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Posts Tagged ‘book publicity and promotion’

Chick lit meets crime fic, with a dash of fun

Normally I’m a little sceptical about this whole new chick-lit-meets-crime-fic genre that seems to have mushroomed recently. It either winds up being really angsty (tough female heroine has never found love and is treated badly) or really cliché (she is saved in the nick of time by her handsome, studly supervisor) or just unable to stick to a genre (skipping wildly from here to there in the attempts to be Agatha Christie meets Marian Keyes.) Anything that is ‘something meets something’ is usually a book you should avoid. Remember that advice. It’ll come in handy someday.

But, I’m always happy to change my mind. (Isn’t that one of the very fun prerogatives of being a woman?) And so when Piggies On The Railway landed on my bedside reading pile, I picked it up with interest, but not much hope. And boy, was I wrong. This book made me eat my words….Read the rest of it.

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And as I write this heading above, the chicklit writer in me can’t resist adding: Which means fabulous. Okay so I also feel exhausted from too much exercise, faint from too little food, asphyxiated from too many cigarettes…but I’m thin. As the wise Kate Moss said, articulating what women worldwide know to be the gospel truth, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

However, that is not what this post is about. Earlier this week I felt that that Piggies’ publicity needed another push. So I logged into Gmail, opened the chat window and wrote to my PR person (henceforth known as AT).

I began the conversation with my usual, I’m not feeling the love. Which I think it’s a cute opening salvo. AT, however, complains, saying she feels I’m doing diva act. The whole I’m-throwing-a-tantrum-because-I’m feeling-ignored which, frankly, is as far from the truth as John Abraham is from making it to the A list.

I am not a diva. I don’t demand round the clock attendance. Okay, so she can call me once a day and affirm to me that my books are selling like hot cakes and that I’m the best there is. And occasionally, just occasionally, like once a day, she can send me a compilation of press clippings also affirming the same.

Oh dear. In my defence, I said I’m not a diva. I didn’t say I’m not a neurotic writer.

Anyway, coming back to the Piggies publicity push, I mean it was topping all bestseller lists and everything but that’s precisely why I felt we needed to prod it along NOW. “Stoke the fire while it’s burning and all that, old girl,” I said.

I was taken aback when she agreed. “Quelle surprise,” I said, jumping across the English channels, if only linguistically.

She said that she had already contacted numerous publications and arranged for me to comment on a host of issues for various publications. Then she logged out of chat and called me on my cell. “Hold on,” she said. “D just called me. She’s on the other line. I’ll conference you.”

“Hey, D,” she said after a while. “So as I was saying why don’t you get Smita’s views on Handy Investment Tips for Housewives?”

Now AT had either forgotten to tell D she had conferenced me, or she’d told her, but had also encouraged her to be free with her opinion about me. Fire the gun from someone else’s shoulder and all that. I’m leaning towards the latter.

“Smita Jain? But she’s a…chicklit writer!” The way D said the last sentence, with a pause after a as though she was looking for the right word, and a kind of squealy emphasis on the word chicklit, left me in no doubt that she didn’t exactly mean it was like asking Einstein to comment on high school physics.

Derision. From a journo who’d just last week written that the French Open final was played between Rafael Nadal and Roland Garros! This was almost too much to bear.

I was left fuming. As Kasthuri says in Chapter One, “if (s)he thought (s)he was dealing with a brainless twit (s)he had another think coming. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him(her)  about my excellent, eighty-percent-plus-all-the-way academic record, and multiple degrees in economics and finance just to drive home the point.”

But of course I didn’t. I didn’t want to upset D. I didn’t want her writing Smita Jain’s latest novel Piggies on the Railway is based on a popular nursery rhyme, did I?

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Here’s something I wrote for AND magazine on the above mentioned subject:

When I was first asked to write on the subject I figured I’d scour the net to find out what people were saying about the subject. I mean, why write when you can copy, right? If you do it smartly and copy from many sources you can get away with it too. After all, steal from one, it’s plagiarism, steal from many, it’s research. Everyone knows that.

But guess what I found? Apparently, all we women are looking for is love! With someone who’s thoughtful and caring but not dull, sensitive and a good listener but not a sissy, a bad boy but not a cad, adventurous and sporty but not wild and reckless. After a few minutes of surfing two things became obvious to me. One, all women want five guys, and two, I’d have to do this the hard way and write the whole thing myself.

Humour aside, methinks men tax their tiny, primeval brains too much.  Unlike what they believe, they are not so prominent in our list of top ten things we want. In fact, they figure way, way down. For, what we want is simple really.

1.We want to be able to eat anything and not gain weight. Have you seen those skinny young women who eat like horses, with plate after plate of food at the buffet table without putting on any weight? Neither have I. On the rare occasion I have seen one, she’s usually on their way to the loo. You know, to upchuck everything she just ate. But wouldn’t it be divine if we got to keep everything in and still remained stick thin?

2.We want to be Ageless. And not by resorting to chemical peels or laser treatments or any of that synthetic stuff. Have you seen some of those well-preserved socialites (names have been withheld to protect identity)? We don’t want to look like we’ve been pickled in vinegar! We want to be cryogenically frozen at twenty-two, twenty–five, tops.

3.We want to have a good, nay, great hair day. Every day. And while we are at it, why not throw in a good skin day and good nail day too? In fact, from the moment we wake up, we want to look like we’ve just stepped out of a salon.  

4.While we are walking out of a salon why not do it in five inch heels? With poise, and not slithering and sliding like some victim of alcohol abuse. Everyone knows that heels are sexy. They make legs looks longer and more defined, but only if you know how to walk in them gracefully. Which brings me to the next thing on the wish list. The ability to glide in five inch heels as insouciantly as if we were wearing skids.

5.Have all the money in the world. I’m talking millions, billions preferably. Ideally we’d like to inherit that money. Like Paris Hilton. But if that’s not possible, then we’d like a job that requires us to possess no talent or tact. Just a bitchy temperament. Like Simon Cowell. Who doesn’t want to say stuff like, ‘If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning,’ and get paid forty million dollars for it?

Continued tomorrow.

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    6.A gay best friend to listen to us and give us fashion advice. We all want a Will to our Grace, sharing the secrets of our soul. And that’s because gay men get the despair, the angst and the should I call him or will it make me look needy conundrum. They totally get the drama, relish it even, and, more often than not, may even trump us in that department. Besides, it is huge fun for gays and us fag-hags to talk about men we are attracted to, each safe in the knowledge that the other person is not pitching to the same guy.

    And then there’s the shopping. While our female friends are competitive when shopping and ‘secretly want our ass to look fat’, there’s no risk of toxic advice in shopping with our gay friend.

    7.Romance and sex. Breaking news, WE LIKE SEX. Tender as well as red-hot, passionate animal sex. Who doesn’t like their eyes rolling back in their heads from sheer, unbearable pleasure? The only reason many of us don’t like sex is because our partners think a G-spot is short for Gold Spot. They are too focussed on their own pleasure. And if they do think of us they think going at us like a battering ram is IT.

    And we like romance. We all like to be wooed and made to feel one in a million. But sincerely, and not just because they want to get into our pants. Yes, we like to be made to feel so hot that they can’t contain themselves. But we also want romance just for the sake of romance. So yes, we like romance and sex, preferably in the same guy. I mean after all the gratuitous eating and endless shopping with our gay best friend with all the money that we have, who has the energy to pander to two guys?

    8.Equality with chivalry.  We want to be treated as equals but that doesn’t mean we want we the door slamming in our faces all the time. A guy who holds the door open will go a long way, maybe even all the way, with us.

    9.No PMS. I was going to write no periods, but as the time for their cessation draws ever closer, I discover I’ve grown rather attached to them. So I’m just going to settle for no PMS. No bloating and crankiness when that time of the month approaches. And if we have to have PMS then let it be only crabbiness. After all, bad temper is something others have to live with. It’s the bloating that’s a bummer, really.

    10.A genie to grant us all that. Well, duh!

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Private investigator Kasthuri Kumar, the narrator of Smita Jain’s Piggies on the Railway, is a kick-ass heroine. She does interior monologues in the style of Philip Marlowe and other hardboiled detectives in 1930s crime fiction. But this being a book that – improbably but successfully – combines a detective story with chick-lit, Kasthuri (also known as Katie) has more on her mind than just solving the kidnapping case assigned to her…Read more

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I walked into the airport cutting a sorry picture.  As if dragging a suitcase that was larger and heavier than me wasn’t challenge enough, I was trying to do it with two other bags slung on my shoulders. And five-inch strappy heels on my freshly pedicured feet. And no, it wasn’t so much role-playing Anne Hathaway in Devil wears Prada as much as lack of space in the suitcase. Okay, okay, I admit, I ran short of space even in the large suitcase. But that’s only because I had to carry some Piggies (My publicity person asked me to carry some copies at the last minute).

In short, it which was the complete opposite of the picture I wanted to convey – that of a cool, calm, collected and sophisticated writer.

I presented myself at the Jet Airways counter, where a skinny thing with an attitude of a designer store saleswoman gave me a look long enough for me to become conscious of each and every one of the fine lines on my face. Not that I have any. Well, maybe just the beginning of a talon of a crow’ foot if you want to be anal about it.

“Sorry ma’am,” she says, “Only one hand baggage allowed.”

“It is one,” I said, patting the gunny sack on my shoulder.  “This one here,” I said, pointing to the obviously laptop bag on my other shoulder, “is my laptop.”

D-uh! Everyone knows that with women laptop bags and handbags are counted as one. As long as you’re not carrying any liquids which in my opinion just defeats the purpose of carrying a handbag. What’s the point if you can’t carry a lip gloss or a deo?

“But ma’am it’s as big as a suitcase!!!!”

“So? It’s cabin baggage specs!!!”

“No ma’am you’ll have to check it in.” Inflexibly said.

I shrugged as if to convey an insouciant, “If I gotta, I gotta.” But my heart was pounding knowing what was to come.

“You’re overweight,” she said after a moment. She quickly rectified her unfortunate choice of words to mean luggage before I could pass out from shock. The upshot of the conversation was that I had a choice. Either I could, like, a zillion rupees in excess baggage, or, open the suitcase and ditch the stuff I didn’t need.

Now I knew what I couldn’t do, and that was the latter. One, because there was nothing I didn’t need and two, I only do that abroad when flying Ryan Air. I also knew what I wouldn’t do and that was pay for excess baggage because, well, paying to transport kilos other than the precious few on my body was anathema to me.

My brain kicked into action. Wait, there was another solution.

“Business class has a larger allowance, right?”

“Yeah,” she said doubtfully, trying to figure out where I was going with this. She’d have to wait. I had to figure it out myself first.

“How much goes an upgrade cost?”

She mentioned a figure that was marginally higher than what I would have to pay in excess baggage.

She nodded.

“Do it.”

And so I got:

  1. to board the plane last and exit first
  2. a wet towel!!!
  3. more solicitous stewards, although that can be a pain.
  4. more space, not that I needed any. There’s enough leg room in economy to fit two of me. Front to back!
  5. and….and I got to carry my stuff for free!!!!

This was an auspicious beginning. Things were auguring well for the launch.

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Finally it was the 22nd and the day before I was to fly out to Delhi. There I sat, in the spare room of my house (Get that? I have a spare room. In Bombay!) surrounded by 15 outfits not counting jeans, tees, PJs and other casual wear; 6 sets of lingerie, not counting changeable straps and sports bras; 5 pairs of shoes not counting my bathroom slippers and Nikes; endless accessories – four belts, a huge make up kit, 2 perfumes and 3 eau de toilettes, scrunchies, headbands, clips, pins…

….and a cabin baggage-sized strolley.  

I swear I was having a tiny Rebecca Bloomwood moment. Like the aforementioned shopaholic, I was having a minor panic attack at the thought of stuffing everything inside the tiny luggage.

Okay, okay, don’t panic, I told myself. It’s just a question of doing things systematically. For instance, the clothes can be sifted through. After all there are only two launches. I don’t need 15 dresses for that. I have the little black dress so I can certainly do away with the red one with the beige and purple flowers. But what if the LBD is too much for 5 o’clock launch, I said to myself? The blue satin number’s shoulder straps are a little dodgy so can’t rely on that totally. And I’m not sure the white printed silk one goes all that well with silver sandals.  No, I’d better take them all. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

And then there’s the shopping I’ll do in Delhi.

Fuck it! I’d better go out and buy myself a bigger, correction, the biggest suitcase available.

So armed with a lot of enthusiasm and not as much cash I made a trip to Lokhandwala market. Of course, since the luggage shop is right next to Firewalkers, it made sense to quickly duck into the dress shop first. Trying out dresses with a suitcase in hand, albeit an empty one, was plain…unwieldy.

Why was trying out dresses, one may ask, when I already had 15 dresses? Well, the answer is that although, verily, I had 15 dresses, not a one among them felt like THE ONE. Besides it makes sense to purchase something you like when you see it. Cos you’ll never get it you actually need it. It’s some kinda Murphy’s Law of Cosmic Causality impervious to prayers and positive affirmations.

Well, Firewalkers didn’t have anything but the shop around the corner Xact had a 50% sale going on so managed to pick up three dresses for the Bombay launch. Yes, I’m almost certain there will be a Bombay Launch.

Then a quick trip to the ATM and it was onto the luggage shop. I resisted the urge to pick out a set of matching, monogrammed suitcases and picked out the largest, sturdiest suitcase available.

Phew! Packing crisis averted, onto excess baggage crisis.

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