Tamraparni Dasu | Blog
Tamraparni Dasu is an Indian American writer and published author. Her new book, Spy Interrupted, The Waiting Wife, was just released. It is the first in a trilogy.
Tamraparni Dasu, writer, author, published, Spy Interrupted, The Waiting Wife, India,
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Enormous interest in self-publishing at literary festivals

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It was gratifying to see the support for and interest in self-publishing at various literary events this year. Robert Bausch, reading from his latest novel The Legend of Jesse Smoke at Fall for the Book festival in Fairfax, VA, called it the joy of writing in its purest form, free from the tyranny of literary agents, editors and sales. The Third Literary Festival organized by the Indo-American Arts Council had a whole session devoted to self-publishing. It is a question I am asked repeatedly at every reading and event I do, including my recent one at the Morristown Library.

The biggest advantage of self-publishing is control, control, control. First, there is creative control–no need to incorporate mermaids into your story to make it more saleable, no need to change the ending or plot to accommodate editorial or publisher sentiments, and no compulsion to balance dialog and descriptions.  As for quality control, there is no reason for sacrifice since there are many highly experienced free lance editors and book designers around to help one create a high quality publication that is comparable if not superior to those published by main stream and small independent presses. Finally, one has total control of the most important resource, namely, TIME. Publishing platforms like CreateSpace have highly efficient processes where they can guarantee not only quality but also turnaround times, obviating the need for waiting around for weeks, months and years for agents, editors and publishers to respond.

The main concern with self-publishing is marketing and publicity. However, big publishing houses seldom invest in publicizing new authors or unorthodox writing styles. Their limited advertising and publicity dollars are spent on perceived sure things, like well known authors with an established track record of sales (J. K. Rowling) or high-brow authors who will burnish the publisher’s literary credentials. Smaller presses seldom have the resources to publicize their authors and there are instances where authors have had to fund their own publicity and advertising campaigns, and on occasion even help the press stay afloat by partly funding them. Many authors have piles of books sitting around their homes since the publisher won’t take back unsold copies.  So, the onus of marketing and publicity often falls on the author anyway. For those willing to invest some money, there are many venues on social media and for many more dollars, advertising opportunities in popular newspapers and magazines. Email blasts are a waste.

Self-publishing works well for those who are motivated, technology-friendly and know what they want in terms of formatting and design.  It works particularly well for those who are in tune with what the public wants, are willing to write it and promote it relentlessly.

Writers are taking control of their fate just like musicians did in the past decade, but the publishing industry and allied professions are fighting hard to hold on to the old order while surreptitiously offering their free lance services through self-publishing platforms. So, fellow writers,  take control, there is nothing to fear!

A last word of wisdom: the best way to sell books is to keep writing them.

Good luck and happy writing!

 

 

 

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Mahasweta Devi

T. Dasu, author, writer, Spy Interrupted, the Waiting Wife

Mahasweta Devi passed away on July 28 at the age of 90, having spent most of her life writing with a raw passion about the “invisible” Indians. Here is a link to the obituary  carried by the Economist. The New York Times carried one as well. Mahasweta’s stories were translated from Bengali into English by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Two terrific women.

 

 

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Guest Blog: Interview by Tara Sarath, Barefoot Publicity

I did a lovely interview with Tara Sarath of Barefoot Publicity–you can check it out on her website barefootpublicity.com or read the full text below.

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T.Dasu, author of the Spy Interrupted series and Managing Editor of IndiaWrites, a nonprofit literary press, kindly sat down with me to answer some questions about her process, including how she made the difficult decision to self publish, and what she hopes to accomplish through her latest novel The Perfect Candidate.


Thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Let’s jump right in with what most writers consider to be the most difficult part of the process—publishing! Why did you self-publish versus go the small press route?

I like keeping creative control of the process and content. When I was asked to make changes to the characters and plot that were simply unacceptable to me, I decided that it was time to take charge. Besides, I am quite comfortable with technology and digital platforms so it was relatively painless for me.

But having done that, why print and digital instead of just digital distribution?

For me reading is a very tactile and visual experience. Each book with its unique cover, font and design is like a friend. I see it on my bed, couch, side table and it gets imprinted on my brain. I love holding it. While e-books are convenient, print books are objects of sentiment and love.

Sounds like a lifelong reader and writer to me! Though it’s interesting that your day job as a data scientist has very little obvious crossover with a career in writing and publishing. How did you sustain and nourish your writing and your interest in writing while building your professional career?

The two benefit mutually. My profession places a premium on logic, clarity and preciseness. This helps me think about my characters and their actions. Fiction, the best kind in my mind at least, is about removing layers of complexity from people’s thoughts and behavior and getting to the bottom of simple truths. What can be more mathematical than that!

Let’s talk about your latest work, The Perfect Candidate, which has been out since November. Why pick American politics to write about? Arguably Indian politics are more interesting in terms of color and character (though maybe not!)

I was too young to vote when I left India, so all my political life has been lived out here in the USA. Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated a few months after I left India and I could never relate to the new cast of characters who emerged after her dominant 20 year reign that lasted almost all my life in India.

The racial and gender undertones are pretty rare in a political thriller novel—what prompted you to explore Islamophobia? Or entering into the LGBTQA space with Wasim, a gay Muslim character?

No, when I wrote I really wasn’t concerned about readers or turning them off. Islamophobia is very real and even though I had no idea that Trump would dump it on us in unprecedented rhetoric, I had seen some of the comments directed at Huma Abedin based on her origins, not on her actions or policy positions. That’s what got me thinking.

Regarding Wasim, it was just a love story and I am a total pushover for love stories. The relationship is based on what my friend at work described to me on record.

What strikes me when I read Graham Greene, one of your literary inspirations, is how his stories, even the not directly political ones, tend to be cast in a world without uncompromised goodness – everyone is a shade of gray- and therefore without a true moral “authority”. Do you see Spy, Interrupted in the same way or is Stephen set to become the authoritative center of the novels with his ascension to the Senate? Is that the kind of uncertainty and slippage you are trying to portray with Stephen and Tyler playing and feeding off one another?

Totally! When somebody occupies our thoughts and minds (to the extent Tyler and Stephen occupy each other’s) it is impossible not to absorb some of the traits of the other, either in self-defense or in revenge.

You’ve said before that one of your other inspirations is Gabriel Garcia Marquez–do you see yourself moving out of the realm of political fiction?

The political fiction is incidental in the sense that’s what the character wanted to do given his history, his family and his intense drive. It will continue to be a back drop but not the central theme as it was in The Perfect Candidate.

And finally what comes next?
A very unique story in a very unique setting, where Stephen and Tyler finally get their Reichenbach Falls moment.

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Top 5 political movies

 

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Given the madness of the current political cycle, I thought it might be fun to list good political movies to binge on. Naturally, the  choices are very subjective! And unlike clickbait that starts at the bottom and makes you click through the entire list, I will start with my favorite and work my way down. Here goes:

  1. Primary Colors based on Joe Klein’s novel, with pitch perfect performances by John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates and Maura Tierney, is my all time favorite. It captures the murky dynamics of running an effective campaign  as well as the mix of ideology, ambition, ruthlessness and grit that fueled the Clinton ’92 win.
  2. Game Change, wow. Julianne Moore is eerily perfect as Sarah Palin and Ed Harris makes us feel sorry for the beleaguered John McCain steam-rollered by the woman from Wasilla. It was suspenseful even though I knew how it ended!
  3. Ides of March is probably one of the few movies where the name “Ryan Gosling” isn’t a liability. Of course, the stars of the show are the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman (may his soul rest in peace) and Paul Giamatti who stare down each other warily at the beginning of the movie. George Clooney as the charismatic but totally unprincipled candidate running for president is his usual slick self.
  4. The next two movies are fluffy and politics is a mere backdrop for a standard rom-com. Dave is a presidential doppelganger who subs for a comatose evil president and emerges a true leader and foils the bad guys trying to manipulate the country. Without Kevin Kline, Frank Langella, Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley, this movie would be worthless with its flimsy plot and passable dialogue. But Kevin Kline and Frank Langella are superb.
  5. The American President is all boy-meets-girl and overcomes obstacles en route to the mandatory happy ending. But it captures some nice aspects of life in the White House and Michael Douglas and Annette Bening are very good together. And one my favorite TV actors, Michael J. Fox, appears in a small role.

 

For the desis out there Aandhi based loosely on the life of Mrs. Indira Gandhi is a must-see.

I am sure I have overlooked many movies like The Manchurian Candidate (Frank Sinatra and Denzel Washington versions), and the Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis dud, The Campaign. So, please jump in and add your favorites!

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel as a muse

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Stepping into a new land or vista is like entering a novel, a world imagined by someone else. It jolts the old grey cells and unleashes a storm of sensations that beg to be put down on paper. This article in the New York Times about Nabokov’s travels reminded me what a great muse travel makes.

Freshly returned from a trip to St. Petersburg, my head is buzzing with the grandeur of czars and czarinasglorious palaces blazing at night despite the white nights, and cathedrals soaring over soil stained with spilled blood. How can this heady experience not sneak into writing…after all, humans and human emotions are the same everywhere, it is only the setting and context that changes.

Travel is the greatest education there is, the best teacher of all, and a most powerful muse. I have a feeling that St. Petersburg will play a significant role in the final part of my Spy, Interrupted trilogy 🙂

Happy travels!

Photo credit: Kumar Doraiswami

 

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Happy Spring!

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Orchids are in full bloom at the New York Botanical Gardens and with the primaries in New York state just around the corner, talk has turned to New York values. Nothing is more New York than being opinionated and Twitter seems to be the  tool of choice for putting those opinions out there. We’re not shy in that department and have had a lot of fun tweeting ourselves silly during the many presidential debates and town halls, and will continue to do so unabashedly.

The Perfect Candidate is doing well and has generated a lot of buzz in the media. We will be updating this website soon with all the coverage. We are also planning a big push to reactivate IndiaWrites’s role in translation of South Asian literature, as well as in continued support of organizations like Kiva and International Rescue Committee, and in contributing to new noteworthy charities.

Meanwhile, enjoy the great weather and the flowers that come with it!

 

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A Summing Up

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At the beginning of this year, of 2015, I had just published my first novel, Spy, Interrupted: The Waiting Wife. I didn’t know what to expect. After all, I was a research scientist-what did I know of book publishing or promoting a novel? But it has been an incredible year.

The support from friends and family has been simply amazing. They came out in strength to buy my book and show up at book readings and literary festivals, to cheer me on. They bought the Kindle version in India even though they knew it might be hard to find a Kindle reader–because the print edition was not available.

And I made new friends. Writers Jacob Appel, Rich Marcello and Spencer Seidel shared their experience and wisdom, encouraging me to publish and not to hesitate or overthink. Directors of public libraries, owners and managers of independent book stores and organizers of literary festivals–they were welcoming and accessible, and appreciative even if they could not help at that point in time. And it reinforced what I already knew–people who love books and reading are the most friendly and engaging people on the planet. The room simply lights up once the conversation turns to plots, characters and dirty deeds.

I met two great professionals: my publicist Tara and my website designer Gabby. They are a joy to work with, so good natured and full of fun, and always ready to listen to my breathless ideas.

Finally, I get the most satisfaction from the purpose of this entire venture. My husband Kumar and I, with my father’s encouragement and participation, want to support literary and educational causes. That’s why  we have donated to International Rescue Committee, Kiva and Malala’s fund among others through our non-profit 501(c)3 company, IndiaWrites. Our royalties are not significant at this point in time but that will change 😉 with the future success of my second novel, The Perfect Candidate: Spy, Interrupted (Book 2). We have big plans for IndiaWrites!

We hope that 2016 will be even more remarkable as we learn from 2015 and improve our ability to get the word out and enlist more writers to our cause. Please join us!

A very happy new year to you and yours!

 

 

 

 

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A Thanksgiving Excerpt

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here is an excerpt from The Perfect Candidate to get you in the mood. The protagonists Stephen and Nina take a break from the campaign trail to spend Thanksgiving with Nina’s parents, while campaign managers Doug and Wasim head to Doug’s hometown of New Orleans.

Slide1-2“Stephen and Nina’s limo was stuck in Thanksgiving traffic. They’d just dropped Wasim and Doug at Liberty International Airport in Newark, after attending a fund-raiser in New York City. The two young men were going to spend the holiday at the Mayhew home in New Orleans. The whole team was due back at the campaign headquarters on Friday for more debate prep and the hectic homestretch of the race.

The car soon left the madness of the highways and sped through picturesque woods and horse country, cut across a national wildlife preserve famous for birding, and finally entered a gravel driveway that went up a hill to the open gates at the edge of a large property. A Frank Lloyd Wright–style home hugged the contours of the land, like a cubist snake made of glass and wood. The grounds of the house were occupied by acres of a Zen-like natural garden of native plants and tall trees.

The first time Stephen visited, Nina had watched his startled reaction with sly amusement, because she knew that he had expected a modest home in a typical, suburban cookie-cutter development. She had done nothing to disabuse him.

He wouldn’t admit it, but now, five years into his marriage, Stephen enjoyed his visits with his in-laws, particularly during the holidays. The front door was already open, and the entire clan stood ready to welcome them home. The Sharma children were given the same extravagant greeting each and every time they came home.

“We’re home!” Nina sat up in excitement when the limo came to a stop in front of the wide stone steps that led up to the entrance. The chauffer opened the car door for Stephen, who, in turn, held it open for Nina. When she stepped out and caught sight of her mother, Nina burst out laughing and waved to her. This was her first time coming to her parents’ home after becoming pregnant.

“Congratulations!” Ravi shook Stephen’s hand, while Deepa and Nina remained locked in a prolonged hug. Neel grinned at everyone. Nina’s grandparents beamed from inside the house.

The sprawling house was already decorated for the holidays, a long stretch of several months that began with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights in October, and ended with the Indian harvest festival in January. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s were sandwiched in between. Strings of Diwali lights were artfully tucked away and sparkled golden from unexpected corners and surfaces, filling the house with warmth.

Neel and Ravi hustled Stephen to the family room, where the large-screen TV was gearing up for endless football.

“Are you expecting a big crowd?” Stephen asked. His in-laws were notoriously social, with a large circle of friends and relatives, and were very active in the local Indian community.

It was almost five in the afternoon by the time they sat down to dinner. The dining table was set in the hexagonal hub where three different wings of the house came together. Wide glass-walled hallways led from the hub to other parts of the house.

The meal was an Indian interpretation of Thanksgiving staples, like yams, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and cranberries, supplemented with traditional Indian curries, dals, and raitas. It was arrayed like an Impressionist painting on the crisp white tablecloth. Parathas of different kinds were stacked in a dish in the middle, all wrapped in a soft white cloth to keep them moist, ready to melt on the tongue. A silver tray on the side was piled with a fragrant mountain of ghee-soaked basmati rice cooked to fluffy white perfection. Stephen’s stomach rumbled in response to the aroma; he hadn’t realized how hungry he was.

Nina’s grandparents were served first, then Stephen, the son-in-law, then Ravi and Deepa, and finally Nina and Neel. This was the traditional hierarchy, to be followed with scrupulous care at every meal, despite a cosmopolitan approach to other matters.

The Sharma clan loved their food. Cooking and eating were social affairs where everyone contributed any way they could—chopping, blending, cleaning, grocery shopping, tasting, stirring. And when they sat down to eat, everyone was highly animated and talked at once.

“Stephen, how is the campaign—” Deepa began.

Ravi jumped in before she could finish. “Yes, I’ve been watching the polls closely—”

Suddenly Grandpa announced loudly over the din, “I WANT RICE AND…”

Both Deepa and Ravi ordered Neel, “Serve Dadaji what he wants…”

But Grandma interjected, “It’s not good for him, don’t…” only to have Nina say, “Dadiji, it’s Thanksgiving, let him…”

In the meantime, Neel served a generous helping to Grandpa and asked “Stephen, did you watch the—”

This caused Nina to scold, “Neel, stop checking the scores.”

Ravi rounded it off with an emphatic “Denard was AMAZING!”

It never ceased to amaze Stephen that the family managed to not only have a conversation but to have cogent discussions and to make important communal decisions in this chaotic manner. Stephen never understood how. He had given up trying long ago and developed a strategy of joining in randomly. The family complained all the while that another morsel would kill them but continued to dig in any way.

“Stephen, let’s go. The game is about to begin,” Neel’s voice urged. Stephen joined Neel, Deepa, and Ravi in the family room, while Nina continued to gossip with the grandparents at the table. Even though he’d been overwhelmed by the boisterous and social Sharma clan at the start, he now felt completely a part of the family. He had learned to smile back at Grandma Sharma’s chanted blessings and exchange firm handshakes with Grandpa on every arrival and departure.

After a long, leisurely evening of eating and talking and more eating, Stephen and Nina went to bed around midnight. They were to sleep in Nina’s room, as usual. The queen bed always felt way too small to Stephen, accustomed as he was to his grandfather’s galleon of a bed. He kept fidgeting and tossing, trying to find a comfortable position without jabbing Nina with his elbows.

His phone buzzed.

“Hello!” he answered immediately. Nina opened her eyes. Her antennae were always keyed to danger.

“Hi Wasim! What’s up?”

Stephen laughed at something Wasim said and finished with a good night.

Nina sat up. “What happened?”

“Wasim’s drunk.” Stephen’s phone plinked pleasantly, and a video clip came through. He showed it to Nina: Doug playing the clarinet in a band at some club.

He sounds amazing! said the text from Wasim.”

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The Perfect Candidate

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I am happy to report that The Perfect Candidate, Book 2 of the Spy, Interrupted trilogy, is now available worldwide on Amazon. As with The Waiting Wife (2014), Book 1 of the trilogy, all net profits will be donated to charities. In 2015, we donated multiple times to Kiva, the International Rescue Committee, and to Malala’s Fund. Please read about our charitable contributions on our Giving page.

I would greatly appreciate your continued support and encouragement, and help in getting the word out about the book to friends and others. And reviews on Amazon are always a great help!

The Perfect Candidate is available in both paperback  and  Kindle. Only the Kindle version is available in India. Please check out my Facebook author page for additional details.

For paperback visit: http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Candidate-Spy-Interrupted/dp/0692510370/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448105671&sr=1-3&keywords=The+perfect+candidate

For Kindle version visit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018AU0R2M?%2aVersion%2a=1&%2aentries%2a=0

 

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Coming on 11-11-15!


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The Perfect Candidate, Book 2 of the Spy, Interrupted trilogy, picks up with Stephen Edward James and his wife Nina Sharma about to enter the race for a U.S. Senate seat in Stephen’s native Massachusetts.

With his high-profile philanthropic endeavors, interracial marriage, and uncommonly principled stance, Stephen makes a compelling Republican candidate in the traditionally Democratic stronghold—despite his shadowy past.

Stephen’s opponent—grandmother and professor Katherine Collins—hires a tracker, Dave Tyler, to sling mud as the race heats up. It’s hard to keep secrets on the campaign trail, and Tyler will go to any lengths necessary to discredit Stephen, as his tabloid curiosity turns into a personal dislike for the privileged candidate. Tyler’s efforts rock the campaign, jeopardizing Stephen’s marriage as well as pushing one of his young, closeted staffers to the breaking point.

But Stephen is not one to back down from a fight. He has powerful friends in his corner—setting off an ominous chain of events.

A fast-paced novel full of political intrigue, espionage, and romance, The Perfect Candidate spans multiple genres and continents, taking us inside the world of state secrets and intercultural relationships in a thrilling tale of power and ambition.

Sign up to be notified as soon as The Perfect Candidate is available for purchase on 11-11-15.

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