Wednesday, December 3, 2014

AUTHOR'S CIRCLE welcomes SUDNYA SHROFF.

On a daily basis, we all wear many, many hats, but it has never been more apparent than with my Author’s Circle guest today. 

Meet author, artist, fashion designer, SUDNYA SHROFF to talk about writing, life, art and her imagination. UNRAVELING is her first novel.


Hi Sudnya, thanks for dropping in and letting us have a peek into your mind.


  1. Let’s begin with your book. What’s Unraveling about? Is the storyline based on personal experience? If yes, how?
Unraveling’ is the metaphoric unraveling of the protagonist Shalini who gets taken hostage during the 2008 Taj bombings, and during her captivity realizes she was already hostage to her life’s choices. The story is purely fictional and has geographical and cultural influences from all the regions I have lived and grown up in.


  1. How did you become a writer? In other words, tell us YOUR STORY.


In a previous lifetime, I used to be an electrical engineer. Hardware and software design were what I studied, researched, created and basically breathed for over a decade. Design of any kind has been and continue to be my fundamental driving passion and a creative outlet. It has also been an instrument for my curious mind to explore the universe and my place in it.  In 2002, with my husband providing the wind beneath my wings, I embarked on my exclusive journey through the arts portal to further deepen my understanding of my human experience. For me, writing is a natural extension of painting. When words fail me, colors come to my rescue. I use both tools to help me gain, and also express, increasing insights. It took me almost a decade before my work found recognition. Since 2011, my art has travelled across California, New York and India. 

Flaming City


  1. Why write a book? I mean you obviously are a creative person, but there are very few artists who’ve written books too.


End of Love
When I find myself troubled by internal conflict, I find writing to be an excellent tool to achieve clarity. My stories usually coming from that place of attempting to reach a-ha moments when experience precedes expression. Writing the novel came at a point of my life when I needed a whole lot of emotional housecleaning. Painting, which to me is my daily form of meditation, had already served the purpose of bringing me calm. However, I still needed the lucidity that is shaped by coherent thoughts and words. This was the driving force that brought me to writing, and without intention, the story evolved into a novel under the mentorship of my creative writing professor and writer/editor Lynn Stegner.


  1. What is Dosanjh Shroff?

In Tangles
Dosanjh Shroff is a contemporary fashion line startup that uses textiles made exclusively from my fine art prints. Dosanjh is the maiden last name of my co-founder Surinder Dosanjh Kang. Dosanjh Shroff was established in 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area and now travels for shows around the world. 

We have our online store at www.dosanjhshroff.com and also have a physical design studio located in Menlo Park, CA.


  1. What does your day look like?


A typical weekday looks like  this -
Unlearning Obedience
Breakfast/school drop offs until 8am, write/paint/stay locked up in my art studio until noon, Dosanjh Shroff work after lunch until 4, meal preparation/homework with kids/dinner with family until 10pm, chat with my husband until we fall asleep, often wake up in the middle of the night to go back into my studio to continue/complete a train of thought in my work :)


Repeat!

I get the repeat! :)


  1. What inspires you?


People, great minds, powerful thoughts, nature, music, stories, poetry, children, kindness, moments of grace, Leonard Cohen…


  1. What’s your favorite book and why?


Impossible to pin-point one single book! Like anybody and everybody, I have a long long list but I’ll keep it brief :)


Trailblazer
Usually the book I am buried in at the moment is my love in that moment! The most recent one that I enjoyed reading thoroughly was The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman. I am intrigued and curious about the physics behind our Universe and its workings and I have been devouring over the last five years as many books that attempt to explain this from a range of authors/scientists/journalists like Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Alan Lightman, Maria Popova, late Christopher Hitchens, Alan Watts, Einstein, Walter Isaacson etc.


In fiction, I am currently reading K. Anis Ahmed’s collection of short stories and am savoring every moment in my introduction to contemporary Bangladesh. I was so impressed with him during the panel discussion at IAAC in NYC, I bought the book and started reading it right away. I have also enjoyed reading over the years works by Kiran Nagarkar, Wallace Stegner, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sarojini Naidu, Leo Tolstoy, Leonard Cohen, Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, Suketu Mehta, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Thrity Umrigar, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Lamott, P.G. Wodehouse, Alan Lightman (yes he writes both fiction and non-fiction!), etc.


  1. Who is your favorite artist and why?


I have three! Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Leonard Cohen in chronological order only.


Da Vinci, famously known to be a polymath, produced a huge body of work at the intersection of multiple disciplines like art and science. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer (yes crazy, but true ;))!! Wonderful things truly do indeed happen at multidisciplinary intersections. And stories like his have served as good inspiration points when I have contemplated risks of working across a variety of disciplines without compromising the depth or quality of my work in each of them.


Einstein is my hero when it comes to thought experiments in theoretical physics and philosophy of science. I don’t claim to understand all his theories in their entirety but I plan on never giving up hope :) I have been reading about him and his work for a very long time. His love for the violin and classical music resonates with my love for similar music and the piano. His human frailty and imperfections while producing monumental inflections in science and general everyday philosophy, all of this without giving up his sly wit, makes him an extremely endearing personality for me.
Ivory Dream


Cohen, even as he turned 80 this September, continues creating phenomenal work — an amazing poet, writer, artist, singer and a musician. His ability to string words together just right — to weigh into an emotion and present it with the delicateness it deserves without taking away its depth — continues to blow me away time after time. His sincerity and authenticity also inspire me to remain true to my own voice.


All three artists’ ability to produce and introduce phenomenally mind opening works through the instrument of art and philosophy is what strikes me as most outstanding. They also display that delicate balance between doing profoundly meaningful work while not taking themselves too seriously, a combination that I aspire!


  1. What medium of expression do you find the easiest to create? Why?


Painting - it helps that I find it very calming as well :)


  1. What is more difficult: putting colors together or words? Why?


Stringing words together to express just exactly what I want say — not too much that it’s exaggerated nor too little that the nuance is lost — is what I find most challenging.


My paintings, on the other hand, are an internal snapshot of my emotions. They are what they are and I find it much easier to trust my intuition when I paint than when I write.


  1. Which is the best character you’ve written? Is he or she your favorite? Why?


Aarush, the son of the protagonist in my novel Unraveling, is my favorite character. The book has chapters that alternate from two points of view, Aarush and the protagonist Shalini. I modeled Aarush vaguely around what I thought my then ten year old, Akhil, would be when in high school. It was fun having Akhil read my chapters and get his feedback about Aarush and his evolving story.


  1. Naturally, in part you are all your characters (they come from your head) but which of your characters is the most like you? Or resonates in you the most? Why?


Shalini resonates the most with my personality.  This was my first novel, so as much as it is completely fictional in the story line, the protagonist’s emotions and reactions to the fictional situations all came from what I thought I would have, had I been in each circumstance.


  1. Do you have a favorite painting? Why?


No I don’t!

Dragon's Breath
  1. What do you wish to convey through your writing and your art?


That we all are just like each other. That there is no emotion or experience that is unique to any single person. That somewhere along the trajectory of our lives we will all have a unique set of cards dealt to us — but how we love, laugh, live, lie, hurt, give, take, grow —  depends totally on our state of mind and our perspective. That our mind is a very powerful place and you can either leverage it to be resilient or allow it to destroy. The power of the former is what I want to convey.


  1. What can we expect from you next in both?


Both my paintings and writing continue to happen on a daily basis. I hope to have my next work of fiction completed in the next year or so. I have a few art shows a year which will also continue. My body of fine art can be viewed in its entirety on my FACEBOOK Page.


  1. To end lets try a Rapid Fire round. Your answer should be the first word/s that pops into your head when you think of:
LIFE: is about love and vibrancy
PASSION: is my breath
HERO: is every person whose act of grace and kindness I’m at the receiving end of
LOVE: completely and unconditionally
HATE: indifference



Thank you once again, Sudnya, for being here and talking to me. It was vibrant, just like your art!

Link to her WEBSITE.

Buy the Book: Unraveling

Write to Sudnya at sudnya@sudnyashroff.com if you live in India or the US and she'll be happy to mail you a free copy of her book.

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