Rasana’s Transition From Engineering To Authoring
An engineer who transitioned herself to being a self-published acclaimed author. A true #TakeCharge spirit, SHEROES got talking to Rasana Atreya, who has developed the nuances of writing and turned her liking into passion.
“I grew up an army brat - basically remote places in North India. When it was time to pick a career I picked engineering. In Hyderabad, where I come from, it was either that, or medicine. After I did instrumentation engineering, I wanted to do my Master's in the US. My father was very supportive so I moved to Wisconsin. A couple years later, I got married and moved to California.
After a few years in the Bay Area we decided to move back to India. I'd been working in IT. In India, I realized that it was very difficult to work as a Unix systems administrator with two young kids - it didn't matter what time the server went down - you had to be at work. Meanwhile, I'd always loved writing, so I started as a freelance reporter for The Times India in Pune.
Freelancing as a content writer and how it helped in honing her skills as author
I was freelancing as a reporter, actually. I'm quite embarrassed at how juvenile those articles seem now. But it helped in the sense that the more you write, the easier it gets. But writing fiction and nonfiction are completely different entities.
Just because you can write an article doesn't necessarily mean you can write a story, which I learnt when I joined a fiction writing group online. They completely ripped my story to shreds, in the process doing me a great favour. I really learned the mechanics of fiction writing from them. Just because you have the ability to string words together doesn't mean you can write a story - you need the heart of a storyteller.
Self-publishing was quite new on the scene. As far as I could tell, no one had done it in India. I wanted to try it out. Around that same time the UK-based "Tibor Jones South Asia Prize" put out a call for unpublished manuscripts. Honestly, I was quite shocked (and pleased) to know that "Tell A Thousand Lies" had been shortlisted for a prize.
I figured - what was the worst that could happen if I declined the traditional publishing contract, and self published? I'd fall flat on my face but, at least, it would be a learning experience. Luckily it took off.
Focus areas while marketing the book
Having lived in the US for many years, I was also familiar with how English was used in the US. I was quite sure that I wanted to focus on the US market, so I hired an American editor for my book. Then I started marketing it online. Surprisingly enough, the more I marketed in the US, the more it sold it the UK. Not that I was complaining. The traditional publisher had offered me an amount as advance for the book - in three months I was making more than that every month.
This semester "Tell A Thousand Lies" is being taught in advanced English at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (USA).
The art of self-publishing
I tracked the top self-publishers of the time carefully (all of them were US-based), to learn from their experiences. I did make missteps along the way, but I learned from them. And I wrote about self-publishing, was extensively interviewed by the Indian media on this phenomenon. In fact, when Amazon launched the Kindle in India, they flew me there for the launch.
My tips for budding writers - before putting your work out in the world, please get your work edited. Also, if you publish a book, your only expenses should be for editing the book, formatting it (for ebook and print formats) and cover design.
Don't go with these 'self-publishing' companies that package these and charge you thousands of rupees for it. Don't let someone else upload the book for you - do it yourself. The reason for this is that whoever creates the account and uploads the book is the publisher on record - they control the rights to your book, they control the dashboard where you set the price and receive the income.
The whole point of self-publishing is so you can keep control of your rights. Be cautious about who you give these away to.
I wrote a whole blogpost on this, you can find it here.
Growth curve as writer
I've written two novels - "Tell A Thousand Lies" and "28 Years A Bachelor," and two novellas - "The Temple Is Not My Father" and "Valley Isle Secrets."
The first three are set in India, in the undivided Andhra Pradesh. The last book is fan fiction. I was invited by Toby Neal, the author of the "Lei Crime Series" to write this. I'm more proud of the first three books because they came from the heart. Easy has a little bit of tragedy, a whole lot of emotion, and a little bit of comedy. I think fiction writing has really helped me be a better writer because when I was writing a cover story on domestic violence for a magazine, I felt I was able to convey emotions a lot better.
I've newly fallen in love with content writing and marketing, and my fiction writing skills help here. What is a sales pitch, but a well crafted story that tugs at your emotions? If you can write content marketing which grabs you, you have fiction writing skills, in my opinion.
Genres to explore in future
I've been thinking about this. I have five other stories that are in various stages of being written. One of them is a mystery, the rest are human interest stories set in India. I would like to finish these, but I'd like to continue with content marketing, as well. I'm open to combining technology and writing for content marketing too. Basically, I'm always ready to explore new things.
I've learned to take calculated risks. If you close yourself off to risks, you cannot chart new territories."