Here’s my first interview as a writer, for those who are interested in yet another version of my life story :p No tearjerker struggles I promise 🙂
Original article here: http://www.techgoss.com/Story/658S11-Techie-s-Spiritual-Science-Fiction.aspx
Techie’s Spiritual Science FictionBy Suneetha
Lata Sony, who started work as a software developer but is now a technical editor with hugely successful software giant Oracle at New Delhi, was halfway to a traditional publishing contract when she changed directions and went the self-publishing route. Lata deliberated with logic, and chose her publishing podium for a very convincing reason; her vibrant idol was Rasana Atreya
Lata went on quite an odyssey from software development to eLearning to technical writing and then editing over the years; as also from blogging to short stories to a novel and again from atheism to believing to finding reasons. Her debut book, ‘The Ray Synchronicity: For a Beautiful Future’ takes a global futuristic twist in the tale of a conventional fight between good and evil. Lata strives to explain the science of spirituality through a science fiction book but also includes romance and thriller elements in it. She says none of her books will be without the ground connection.
Techgoss (TG): Tell us a bit about yourself as an intro?
Lata Sony (LS): My schoolmates and college classmates, that I’m in touch with, tell me that I remember a lot more about my alma mater St. Thomas Girls school in New Delhi, right down to who said what 36+ years ago, when we were in prep, and how they behaved in a particular situation. So I realize I must have been a very observant child. Perhaps because of this, child psychology and environmental influences on a child attract me and finds a place in my stories whatever be the genre.
After doing my B.Sc and computer science from Delhi University, I started my career as a software developer at a time when Foxbase and FoxPro (now extinct) were the most common logic-based programming languages in the Indian software industry (and when a Rs. 2000-job was considered a big stroke of luck). I imagined the future programming languages, to be more intuitive and user-friendly with lesser application of logic. Those languages did develop, but never did I imagine something as wild as the internet or social media. I can say those Foxbase programming days made my brain more conscious towards the logical aspects of our life.
I made career changes from software development to eLearning to technical writing, over the years for a more stress-less life after marriage and motherhood. I now work in Oracle as a Technical Editor.
TG: What made you write? Since when? Let’s hear the odyssey.
LS: I experienced the first joys of writing during my English school exams. A possible indication that I write best under pressure. Unseen passages, story and essay writing on surprise topics were my favorite.
They sparked spontaneous creativity triggered by an initial momentary panic and an inward look and a memory jog for a connection. But wow, when the connection clicked how the words flowed.
The realization that I had potential in writing came step by step. People noticed my creativity in school activity slogans, letters, and later emails but, for a long time, I didn’t think I’ll write a book. Even the shift from software development to eLearning – a writing-related field – was based on a practical move, rather than a bite from the writing-bug. I was always a good programmer and former colleagues called me a one-woman team, but it was in eLearning that my skills were appreciated to the heights by my clients and managers. eLearning though less stressful was just as deadline-bound and tiring.
Things changed six months after I joined eLearning in Oracle. During the 2008 recession, my entire eLearning division was laid off. I was the only one retained but shifted as an editor to the technical publications department. The job was more secure, and I had more time in my hands because my workload was dependent on the speed of the technical writers. In my spare time, I blogged at Sulekha.com, and participated in the short story contests the site hosted. Very soon, I had a following there. I won contests, the short stories I wrote were published in magazines and fellow bloggers suggested that I write a book.
Even then I didn’t really start on a book. My short stories were at the most 2000 words. Stretching an idea to 50,000-60,000 words looked impossible and boring.
Around three years ago, I underwent a spiritual transformation. Overnight from an atheist I became a believer. I was like Newton hit by the discovery of gravity. Here was a spirit and a soul inside me right from my birth, and I was in dark until now. It brought me several benefits including knowledge about what to believe and what to discard. My prejudices against Christianity, Islam, and my own religion disappeared. To find explanations and more truths, I read more about the science of spirituality, visited meditation sites, and exchanged thoughts with religious people. It bothered me that most youngsters today are as ignorant of spiritual truths as I was three years ago.
Finally, I had a cause, the right amount of information, and the inclination to write a full-length book.
TG: How did you come to publish with Amazon?
LS: My primary reason for writing a book was not to earn a living but to explain the science of spirituality to as many as possible. The best method to me was a science fiction book. So I wrote a synopsis and sample chapters and participated in a science fiction novella contest for a publishing contract. I was one of the three who won the first round of the contest. While I wrote the full manuscript for the next round, I came across Julia Dutta, who was the first self-published author I met. Through her, I learned about Rasana Atreya, India’s most successful self-published author and the one I mention in my bio on Amazon.
Amazon held a talk by her in Taj Palace, New Delhi and I attended it. Needless to say, I was sold to the idea of self-publishing, of no diktats by a publisher, and access to readers through free promos. The publisher at the same time gave me a time-frame and the novella word-limit, both of which threatened to dwarf the story that just grew in leaps and bounds. The net result was that I abandoned the traditional publishing bandwagon and jumped on to the self-publishing one.
Besides these twists and turns, there were many more coincidences that led to the book. Therefore, it’s no accident that my debut book has Synchronicity in its title.
TG: Why SF? Have you experimented otherwise? What’s your idea about mainstream fiction?
LS: Although religious fanatics and atheists constantly pit science against religion, I think the convergence between science fiction and religion is natural. Science-fiction allows humanity to explore questions about its existence. And religion is all about creation and existence of humanity. Most religions have been hijacked by people with commercial and political interests, turning people into either atheists or religious mercenaries or fanatics. Science makes us focus on logical concepts common to all religions. It makes us view religion with more objectivity.
Besides, there are many spiritual books out there that only already religious people will read. To non-spiritual youngsters, these religious books sound like fairy tales if not boring.
I feel India requires more spiritual science fiction than any other country, because there is more struggle between tradition and modernity here than anywhere else. One cannot wish away the other. On one hand, India has most nuns, monks, priests, and sadhus of the world. On the other hand, there are educated atheists who refuse to recognize religious people to have any sense.
I feel it’s time to change all that with Indian spiritual science fiction, which I feel the new generation will understand better.
My first book ‘The Ray Synchronicity’ does have romance and thriller elements in it. I wrote Love stories and Thrillers before getting into science fiction. However, I evolved to a higher kind of love, a love that is more intrinsic and more urgently required in this world.
This is not to say that my love life lost its spark after my foray into spirituality. No way! I think marriage is a training ground for understanding all the three types of love in this universe.
Therefore, my future stories will feature love and/or marriage. However, these will be tied to my cause in subtle ways.
TG: How has been your experience of Amazon? What do you think is working for you here better than traditional publishing?
LS: I haven’t approached any of the traditional publishers and I have no experience with them. However, I feel convinced by the experiences and logic of other self-publisher authors. My interest in any case is to make my books accessible to maximum people around the world. In the two day free promo itself, the number of downloads touched 250+, which I think would have been impossible for a month-ole debut book published through traditional publishing. There are set marketing methods for self-published books that guarantee sales provided your book is a good one.
TG: What next?
LS: Besides the paperback version for ‘The Ray Synchronicity,’ I am working on a short story that is a thriller, based on corrupt lawyers and medical men. This I’ll also expand to a medical thriller later on. Another book I’m working on is a murder mystery with two or more romantic pairs thrown in. Whatever be the genre, I promise that all my characters will have depth.
TG: Anything else you want to say?
LS: It is possible to write a book without quitting your IT job through a more disciplined life energized by proper diet, exercise, and meditation. I did it without the help of an extended family or maids. You can also do it. Self-publishing allows you to write at your own pace, so you can give a higher priority to your job, your marriage, and kids if you want.
Techgoss Note: Suneetha writes for Techgoss since 2007. Check out her fun novellas on Amazon.