The beautiful and dynamic Sudnya Shroff is an artist, writer and fashion designer based out of Northern California. Her art collection has been shown at galleries across California, New York and Mumbai. Sudnya’s fashion label ‘dosanjh shroff’ is a collection of exquisite clothing made from fabric inspired by her art. Unraveling is Sudnya’s debut novel.
Ananya Dhawan: Brief us about ‘Unraveling’.
Sudnya Shroff: Anchored in time around the 2008 Mumbai bombings, UNRAVELING is the story of the protagonist, Shalini, who only after experiencing an extremely hostile situation, awakens to the realisation that she has become hostage to her own life choices. From the high pitch of her days as a young girl full of promise, ready to take on the world on her own terms, to the sober sound of life abandoned, grief borne and chances lost, Shalini struggles, as much with herself as her circumstances yearning to give in to her heart’s honest desires on one hand, while wrestling with guilt over her notions of loyalty and inviolability of the marriage contract on the other. Is her deep discontent with her personal life merely a weakness serving her own selfish need, or is it a manifestation of a deeper sensibility? Vibrant, thought-provoking and thoroughly engaging, Unraveling is not just the story of a woman facing up to her life of self-deception, but also a meditation on the theory of how choice, unselfish as it may seem at the time we make it, can cause collateral damage along the way.
AD: What made you choose the Mumbai terror attacks as the storyline for the books?
SS: Most significantly, because we have friends and their relatives on whom the attack had a direct impact. In addition, I spent a lot of my childhood in the Cuffe Parade area of Mumbai and had taken my children to the Gateway as part of a Mumbai tour in August 2008 and treated them to an afternoon lunch buffet at the Taj. It had been such a memorable afternoon that when the attacks were first reported, our entire family, including my children who were even younger then, were deeply affected. It seemed like a natural choice in time and incident to use as the deciding moment in Shalini’s life.
AD: Tell us a little about the challenges you faced in getting your first novel published.
SS: I joined the Writers Studio at Stanford and was suddenly surrounded by horror stories from published and first time authors around the publishing industry and the challenges for any writer, let alone a newbie like me. I was extremely fortunate to have Lynn Stegner, a creative writing professor from Stanford, as my editor. Once my manuscript had gone through rewrites and multiple drafts, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish. It was initially an intimidating decision but I retained control over the aesthetics and layout of the book. At the end of the day I ended up with a high quality product and IBH (India Book House) agreed to distribute it across India. Along the way I did meet a lot of naysayers but I am happy with the route I have taken. Using the newer ways of social marketing, my book is now known to a community of 8000+ people.
Where Words Fall Short, Colours Help Me Fill In The Spaces
AD: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
SS: There is no one particular book or author but a few who stand out in the literary world include fiction writers like Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeffrey Archer, Wallace Stegner and Ernest Hemingway, non-fiction scientists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan, and poets like Leonard Cohen, Sarojini Naidu and T.S. Eliot. I have to be honest that these are only a sprinkling of great minds to have influenced me and the list in definitely not all encompassing.
AD: Please advise the aspiring authors on dealing with a writer’s block.
SS: There are three lessons I have learned as a writer. Firstly, the best gift I can give myself is to keep writing – and I mean, every single day. Especially when I have writer’s block, even if that translates to only writing a few sentences, or sentences that I throw away into the waste-paper basket. Just keeping my writing faculties well oiled keeps me moving forward. And that is truly the only way I find myself prepared for inspiration when it does strike. Secondly – I have found that reading voraciously, and reading all genres and all sorts of writings, fiction and non-fiction, helps me explore the world and even the universe, if not by actual travel, through the words of those who have been to different places, physical and emotional, and have cared to write their experiences. I continue to amaze myself with ideas and inspiration that I uncover in the most unlikely places. Finally and most importantly, I have learned over the years that the most liberated and authentic expression comes from making your art not about what you think others want from you, but what you truly, honestly have to express to the world.
Rapid Fire Questions.
Horror or romance?
Red or pink?
Tattoos or piercings?
Favourite holiday destination.
What freaks you out?
AD: Tell us in one sentence, why we should read your book.
SS: You should read ‘Unraveling’ because you are a lover of stories told well and told with authenticity.
AD: Describe the book in five words.
SS: Face yourself. Stop running away.
AD: You are a fabulous artist as well. How do you connect your art with your writing?
SS: Colour and words are my two favourite mediums of self expression. Where words fall short, colour helps me fill in the spaces.
AD: Do you plan on writing a sequel to ‘Unraveling’?
SS: I plan to continue writing…at this point that’s all I’m certain about!
AD: Are you an avid reader? What was the last book you read?
SS: Yes, I am an avid reader. The last book I read was Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala.
AD: What do you do when you are not painting or writing?
SS: When I’m neither writing nor painting, I spend time with my husband and children – like everyone – doing homework and caught up in daily chores of running a household.
AD: How supportive is your family of the work you do?
SS: Super supportive. I thank my stars for that. Couldn’t have made it otherwise.