Life is not as hard as a rock for Megha Rao. Before blowing the birthday candle flames off for the nineteenth time in a row, she rose to the not-many-reached club of writers with 3 works to her credit. Her words weave a medley of a woman of determination and sweetness of a child. Ms. Rao is truly, a promise for the literary world.
In conversation with Megha Rao.
- I guess the readers might require a prelude before enjoying the rhythm of your words. So please say a few words about yourself?
Megha Rao: I’m Megha Rao, and I’m an impulsive writer who is bad at introductions *hehe*. I’ve been writing since I was six, mostly comics, and recently published a book titled ‘It Will Always Be You’ with Penguin India. I’m represented by Anuj Bahri of Red Ink Literary Agency. I published my first book, Alice: The Netherworld (2012), when I was sixteen, and Alice: The Inferno Conspiracy came out in 2014. Right now, I’m doing my undergraduate course in English Literature (Madras Christian College). When I’m not writing or reading, I’m traveling and making memories! And if that’s not happening, I’m probably stalking artists and checking out their artwork. I am a huge fan of Josephine Wall! I also love spoken word poetry and confessional writing.
- When did you decide to hold the pen and start wasting paper?
Megha Rao: Six. Even before I started reading, actually! My father used to make fun of me, tell me that he wouldn’t read my comics and short stories until I read something someone else wrote! I was a late reader. I’ve been wasting papers since I was a kid, all left-handed and doodling on the sheets. Writing? I think I only started shifting to typing when I was fifteen. I’m sure if I went back and never used all those papers, I would actually be able to have a little shop that sells only A4 sheets!
- What has been your inspiration? Or was it a who?
Megha Rao: Art inspires me. Of course, any art, but my favorite is modern art because I’m given the freedom to decipher it anyway I want. This feeds my imagination. My sister inspires me too. I have never seen anyone as dedicated as her, and she’s also my beta reader. I look up to everyone in my family, and they’ve just been so supportive, so that means a lot to me.
- Your journey is unique. Will my view tantamount to flattery if I say that your achievement is remarkable in establishing yourself as a writer with 3 books to your credit before turning 19? How do you rate yourself?
Megha Rao: Wow, that’s a lot of flattery! But I’m really honored. I don’t really place myself anywhere, and I’m not into this rating business. I’m also open to any criticism as long as it’s legit, and if I agree with it, I’ll try to work on those flaws. 19 is just another age. There’s no point in being able to write a few books if they aren’t good enough. If I’m fifty and I wrote something that people loved, it would still make me happy.
Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with how people, fans especially, come up to me and talk to me and ask me questions. But sometimes, I feel I started too early. I keep thinking, do I need to know more about life? Do I need more experience? Nineteen isn’t enough. I’ve been through stuff, but am I expressing them properly? Can people read between the lines? Most important of all, can they understand me? I’m so confused that I think it’s better to let other people decide where I stand. I wouldn’t do a good job rating myself anyway!
- The environment is acknowledged to be an arresting factor in every writer’s thoughts, and it often finds its reflection in their works as well. How far you agree with it?
Megha Rao: It Will Always Be You is based in Chennai. And boy, do I love this place! It’s taught me so many things. It’s been a life-changing three years, to be honest; with all the good and the bad, I’ve grown and spread out and finally discovered myself. Indeed, the environment is a vital factor that influences a writer or any artist for that matter. Everything I write about has a little bit of myself in it, and that’s okay. If you’re going to become a writer, if you’re going to make that decision of telling the world stories, you’re going to tell the stories you know. And it’s different for each individual. Sometimes, a part of you seeps into your works very involuntarily, and you wouldn’t even know it until someone close to you points out, “Hey, this reminds me of that time when you…”
- The recently published work – It Will Always Be You – accounts for a romantic genre, and it is claimed to be having some traces of your own life. So is it a story about yourself? Can you please explain the plot of the work?
Megha Rao: Both my lead characters, the guy and the girl, are called Aditya. It starts with hate, especially because it’s annoying to have the same name and people from entirely different worlds. But then again, we go bumping into opposites. The two of them are going to tell you about the same old love. But they’re going to tell it their way, and that’s what It Will Always Be You is about.
A rebel of a girl who intimidates and intrigues a rockstar who is reveling in his luxurious stardom and doesn’t understand why a girl wouldn’t like him. I knew a girl in school who was called Aditya, and it was so unique. It stayed in my head for a long time and ended up being penned down. But apart from romance, the book also deals with a lot of things like bullying issues, finding out who you are, pushing your limits, and loving people for who they are, not what they are. It talks about family bonding and how beautiful friendship is, and having your own back at all times.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a big difference. Aditya has a younger brother suffering from a brain tumor. My grandpa died of that. I’m not over it yet, but I know I’m where I am because of him. He told me when I used to crawl onto his lap and beg him to tell me a tale because of all those stories. I never thought It Will Always Be You would have autobiographical elements, but I find traces of my past in there every time I read it. Things I learned and corrected. Things that will never get corrected. People I loved and lost. Lessons I gained from falling and getting back on my two feet. People kind of think it’s about my love life, and I find that really funny and cute, but honestly, it’s about these things.
- What are your interests apart from writing?
Megha Rao: Drawing. Painting. Sketching. I write comics. That’s how I write my diary. Actually, I don’t write it, I have a sketchbook, and I write the date at the top and draw whatever happened that day. I draw myself and the people or places involved. I make speech bubbles, but this book is top secret. This would probably be the one book I’ve never really shown anyone! Apart from art, I love reading and meeting interesting people (so I can write about them?) I love spending time with family, and family also includes all my pet dogs. I love animals; I’m 100% vegetarian, which means I don’t use leather or silk or any animal product. I like traveling and shopping too. But I’m very choosy when it comes to fashion, and I’ve got a weird taste. Finally, I like to go to Café Coffee Day, if you consider that as an interest. Sit. Think. Coffee. And more coffee (I go alone most of the time, but sometimes with friends).
- Following the lines of a typical Indian, I would like to know your plans. Is your decision to continue as a writer and novelist, or you got anything else in your mind?
Megha Rao: I want to keep writing. But that’s going to be part-time. I want to do all the exciting things in life, and writing is just one of them, right? One of the things I’ve got on my mind is having an art exhibition of my own when I’ve got enough paintings to display. There are other things too, but they aren’t really fully defined. Backburner plans and backup choices. But whatever I do, I want to be happy.
- When can we expect your next work? Is it underway, and what is it going to be on?
Megha Rao: I’m publishing another novel with Penguin, and it was released in 2016. I wrote that last year, and I’m so stoked about it! I hope people like it!
- Last and finally, what makes a writer a ‘writer’?
Megha Rao: That he or she can give up years to a mean typewriter, pen, and paper or Microsoft Word. That he or she goes through so much torment and others can’t understand how much rejection hurts. When a lot of publishers say no, it’s not easy. I slipped. I could feel myself going crazy because of all the thanks but no thanks notes, but it’s really not a critique of your work.
There’s nothing special about your work if everyone likes it. Being different is what nails it. If there’s someone who hates it, there’s going to be someone who absolutely loves it too. If you’re lucky, if that “someone” is an agent, editor, or publisher. A writer is a writer when he or she is brave enough to open up, raise his or her voice, and talk to the world. It’s like jumping from a cliff, not knowing what is down below, a bed of flowers or a path of thorns. Because you really don’t know what the reader’s response is going to be like. And you still do it because you’re passionate about it.