Representation starts at a young age

Shefali Saxena Monday 09th August 2021 07:22 EDT

UK’s leading South Asian Literary Festival - Desiblitz Literature Festival 2021 starts on September 18 and will go on until October 1. Amidst a list of renowned South Asian writers, successful self-published author Preethi Nair will also host a talk on how to get published called “Being Published - Traditional or Indie. The pros and cons.” In an exclusive interview with Asian Voice, she spoke about her work, diversity and more. 


Q- How challenging is self-publishing and what are some key steps to follow? Would you recommend that over traditional publishing?

 Self-publishing today is certainly a lot easier than it was twenty years ago when I first published Gypsy Masala. Technology has been a great enabler and there are many platforms that make this process simpler ( Amazon’s KDP, Apple Books, INGRAM SPARK, KOBO etc). A great place to start for anyone considering the self-publishing route is the Alliance of Independent Authors (Ali).

Key steps are no different to what happens in a publishing house which is to make sure that that the work is the best that it can be. Get it professionally edited, copy edited, proofread, formatted, work with a designer to get the cover done and work on a marketing plan. Only then, press the button to publish. You have to have an entrepreneurial spirit and resilience as there are so many things that can and do go wrong!

I don’t recommend one over the other because it is a very personal choice and very much depends on personal circumstances. For example, I self-published my first novel Gypsy Masala because, in spite of it being rejected by most publishers, I believed in it - enough to work on it for two years to get it out. I then subsequently signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins and have three books with them. Having gone the traditional route, I have just turned down my fourth book deal with HarperCollins to self publish my next novel, Sari: The Whole Five Yards (released March 2022). The reasons are many but I get to control the editorial, choose the cover when/how it is released. There is a lot more author control in self-publishing and the thing I most value is independence.


Q- When you write a book on women and their lives, what goes on in your head?

Not a lot except the character’s voice! Yes, I want to tell their story but more importantly I want to find a universal truth that connects me to the character and the character to the reader so that we all go on a journey and are in some way transformed by that journey.


Q - What according to you is the essence and impetus of diversity today? 

Essence - That everyone has a voice that is heard; that there are many diverse voices and that we are richer as a society for sharing and listening to each other. 


Q - In a world where people from ethnic minorities still struggle under the yoke of racial abuse and structural racism, what aspects or stories do you wish to consider while planning your future?

I wish I was a planner but I am not. Stories find me. A lot of my life happens by accident. I am currently working on a series of children’s books, “Monster Life Lessons". The first one “Anjali’s Story: My Magical Lip Balm Adventure" is released in conjunction with the DesiBlitz festival (23rd September) and this is the only time I have planned to create something that might affect a little change. Most times, I write because I have a story that doesn’t seem to leave me but the Monster Life Lessons series is a little different and they have been planned - all the main characters are diverse.

It came about because in Lockdown, I was homeschooling my daughter (10) she was having trouble with maths and I thought I would start a business with her and teach her about maths in a fun way.  I wrote a fictionalised story about our adventure in the hope that it might inspire children to think differently about things they don’t necessarily enjoy but then I began thinking about representation for children.

My daughter is of mixed heritage and I thought, how many children are the lead characters in books and are on front covers? I think it is about 6%. I remember being my daughter’s age and desperately wishing I was blonde - what subliminal messages do our children still get? Representation starts at a young age and I think every child should see themselves as heroes of a story and not necessarily possess a superpower apart from being themselves so this is the first time I consciously set out in creating a diversity series and yes, I am publishing under my own imprint. 

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