Interview with Geetanjali Mukherjee

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Calcutta, India, a city known for its cultural contribution to India. The only Indian recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Rabindranath Tagore, is from the same city, and in fact, I am named after his Nobel Prize winning book of poetry. Thus, in some ways, writing was in my destiny. I grew up surrounded by ideas, and one of my favourite memories with my mother is going to the children's library to spend an entire afternoon reading books.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love to re-read some of my favourite books, like the works of Austen and classics like "The Wizard of Oz". I am a huge fan of chick-lit, especially from British and Irish writers, and everyone in my family knows, once I have started on one, I won't emerge till I'm done with the book! I also love cartoons, especially Dilbert, and Calvin and Hobbes. I am also a huge fan of Agatha Christie, and have read every book of hers, many of them twice.

I have lately become a fan of John Gardner's James Bond novels. I also have read every single Amy Tan book, and wait eagerly for her next offering. I enjoy some literary fiction as well.

In terms of non-fiction, I read business and productivity books voraciously, as well as an eclectic mix of books on economics, public policy, science and history. I also love cookbooks and nutrition / diet books.
Who are your favorite authors?
Depends on genre, but in no particular order: Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Malcolm Gladwell, Vikram Seth, Amy Tan, Azar Nafisi, Daniel Coyle, Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy, and many many more that I can't remember right now.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I wrote a similar book on commission, and had a bad experience with the publisher, being a naïve first-time author and unaware of my rights. I had most of the manuscript written years before, and didn't relish the prospect of trying to secure a publisher. As soon as I became aware of the possibility of self-publishing, in 2009, I realised that this would transform the industry and was definitely something I wanted to become a part of.

I'm extremely excited to partner with Smashwords, because they, unlike services geared towards the interests of publishers, are geared towards helping both authors and readers, and I am confident that they will only grow and be even more successful.
What are you working on next?
Currently I am working on a book of creative non-fiction. I am superstitious about revealing too much as I am not yet done writing, but this is a work which is very close to my heart, and I have spent a lot of time on it. I hope it will be something that readers enjoy and can live up to my very high expectations.
Describe your desk
I have a large desk, and my own dedicated writing room cum study cum den. I'm fortunate, because my writing room has plenty of sunlight and a stunning view, although I never look out the window when I'm working.

I am usually pretty disorganised and my desk is often too messy to work on. I also like to keep switching, and can't work at one location for too long. I work often at the dining table, and sometimes, although rarely, at the nearby public library. I also like to work at the nearby Starbucks, although since its a very popular one, its sometimes difficult to get a table to myself.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Hoping that today I will be able to work hard, be productive, and create something that touches the heart of the reader, and is work that is better than what I did yesterday.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I work on issues of public policy and business and human rights, an emerging genre of international law. I am also very active as a practicing Buddhist, in my local organisation. Additionally, I cook, sometimes very well, sometimes not, and like to dabble in arts and crafts.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Currently I read e-books both on my laptop and my iPad, but have been contemplating getting a Kindle. The reason I haven't so far is that most books I read are print books from the neighbourhood public library.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Purely by serendipity!
What do your fans mean to you?
It is the greatest feeling in the world when someone you have never met before reaches out to tell you that they like your work, or that something you wrote touched them in some way. I know for writers selling our work is important, it is nice to see sales figures climbing; but for me that doesn't even close to the feeling of someone telling you that they are a fan of your work.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I am still really new to this whole process of being an indie writer and marketing my own work. It is especially difficult for me to do what a lot of people traditionally think of as marketing - essentially desperately selling yourself and your work.

Fortunately there are other indie (and even traditional) writers who have published excellent advice on how to market yourself more effectively, and I have tried to incorporate some of this advice. What I do is after reading any advice on techniques to follow, I decide whether it is something that I feel comfortable doing, and if so, I add it to a list (mostly mental) of things I want to do regarding marketing my books. This list is quite long, and I haven't really gotten through everything, preferring often to spend what time I do have on writing new work. This is also one of my favourite marketing techniques - I would rather acquire a body of work than try to aggressively market just the one or two books. (Advice that I took to heart from the authors of "Write. Publish. Repeat.")

In terms of techniques that have been most effective - I find Google+ is quite useful for me - both as a way to engage with readers of my blog, and announce promotions for my books. I find the writing communities and groups very useful - just to meet others, get tips and feel like part of a community. I have to admit though, it is also slightly time-consuming, and I find myself spending time that I should be writing reading through posts, and justifying it as "marketing". This is something to look out for.

I also find Twitter useful for getting the word out, and occasionally having conversations, although it is not one of my favourite mediums - due to the sheer volume, it is easy to miss things and generally get overwhelmed. I also have a Facebook author page, that I hadn't updated much, but am trying to post to more often.

Personally I go through cycles - when I really enjoy marketing my book, and reaching out to people, and times when I really want to cut off and just focus on my work. I think that's fine, as both modes are important.
When did you first start writing?
I think I first started writing when I was 5 or 6 years old. I have this memory of sitting with a writing pad and a pencil in the balcony of my aunt's house, writing poems. I also wrote vivid stories in school, making up fantasy animals. I was very creative, and I remember my mother really encouraged my creativity, and was very proud of my early stories.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book "Lethal Legacy: The Journey to the Adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions" grew out of a paper I wrote in graduate school, which I expanded into my Master's Thesis. I was fascinated by the story of the Convention on Cluster Munitions - a treaty to ban weapons whose primary victims often ended up being children or men and women working in the fields. This treaty failed to reach agreement through formal negotiations, and instead of being abandoned, a few states and civil society organisations, led by Norway, conducted informal negotiations over a 15-month period and adopted this convention.

I was inspired by this bold approach, and curious to know what were the factors that led to its success. Could this success be replicated with other issues that states were not finding agreement on? These questions led me to do more research, and write this book.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
The existence of Smashwords is the reason I became an indie writer. I published one book traditionally many years ago; but although I had plenty of ideas for books, and even one completed manuscript, I didn't have any idea how to get them published. I briefly experimented with POD publishing in 2010, but with minimum success. I didn't really think that was for me.

Stumbling across Smashwords in the fall of 2013, I became aware of the world of indie publishing, and all the possibilities. I published the book I had sitting in my computer, setting very low expectations for myself. While the book didn't take off right away, I started to learn about the various aspects of publishing your own work. I had many more ideas than time to write them all. I also discovered the online community of writers who wrote about their own indie journey, and reclaimed my dormant identity as a writer.

What Smashwords has given me are the tools to uncover my real self, and proudly proclaim to the world: I am a writer and published author.
How do you approach cover design?
Designing the cover of my book is actually the most fun part of the publishing process. I experiment with different images and color schemes and fonts. Each time I designed a cover for one of my books, I learned something new, and applied it to the next one. I definitely believe in the iterative process - each time you work on something it improves a little bit.

I create several options for my covers, and ask my family and friends for their opinions, but I always make the final selection based on which cover I like the most. I will have to look at the cover hundreds of time while marketing the book; therefore, it is really important I love it and feel happy every time I look at it.
Published 2014-09-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Anyone Can Get An A+ Companion Workbook: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades
Series: The Smarter Student. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 27,080. Language: English. Published: June 2, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Education & Study Guides » Study skills, Nonfiction » Education & Study Guides » Student life & student affairs
This companion workbook to Anyone Can Get An A+ contains more than 130 exercises to help you implement and personalize the advice in the book. Use this workbook as a personalized study skills workshop to build better study habits and excel at school.
Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades
Series: The Smarter Student, Book 1. Price: $4.49 USD. Words: 61,090. Language: American English. Published: September 1, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Education & Study Guides » Study skills, Nonfiction » Children's Books » Study Aids / General
Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with some subjects and believe that maybe you're not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Drawing on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, this book will help you to stop procrastinating, get more out of your study the time, and improve your grades significantly.
Creating Consensus: The Journey Towards Banning Cluster Munitions
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 61,740. Language: American English. Published: January 12, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Law » International law, Nonfiction » Politics & Current Affairs » Arms control
Cluster bombs are weapons that are small but deadly. Their unexploded submunitions in effect, act as landmines, sometimes even years later. For decades, humanitarian organizations sought to limit their use, but progress on the issue stalled. In 2008, the campaign to ban cluster munitions succeeded. How was this accomplished, and are there any wider lessons to be learned from it?
Illusions: A Collection of Poetry
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,290. Language: English. Published: July 6, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Female authors, Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
This is a collection of poems, written during the author's time away at university. The collection, titled Illusions, is about the deceptions and illusions perpetrated by people, about themselves, both to others and to themselves.
Will The Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 11,870. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Political biography, Nonfiction » History » Military
In the years since the Nuremberg trial, biographers have been fascinated with the life of Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and the man rumoured to replace him. This short book looks at the events leading up to the Nuremberg trial, and the trial itself, to understand the man behind the enigma.
From Auden to Yeats: Critical Analysis of 30 Selected Poems
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 24,420. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Education & Study Guides » Study guides -- Book Notes, Nonfiction » Children's Books » Literary Criticism & Collections
A ready reference for students of English literature looking for help navigating the poetry of some of the late nineteenth and twentieth century’s greatest poets. The book contains in-depth critical analyses of poems from the work of W.H. Auden, Ted Hughes, John Keats, Philip Larkin and W.B. Yeats, as well as brief biographies on each poet, which help to put their poetry in context.