Saturday, January 09, 2016

A labour of love

My 3rd book, Second Chance at Love, has debuted at #8 on the national best seller list. It is the first time I am on the AC Neilson top ten and as i let the news sink in, i cannot help but think about all that has gone into this book.

SCAL has been a labour of love, in more ways than one.

For the major part the book was written when I had started a new role at work and shifted to our new house. My house is one hr one way from work and I used the time in the tube to write the book. It was a special book from the very start and I poured my heart and soul into it. Bindiya and Samar captivated me, and their love story- it was a story that had permeated into every aspect of my existence. I honestly sat, drank, walked, ate, slept Bindiya and Samar. By the time i finished the very rough first draft I found out that i was pregnant. 

Without sugar coating things, let me just say that the first trimester was horrible. And the only 3-4 month period of my life since i got married when i just could not (and hence did not) write a word.

As the 2nd trimester rolled on things seemed to settle a bit on the pregnancy front, and i began to think of getting the right publisher for this book. Without going into too much detail, and as luck would have it, I then started finding walking to be very uncomfortable. I did not know it then (and would be diagnosed only in week 35, too late for anything to be done) but i had SPD. SPD, in lay man's term is a curse for a pregnant woman becaus eit makes walking extremely hard. The good thing is that there is no residual effect once the baby has been delivered. When it was diagnosed, i was told that my case was so bad that i should have actually been on crutches but there i was undiagnosed and struggling, wondering why i could not even walk a little bit without such great discomfort.  

Needless to add, it was not at all easy and there were times i really struggled with how handicapped i felt. But three good things happened during this time. First and most importantly, work. People at work were uber cool (and i cannot ever thank them enough) and allowed me to work from home most of the time. Had they not let me do this, I really cannot even imagine how i could have continued working given my state. 2nd, friends. They showered me with love and attention. They came and stayed with me, went with me to appointments when sid was away, pressed my feet when they hurt, made food for me, called me, texted me, kept a tab on my pregnancy, looked after me. Sid and I are for ever grateful to them and our home and hearts are always going to be open to them. 

And 3rd, Second Chance at Love. It was then, uncomfortable and home bound, that i went back to my book. I used the evenings after work and weekends to start preparing the synopsis, get in touch with publishers and basically get things moving. In those long, dark days when the 9 months seemed never ending that I used the book to distract myself, to somehow not think about how uncomfortable i actually was.  

Uncomfortable as most pregnancies are, but also unable to walk, I decided i would not let it bog me down and worked hard whenever i got some time on the book during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. I promised my editor that i would send the final MS to her before i went into labour. In fact i had a long list of things that had to be done / bought/ sorted before the baby came and top of it was 'Send Final MS to Harper'.  It was the beginning of July ( my due date was mid July) and i was about to wrap up the final draft. I remember feeling such a loss, almost as if i was bidding good bye to dear friends, friends who will no longer just be mine, but will now go into the world and say hello to many others and in the process belong to world instead of belonging only to me.

I had a 24 hour labour followed by a cat-3 c sec- does not sound great but for me it was a fabulous experience- an experience i can go through a million times in a second. And when the brilliant doctors put my baby in my arms and he looked me directly in the eye, placed a chubby hand on my cheek and smiled (yes! he smiled!) as if he had known me forever, in that one moment, my heart melted, exploded and changed forever.

The issue, however was that i had to go through what is, while fairly common still a major operation. I was still on16 painkillers a day and had a tiny baby to take care of when i went back to my MS to start the edits. I knew i wanted to release the book while i was India on maternity leave, and there was no time to loose.

And so the mammoth editing exercise began. SCAL is a 90k word book and we edited it a good 7-8 times beginning when my baby was about 2 weeks old. I was very clear that my first and outmost priority was the baby. There was no way anything would change that. But yes, i knew given the circumstances and my new set of responsibilities i was ready to work as hard as needed. 
Most of the edits were done through the night, in between feeds and diaper changes, with one hand, as i held my sleeping baby with the other. This is how we discussed strategy, decided which brand partners we could have, how the events should look like etc.

Since then i have sat up through nights to work on the marketing for the book, cradled my son in my lap as i signed hundreds of books through the night, messaged and spoken to people about the book all the while carrying and looking after my son. I figured that i cannot do much while my baby is awake and instead of catching up on precious sleep while he sleeps, i used that time to work hard on the book. 

And today, seeing the book on the best seller lists makes it all so worthwhile. 

It has been such a long but wonderful journey. Yet so far I have only spoken about what i have done. The whole point of this post is the other people. I cannot begin to thank people who have helped because sooo many have. It has been the most incredible. People mailed, messaged, texted, read the MS for me, helped me during my difficult pregnancy, ordered more books than they needed, told me that they were with me, tried to help in whatever way they could. My publishers have been so incredibly supportive, sometimes i felt SCAL belonged more to the  editing/marketing/ sales teams than to me, so involved they have been. We have had calls over the weekends, late in the nights, exchanged emails at god forsaken hours and people have actually been up till 2 and 3 working on this book. My mother and mother in law have often taken care of the baby so that i could finish that chapter or do that photoshoot or speak to that important person or answer that interview. I remember, in the week leading up to the release, I didnot even sit down for a proper meal. I sat days and nights, working hard, not doing anything much except for baby and book, trying my best to give SCAL the chance that i felt it deserved. 

And today i spoke to a lot of you, and thanked you personally for your help. And most of you were surprised at the amount of gratitude i expressed. See, this is the thing. SCAL is not just a book. It has been a labour of love. A long, difficult, challenging labour of unadulterated love. And you helped me with it and it mattered so much, much more than you would have thought. After reading this post, you might get some idea of why this book means so much to me. 

So, once again, THANK YOU. It has been an incredible experience to write and publish this book :)