in the country.

Q.19 What is your favorite book and why?
A. One of my favorite fiction book is Roots by Alex Haley. It touched me in ways I cannot explain, and got me hooked onto African-American literature. In non-fiction, I found Dr. Dain Heer’s Being You, Changing the World a very inspiring read. It helped me see things from a new perspective. And my all-time favorites include The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I read it when I was 18, and it completely changed my life!

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A. My journey has been a very interesting one. From writing a book to understanding the technicalities of Amazon’s KDP platform to learning how to market it to trying out social media strategies - every step has taught me something new. I am speaking with new people for interviews/collaborations every day and that too has been tremendous. Writing the book was only one part of the journey. I am in the process of finding a paperback publisher for my book. Every day is a new learning experience and I am enjoying each moment of this thrilling ride.

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