Author helps others write, pens first novel

Mumbai: The fact that he was miserably unsuccessful in his maiden attempt to write a novel led Kanishka Gupta to start India`s first manuscript assessment service, the Writers` Side, to lend first-time authors a helping hand and valuable feedback.

Now, after working with over 100 first time authors, providing them besides manuscript assessment, services like proof reading and editing, Gupta has finally written a novel and got it published as well.

"I felt it was a masterpiece and there was no one to tell me it was otherwise," Gupta says candidly, on his first attempt at a novel four years back.

"When all publishers rejected it, I then felt this void of a writing counsellor who could give feedbacks on drafts and advise authors on how to go about making their work more relevant," he says.

Now 28, Gupta began his agency in 2008, and since then it has provided services to a number of authors, and some of their books have eventually sold well in the market.

His first novel "History of Hate" also features in this year`s long list of the Man Asia Literary Prize.

"Writer`s Side was started as an editing service because most writers do one-time drafts, and many get rejected due to poor language and bad structuring despite having promise.

Publishing houses, on their part, do not have enough time to give reasons for rejecting manuscripts." he says.

His firm does. It not only gives systematic feedbacks to authors on their drafts, it also offers to work on the manuscript and try to bring it to a publishable level.

His own book was edited by a colleague at Writer`s Side before it went to the publishers. With his first novel out in the market, Gupta is now absorbing the reactions. While some have called it `brave` others have said it is too dark a piece for a 28-year old to write.

His story is about two strange characters, who are filled with hate, and take a lot of pleasure in unleashing that hate and venom on strangers.

In his own admission, the characters are a little difficult to believe initially, and a good six to seven publishers said no to the draft before Rupa finally took it up for print.

"I found it almost impossible to get a publisher. Being on the Man Asia long-list too didn`t help as publishers thought it was too dark and bizarre a story.

"I find a lot of negativity around me. I wanted to embody that in these two nasty characters who go about remorselessly inflicting pain on strangers," he says.

But, he is thankful his family is least bothered about the author in him and has hardly given the book a look.

"My parents are least interested, and I am glad they have not read it, they would disown me if they do," he adds with a chuckle.

The editor-cum-author-cum literary agent, however, feels there is an inherent bias among publishers, particularly international publishers, against local literary agents.

"They are somehow seasoned to believe that manuscripts coming in from foreign agents would be better than those from Indian agents. Though they are not entirely to blame as in the past some agents have submitted really bad manuscripts," he says.