Author Spotlight: Nisha Sharma talks My So-Called Bollywood Life
I'm so excited to be hosting the lovely Nisha Sharma on the very first stop on her blog tour! Nisha's debut, My So-Called Bollywood Life, releases May 15th from Crown Books for Young Readers / Random House. Kirkus recently gave My So-Called Bollywood Life a starred review, calling it 'a delightful and humorous debut' and Nisha's writing has been described as 'the romance of Stephanie Perkins meets the quirk of Maureen Johnson'.
I had the pleasure of meeting Nisha at the NYC Teen Author Festival back in March, and not only is she delightful, the excerpt she shared from My So-Called Bollywood Life was heartfelt and hilarious. Nisha has serious chops when it comes to writing dialogue and hers had me laughing out loud! And let's be honest . . . if you can make me laugh, I'm definitely buying your book. :)
Check out the Q&A below and be sure to catch Nisha at one of her many book tour stops this summer!
And now, here's my chat with Nisha!
Hi, Nisha! Welcome and congrats on the release of My So-Called Bollywood Life. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thank you so much for having me! I wrote a version of MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE years ago because I wanted to tell a story between two South Asian teens from the US falling in love. Publishing wasn’t very accepting of mainstream diverse reads at that time, and my book wasn’t ready either. Then in 2013, I wrote a completely different version of the book for my MFA program under my mentor-Cecilia Galante’s- supervision. Again, my intention was to write a book about two South Asians falling in love. I also wanted to address parental relationships in the South Asian community. Not all of them are terrible and I wanted my MC to have a positive connection with her folks. And most importantly, I wanted to gush excessively about Bollywood. 😊.
So many reviews remark on My So-Called Bollywood Life’s fantastic use of humor. What makes humor authentic for you, and do you have any tips for writers looking to incorporate comedic moments into their own stories?
I know it sounds like a cop-out answer, but humor to me is authentic when it doesn’t sound forced. Carefully placed puns or situational humor that doesn’t move the story forward pulls me out of the book. My editor and I had to question a lot of the jokes in the story because we really wanted to make sure that it came about organically.
For writers looking to develop the humor in their books, I’d recommend they start with dialog. People say hilarious things sometimes in moments of distress and that can really bring a laugh-out-loud moment to your book.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Uh, all of it? Haha, I think the biggest problem I have is actually finding the time to write. With my career, my family and everything in between, time is incredibly valuable. In terms of craft, I’m always struggling to amp up the tension in my story. How can I make things worse for my characters? It’s uncomfortable as a creator of dreams to put my characters through the wringer, but sometimes it has to be done.
Did Winnie’s voice come naturally to you, or was it something that had to evolve over time?
Out of all the characters in the book, Winnie’s was the hardest to understand for me. She was ambitious, yet insecure about her future. She was independent, yet she still struggled with the idea of ending up alone. She loved movies, but she didn’t want to make movies…only study them. There are so many dichotomies that lived inside her that I had to write the book completely, and then re-write it because it took me that long to really understand her nuances.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing My So-Called Bollywood Life teach you?
I think MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE taught me how to be patient. From the moment I sold it to the day it comes out, it’ll be a total of four years. I couldn’t rush writing the book, so the drafting process required patience. I couldn’t rush editing the book either, and that took the longest time. Lastly, I couldn’t rush the production of the story. For someone who always looks for immediate results, the waiting was painful at times, but I feel like the whole process was character building.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I am always going through periods of infatuation, so I love this question.
I’m just getting over my beauty subscriptions infatuation. I had a makeup subscription (Boxycharm), a jewelry subscription (Rocksbox) and a clothing subscription (Trunkclub) all running at the same time.
Now I’m obsessed with my reading challenge. In 2018 I’ve decided to read one non-fiction book a month. It’s supposed to help me expand my reading horizons since I usually stick to YA and romance. I’ve already finished BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert, THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maas and I’m currently finishing up HOW TO GET SH*T DONE by Erin Falconer. I’m actually enjoying the whole process.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing/publishing career?
The Hustle. I don’t think there is anything more important than continuously working hard and pushing for success. There will be times all the hustling seems like it’s not producing any results (I still struggle with these times), but it’ll all pay off eventually. You just have to keep moving and trying to reach your goals.
Many thanks go out to Nisha for taking the time to tell us more about My So-Called Bollywood Life, as well as sharing ways to write humor, and the vital reminder to always keep pushing for success.
Be sure to add Nisha's witty debut your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) pre-order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Or you can always request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
You can follow Nisha on Twitter at @Nishawrites, and for more information, see her full author website at nisha-sharma.com.
And, as always,