Behind the Book: Sarika Pandit

Sarika Pandit is a market researcher by day and a freelance travel writer by night. She graduated from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai and did her MBA from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar. Her travel articles are featured in publications such as The Times of India, Mint Lounge, Femina and National Geographic Traveler India. She lives in Mumbai, but every now and again, manages to break away from the shackles of her work station to journey to the far ends of the globe. The Bucketlist of a Traveloholic is her first novel.

1. A warm welcome to you at Reviews and Musings, talking about your novel Bucket list of a traveloholic– how did this whole idea get conceptualized?

2. Why did you choose this travelogue as your debut novel?

I’ll answer questions 1 and 2 together :)
My first manuscript was fiction. I planned to send it to a couple of publishers, but then I happened to come across a website - Writer’s Side. Kanishka Gupta heads it and apart from being a literary agent, he and his team also assess manuscripts. I had read on the website that he is very prompt and right enough when I sent him the manuscript, I got a response within a few hours. Of course, he told me (in very few, but extremely brutal words) that the manuscript needed work and that in its current state it would not be accepted by publishers.

I was extremely disheartened, but a few hours later he wrote to me asking me if I had any ideas for a travel book instead (since I did freelance travel writing). I bounced off a couple of ideas to him and this one was the one that got him most excited. The genesis was my wanting to get all the pages of my passport stamped, something I’ve always wanted to do - the rest just flowed from there. He pitched the idea to a few publishers. Fingerprint took it up and that’s how the book came about :). Till date, I am glad that I quickly swallowed my initial disappointment. Had it not been for that and Kanishka’s efforts, this book would not have come about.

3. In many ways apart from being a travel diary, this book also seems to be what one can call – coming of age – has that also been your experience as you travel to various places? Did you get a chance to see life’s various facets and find out the one what defined you the most?

I think more than anything each travel has helped me to escape and in doing so, invariably remind me of the fact there is a larger world out there beyond mine; and each time that realization has been humbling and has served as a reality check. There has also always been a sense of accomplishment about having explored a new place and having experienced something wholly unfamiliar and beyond my comfort zone. And finally, there has always been a sense of liberation. Being able to simply pack your bags and take off is a liberating feeling, nothing compares to it and in a way it has come to define me.

Source: Google Images
4. Now that you travel so much, we would like to one place on this earth which somehow resonates with you, you have a strong sense of belonging to that place for various reasons. If given a choice would you like to migrate there lock stock and barrel?

I really loved Florence. I loved the history, the culture, the overall atmosphere of that place. It’s perhaps the only place where I had this uncanny out-of-body experience, almost as if I had been there before. I’m not sure if I would want to move there or to any other country for that matter. Mumbai has always been home to me and it’s a city that, despite it madness, I love coming back to. Every single time.

5. If given a chance, is there anything that you would like to change in this book? Why?

You know, you are asking this question to a person who has made a habit out of second guessing :) Honestly, I keep vacillating between wanting to change everything and nothing at all.

6. Can you take our readers through your journey of becoming a published author? Was it always a desire to be one that has got materialized now? When did you realize that THIS is what I want to be – an author?

I think, almost everyone who loves reading nurses this secret wish of writing a book. I wrote my first book at the age of ten; I grew up on Enid Blyton and the book I wrote was along the lines of a Famous Five / Five Find Outers mystery. My mom has still kept it even though I positively cringe every time I happen to chance on it now :). She refuses to accept that it is completely ridiculous.

I treaded a fairly conventional path when it came to my education – graduated in science, did my MBA and somewhere along the way, I lost touch with writing. It was only after I started travelling that I resumed it. I did some freelance travel writing which was an ideal combination of my two great loves. This book, in a way, was the logical next step.I still don’t think of myself as a ‘writer’ though, author perhaps, but not a writer. I have a long way to go before I call myself that.

7. What is that one thing that has been your constant inspiration throughout good and bad days, especially in battling a writer’s worst enemy Writer’s Block?

It wasn't always easy writing this book. I had a day job and the only time I could write was during weekends. I had a practically non-existent social life in those 3-4 months because I had a deadline to keep. The thing that kept me going though, when I hit a block though, was the joy I would feel on seeing my book on a shelf in a book store - that has always been a dream.
Source: Google Images
8. Do we see you experimenting with genres in future?

I’ve written a second book, fiction this time and hopefully it should come out some soon. This first book was more difficult to write than the fiction because it was autobiographical and being a reserved person, it wasn't always easy to put pieces of myself out there. I think I’ve had more fun writing fiction because you can let your imagination go wild and have fun with your characters.

9. Off late thanks to many online writing contests being held there has been a sudden surge in newbie authors along with loads of new publishing houses as well. Your thoughts on this?

I think it’s great that so many people have the opportunity to have their words out there in ink, but that makes the writing scene competitive in a completely different way as compared to before. Writing is becoming a commodity and price now plays a big role in the equation. What’s good though, is that today, there is a book by an Indian author for every kind of reader.

10. Getting published is supposed to be a mammoth task for any writer. How has experience been about it? Any specific incidents (good or bad) that you would like to share here with us.

I think opening the book, writing that first sentence was the most daunting task of all. Once I got past that, the rest was easier. Writing, although fulfilling, is ultimately a rather lonely process. You sit in a room, all by yourself, completely cut off from the rest of the world with nothing but your laptop for company. I remember feeling like an ostrich that had pulled its head out from the sand after ages, when I finished this book :) Also, the first 1-2 weeks after the book came out, were terrifying. I kept thinking of all the people who would read it and kept agonizing over their reactions until I was a wreck. I had to keep telling myself to get a thicker skin quickly or quit writing altogether :)

Thank you so much for your time! Wish you all the best for all your future projects!


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