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Former NAISAK student publishes her first book

08 October 2020

When seventeen year old former NAISAK student Kuhu Mahajan contacted us to tell us she had recently published her first book, we were excited to find out more. Mahajan, a NAISAK student from 2015-2016, met virtually with recent NAISAK graduate Shesha Taylor and English teacher Mr. Hawker in June 2020 to find out more about how the book We Exist in Theories; how it came about, what keeps her motivated, and the possibility of a trilogy.

The following interview was conducted by Shesha Taylor and Mr Hawker, and the transcript prepared by Shesha Taylor*.


Shesha: Can You tell us a bit about yourself?

Kuhu: I’m 17 and I live in the UAE. I wrote ‘We Exist In Theories’ at 15 and published it at 16. I’ve always loved art in general, so I took part in a lot of drama productions, and music. When I started reading, I thought why not give writing as go as well, and then my book got published!


Shesha: Could you give us a synopsis of your book?

Kuhu: You can get a more concrete synopsis on the back of the book but I’ll summarize it in my own words. My book focuses on a lot of themes that I think are prevalent in the world today, such as women’s empowerment and racism. These heavy themes are discussed in a light-hearted way because there’s a lot of comedy, suspense, drama and romance in the mix. The protagonist has lost her parents, so she’s trying to navigate this world with her two brothers.


Shesha: Where did you get inspiration for your book?

Kuhu: When you start thinking about what makes up a character, or what makes up a relationship and what makes it successful, you subconsciously start forming opinions on these things. When I started reading, I had this urge to start writing my opinions as well.


Shesha: How did you get your book published? How was it recognized by agents and then marketed?

Kuhu: Initially, I wrote on online writing sites Wattpad and Inkitt. The general response was very positive; I received a lot of votes and feedback from readers all around the world. It took a lot of will power but my family and I made the decision to self-publish through Partridge Singapore.


Shesha: What do your parents think of your writing?

Kuhu: My brother found my book quite funny! I loved his feedback because he picked up on little things which I didn’t consciously realize were there. My mum’s in the process of reading it, and she’s liking it so far. It’s lovely to see my family talking about all the characters and really engaging with my writing!


Shesha: Do you see writing as a career path you would like to pursue in the future?

Kuhu: Yes, definitely, alongside other things. I wrote this book whilst doing my A Levels, so I’m really grateful to have found such a hobby.


Shesha: Did writing ‘We Exist in Theories’ help you discover something about yourself? If so, did it challenge your pre-existing views?

Kuhu: I did learn that I’m a lazy perfectionist! I remember when I signed the deal to publish the book, it took me a year to actually write this draft. There was already a pre-existing draft on Wattpad which people liked, but I wanted to polish it to suit my standards. I wrote in the midst of GCSEs and entering A levels which taught me that I can really do anything I want. It was a difficult transition for me, but you have to make time for things you enjoy, and I found myself doing better in school because of writing.


Shesha: Can you describe your writing process? Do you religiously stick to your plot outline or are you open to exploration and let the story guide you instead?

Kuhu: I don’t really like concrete outlines. Some writers advise you to find your ending before your beginning but I prefer to leave it open for exploration. There have been so many heart-breaking moments when I’ve had to delete scenes because they didn’t add to the plot. However, you need a basic outline to guide you.


Mr Hawker: How do you review it? How do you know which scenes to cut?

Kuhu: It takes extremely long, and it’s a sad process, because some of the scenes have meanings to me but not to the reader. Some of them were character development scenes but the readers didn’t need to know those just yet. I had an editor who helped me through that. Ultimately, you need to figure out what you want the readers to pick up from a scene or a character. So, if something doesn’t move the plot forward, or communicate your message or intentions then it doesn’t belong in the book.


Shesha: How did you create your characters? Are they based on people you know?

Kuhu: One of the characters in the book is based on someone I know. I can’t say too much otherwise I’ll give away the plot line. The characters are projections of people I want to meet in real life. The main character Kay represents a part of me which is figuring out the world. She’s lost and she’s making mistakes but it helps her learn what’s right and wrong.


Shesha: Are there any authors who inspired you to write?

Kuhu: When you find a really good writer, they can inspire you to write. I used to read a lot Rupi Kaur and John Green. Kaur’s most recent book, ‘The Sun and Her Flowers’ genuinely inspired me to look at things in a different way. She’s an immigrant and her work often incorporated those valuable experiences. I had to dissect them and figure out which ones related to my own life and create a world around them.


Shesha: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Kuhu: I’m still an aspiring writer myself! One thing I’ve learnt is to keep the notes you make when you’re at the early stages of writing your novel. I didn’t realize at that time how valuable they would be in the future. I want ‘We Exist in Theories’ to be part of a trilogy, but I threw away so many detailed notes, which is very frustrating. So, do not throw away your notes.


Mr Hawker: From a teaching perspective, what advice would you give to students who wish to find a balance between their hobbies and school?

Kuhu: You have to prioritize what’s important to you. When you tell people around you, they become a lot more supportive of your work. My parents knew when I was writing and they would support my needs to help create that balance. For example, dinner would be slightly late if they saw that I was busy writing.


Mr Hawker: You alluded that this would be a trilogy. Can you give us a sneak preview of future works?

Kuhu: I’ll let you know when I find out, because even I don’t know yet! I’m still in the process of writing the other two books, and a lot of the breakthroughs come to you whilst you’re writing.


Mr Hawker: What’s the main thing you’re doing right now with your book?

Kuhu: Currently, the focus is on marketing. The pandemic made everything very difficult. My publishers were meant to ship out the book to many bookstores but due to lockdown in many countries, my relatives couldn’t buy it. There was supposed to be a magazine issue as well, but a lot of things didn’t happen because of the pandemic.


Mr Hawker: Since we’re in the penultimate week of the school year, do you have any advice on starting creative writing over the summer and beyond?

Kuhu: Sign up to Wattpad, Inkitt and many other online writing sites because they already have a well-established community of readers and writers. They host many competitions as well, which really helps you get constructive feedback on your writing.


Mr Hawker: Thank you for joining us today and congratulations on your book! It’s such an amazing achievement, especially at such a young age. It’s been really great chatting with you.


We certainly look forward to hearing more from this talented young author in the future!

We Exist in Theories is available for purchase on Amazon now, and from bookstores around the world.


*Since conducting this interview, Shesha Taylor has accepted early admission at the University of Toronto in Canada.