[Author Interview] Rahul Kanakia (Author of Enter Title Here)

A very, very long time ago, I interviewed Rahul Kanakia, the author of Enter Title Here which is a book I’m highly anticipating. It is his debut novel on the YA contemporary genre. His book comes out on August 2nd, published by Disney Hyperion.

About the book: (from Goodreads)

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

About the author:

Rahul Kanakia’s first book, a contemporary young adult novel called Enter Title Here, is coming out from Disney-Hyperion on August 2nd, 2016. Additionally, his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Apex, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, The Indiana Review, and Nature. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford, and he used to work in the field of international development. Originally from Washington, D.C., Rahul now lives in Berkeley.


Q&A

1. What/Who inspired you to write?
Honestly, since I was a little child I’ve often dreamed of becoming famous. And there aren’t that many ways to become famous. You can either go into politics and become some sort of public figure, or you can be an artist. Since I loved to read and was a bit shy, it’s natural that my ambitions came, over time, to center on writing fiction.

2. What is the title of your favorite book?
Growing up, I really loved Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel. It was a science fiction classic: my mom handed it to me–she’d read it when she was a little girl in India! I thought it was such a human story: it’s about a detective, on an overcrowded far-future Earth, who’s assigned to work the murder of one of the imperialists who’ve, basically, colonized the Earth. The detective finds his sympathy lies naturally with the murderer, whoever they might be, but he knows that if he doesn’t solve this case, he’ll lose his job and he’ll be forced onto the breadlines. It was one of the books that ignited my love of science fiction, and it taught me that big ideas can coexist with deeply personal and emotional stories.

3. Do you eat when writing? If so, what do you eat?
For about two years, I subsisted primarily on frozen pizza. No joke, like 75% of my calories came from frozen pizza. Then I became lactose intolerant.
Now I mostly eat frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. Wow, these are very stereotypical thirty year old bachelor answers…

4. What is your least favorite thing to do?
I do not enjoy traveling. I am a very settled soul. All my favorite things: my apartment, my friends, and my beautiful, sylvan neighborhood–are at home, and the world outside Berkeley often feels like nothing more than a series of cramped rooms.

5. When you are not writing, what do you do?
I’m a very social animal nowadays. If you invite me to a party, I will go to it. Sometimes this is pretty awkward, like when some college friend blanket-invites everybody he knows to his birthday party. But I’ve gotten some great friendships out of those awkward situations, and that’s why I keep doing it.

6. What is your all-time favorite movie and TV show/series?
All-time favorite? Maybe The West Wing? I rewatched it recently and was surprised by how much I loved it. The show is just so smart and so inspiring. I still can’t believe they made a political show that was both: a) honest; and b) idealistic. Nowadays I really like The Good Wife. I watch it mainly for Julianna Margulies’s eyebrows. Look at them sometime. They’re so thin and bladelike, and so marvelously expressive. I swear, they look slightly different in each episode.

7. Give your best ‘one’ word to describe your upcoming book: Enter Title Here
Hubris

8. What’s the feeling that your upcoming book will almost finally be released?
Fear. It’s great, at parties, to say, “I’ve got a book coming out soon!” What’s not so great is to say, “My book got terrible reviews and my publisher dropped me.”

9. Can you give an advice to aspiring writers out there?
Learn to submit. The saddest thing I’ve seen are all the writers who take class after class and never submit their work. I know they’re waiting for the day when their professor says, “This is good. You’re a good writer. You can sell this.” But the problem is that: a) many professors never give this kind of response; and b) even when they do, they’re often wrong and the work doesn’t sell. So much of what aspiring writers do is avoidance behavior: they’re afraid of rejection, so they polish and polish and polish and do their best to create an unrejectable manuscript.
Don’t do this. Just throw the work out there. It’ll get rejected. You’ll cry, and then you’ll write something else.

Have you added Enter Title Here to your TBR? Comment below and let’s talk about it.

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