If you haven’t heard of our new project, the On Fire anthology, this interview series will showcase our authors and their writing lives beyond their ignited tales. In Rohit Sawant’s “Bunsen Burn and Beaker Bubble,” a delinquent student sets fire to a teacher’s collection of books, cursing himself to suffer vengeance befitting of Poe.
What motivates you to write?
The enjoyment of it. Just the buzz you get from putting words next to each other and making a sentence, then another one, all of it coalescing into a story and the discoveries you make along the way.
How many books do you usually read each month and what are their genres?
I’m a slow reader and aim to get in at least a book a week. I make ambitious To-Read lists, which don’t always work out, especially if I’m in a book slump and end up getting carried over into the next month. I pick my reads impulsively and do it across genres.
What inspired the title of your story? Did you know how the story would end before you wrote the beginning?
The title came to me more than a year ago. I love Macbeth and second to Lady M, the Weird Sisters are my favorite characters, and when I first played around with the chemistry teacher/witch idea, my mind flew back to them and their famous rhyme and supplanted Bunsen for fire and beaker for cauldron. It wasn’t just the turn of phrase I found appealing, but the imagery it inspired, how it seemed mundane, almost aseptic, compared to the more romantic visual of a bubbling cauldron in moonlit woods, yet carried an ominous overtone by sheer association.
Most of the time, I’ll have, at least, a rough idea about how a story will end, but I didn’t even have that in the case of “Bunsen Burn,” and only figured it out once I was well over half way in, when I was pages away from the ending actually, which was exciting, since one of the reasons you write is to tell yourself the story. I tend to lose steam in a project if I know too much of the details beforehand.
How supportive are your family when it comes to the time you spend as an author?
They’re incredible about it. I have a writer Mom and movie buff Dad, so knowing they’re encouraging and appreciate how seriously I take writing definitely makes it easier to apply myself to it.
How do you choose your character’s personalities and names?
I don’t make a conscious choice about personalities and just go with what I “see” when I’m writing. I think if you try to play puppet master, you get in your own way and end up tripping your characters, so I like to let it play out organically; however, I’m mindful of the traits established and make an effort to be consistent and true with them and not veer in any way that would seem uncharacteristic. As for names, it’s usually a seat of the pants thing, which is basically my approach to everything about the craft and doesn’t involve any forethought whatsoever. An unfamiliar, unique-sounding name will occasionally pop up in my head out of nowhere, and that’s kind of spooky sometimes.
Roughly what percentage of your time is spent editing?
A lot. I’d say sixty or even seventy percent, and I enjoy the process. There’s this great quote by Joe Dante who directed Gremlins that goes, “Editing is where movies are made or broken,” and that’s true for the written word as well. I usually write my first drafts longhand and do some minor tweaking as I type out each morning’s work later that night. When the manuscript is done, I like to let it sit for about two weeks, maybe work on some other creative project, before starting with revisions. I do at least three drafts and a final sprucing up. Reading aloud while proofing helps.
What marketing techniques do you find most effective?
Marketing isn’t really my strong suit, and I often feel like apologizing every time I promote my work. When starting out, people sometimes go overboard with self-promotion, and that never helps. I guess it’s about striking a balance so you don’t saturate social media, but mange to get across your content in way that’s engaging without being overbearing. Also, if you’re on Twitter, never send an auto-DM asking people to buy your work, that’s just rude and annoying.
What advice do you have for beginning authors?
Read widely. Read things you love and things that normally aren’t in your wheelhouse. Write as often as you can, if you can write everyday, even better; write what interests you, and don’t worry about the quality and focus on telling the story instead. You can fix a poorly written page but not a blank one. Encourage other new writers and support their work. Publishing can seem like an arduous process, so don’t lose hope and believe what you’re saying matters. And follow Chuck Wendig’s blog. He’s awesome.
Rohit Sawant’s fiction has been published in a Kill Those Damn Cats – a Lovecraftian anthology, After the Happily Ever After, Flash Fiction Magazine, and is set to appear in forthcoming anthologies by Belanger Books and Franklin/Kerr Press. He lives in Mumbai, India, enjoys sketching, films, and his favorite Batman is Kevin Conroy. You can find him at his blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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