I've been a fashion model, a rock singer, I've been a copywriter/creative director, but I've always been a writer of fiction.
I still have my old tattered journal which I wrote at age 15. It has my first ever short stories inspired by the novels of Georgette Heyer and 'Harold Robbins' A Stone for Danny Fisher.' I also wrote a story inspired by Emile Zola's 'Nana' at that tender age. I have kept a journal ever since and much of the content has come in use for my work.
Giving Up on Getting Published in India
I gave up trying to get published in my own country, India, a long time ago. Being deeply interested in the Greek myths (I can thank my Mother for that), I had approached Penguin with an idea for a funny novel about the exploits of the enchantress Circe who transformed people into animals. David Davidaar, in charge of the show then gave me the go ahead.
My Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather Direct where I was a copywriter, alleged that having a child (newly married, I was a couple of months into my pregnancy) would sap my creativity and turn me "bovine.". I was terrified. I wanted to prove her wrong and so I sat down and wrote my first novel, 'Circe.'
When I sent it to Davidaar, he wrote saying that no one was interested in the wacky exploits of a Greek enchantress. I sent it to Rupa. They said it wasn't "commercially viable."
However, when I sent a couple of chapters to Dr. Hilary Johnson in the UK with whom I was doing a correspondence course in the short story, she had this to say:
"I greatly enjoyed these chapters of 'Circe', partly because I have always liked the myths of the ancient world, but also because of the pacy narrative style and the brisk, no-nonsense personality of the narrator, Circe.
I wouldn't do a thing to change this, other than whatever polishing you feel is necessary - but whether or not it has any commercial potential I would not like to guess. Everything would depend upon its ctaching the imagination of an editor who then felt sufficiently enamoured by it to put her head on the block for it.
As I've said before, troubles arise when a novel doesn't easily fit a recognised category - and boy does this come into that category! Lively, tremendous energy, fun and highly original. I loved the three ascetics and the carpet that had once been a man! I loved ‘One Man’s Poison, another Man’s Meat’. It is hilarious and the combination of erotic writing and what is pretty near slapstick humour is highly entertaining."
The late Roger Culpan, Administrator of the Warrington Writing Workshop in England suggested I add a new first chapter which described my protagonist and her thinking etc. before I introduced the reader to a host of other characters. I did that and sent the chapters back to him. This is what he had to say:
“Circe is a fascinating study in monstrosity. The writer has found her voice.”
I was on cloud 9. As you can see, I did get 'Circe' out. The very first publisher I sent it to - Electric Umbrella accepted it. But the management changed and there were problems and I had to wrench the novel from them. After which I sent it to Mojocastle Press and voila!
My First Published Stories
My first published pieces - several short stories and a couple of poems appeared in leading national dailies. I had an acceptance on the very first one I sent out.
Award Winning Science Fiction Novella
In 1992, my first novella - 'Aditya the Underwater Boy' was published by Children's Book Trust, New Delhi when it won in a national competition organised by them. This transition from short stories to longer works was encouraged by my tutor Dr. Hilary Johnson.
Book of Short Stories
I had a book of short stories published by a Delhi publisher - 'Dolphin Girl and Other Stories'. I had humour, fantasy, science fiction, even autobiography in here.
City of Victory on BBC Radio 4
My Muse, Gordon Hindley fell in love with one of these stories based in the 16th century kingdom of Vijayanagar (Hampi) in India and he sent it to BBC Radio 4. The story, 'City of Victory' was broadcast in 1994, read beautifully by Badria Timmimi. You'll find the audio on YouTube. I have written a little Kindle book about how I edited the original story for BBC Radio.
Story into Novella
The story grew into a novella (of the same name) and was published by Chillibreeze.com. It's also available on Amazon Kindle. Ann Hite, acclaimed author of 'Ghost on Black Mountain' gave it a glowing review on Feminist Review. Link below.
First Novel Circe
As you can see, I did get 'Circe' out. The very first publisher I sent it to - Electric Umbrella accepted it. But the management changed and there were problems and I had to wrench the novel from them. After which I sent it to Mojocastle Press and voila!
Then I sent it to Mojocastle Press and Stephanie Kelsey loved my Query Letter and sample chapters. It's a hilarious romp through myths ancient and contemporary. The novel has fetched a couple of interesting reviews on Suite101.com.
My Editor Michele Dowdey said: “I have to say I'm really enjoying this story. I love the humor and you have a unique voice. I edit for other publishers as well as Mojocastle, and believe me I see it all.”
I barely had to rewrite a couple of sentences after Dowdey had gone through the manuscript. However, I had to replace a chapter with a new one and I wondered how I was going to get back into the tone, style and content of the story after a gap of 15 years. I added a chapter about Circe's discovery of chocolate as a substitute for sex in the ancient land of the Maya. No changes to that one. I was amazed.
My novella 'The Choosing' (fantasy again) has been published by Solstice Publishing. It was inspired by my own battle between body and soul and I'm glad to say that the soul has won.
Short Stories Online and Flash
You'll find my short story 'The Enlightened Robot' on Cezanne's Carrot and the audio story 'Panic' on Sniplits.com.
I also had some flash fiction published in places like The Camroc Press Review and in an anthology available on Amazon - The Mysterious Dr. Ramsey.
Writing-Related Books and More
I have some non fiction ebooks up on Amazon Kindle - 'How I wrote my Short Story for BBC Radio', 'Becoming Vegetarian -One Woman's Experience' and 'How to Write Fantasy - Writing The Choosing for Solstice Publishing'. This one describes how I turned a novel based on real life into the fantasy 'The Choosing'.
As you can see from Anita's words, at times she felt she was between a rock and a hard place because of what she wanted to do with her stories. I, for one, find them very refreshing, and am waiting for more.
Anita Saran is a Woman In Horror!
How to Write Fantasy - Writing 'The Choosing' for Solstice Publishing by Anita Saran and Anita Saran (Nov 6, 2012)