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Day of the Jackal then, Sheeja Jose’s Gone with the Bullet now!
This is what veteran crime journalist and bestseller author, of Black Friday and Dongri to Dubai, S. Hussain Zaidi proclaimed when asked about his thoughts on ‘Gone with the Bullet’ by Sheeja Jose during its book launch at Crossword (Oberoi Mall) in front of a packed, enthusiastic audience and media in Mumbai.
Zaidi, a publisher with Penguin, also remembered how he was surprised by reading Sheeja’s first novel ‘Goodbye Girl’ amongst other manuscripts submitted to Penguin by aspiring and established authors alike.
He indulged the audience with the story of how he was immediately impressed by the manuscript, how they immediately set up meetings with author in the very first week after the submission and how the author, eventually, did not agree to some changes suggested by their Chief Editor as she firmly believed this was ‘Goodbye Girl’ the way she wanted to it to be read.
Shocked by this adamant new author confident enough to take her manuscript back, made him wonder “Is she out of her mind?” Any author understands the prestige associated with getting published by a powerhouse like Penguin that is when he said “But my respect for this girl has gone up many a notch”. He was greeted by a thunderous applause causing Sheeja Jose to blush.
Special Guest Sriram Raghavan amusingly recollected the journey of Sheeja Jose from an assistant director in Bollywood to a creative director at major TV shows and now an author and publisher of Whitewall Publishers. He even mentioned the dedication and hard work one has to have to write two big crime thrillers and even have them published in a year. “We call her writing machine. That’s what she does. She tells us one line, and in two or three days she will come up with the whole written material which will shock us.”
Author Sheeja Jose then interacted with her audience who had turned out in huge numbers to support her. Many with questions on how to take that brave step of actually writing a book; as many book lovers nurse the secret dream to be an author.
“You have to sit and write. That’s the only way to write a book. It needs a lot of dedication. But once you start it, you will start to enjoy it.” Sheeja’s honest and direct approach was a welcome change from how most other authors comes with the mask of pseudo-intellectuality. Her “no airs” attitude ensured that she catered to every audience member, young or old. When she spoke about her shifting from Kerala to Mumbai to pursue higher studies and her work in Bollywood, she highlighted the struggle of overcoming language barriers and her determination to learn English and Hindi, and finally chasing her dream to pursue writing. She inspired many who were present at the launch.
Sheeja Jose started a publishing house – Whitewall Publishers – to have unaltered cutting edge stories by aspiring authors including her own books. Her first novel, Goodbye Girl, shocked many due to its graphic detailing of crime and sex, ultimately becoming a bestseller based solely on word of mouth recommendations. “I am looking at manuscripts submitted by others. I want to help new authors who dare to say story in a unique way. I couldn’t do any marketing for my first book, not even a launch. But the love and support I received from the people whom I never met gave me a reason to write a second book too.”
While dealing with the content of this nature, many skeptics would wonder where it was all added for the “masala” factor. An audience member even addressed this voicing his concern about the sex being added to sell a greater number of books. Fortunately, Sheeja was ready for a response immediately and said, “My first book is also a journey of a girl, a coming age story of a teenager and what happens in her life and her journey from being a part of a perfect family to a perfect criminal. Naturally it has sex and violence. I don’t want to shy away from talking or writing about sex if it’s demanded for by the story. I am not just writing about sex, to sell a book. I don’t think that is the correct mindset.”
Sheeja Jose is now working on her third novel, a romantic story. “I have done two crime stories, yes, shocking crimes. Teenagers are my protagonist and the mails I have received are mainly from them. Though I believe whatever I am writing are just stories not to glorify crimes, I want to tell them, there is another side of the life too. I am equally excited to write a romance for a change.”
The long queue for the book signing gave us glimpses of the beautiful author’s extra ordinary connect with the audience. After reading both the books, we realised, why she is loved. Because her stories are unique, have an honest rawness and language and unusual approach of the narrative which will hook you till the end. This is one author we are excited about, one with talent and guts. Her determination to ‘reject’ the top publisher in the country to find her way to stardom and still to be real is something we salute.
Ms, Jose you inspired them at the book launch, we hope you will continue inspiring them and many more.
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