Portrait of a Picture-Novelist

Debutant Author Monisha Kumar

She rides on her sketches to tell a story as she believes that a picture can speak volumes. Meet debutant author Monisha Kumar, as she speaks to BTW to tell us about her picture-novel for teenagers, Sick of Being Healthy which is slated to be published soon. Monisha addresses vital issues of self-esteem and confidence in adolescents through this work.

Tell us briefly about yourself: Where you were born and raised, any special childhood memories?

I was born in a small town called Ambala and come from an Army background. My father is a retired Colonel in the Indian Army and my earliest childhood memories are about moving to different parts of the county. It gave me a solid foundation and made me friendlier and more accepting of all kinds of people.

Tell us briefly about your educational and professional background.

I have studied all over the country, mostly in Military schools. I am a commerce graduate and have an executive MBA in Marketing. I began my career in an IT startup and have since worked primarily in Sales and Training in companies like NIIT and GBM. Right now I am dedicated to writing though I still do management consulting off and on and help my husband’s company with recruitment.

IMG_1417Have you been into writing right from the beginning?

I was the editor of my school magazine and that’s all about the credentials I have when it comes to writing. Honestly, the idea of being an author never crossed my mind till my husband almost forced me to write a book just because he thought I was excellent in making proposals and PowerPoint presentations. After having my second child and leaving my full time job, I was involved with another Indian company, looking after their middle east operations but I knew that I had no inclination whatsoever in getting back to a nine to five routine, that’s when I thought of giving it a try. And for a long time I struggled until I got the hang of it and got more comfortable.

What led you to the idea of writing a book for the teenagers?

As I said, I struggled for a long time as I thought I did not have what it takes, I wasn’t very descriptive and lacked depth. I knew that I wasn’t ready to write an adult book and secondly I did not want to sound fake. I am a big Wimpy Kids fan and wanted to write a mature version of it in my own style, as I truly believe that books should entertain as well as teach you something. And there were a lot of things going on in my mind that I wanted to tell my thirteen years old daughter without being preachy, so I thought why not?

Tell us briefly about your upcoming picture-novel Sick of Being Healthy?

My book is light fiction and is a humorous take on some serious issues that teens face in today’s world. Such as academic pressures, body image and complicated relationships. It is
a story of an overweight girl who has a crush on an older, sought after guy and thinks that losing weight will get her this guy’s attention. Unfortunately, she does it the wrong way and ends up having a food disorder. The story is about how she overcomes her self-esteem issues and learns to love herself.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 3.28.52 PMA picture-novel is indeed a novel idea. Why did you choose this format over the traditional writing?

My answer is the same old cliché’ that ‘a picture speaks louder than a thousand words’. Though my focus has always been my readers, this book has also been a journey of self-discovery for me and helped me return to my first love—Art. When I was barely six I won my first National Level Drawing competition and then many more followed. But I could not pursue it professionally as those days it wasn’t considered a real career and secondly I got more passionate about business development and got stuck in the usual corporate life.  But as I grew older and hopefully wiser I longed for an opportunity to justify this talent that God has given me and thankfully this book was a perfect place to start.

What is the message that you would like to society through your book?

My only message is that you are not what you look like. You are what is within you. So it doesn’t matter if you are too thin or too fat- Celebrate your uniqueness because there is only one you.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 3.39.39 PMWhat have been the challenges in your path of writing and publishing this book? How have you overcome them?

This being my first book was quite a challenge as writing did not come naturally. I had to really work on getting my words and pace right. At the same time, I made sure my style was simple, understandable and not over the top. There were times, telling a story from a teen’s perspective was tough and I had to underplay myself. But writing still was the easy part. Getting it published wasn’t.

After being rejected by the Penguins and Harper Collins of the world, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride. Fortunately, a leading publishing company in India called Leadstart Publishing liked my work and signed a contract with me. All this while I worked on my second script called ‘Bahir’ (an Adult fiction) which hopefully will be out by end of this year too.

Do you think reading is a dying habit? 

Well, today’s generation is wired differently. They have a lot more options then we did. If they want to know anything, they simply Google it, which may not be a bad thing but yes, I have realised that the concentration span of kids is decreasing and a lot of them find it very slow and boring in today’s fast paced world. But I hope and pray that this wonderful habit doesn’t ever die.

What is your message to teenagers?

It’s not original but all I can say is that ‘why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?” So just love yourself and be yourself, because you are perfect the way you are.