Interview: Emlyn Chand

Emlyn Chand has a bio on her page that made me giggle, and also made me want to interview her. She says:

Emlyn Chand is my super-secret writerly identity. There. I’ve told you.

By day I play the part of humble linguistic validation research analyst, wife, and book club organizer, Melissa LR Handa. But, by night–ahh, by night–I put on my flashy costume and become the elusive writing hero known as Emlyn Chand.

Well, I would be a hero, I suppose, if anybody wanted to publish my work. Hmm…

I guess what makes me a hero, in the end, is my inability to take “no, thank you” for an answer, my perseverance in the face of faceless rejection (yes, I’m talking to you, literary agents), and my boundless love for the craft.

I know you’re going to enjoy this interview.

Tell us about The Iron Pillar. What do you hope readers take away from it? What would you like to tell literary agents about it?

THE IRON PILLAR is a work of multicultural women’s fiction. It’s my first novel and, although it has a few undeniable similarities to my life, is not in any way autobiographical. I wanted to juxtapose American and Indian cultures through the characters of Daly and Kashi, to tell an engaging story entwined with resonant thematic threads, and to tell a story for women about what it means to be a mother, daughter, friend, lover, and, ultimately, a human. I’ve included THE IRON PILLAR’s pitch and first chapter on my website along with an excerpt entitled “Welcome to New Delhi.” I will also be submitting this manuscript to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently at work on my second novel, which is of a completely different genre. FARSIGHTED is the first in, what I anticipate will be, a five-part paranormal young adult series. I was inspired by Teiresias, the blind Theban prophet of Greek mythology. Although FARSIGHTED can be enjoyed at face value, I’m weaving in a great deal of deeper meaning for those who care to look for it (such as Greek and Norse mythology, Zoroastrianism and Sikhism, Shakespeare and Nostradamus)—I liken it to a Disney movie in that it has something extra for the mature viewer, although its target audience is adolescent. I’m roughly half way through my first draft.

Here’s a little summary of FARSIGHTED. You can also learn more about it and read an excerpt by visiting: http://emlynchand.com/novels/farsighted/

Even though it’s not his fault that he’s blind, nobody wants to be friends with the “no-eyed freak” Alex Kosmitoras. Upon meeting a kind-hearted new student from India named Simmi, Alex believes that he may be in store for a more socially balanced sophomore year. Unfortunately, Simmi arrives at the exact same time as Alex’s unexpected—and often embarrassing—ability to “see” the future. Try as he may, Alex is unable to ignore his visions, especially when they begin to suggest that Simmi is in danger. With the help of the mysterious psychic next door and new friends that have special gifts of their own, Alex must learn to harness his talents before the events of the future come to pass.

You write under the pseudonym Emlyn Chand. Did you do anything special in choosing this name? Does it have significance to you?

Yes, I made a bold choice by choosing a pseudonym for my fiction, especially since I already have a little bit of name recognition under my given name, Melissa LR Handa (I am the lead books contributor for AnnArbor.com). If you look closely, you’ll actually see that my pen name is not too far off from my plebeian name. Take the first letter of my first name, M, and add it to my middle name, Lynn—Emlyn. I removed the final letter from my last name, Handa, and added a new first letter—Chand (which is still an Indian name). Emlyn Chand means “to rival the moon,” which I find poetically appropriate.

I’ve written up a whole bit for my site explaining why I chose a super-secret writerly identity and how it relates to my Clark-Kent self. People seem to get a kick out of it: http://emlynchand.com/emlyn/

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

That’s tough! I think I have something like 10 favorite books, at least! Since I have to choose one in order to answer this question properly, I’ll say A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I love Irving’s work because it’s entertaining but also incredibly thought-provoking. His characters feel so real that they continue to haunt me long after I leave their world—this is especially true of big-voiced, little-bodied Owen Meany. I reviewed this novel for my site and gave a list of reasons why readers may like or dislike it.

Book you’re currently reading?

I just started The Invisible Man by HG Wells. I don’t normally go for Science Fiction, but Wells is a God among writers.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

It seems I’m either writing or doing writing-related things (i.e. blogging, tweeting, reading) most of the time. For the other 5% of my leisure time, I enjoy interacting with my Golden Retriever, Polo, my Sun Conure, Ducky, and my husband, Hitesh. I also like hiking and canoeing, although lately I haven’t gotten outside much.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

That’s a really tough question. When I started getting paid to write a weekly column for AnnArbor.com, I definitely felt successful. When I finished writing the first draft of my first novel, I was so happy (and sad too) that I actually cried while sitting in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. My first rejection from a literary agent was horrible but also gave me a bit of writerly validation. I guess I already consider myself a “successful writer;” however, I’m just about as ambitious as they come (my blog is called “The Ambitious Ambigue” for Heaven’s sake) and I won’t stop at some flat-line level of success. I love challenging myself and growing as a writer, I will always continue to hike Mt. Success no matter how winded I may get, all the while knowing that this mountain has no peak—I’ll be climbing forever!

Where can we learn more about you?

You can learn more about me on my website, and more than you ever wanted to know about me on my Facebook Author Page. You can learn even more than that if you connect with me on Twitter—I’m @emlynchand.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve recently discovered just how much I enjoy interacting with my fellow writer. To that end, I’ve taken a number of steps to make my blog interactive, and I’m continually brainstorming new ways to foster a community on The Ambitious Ambigue. I conduct live twitterviews twice weekly at 4 PM EST (audience participation is welcome and encouraged)—on Tuesdays, I twitterview literary bloggers and on Thursday authors. You can learn more about that (or sign up to have your work featured) here: http://emlynchand.com/interact/twitterviews/

I’ve also recently begun a weekly writing contest. Every Saturday, I give a prompt and a set of rules, encouraging all that are interested to submit an entry. The winner gets a special badge to put in the sidebar of his or her own blog. I also feature winners on a special “Winners’ Page” with their pictures, bios, winning submissions, and links to their blogs, plus I promote their work via my Twitter and Facebook networks. The contest page is here: http://emlynchand.com/interact/contest-winners/

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