“I write about things that appeal to young adults”
– says Vibha Batra in conversation with Varsha Verma of All About Book Publishing (ABP).
Vibha Batra is an upcoming wri t e r of books for young adults (YA). Her published books include The Activist and The Capitalist, Sweet Sixteen (Yeah, Right!), Seventeen and Done (You Bet!), Eighteen and Wiser (Not Quite!) – a YA trilogy published by Penguin. She has also authored Ishaavaasya Upanishad (a translation published by Rupa, Tongue-in-cheek (a collection of poetry), and A Twist of Lime (a collection of short stories). Another collection of short stories, Family Crossword, will be out later this year. Here, she shares her views on YA fiction and more.
ABP: Tell us something about your YA trilogy and the response it has received so far?
Vibha: It’s the story of sixteen-year-old Rinki Tripathi, who moves from Delhi to Chennai and how she adapts to the change, how she makes peace with her new life, how she finally falls in love with her new home and new friends. The YA trilogy was very well received. Sweet Sixteen (Yeah, Right) was a bestseller. The response was so positive and encouraging, I bravely set out to write the next two instalments: Seventeen and Done (You Bet) and Eighteen and Wiser (Not Quite).
ABP: How were the characters and storyline created, is it inspired from the real life?
Vibha: Many moons ago, I moved from Kolkata to Chennai. I was a teenager, it was a crazy time. I always thought there was a story there. A funny one at that. It was playing in my head for quite a while. So I just decided to sit down and write it. Having said that, it’s a work of fiction. No family, friends or teachers were harmed in the making of the trilogy!
ABP: When did you “know” you wanted to write professionally?
Vibha: Very early in life. I blame it on my genes! My late grandfather, Vishnu Kant Shastri, was an academic, scholar, and prolific writer. I grew up reading his memoirs, travelogues, and poetry.
ABP: In your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing a book? Why?
Vibha: I think the writing part is comparatively easy. Marketing the book – that’s the real toughie!
ABP: What factors are kept in mind while writing for young adults?
Vibha: Well, I consider myself a young adult. So I write about things that appeal to the target audience – me! Right from acne eruptions to stubborn kilos, from academic pressures to lasting friendships, from romance to humour.
Interestingly, while I was writing the first part of my Young Adult trilogy, my editor pointed out my affinity to cuss words. So I had to replace them with less offensive alternatives like ‘Shut the Front Door’, Flying Fudge’, ‘Dang Rabbit’, ‘Bull Spit’, ‘What the Fish’ and so on.
ABP: What writing/ publishing advice do you give to aspiring writers of any age?
Vibha: Unsolicited advice makes me want to run the other way. So all I’m going to say is: Keep writing and never ever give up.
ABP: What are you reading right now? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?
Vibha: I’m (proof) reading my manuscript at the moment (she laughs!!!). The biggest influence is my grandfather, the late Vishnu Kant Shastri. My list of favourite authors is pretty long and includes Ruskin Bond, Saki, Maupassant , Rabindranath Tagore, JK Rowling, Bill Bryson. As for poets, I love Ogden Nash, Nissim Ezekiel, Ghalib, Rumi, Jagdish Gupt, and Harivansh Rai Bachchan.
ABP: What was the book that most influenced your life – and why? Vibha: When my grandfather passed away, I decided to translate his book Ishaavaasya Upanishad: Gyaan Aur Karm into English. It was published by Rupa in 2007. So you could say it influenced my life the most. Because until then, I was perfectly content being a copywriter!
ABP: What are your favorite books to give and get as gifts?
Vibha: I can’t choose, I like them all. The sole exception – horror. Hats off to people who love the genre and can make solo trips to the loo in the middle of the night!
ABP: We live in a time when young people have numerous choices for entertainment. What would you like to say to young adult who may be hesitant about reading a book for “fun?
Vibha: I’d say give it a shot, amigos and amigas, you won’t be disappointed!
ABP: Which is the next book that readers can look forward to?
Vibha: My second collection of short stories ‘Family Crossword’ is just released and my next novel (Rom-com) will be released in 2016.