Nikita Deshpande, the author of the bestselling book, It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote, has been writing for as long as she can remember. She was six-year-old when her father gave her notebook and said, “Here, fill this up…” And she did. She wrote poetry and kept a journal. She won an All India Poetry competition at the age of 11 and amidst all the encouragement she started taking her writing for granted.
While studying in St Xavier’s college in Mumbai, she became interested in pursuing a career in performing arts. She says, ” By the time I graduated, I had made up my mind to go be a filmmaker. So after a lot of pushing and trying, I finally came to assist on this film called Fukrey in 2012. And I’d be sitting in on the edits of the film, feeling completely down about life and work, a total misfit in the whole film space, failing at everything I was doing. And just to rid myself of the misery, I started to write. At first it was all just bits and pieces, little scenes written on the sly, at work hours, as emails to myself. But slowly, it started to come together and become much more than just pieces. I really started to work on my writing and style only at this point.”
The debut author says that the idea of writing a book about the misadventures of a young woman in publishing, wary of popular Indian authors, was reflective of her own experiences as a then 22-year-old of being “supremely jealous” of those writers. “Somewhere, it started out with the typical arrogance of a young person. I thought I could write way better than any of these young bestselling writers I was constantly reading about. It was only when I got into putting the manuscript together when I realised how hard it is to put one word after another, let alone putting 60,000+ words down. It took three years and some six drafts to write it… and I came to be very respectful of anyone who attempts to write a book, especially the ones who manage to give readers what they want and become popular,” she adds.
Conflict and difficult life situations are something which really inspire her to write. Nikita recently got married and confesses that it has been hard moving out of her parents’ house and “being responsible for some real shit”. She has taken to writing some funny stuff “to take my mind off all the adulting I’m having to do”. And when she gets stuck with writing itself, she takes a walk or makes pastel drawings or cut/paste things into her scrapbook.
A question on her favourite authors is met with the reply, “brace yourself, it is a long list”.
“JK Rowling - no one writes a scene like JKR. Her dialogues are so fluid – she’s an expert at the “show, don’t tell” rule. John Green, Anuja Chauhan (she brings the real joys and frustrations of being Indian into her novels), Laini Taylor, Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Aaron Sorkin (especially his screenwriting for The Newsroom), George RR Martin, Elizabeth Gilbert (her work inspired me to write in the first person voice), Neil Gaiman (Sandman stimulates ideas and questions in me like nothing else), Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (their comic Sex Criminals is like my soulmate in print), Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Arun Kolatkar (whose poetry is full of pure joy, like paintings full of flavour and fragrance).
Nikita admits that she still dreams of making movies. And her experience of working on films has only made her a more disciplined writer. She adds, ” It probably helps that I’ve always been a visual thinker, but having the movie background makes me think obsessively about details in a scene from what the characters are wearing to what’s laid out on the table before them. Every item in your scene has the story or the character’s choice coded into it.”
The author who is now writing a comedy for adults says that her advice for aspiring writers is that they should read and write everyday, “The second part is really hard. But keep a journal. On days you can’t write, just draw what you see, but make it an obsession to record everything you see. We have worlds and lives full of materials for great stories… but unfortunately, we’ve all got our heads buried in our cellphones.”