NAW Interview with Abirami M Krishnan

Abirami M KrishnanAbirami M Krishnan’s (born Abirami Muthukrishnan) recently released book is ‘How to Screw up Like a Pro’. She felt her name was too long and shortened it to Abirami M Krishnan. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management and is currently employed as Content Editor at a company that manages online content and platforms for television channels.

NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?

I had a teacher in High School who told me that it appeared that I could string two sentences together and that my writing wasn’t too bad. Of course, the comparison for such high praise was because she had wanted to hang herself after reading some of my classmates’ compositions. But it took a few years for me to gather up the guts to send out a short story to a magazine. I got published with the very first piece I sent in. That gave me an indication that I should keep going.

NAW- Tell us about your latest book ‘How to Screw up like a pro’. How did you get the idea for the book?

Well, I love the novel format and have read hundreds of them, so I figured I should try to write one. I started with reading about writing novels. Our local (I lived in Chennai then) British Council Library is a treasure trove of “How to” and “How not to” books about various kinds of writing. What most writers (who give advice/write about writing) say is that one should write about what one knows. So I began with what I knew: Things that happened to me, stuff that happened to people around me and things I’d heard about happening around me. And the story just developed around that crux.

NAW- How difficult was it giving up a career and instead focus on odd jobs to support yourself while pursuing writing? Weren’t you apprehensive of failure?

I was very apprehensive about failure and so I gave myself a time limit. If I couldn’t get a novel into a publication house within two years, I’d give up my part-time jobs and go back to studying/working full time. I think that having a deadline helped, and so I didn’t waffle about, and started putting words down from day one.

NAW-What was your friends and relatives reaction when you decided to drop career plans and instead focus on writing?

Flabbergasted at my decision, annoyed with me for throwing away a great opportunity and terrified for my future prospects are the three categories of reactions I got from friends and relatives. And of course, there was a lot of well-meaning advice from every person who knew me.

NAW- How much of Akola and Anjana’s character is inspired from your life?

About 30% is from life. The rest is yarn.

NAW- The book is very fast paced and it seems that it lacks a bit of flesh. Did you deliberately write a read in one go kind of a book?

No. The original draft was much darker than the current version. Child abuse (and its ramifications) was much more of a prominent plot theme. There were also several other sub-plots that had to be chopped off. Over several revisions, it became, as one early reviewer called it, much more readable, the flow became smoother, and so we (my editor, Poulomi Chatterjee and I) went with it.

NAW- How difficult was it finding a publisher?

Well, there are not a lot of agents in the Indian Publishing scenario, and I had no publishing industry contacts whatsoever. So I sent in a summary and a few sample chapters from my manuscript to a few publishing houses that I knew published across several genres and crossed my fingers. I got a bunch of rejects and gave up hope. I was then convinced to try again by a very pushy parent. I sent the same material to another group of publishing houses before Hachette expressed interest and asked for the full manuscript.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do apart from writing?

I like to swim, bake and shop if I am not reading novels.

NAW- Did you carry out research for your book? If yes, then how did you go about it?

Yes. I did. A lot of it was secondary research. The library and Google are my go to places. I did speak to a few doctors about the medical bits I was writing about, mainly to get clarity about nuances in brain injury and recovery.

NAW- Please name your 5 favourite books.

  1. Jim Butcher’s Codex series as well as the Harry Dresden series
  2. God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  3. A Song of Fire and Ice – Series by George RR Martin
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5. The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

I am working on another novel, but another genre this time – Fantasy.

How to screw up like a pro is available at all leading bookstores and also online at Flipkart, Amazon and Homeshop. It’s a wonderful read. Do pick up a copy.

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