Interview of Neena H. Brar, author of Tied to deceit by
A brief introduction of Mrs Neena Brar
Neena H. Brar lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, two children, a highly energetic German Shepherd, and a lifetime collection of her favorite books.
A hermit at heart, she's a permissive mother, a reluctant housekeeper, a superb cook, and a hard-core reader. Tied to Deceit is her debut novel.
1. Tell me something about yourself. How does your personality affect your writing?
Answer: I was born and brought up in a small town in Punjab and moved to Canada after marrying a second generation Canadian Punjabi. I’ve two children: 11 and 9 and live in Edmonton, Alberta. I’ve a Masters in Business Administration. Nature-wise, I’m more of a feeler and that enables me to put myself in characters’ head and do the thinking. Also, as a feeler, I can easily grasp the context of big picture without being aware of its various details. That helped me work out various details in the plot more efficiently to some extent.
2. When did you decide to write? What was the inspiration?
Answer: During holidays of summer of 2015. My daughter was going to start school full time that fall. I knew I would have a few hours free during days. The idea of writing a novel was brewing in my mind for some time. But it was my husband who initially put that idea in my mind. He was aware of my childhood dream of becoming an author. He had read a few of my book reviews and thought I had a natural flair for writing.
3. How long it took to write the book?
Answer: It took 18 months for me to finish my first draft and then another year to complete the edits and get the final copy in my hands.
4. You are a home maker. How do you schedule your time for writing? Do you have specific time of the day or write whenever you get time?
Answer: Looking back, I cannot see myself finishing Tied to Deceit ever. It was extremely hard, the first 18 months when I wrote the first draft. We had just moved to a new city, a new house, and the kids’ new school in the area was under construction. I had to drive 2 hours every day back and forth to take them to the school, and then, there were other chores. I mostly wrote during the days, but once the story started to take shape I started carrying my laptop everywhere to write: to kids’ swimming lessons, dance and other classes, school pick ups etc.
5. Tell us something about your writing process. Is it disciplined or you have creative bursts of energy in between dull periods?
Answer: Discipline is just not for me: any kind of routine makes me feel tied up, suffocated. I never followed any specific routine. There were days when I wrote like maniac and at other times, I wouldn’t touch the manuscript for weeks.
6. What kind of books you like to read. Your favourite books, authors and genres.
Ans: I’m a versatile reader. I read everything except for romance, horror, and erotica.
Mystery is my favourite genre. I read 10-12 mysteries in a row, and then it will be an epic, a literary fiction or a classic.
It’s difficult to name my favourite books but I will try: Anna Karenina, War and Peace, My cousin Rachel, The Valley of Horse, The Cider House Rules, We Need to Talk about Kevin, Say You’re One of Them, Mists of Avalon, The Moving Finger, The Book Thief, Jane Eyre.
My favourite authors are Leo Tolstoy, John Irving, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, P. D. James, Wilkie Colins, Mary Oliver, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, and Charlotte Bronte. I’ve read almost all of their books.
7. What else do you do as hobby (besides reading and writing)?
Ans: Any free time I get, I read. I’m a hard-core reader and carry a book with me everywhere. Reading is constant for me, but my other interests keep changing; sometimes it’s baking and cooking that I get engrossed in; at other times, quilting or hand-crafts take over; shopping spree is something that swallows me whole at times and stays for months until my husband starts to notice credit card bills and brings me back to reality. I love browsing books in our local Chapters/Indigo and thrift books stores as well.
8. Is writing therapeutic/ energising/ enervating/ meditative/ frustrating or all of these?
Ans: With two elementary school going kids and a German Shepherd pup, writing was tiring mostly. But every time I finished a scene, a chapter, it gave me a sense of achievement.
9. What is your advice to budding/ aspiring writers?
Answer: Keep writing and read. More you read, the better you will get at writing.
10. How important is editing? How many drafts and rewrite it took to make your book perfect? How did you choose your editor?
Answer: Editing is the most crucial part of writing. Writing your first draft, though, looks hard, it’s only a baby step in the direction of completing your book. If you’ve not willing to put efforts in editing later, you shouldn’t bring your book out in the world.
I have 18 edited drafts of Tied to Deceit sitting on my hard drive. After that, I sent it for structural editing because I got tired of never finding it perfect and worked on my editor’s suggestions. Afterwards, I worked with two more editors, did a few more readings, and a line editing to get the final copy.
11. What is the most difficult and easiest part of your writing process respectively?
Ans: To get into characters’ head and write their thoughts was easy. The hardest part was to figure out the ‘how’ and ‘why’ in the plot, the ending, and how to put everything together.
12. Does your family support your career as a writer?
Ans: Absolutely. There were times when I had doubts about my book and wanted to stop, but my husband was solid in his belief in my work and urged me to go on. My mom, dad, sister, brother and everyone else were also there for me. My dad and sister nagged me so much so that I had no other option than to finish it in the end.
13. Sanover is not just a town in the book. It’s a specific setting. Is it planned? Why you chose a small town for this?
Answer: I wanted something that would spark off my story. I live near Rockies in Canada and love the mountain weather. So, I picked a hill town in Himachal. And I’m a small town girl: born and brought up in a small town in Punjab. Sanover was an obvious choice.
14. Each chapter starts with a famous quote. Does it have a relation with contents of the chapter? If yes what is the theme?
Ans: I used each quote as a sort of foreshadow for the happenings in the upcoming chapter.
15. Though it is a whodunit, it does not follow the template of a typical murder mystery. Usually the mystery is about planting as many red herrings as possible and then do a magician’s trick in the end. There is more emphasis on developing characters, situations and it has vivid descriptions. Why this approach for a mystery?
Answer: There are three parts of a story: plot, characters, and setting. For me, the characterization is the most important part of the three. Then follows the setting: if the readers can have sense of the place where things are happening, they are able to connect with the happenings in the lives of characters.
16. The two most complex characters; Dr Rudra and Devika are described in detail and as the novel progressed it added layer to their persona. Do you have some sympathy for these two or black/ grey characters are more interesting?
Answer: The black characters are fun to work with: you can add layers and layers to their personality and it never gets dull.
17. There are many married couples in the book and barring the exception of, SP Vishwanath Sharma and his wife, all have troubled marriages. Devika and Rudra left their spouses. Dr Bhardwaj and Gayatri were together but he is a philanderer. Why such a grim view of marriage in the book?
Answer: I wouldn’t call it a grim view on marriage. There are other happy couples except for Sharma and Nandini: Virat and Neelam and all the secondary characters. As a writer, I feel the darker aspect of relationships offers endless opportunities to work with.
18. The policemen in the book are too gentle and well behaved. It is almost imaginary in Indian context. SP Sharma in particular is too considerate for the feelings so of others. Is it not an anomaly in India?
Ans: Yes, I did take some fictional liberties. The major negative characters in the story had to have a lot of darkness to their persona. I’m an optimist. Creating that much negativity was draining, emotionally exhausting. SP Sharma had to be someone who represented everything the villains lacked.
19. The book has some great insight about human psyche in general and marriage in particular. Is it conscious or just the way you think and write?
Ans: I don’t think one can write a complete novel consciously. The setting, the situations are consciously created, but when it comes to writing about feelings, emotions or people’s psyche, your personal belief system as a person influence your writing. As a writer, you just cannot escape that.
20. Is there some instance in the book from your life? Are there some characters inspired from real life?
Ans: SP Sharma has some of my husband’s personality traits and also my dad’s. But when he thinks, he thinks like me. A few incidents; suicide of the young girl, the divorce situation I took from real life and gave these a fictional perspective. The readers: Nandini, Urvashi, mentioned in the story are me again: I’m a die-hard book lover. But mostly it’s my reading. I’ve known so many people through all the books I have read: they have influenced my writing.
Blurb of the book:
"A remarkable whodunit that's as sharp as it is concise." ― Kirkus Reviews
On a drizzly August morning, the inhabitants of the hill town of Sanover, Himachal Pradesh, wake up to the shocking news of the murder of the exquisite, secretive, malicious, and thoroughly immoral Devika Singh.
As Superintendent of Police Vishwanath Sharma begins to sift through the hidden secrets of Devika Singh's life, it becomes evident that everyone who knew her seems to have a clear-cut motive for killing her.
Faced with the investigation of a crime that appears to have as many suspects as there are motives, Vishwanath Sharma probes the sinister web spun around a tangle of lies and deception.
Praise for Tied to Deceit:
"A remarkable whodunit that's as sharp as it is concise.
Brar enhances her taut murder mystery with an engaging setting that effectively incorporates the local culture. The smart, believable denouement will have readers looking forward to Brar's next endeavor."
"A literary mystery saga that includes far more depth and psychological and cultural insights than your typical murder mystery's scenario."
-Midwest Book Review
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