At Voice Verso, we focus a lot on understanding our authors, their needs and their perspective towards e-publishing. We thought of getting some insight into one of our very special books “Becoming Assiya- The story of Children of War” by Voice Verso author Simran Keshwani. She is currently majoring in International Relations from Australian University and is a literature graduate from Lady Sri Ram College for Women, Delhi University. She ran a startup called Born of a Million Thoughts which conducted charity drives in Delhi and was into investigative documentaries around illiteracy and mental illness.
Let’s find out more about one of the most fascinating books in VV shelf.
1- What influenced you to write a story set on such a sensitive setting of war?
Pablo Neruda wrote about Spain’s civil war when he himself was a Chilean. Why? “Come and see the blood on the streets!”, in his words.
If there is a catastrophe that’s engulfing you, how can you sing songs of indifference?
2- You attempted Dystopic fiction in your very first book. Many bestselling authors fear to attempt it. How did that go?
I think genres are restricting and what’s dystopian fiction to a reader could be somebody’s reality. The world we live in today is no better than a living model of a Dystopian Novel.
3- What do you aim to instill in reader’s mind with Becoming Assiya?
Becoming Assiya was my first book and it isn’t even 1 year old yet, but looking at the current public memory, I expected it to fade off much much earlier. The very fact that it is still being read tells me a lot about its impact. I expected a lot more, but I’m grateful that it’s been received so well.
That said, my message through the book was simple – all it takes to bring a regime down or to unmask the worst kinds of oppression is just one word. As utopian as that sounds, it’s all you need.
Having led a protest that started merely with an article that went viral, I can safely vouch for the fact that the word has a lot more power than anything else.
4- You interviewed and met many people through your journey in the middle east. Please share more about the whole experience.
Getting to know the “other” side of the story always helps. There’s always 20 sides to each story, probably even more. In order to see the big picture, you have to possibly place yourself in all 20 angles. That’s a taxing job, and you may hear contradictory accounts, but remember, as a writer – Truths are subjective.
5- According to you, how can peace be restored and maintained across the globe?
Only when we understand that the value of life will always be far greater than material possessions. Sadly that is not the case today, where women are sold to sex trade for as less as ₹5000. The day we begin to relish human life, our story as a race changes. I’ve argued as nauseam about the capitalistic system putting money above everything and its inherent contradictions and how to find an alternative to it we must be willing to acknowledge it’s dirty work. But there are victims of the same disease that justify it as the best thing to happen to the human race. Doctors, lawyers, businessmen, civilians – we sadly love our vices!
Up until there’s recognition of the wrong, we can not reach a stage of introspection.
6- You are just 20. Your thought provoking book will surely be an inspiration for many. What would you like to say to budding authors?
That indeed is a lot of flattery! Age has very less to do with writing or any art form for that matter. You can be 5 and your experiences as a human being could surpass 20-year-old. Depends on how life shapes your narrative and how you do justice to telling your story.
I am not perfect myself, so if anybody reading this is looking for advice on perfection, I’m sorry I wouldn’t do justice to that concept. All I can tell you is that if you’re unhappy with what you’ve achieved as a writer, there’s hope for your graph to go up. But, if you’re lax and satisfied and happy, growth stops. Always question “success” in relative terms and remember if you’re on top of the world today, you can be at its lowest end tomorrow, because the world revolves.
I think a writer who wants to aim for something big has to have an appetite for heartbreak, hurt and pain, as cliche as that sounds. Because putting out your innermost thoughts for the world to scrutinize is a path not many can walk. There will be positivity and understanding, but there will be criticism too. Be unfazed in the face of both.
7- How did writing this book transform you as a person?
I’m going to be a realist here.
It made me understand failure and hurt and blown out expectations. When things go kaput, we ideally question ourselves. That’s one thing I’ve stopped doing because I realized I do not control certain external things. Like, a book doing well or not has less to do with your will and so much more to do with market visibility, which comes as a result of heavy PR, because the lone standing talent is nowhere as compared to the average writing that has a million rupee marketing campaign to add to it. That’s sad but that’s true – there’s less you can do to change things and if you’re an author, you have to endure some teething issues as part of demographics of the job.
8- Is there something you would like to tell your readers?
There are going to be 50,000 opinions on every issue. Listening to each of them is your prerogative. Personally for me, forming your own viewpoint is important rather than your mind being a pastiche of some author’s words.
9- When can we expect your next book?
Sadly there’s no numeric answer to that. I am currently in a space of life where I’m contemplating the idea of “love”. It’s been one concept that has rattled men and women of perfect reason. I’m trying to reach out to its blind spots and stay there. I think the realization is near…
10- Lastly, please share about your eBook publishing experience with Voice Verso.
Absolutely smooth and amazing! The staff was very receptive to all my needs and addressed grievances immediately.