Ranjit Lal‘s first book, The Crow Chronicles’ was published by Penguin in 1998. Twenty-four more followed since, both fiction and non fiction for adults and more so for kids. His last book Taklu and Shroom was published by HarperCollins India in April 2012. His interests are Natural history especially birds, dogs, and photography, automobiles, humor, and most recently, cooking.
Soaring into heaven moment:
When the idea clicks into place. This can strike/happen at any time – especially while in the shower, or now more frequently at four in the morning. It can be triggered off by anything too: a news item (as in for Smitten: which was set off by the Ruchika molestation case) or a photograph (the Battle for No.19); or when two or more dissimilar ideas suddenly meet and explode together; or a broader issue.
Sometimes you get the idea, you think about it till you’re blue in the face, nothing happens and then you wake up one morning, to find that another idea, which had been peripheral is suddenly ready and fully-formed! And that your characters too are all ready and talking to you!
That Infernal fire time:
Between books. When one idea finishes and the cupboard’s empty. You can go up the wall. One way out, is to think short stories at this time while the new BIG idea gradually emerges and gestates… Also, the time taken by publishers! You can have, raise and send away six kids in that time!
The Writing Process:
The time taken depends. Can be anything between 3-4 months to 3 years, but I prefer having it done asap. Usually stories gather their own momentum and then, well you have little control over the time. Towards the end, you do speed up as the delicious climax looms…
I normally do three drafts, a habit inculcated by the truck like typewriters of yore. Then, the first draft was handwritten in pencil, this typed up and corrected and a third and final draft done, no more! Smitten was done in 6 weeks but its short; Taklu and Shroom took perhaps 8 months (around 50000 words). Words per day, range from usually 3000 to a top speed of 7500 (but then you write zilch the next day!).
Fear the most?
Force-feeding a story; and when you know in your heart of hearts that it hasn’t worked.
Desire the most?
I guess complete strangers (not critics) taking trouble to get in touch and say they liked what you wrote…
Hate the most?
I used to hate illiterate critics, who you knew had never read the book properly or knew precious little about the subject, but now I ignore the bad ones and smirk about the good ones! Complete silence as a reaction is probably not very encouraging.