“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. – Anais Nin.” Donna Dias is an author who personifies this quote. A keen observer and very curious by nature, Donna looks for stories in people and interprets them in the form of stories. She recently released her debut novel – Love is Never Easy on Juggernaut. We had a candid chat about with Donna about her life, her love for writing and what keeps her inspired. Here are some excerpts.
Tell us about yourself and the storyteller in you.
I was born and raised in Mumbai — I’m a 90s kid — in an oestrogen-dominated family. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and an International MBA degree from Deakin University, Melbourne. Before donning the author’s hat, for ten years, I worked in media, advertising, and finance. Three years ago, I took a sabbatical and moved to Bangkok with my husband and daughter. My husband’s work brought us to Thailand. Mentally I’m a nomad, and it shows in my professional and academic choices. To some, I may seem like a Jack of all trades. But I think I’m a Jill with a short attention span who loves exploring and gives all her experiments her best shot. When I’m not working on my novel, I occupy the editor-in-chief seat for BAMBI News (Bangkok Mothers and Babies International, a non-profit organization) an English magazine.
As a storyteller, I’m a keen observer and very curious by nature. I like to try and understand why people do the things they do; there’s always a back-story. It’s rarely a simple black or white situation. I use my interpretation of the observation I’ve made as fodder for my own writing. My debut novel Love Is Never Easy is a story woven from such situations.
What influenced or inspired you to start writing?
I first started writing when I was in high school, but that was for personal consumption only – few short stories, half-completed lyrics, but mostly poetry. Once I stepped into the corporate workspace, I didn’t really have the bandwidth to pursue writing. For a few years, I didn’t write at all. And then motherhood happened. It added several new shades to my life. I had so many new experiences and was bursting to share them with the world. I took to blogging about my maternal adventures and received a very encouraging response. It pushed me to guest blog for other parenting sites too.
It was during this time I found out that my sister was diagnosed with stage IV of cancer. The uncertainty of life was no longer just a theoretical passage in a book, it was a stark truth staring me in the face. My sister was a warrior and fought hard till the very end. It was her strength that encouraged me to stay afloat and write a story of hope. Love Is Never Easy is my dedication to her.
How have the stories in your life including your background in the corporate world, influenced your style of writing, the characters in your stories and the way you place your stories?
My own story is about the power of love and strength of the female friendship. Over the years, my friends have played a very important role in different seasons of my life. Hence, writing about something I had first-hand experience about made the storytelling process easier.
The three female characters in my story are confident, driven, level-headed, urban, flawed women. I came across several such women during my decade-long career in the corporate world. Some of them seemed perfect, but there was always that little-camouflaged dent. Over time, I’ve learnt to see the beauty in imperfection, and I used the flaws in my characters to tell their stories.
My marketing experience taught me that people have a short attention span and the best way to keep them engaged is by stirring up emotions. I wanted to keep the writing relatable; the truth is as human beings we are led by our emotions in many situations. Not every decision made is a rational one. Some are based entirely upon feelings. We have moments of insecurity, pressing despair, high-intensity drama. That’s life. And it’s these moments that I’ve used to describe my characters conflicts and personal growth.
Any suggestions to those who want to take up writing as a profession?
Read-Read-Read. Secondly, when you write don’t let sales numbers guide your writing; write what you would like to read, not what you think people would like to buy. You’d rarely be able to do justice to your writing if you favoured the latter.
Lastly, be disciplined about writing. Before you begin your manuscript, fix the time of day to do your writing and the word count if necessary. If you want to take up writing professionally, write about everything you know; it does not have to be a novel, it could be short stories, poems, novellas, just about anything because writers write. That’s what we do!
You suggestion to our readers and other writers on how they can help in keeping stories alive?
To readers, I’d say join a book club or start your own. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how the same story can be interpreted in so many ways by different people. Also, books – while they look great on shelves – are meant to exchange hands. So start sharing books. The more you share, the more stories will be read.
To writers, I plead, shed your inhibitions and put your head down and complete that manuscript you began! Don’t let everyday life distract you. There is always room for good books.
Don’t Miss: We love all those who can tell a good story. On Tell-a-Tale, we’ve featured a lot of talented storytellers.
Are you an Author? If you’re an author who is actively pursuing writing and would like to be featured in this column, drop us a mail at editor AT tell-a-tale.com or reach out to us via Facebook.