When Authors & Bloggers Brunch: My interview with Rahul Kanakia

I have always stated that being a book lover and living in the SF Bay Area is a dream come true, the best of both worlds,  and it was only made better this past weekend with an event that our blog hosted along with Books Inc. I am so very happy to say that it was a great success and that some new friendships were made along with many book recommendations.

This event that we co-hosted brought together thirteen local authors and bloggers with the hope that stronger ties could be made and in return we would strengthen our community.  So, each blogger was paired with an author and we were able to interview our respective author for a bit a time. 

I was paired with Rahul Kanakia, author of Enter Title Here. I had such a great time interviewing Rahul because I enjoyed reading his novel and I could not wait to talk about one of the most despised protagonists and what made her tick. Thank you, for visiting and please sit back and enjoy my Interview with Rahul as we talk about the writing process, working hard and reading romance novels.

My interview with RAHUL KANAKIA

RR: Hello Rahul, and thank you for taking the time for this interview today for Tales of the Ravenous Reader. In case any of our readers are not familiar with your debut novel, Enter Title Here could you please give us the 411?

RK: Sure, well the book is about a high school valedictorian who is really good in school but she feels like she needs something extra in order to get into Stanford. So she is like “Oh Yeah! I’m gonna write a book about my life, get it published and it will get me into school.”  Except her life is very boring because all she does is study, so she embarks upon this quest to date and do all this other stuff to make the story more light-hearted and fun loving. Simultaneously she gets caught plagiarizing an assignment and looses her valedictorian title and then embarks on a campaign of manipulation and backstabbing to win it back. So these two strands in the narrative play off each other.

RR: I was fascinated by Reshma, the protagonist in your story. I found her to be one of those protagonist’s that you loved to hate and I was curious to see what lengths she would go to to get ahead. I wanted to see what was her hardline, what was her limit? So, when you were writing this character did you have in your mind what would ultimately make her stop? or did you keep pushing it to see how far she would go?

RK: I really didn't think about it that much. To me it always felt like a game and like in a game the stakes are lower and I felt like that, in some ways thats kinda how I think of school. Grades and stuff, to me are like some made up numbers and like class ranks are not that important. So, I didn't think of what she was doing was bad as real life, but perhaps it is.

RR:  Where there any moments that made you cringe?

RK: I don’t know. When I cringe in writing it’s like more at the vulnerable moments or weak moments and less of the morally objectionable ones.

RR: Enter Title Here is your first published novel. How long did it take from writing your story to finally getting it published.

RK: The first draft when really quickly. I wrote it in about a month. I already had an agent from the book I had before and I sent him this book and then it was six months of revision. What really surprised me was the amount of revision that occurred after the book sold. The book was substantially rewritten, about 30 to 40%. I received pages and pages of notes from the editors and the book was in relatively good shape before it went out. It surprising how many moving pieces there are in a book and how much there is to change.

RR:  Since Reshma is an entirely different protagonist. What responses have you received from readers? 

RK: Obviously, the number one response is that people hate the protagonist, because there is not a lot about her that is good. In the classical sense, there is not a lot that is heroic and she is really not out to help other people or anything like that. The other responses is that I got was that a lot of people see themselves in the protagonist. Their recognition can either be horrified or  someway cathartic. Some say “I can’t believe I was like that” and others say “That’s who I was.”

When your that way in high school it’s a really important part of your life and people like to see a variety of backgrounds represented. You can feel left out if all the protagonists in YA novels are quirky and heroic or an outcast. Maybe people want to see somebody that really care about their grades. You have a lot of protagonists in YA literature that get good grades but you never see the struggle they have. If there is anything heroic about Reshma is the amount of work that she is willing to do. 

Another reaction is people who really felt the school and the environment were recognizable to them. People in this area (South SF Bay) asked if I based it on Paly High which there are some recognizable parts for a reason. 

RR: What would you like for readers to take from reading Enter Title Here.

RK: I wrote this book because when I was growing up I went to school with kids that worked really hard, cared about their grades and ticked all the boxes and I really didn’t like them. I thought that they were really dull and kind of soulless and I was the creative type. As I grew up and became an adult I realized that you need to work really hard and whatever you are going to do in life that there are a lot of other people that want to do it and you need to work really hard to get the things you want. At some point I grew to envy the people that worked really hard even before they knew what they wanted because then when they found what they wanted that was a skill that they had. 

Reshma does go to far but there are skills had that are admireable: Working hard, studying, working the system, never saying no, believing in herself. These are all things that I wish I had l had known as a kid.

RR: You have mentioned that you have been writing for a while. When did you realize you had a skill for writing stories. 

RK: When I was growing up I was always told that I was good at writing. They would tell me that I was a little bit better then other people in the class. I stared writing short stories when I was a senior in high school and then I would always submit them to magazines and get rejections. That was thirteen years ago, so it’s been kind of a slow process. Very incremental and slow, two steps forward and two steps back sort of deal. Even now.

RR: Do you have anything that you are working on right now that you would like to share with us?

RK: Yes! I have another book that I am working on but I am not sure if it will ever sell or come out. It’s about a charismatic older kid who gets befriended by this younger outcast who wants to know the secrets to being popular and well liked. The older kid feels this tenderness for the younger kid but also simultaneously feels this sense of revulsion. He feels strongly that he identifies with these feelings of wanting to be loved but at the same time the younger kid is sort of rough and doesn't know how to act or behave and it makes the older kid remember that about himself. So, he identifies with that and it makes him remember things that he doesn't want to.

RR: Are there any books that you have enjoyed reading and would like to recommend?

RK: I really like Siobhan Vivian. I think her book, The List, which did very well was
underrated. It was amazing. It’s this story about one of these ridiculous YA conceits where at this high school a list goes out every year of the hottest an ugliest girl in each class and it’s told in eight different points of view of those people on that list. All the points of view are distinctly different. What’s really interesting is how they created in maturity across the years. There is a difference between the freshman, sophmore, junior and senior year. Each has a complete story and I really liked that.

Another book that I read recently is the Truth Commission by Susan Juby. The Truth Commission is about these kids that go to this art school and the older sister of the protagonist becomes famous writing this graphic novel that satirizes the protagonist’s family. Then the sister comes back mysteriously and the protagonist also establishes this commission and her friends go and questions people about their secrets. It doesn’t necessarily all tie in together but there is a lot of life in it and I just really like the antics in it.

As for fiction for adults I really like Tolstoy. War and Peace is not underrated at all and it has so much to teach everybody. It’s one of those books that are long but you are really happy that it is long.

RR: If you could have written any novel that is already published, what book would that be?

RK: There is a novel that came out a few years ago. I think it is called A Very Recent History by Choice Sicha. It’s told in the form of this non-fiction book in this history about the doings of young gay men in the financial market crash and I thought it was super clever.

RR: What do you currently have on your nightstand?

RK: I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels for adults. A friend of mine has really gotten into the idea of writing self published kindle romance novels. So, she has been sending me a lot of books. I recently read several books by Colleen Hoover, I read November 9 and Ugly Love. I read the Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. I also read on the Island by Tracy Graves. I read a whole bunch of popular ones and now I am branching out a little bit because it is cheap and now I am going and finding books for my friend.

Thank you, Rahul for this fun interview. It was my pleasure and I hope to see you again soon.

Make sure to check out his debut novel, Enter Title Here.

by Rahul Kanakia
August 2nd 2016 
by Disney-Hyperion
Buy it here

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)


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