An interview with Kainaz Jussawalla

TLT – In just 10 words, describe the book and yourself?

Author – Crazy, Sensitive, Possessive, romantic, sharp, quirky, Hilarious, empathetic, perceptive, and self-motivated.

TLT  So far in your life, what kind of hurdles have you faced?

Author  – Several. The biggest one was struggling with weight issues for most of my life. The early Teenage years were the worst. I would get constantly ridiculed and sidelined for my weight. Few of the kids in school would snigger when I opened my tiffin box to eat. I would eat alone in a corner or hide. My mother gave me the tastiest meals. While most carried dal chawal or curry rice, I used to get roast chicken and cheese lasagnas.

I guess they resented that.

The teachers were not very nice too. They would not give me the lead role in school plays. I was the only one left out of the school march past on an annual day. They segregated on the basis of appearances. It was awful and I didn’t pity myself, I just went into a box and disappeared with my make-believe friends. The kids of our Family friends, would also bully me and call me all sorts of demeaning names when we visited. My parents never took notice nor understood how bad it was. I was reduced to tears several times. Such hurdles left a lasting impression on my psyche and snatched my confidence. Up until college, when it became much better. Thankfully. When I met the Fab 4 and my life changed for the happier. So if you ask me about a major hurdle, this was it. Derogatory comments, labeling me as overweight and unlikeable, and silent ostracism. It scars you, no one should go through that. Today if I see someone trying to bully me into doing anything, I turn the tables on them in my own way.

TLT. People are loving your book. What kind of reactions you’ve received from your family and friends?

Author – The reactions have been pretty awesome. My friends have loved it. Some of them even cried. They had no idea I had gone through so much. But most laughed as they loved the funny bits. My memoir is completely hilarious. It goes with my Parsi outlook, we laugh at ourselves and we know how to make others crack up. Family? Well, there were mixed reactions. A few cousins were curious as to who’s who as I have changed names in the book, of course, others couldn’t believe I could write so boldly. Some had no idea about these events. My immediate family has said nothing. It’s like either they are in denial that I had such a wild life or they think it’s all fiction. I don’t blame them. All my life I have been very secretive and now I am an open book all of a sudden. In the literal sense.

But the best part is that strangers who don’t know me have showered such positive reviews and more than that, they have written to me expressing how much the book has changed their perception. How it saved them from a horrible day. How much they love my character and wish the stories would never end. One reader said she’s reading slowly as she doesn’t want to finish fast. The other one said he was in tears after reading about how I rose up after falling and failing so much. Readers wished I was in college with them during their college years. 

It’s been surreal yet heart-touching. I can’t believe it. And the way it’s connected to even boys and men, I am amazed and super chuffed. It’s opened hearts and touched souls.

TLT. What was your mindset behind writing this book? What was going in your mind while writing the book?

Author: I was going through many things. Writing about one’s own life is not easy at all. You have to go through every emotion again and again including heartbreak, abuse, breakups, grandmother memories, anger, stress, etc. You have to recall things the way they really happened without sugarcoating it. Without being afraid that you will be judged or someone will be offended.  Of course, they will be. But at the end of the day, you as an author have to decide what’s best for your readers. You have to lose that innate fear, then only you can write about your life in an honest and intense way. There were times that I was worried if such candid writing would work, it’s one thing to say a fictitious woman is jumping on a man and kissing him, but talking about your own self and your carnal desires is another ball game altogether. But I have done it in a classy way without really getting too raunchy. I don’t want stalkers, just happy readers! I just want readers to feel they are not alone. So the mindset was set on that. Keep inspiring but don’t preach.

TLT.  You told about your life challenges. What were the challenges while writing this book?

Author: The agent I signed with initially, tried to manipulate the manuscript according to what he thought would work. The editor he recommended took years to give me back my work and each time she still hadn’t done much to the ms. We were going in circles for years, wasting my precious time. Maybe it wasn’t on purpose but now when I look back it was sheer disrespect and not taking someone’s hard work seriously. I really thought I was done for.  Fortunately a dear friend “Suhail Mathur of The Book Bakers literary agency” stepped in and within a few months we had signed, pitched, and locked in a publisher and we all began working together. So those years where I was left dangling like a carrot were hard but in retrospect a blessing.

My first book was a bestseller too, so I knew I was a decent author but in this publishing world, you come across many who will put you down. The trick is to succeed no matter what. I can’t stand disrespect of any kind. Whatever position someone holds, my self-respect means everything. So the moment I smell that especially in my career, I am out of the door, or more likely I shut the door. I could say that my biggest setback during the initial stages worked to my advantage. Getting Om Books International as my publisher was a stroke of luck and my agent’s foresight. So all was fine in the end.

Of course, the bad apples still exist everywhere, even now you come across some viciousness and politics. It’s their bad. Unhappy people will never have a good thing to say about anyone, anyways. So who cares? Also, I do my own marketing and PR mostly, I haven’t hired any agency and though I can’t call it a big challenge, I have to be alert all the time.  On the go!

I see no other number in front of me than number 1 which is the total of my birth number too – hence for me it’s straightforward ….until I am number 1, I can’t stop hustling and bustling. That’s not really a hurdle but the pressure is always on to be better than I was the day before.

TLT. You are a regular individual who has never been involved in the publishing or literary world. What impression has the publishing industry given you?

Author: I have been involved in the literary world in a different way as I was a journalist in my younger days. I worked with Magna Publications, TOI, and Debonair. I launched a short story dark fiction book in 2017. Still, it’s been tough. Things have changed since then and now. Social media is too active and relevant. You have to be in the game. In the center. If you sit in the audience, your book will not have much success. You have to constantly and consistently promote and push yourself in a mature way. Balance is the key. Too little or too much can shoot your book down in a day. Also, pretty photos don’t sell books. Content is the key. I am the author of the masses. All these high-end classy pseudo-shebangs are not for me. I understand it and I come from that space too but I prefer being a simple girl.  My impression of the publishing industry is a mixed one. I think there are so many authors today that one can’t really complain about it, because that’s how it is.

Every publisher needs good editors, a strong sales and distribution team, and a rocking marketing plan. I hear fellow authors sometimes losing their faith with the entire situation. They are demotivated. The trick is to have a strong one-eye focus and reasonable boundaries. To explain it better …

A cricketer in an IPL is he playing for time pass or is he there to win?

The same thing applies to your book. You have to decide if you are writing only for your friends or do you want several others to benefit?

Street cricket vs international level. Take your pick. Touch wood, for me, I am in very good hands with Om Books International and The Book Bakers. And I give my best to them too. It works both ways for us. The author has to market himself today, complacency is not an option.

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