I fell in love with stories at the age of six when my father gifted me with my first books – Andersen and Grimm fairy tales. I read them cover to cover, until I knew them by heart and the pages were falling apart. My appetite for stories had been whetted but I soon discovered that there weren’t enough books to feed it in the village in South India where I grew up. The books that were available in the lone library had pages missing and it was frustrating beyond belief to bond with the characters, get involved in their lives, only to lose part of their journey. And so, on monsoon nights when rain drummed on the tiles and mosquitoes hovered in the thick, dream-infested, snore-punctured air, I made up my own stories. They initially involved characters from the books I was reading and later, when I got bolder, characters of my own creation. I discovered the freedom, the joy, of losing myself in my head, of becoming one with the characters I was crafting, of inhabiting the nooks and crannies of the world I had devised.
But I only ever treated it as a hobby, because, growing up in a village in India in the eighties, we did not know of many writers who had made a career of their craft. And so I read Engineering and worked in IT even though writing always remained a passion.
I quit software altogether when my kids came along. And when my daughter started nursery, with my son already at school, I had some free time to indulge my passion. I enrolled in an Adult Education Creative Writing Course and started penning stories that I actually shared with other people instead of just inventing them in the privacy of my head. I discovered that my stories were liked, a few of them got published in magazines and won competitions and awards and that gave me the encouragement to start writing my novel.
It took me six months, and a few wrong turns, but finally I was able to write those two magic words, ‘The End’ in the first draft of my debut novel. Writing the novel was the easy part, I soon discovered. The journey to its publication was a huge learning curve. I committed every possible mistake there is.
Once my first draft was complete, I googled what to do next and, following the advice touted by writing websites, I bought a copy of ‘The Writers and Artists Handbook’ and sent the first three chapters off to the first few agents listed there. I did not check to see if the agents were representing books by authors in my genre and I did not make the book the best it could be.
I was lucky in that I got requests for a full manuscript from a couple of agents. They read my draft and were kind enough to come back with suggestions for improvement. I took their feedback on board and I also saved up for a professional edit. This time when I sent the book off, the responses were positive, but I was rejected nonetheless.
Disheartened, I put the book away more than a few times, but after a few weeks, when the sting of rejection had worn off, I would bolster myself and send it off again. I had all but given up when I saw the ad for Bookouture in Mslexia and sent my manuscript off to them. And they said yes!
Based on my experience, here is what I would say to aspiring authors:
Believe in yourself and your writing.
- Do not send your manuscript out before it is the best it can be.
- Research your market and submit to agents/publishers looking for submissions in your genre.
- Try not to let rejection get you down. Easier said than done, I know. But remember, everybody gets rejected. J.K.Rowling was rejected 12 times before her manuscript was accepted by a small publishing house and Harry Potter was unleashed on the world.
- Don’t give up. The published writer is one who has picked himself up after each rejection and tried again. With the advent of the e-book and Indie publishing, there has never been a better time to be an author. You only need one person to say yes and he or she is waiting just around the corner.
My inspiration for A Daughter’s Courage:
My stories start as pictures in my head. With A Daughter’s Courage, I dreamed up an old, disintegrating temple, long forgotten, given over to vegetation. What was its story? Why had this holy edifice gone to ruin? Who had worshipped there? Why didn’t they do so any longer?
I am fascinated by the past – how, at times, one choice, made by one person can reverberate through the generations, the echo of one mistake/decision haunting further generations, defining them.
I am also enthralled by the secrets so very prevalent in families, the secrets we keep from the ones closest to us in the mistaken belief that we are protecting them.
I weaved all of these themes into my story and this is how A Daughter’s Courage was born.
(c) Renita D’Silva
About A Daughter’s Courage:
1929. When a passionate love affair threatens to leave Lucy in disgrace, she chooses a respectable marriage over a life of shame. With her husband, coffee plantation owner James, she travels to her new home in India, leaving her troubled past behind her.
Everything in India is new to Lucy, from the jewel-coloured fabrics to the exotic spices. When her path crosses that of Gowri, a young woman who tends the temple on the plantation’s edge, Lucy is curious to find out more about her, and the events that lead her to live in isolation from her family…
Now. With her career in shatters and her heart broken by the man she thought was her future, Kayva flees from bustling Mumbai to her hometown. A crumbling temple has been discovered in a village nearby, and with it letters detailing its tragic history – desperate pleas from a young woman called Gowri.
As Kavya learns of Gowri and Lucy’s painful story, she begins to understand the terrible sacrifices that were made and the decision the two women took that changed their lives forever. Can the secrets of the past help Kavya to rebuild her life?
A breath-taking journey through the rolling hills of India, deep into the secrets hidden within a family. For fans of Santa Montefiore, Dinah Jefferies and Victoria Hislop.
Order your copy online here.