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“Looking forward to exploring various genres”

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Interview with Rhea Sharma

By Simran Kapoor

A Literature graduate, born in the Land of the Shivalik Hills, Dehradun, Rhea Sharma is a budding author, who has brought forth a collection of emotions through her 55 paged novel, “The Milky Tea and Vodka”. We managed to grab a quick word with the debut author and got a chance to know about her writing process and how is the Doonite treating her success.

We take pride in you, for being a budding successful author from Dehradun. Could you give us a little insight into your background – schooling, family and college?

Thank you, I’m delighted to hear that! While my mother grew up in Shillong and my father is originally from Delhi, my younger sister and I were raised for the better part of our lives in a beautiful, airy Dalanwala house in Dehradun city. I studied in The Aryan School, up until my 12th grade, after which I shifted to Manipal University, Jaipur, to do my Bachelor’s in English Literature. I recently got done with my last semester, so it’s really exciting to be starting a new chapter of my life with this book.

You’ve written the book, “Milky Tea and Vodka”, could you please tell us something about the book- the genre and the central idea?

‘Milky Tea & Vodka’ is a 55 page novella and it’s TTT Books’ first publishing endeavour. The story follows seventeen year old Vanya in the aftermath of her father’s death in a drunk-driving accident. Both, she and her emotionally distant mother are struggling to get through this difficult time, and it is then that Vanya meets Chitra Deewaker, a charismatic seventy-two year old woman who has moved back to the neighbourhood after almost a decade. When Deewaker asks Vanya for an unlikely favour – to type some heavy, secretive letters for her son to read after she’s gone – she is forced to be a part of the tale, and look back at her own as well.
The genre is mostly drama, peppered with a little bit of suspense to surprise you!

How was your journey while writing your first book and how much time did it take to pen it down?

While the finished manuscript took a few months because of various edits and the completion of my University semesters as well, it took me a span of two weeks to finish the first draft of the story.

What inspired you to write this book?

The characters of ‘Milky Tea & Vodka’ began to take shape in my mind before the actual plot, and they are what drove me to write the story more than anything else. Chitra Deewaker was the liveliest of all in my mind, and I needed to pen her down. There was also an old house on the same street as mine that inspired the setting. Other elements of the plot have been taking shape in my mind since I was thirteen – they all came together at just the right time and I can’t thank TTT Books enough for giving me a platform for the tale.

Did you always want to be an author, or did it happen with the flow?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in fifth or sixth grade. That is when I realised how significant books are to me, and that the craft of writing gives me the freedom to create my own characters and stories, and take them wherever I want, limitlessly.

Who is your favorite author and which book has left an everlasting impression on you?

I wouldn’t say I have one specific favourite author, but I generally really enjoy the early 20th century American writers. F Scott Fitzgerald is a favourite and JD Salinger is very close to my heart. Among Indian authors, I really enjoy Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I also love reading poetry. Richard Siken’s work is a new obsession.
One book that has definitely left an impression on me is ‘The Five People You Meet In Heaven’ by Mitch Albom.

Which is the best part of your book?

There’s the unraveling of a certain plot thread towards the end of the book which is a little unexpected and packs a punch. I think that’s the best part of it, because it puts a lot of elements of the story into perspective. You’ll have to read to find out!

What emotion stirs you the most to write about?

I tend to gravitate towards uncomfortable emotions when it comes to writing. I like writing about complex feelings, like helplessness, guilt, heartbreak. Things that are not very easy to articulate, and are experienced differently by everyone.

You’re so young, what did you learn from this phenomenal success and process of your first book?

I learned a lot about the process of writing itself with this book, and there’s really no end to the learning curve. I also got to explore various aspects of my own writing style, which was very interesting. The best lesson was to be kind and patient with oneself as well as the story. Letting go a little bit isn’t always a bad idea.

With the success of your first book, how do you plan to take this passion of yours forward?

I definitely want to engage more in writing. It’s not something I want to let go of. While I’m still trying to find my niche in fiction, I’m looking forward to exploring different genres and styles and seeing where it takes me. The sky’s the limit.

Which is your favorite quote?

My favourite quotations and words keep changing from time to time, but right now, it’s one by Fredrick Nietzsche, and it goes: If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

What would you like to say to all the avid readers?

To my readers, before anything else, I’d like to say thank you for giving this story a chance. It means everything to me. I’d also like to say read well, and share what you read. Because who else will uphold the rich art of our generation if not us?