I’ve dreamed of writing a book since my Scholastic Book Fair years (remember those?!?). To use my imagination to paint the world of my characters, forge relationships between them and create magical plot lines – it’s the stuff of dreams.
While I have personally have yet to accomplish this dream, my dear friend Aditi Khorana has. And today I’m going to introduce you to her and her incredible work (and give you a chance to win a copy of her just released novel)!
Aditi and I met in the most unlikely of ways – standing in line at a Slow Food event in Downtown Los Angeles while waiting for a cocktail. She was in front of me in line, and I remember thinking how articulate and smart she sounded, as I casually listened in on her conversation with her friends.
A few moments later, she turned around and we started to chat and the connection was instant. It was like meeting a soul sister – within moments, I knew that we would become friends, lifelong friends.
I’ve learned so much about her, her passions, her talents and the profound way that she brings people together (she’s a master at connecting others and forging deep friendships), in the relatively short time that we’ve known each other. And this week marks a life milestone – the publishing of her first novel.
And so today, being the proud friend that I am, I wanted to introduce you to a woman who is using her creativity to shift perceptions, broaden our worldview and inspire us all on a human level. I can’t wait for you to get to know the author, and my friend, Aditi Khorana.
I’m thrilled to get the chance to do this Q&A with you today. Thank you SO much! Let’s dive in – tell our readers a bit about who you are, what you love and what you do…
I’m thrilled too, thanks for having me on The Girl Who Knows! Growing up, I spent part of my childhood in India, Denmark and New England. I studied International Relations at Brown and then moved to Los Angeles and got my MA in Global Media from the Annenberg School for Communication.
I guess after thirteen years in LA, I’m unofficially a local? I worked for many years as a journalist, researcher, communications director and focus group moderator. I love afternoon matinees, books, mid-century architecture, backyard parties, mariachi bands, cocktails, food preserving, macadamia nut butter, sparkling rose, flea markets, anything miniature (especially miniature mid-century dollhouse furniture), fruit picking, Lisbon, Portugal, Laos, Havana, reading in bed and croissants.
I dislike dubbed films, camping and the expression “said no one ever.” Also hearing the term “brah” makes my ears chafe.
Haha, you and me both! Ok, this is no small thing – your 1st novel is being published today (YAY!!!!!). Give us a quick intro to the book. What do you most love about the book?
Hi!! Well, I think the book synopsis probably says it best:
For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.
The world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, and Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually, those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.
As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara’s life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth – or for Tara – will ever be the same again.
One of my personal favorite things about the book is how it explores ideas about science and philosophy through the eyes of a teenage girl who feels like an outsider in the world she inhabits.
How did you come to writing? What has your path looked like to get here?
I was always writing – whether it was essays or scripts or TV pilots, but I didn’t attempt my first novel till 2009. I didn’t finish that one. I finished a novel in 2013, but that one didn’t sell. Mirror in the Sky was my third attempt at a novel and it really came together very quickly. While the previous novel I completed took a year and a half to finish, MITS was completed in three and a half months, and I had my first offer of representation 48 hours into querying. It seemed to find its way in the world that I’m still amazed by to this day.
That’s incredible. I think persistence and not giving up is a big part of it. With regards to the stories you tell – what do you feel is most important about them, and why do you write the stories you do?
I write about the topics that interest me – feminism, race, class, gender, social justice, police brutality, immigration, but also the philosophical issues that I spend a lot of time thinking about – are there other versions of ourselves out there? What happens after we die? Can you really see the arc of a person’s life from a monetary snapshot of it? I write in order to explore these questions for myself.
I love that. Writing is such a powerful, creative way to inquire into the many questions of life. Speaking of creativity – tapping into that creative flow is super important. How do you do it? Do you have any routines or practices that help you “get creative” or think creatively?
Unless I’m really drowning in work (in which case, I literally grab my laptop from the floor the moment I get up, drag it into bed with me and start working), I typically have a fairly structured work day.
I work from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. I like the ritual of going to my local coffee shop and grabbing a cup of coffee before I start. I write from 10:00 – 4:00, always at the same place – my dining table – then I respond to emails and take care of any additional stuff that’s work-related but not writing per se. In the early evening, I like to pour myself a glass of wine and sip it while I’m editing the day’s work. Then I make myself a to-do list for the next day and call it quits.
I find that having structure and sticking to it works well for me. I know this is probably the most boring answer you’ve ever gotten. I wish I had a fun answer like “I stroke my magic gemstone” or “I tuck my magic writing feather behind my ear before I start,” but it’s actually just about coming back to it day after day, doing the work, and letting it reveal its secrets to you, at least for me.
You know what’s funny, that answer is the most honest and therefore interesting answer I’ve ever gotten (and is echoed by so many creatives and business owners alike). It really is all about showing up and doing the work (day in and day out). That’s more than half the battle! So, switching gears a bit – I’m always fascinated by the notion of where ideas come from. When you’re conceiving of a new book or project, what does that process look like for you?
I tend to start researching my next project while I’m writing my current one. So it’s often a topic that’s touched upon in the current project but there isn’t necessarily room to thoroughly explore it. Once the seed has been planted, I research obsessively.
Right now, I’m working on a novel set in LA in the 1980’s and I’ve been interviewing people who lived on the eastside of LA during that time, listening to 80’s music, reading books about the 80’s. When I was writing Mirror in the Sky, I was watching Cosmos, and reading a lot of Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene. I have a novel coming out in 2017 that’s set in ancient India and I did extensive research on India during Alexander the Great’s invasion.
It must be so fascinating to investigate the world you’re creating, and gather bits of inspiration from all around you. So cool! Okay, so real talk for minute…we all know it’s not unicorns & rainbows all the time. Whether it’s writer’s block or the stress of editing a book proposal or finding an agent…it can be a lot. How do you stay motivated and inspired in your work and life?
I actually don’t believe in writer’s block and I spent many years working a day job (that required producing up to 40 pages of writing a week) while I did my own writing on the side. I think this primed me to produce a lot of pages in a short amount of time.
I think now that I get to write (almost entirely) full-time, I’m always a little scared it might go away if I don’t appreciate it or make the most of it.
Shit happens and sometimes you have an off day or someone trashes your book online or (yes, this actually happened) an editor at a renowned publishing house responds to your manuscript with a totally racist remark. I think it’s okay to give yourself time to grieve/complain/work through it, but writing allows me to move through so many bigger challenges in my life that I’ve somehow managed to tether myself to it and make it almost like a devotional practice in lieu of any sort of religious daily ritual.
Writing is kind of like religion to me. I just do it every day (I don’t really take weekends off) and I think it makes me a better, more compassionate (and certainly more disciplined) person.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome on your journey? And what helped you get over that hurdle?
I queried a book I had worked on for a year and a half and even though there were many requests for “fulls” and “revise and resend” offers, it never got representation. I was pretty despondent and definitely questioned my abilities in that moment. That was a particularly difficult time.
I think what I learned (through the process of writing Mirror in the Sky) is that the difference between a manuscript that a number of agents want to represent and many publishing houses want to publish and one that doesn’t get that kind of love is actually a handful of very tiny things. But you have to finish a manuscript (or two or three or more) to learn what those tiny things are that make you a better writer, and you’ll never learn them if you give up.
That’s so true. I really resonate with the idea that we have to “fail” a lot in order to really get to the good stuff. I think it’s true of all creative outlets. Not everything is a masterpiece. And that’s good news – it means you’re learning and, hopefully, growing and getting better. So, I’m curious – who do you look up to creatively (other writers, artists, musicians)? Who inspires you?
I’m really inspired by this Steve Jobs quote:
“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
I love that. Such a great quote. Tell me, what does it mean to you – to live a life and make a living, WITH SOUL?
I think it means creating something every day.
Also on a bit of a fun note, we’re big birthday (month) fans around here, what’s your dream way to spend a birthday?
I love to plan a short birthday trip during the month of my birthday – even if it’s just for a weekend. And since my birthday is in April and I live in LA, getting everyone I love together at some outdoor place at night with great food and drinks is always really fun.
I can attest – your last birthday was super fun! What are 5 things you can’t live without (like ever)?
- Iced Americanos from Cafecito Organico
- Homemade Macadamia Nut Cashew Butter
- Eight hours of sleep every night
- Friends and family
I’m going to take liberties and count downtown LA as my ‘hood since it’s a 10-minute metro ride. I’d send people to my favorite food places:
Nice! That’s a great list. Before we go, I’d love to know what you’re working on right now that feels like a celebration?
I have four different novels at different stages of progress – one that’s out today, another that I finished revising that comes out in 2017, another one that’s complete and going out to publishing houses at the end of the summer, and another that I’ve just started writing and hope to complete sometime in 2017.
I never really dared to truly imagine this life for myself. But I’m humbled and feel very fortunate and this, in itself, feels worth celebrating.
Indeed – I hope you celebrate this massive milestone in a big way this week!! One last question: if you knew then, what you know now, what message would you have for your younger self?
To relax and enjoy the day-to-day. To not sweat the small stuff. To take the plunge instead of aggressively obsessing over my choices and analyzing them to death.
I lied, one more question: what do you know for sure?
Absolutely nothing. And I’m glad for it.
. . . . . .
Being able to witness someone living out their dreams, pursuing their creative calling – this is a deep, deep honor. I feel so privileged to be able to witness Aditi’s first book come to life, and to share her nuggets of wisdom with you. And I am so beyond proud of you, my friend, congratulations on this and all of the projects to come. I can’t wait to see what magic you make next!
And because Aditi is such a thoughtful soul, she’s giving away a signed copy of Mirror in the Sky to one of our lovely readers!
I was blessed enough to get an advanced copy of the book, and it is such a compelling, thoughtful and fun read! I can’t wait for you to get your hands on a copy.
The contest is now over. Thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to the winner, Melinda!
Photos courtesy of Aditi Khorana