Mitali Meelan, author of two best sellers, ‘The Guest’ and ‘A Long Way Home’ is an Indian contemporary and YA author and blogger based in Mumbai.  Being featured in Vogue (July 2017) as one of the ten inspiring young Indian girls chasing her dreams, she never looked back. Thousand Miles Team in an exclusive interview with Mitali Meelan.

Thousand Miles: What is the inspiration behind writing your debut novel ‘The Guest’? Was it your childhood dream to write a novel one day?

Author Mitali Meelan: Writing wasn’t a childhood dream. I wrote silly poems and short stories because that was my form of entertainment, a rejuvenating activity. I only realised I wouldn’t mind choosing writing as a career after publishing the first book.

The Guest happened by accident. In my 2nd year of graduation, I participated in an on-the-spot short story writing contest. The topic was, ‘mother and daughter’. I wrote a short story, came home, and forgot about it. I never went back to check who won (I’m guessing it wasn’t me).

Then a few months later, I narrated this story to one of my friends who was looking for a story to turn into a short film. He asked if I could expand on it and that got me thinking. In a week, I was at the computer, typing furiously while the characters began to take shape in my mind. The story had possessed me and I had no idea whatsoever on how to write plot a novel, how to go about writing it. But in a month, I had a novella in my hand.

That short film never happened but what came out of it was the novel The Guest.

Thousand Miles: Your debut novel ‘The Guest’ displays a protagonist ‘Neha’ who is a hero in her own way despite her own a few imperfections. Is this story related to a real person?

Author Mitali Meelan: No, it’s a fictional story through and through. Interestingly, this was the same question Ravin sir asked me when we first got on call to discuss the book.

Neha is flawed, an entitled brat who is possessive of everything that belongs to her. But she’s also caring, strong, supportive and thinks about others when her mind is calm. Neha’s character wasn’t inspired from anyone in particular. Her personality was what the story demanded. To bring about a change in her attitude, she needed a Cecelia.

Thousand Miles: Being beautiful and pretty is almost every girl’s dream. Are both of these adjectives similar in nature? Your opinion on this. Kindly talk us through.

Author Mitali Meelan: To differentiate between the two: Pretty is subjective and is measured by standards set by others. It is outwardly.

Beautiful, on the other hand, is a deeper, more meaningful compliment. Beauty comes in all shapes and forms and ismeasured by someone’s confidence and personality.

But being pretty is not the dream of any girl I know, definitely not of every girl. Being capable, being good at our jobs, being confident and being ourselves are all the things girls today are concerned about. Being desired for our bodies is nothing compared to being loved for our minds.

Thousand Miles: Your debut novel ‘The Guest’ has been written with a fluidic smooth language which makes a reader want to keep turning the pages. Is that natural in you to write in such a captivating way? Do let us know the process.

Author Mitali Meelan: My style of writing keeps developing with every book and the process is not as natural or easy-flowing as people believe.

My first drafts are messy and all over the place, with glaring plot holes and out of order chapters. The drafts that follow involve smoothening the plot, perfecting the language, the flow, fine-tuning the characters and their reactions. It’s a lengthy process. Once I’m happy with the way the story has turned out (usually after draft 5 or 6), it’s good to go to my publisher.

Thousand Miles: You got featured in Vogue (July 2017 issue) for being one of the ten inspiring young Indian girls chasing her dreams. Does this achievement push you to try even harder to achieve more goals?

Author Mitali Meelan: It was a fine experience but not something I mark as an achievement. My achievement in writing is measured by different barometers. When I fix a plot hole, when I get a message from a reader, when I see the sales figures, when I hold physical copies of my book, when I see my royalties, when I come up with a new story idea, when I’m invited as a speaker. These are what push me to write more.

Thousand Miles: How was the experience when you met Genelia and Riteish Deshmukh and the couple promoted your book?

Author Mitali Meelan: They’re both very warm and kind. And incredibly good-looking in person. The plot of the book required a star couple and I had featured them in the earlier drafts. Ravin Sir (Ravinder Singh) and I had a discussion on this. We needed their permission and if we couldn’t find it before the book went into printing, we’d have to use fictional names. But when we approached them, they not only read the parts where they were mentioned (I couldn’t send them the entire story before it was published) but also gladly permitted us to use their names.

Thousand Miles: The protagonist of your novel ‘The Guest’, Neha, goes through ups and downs as she meets Cecelia, then befriends her and at last learns about Cecelia’s real intentions. The rest of the story is all about fixing what has been wrong. Do you believe in the statement ‘With Time Everything Heals’? Kindly talk us through.

Author Mitali Meelan: Time definitely heals and matures you.Relations either strengthen over time or fall apart. And both are okay. The same thing happens with Neha and Cecelia.

Thousand Miles: What advice would you give to our novice writers who are writing their first novel/book of their lives? As a new writer/author, what are the things one should be careful about?

Author Mitali Meelan: Many novice writers begin their novels with fervour but never actually finish them. That’s the first lesson in writing. Finish the novel you started. You will not feel inspired all the time. When motivation refuses to be your guest, invite discipline. But finish that book.

Secondly, have patience. Writing field is slow to respond, to publish. It took me 4 years and numerous rejections to find a publisher for ‘The Guest’. This might not necessarily happen with you, but knowing you will need to be patient will help you.

Lastly, I would ask the new writers to be careful of publishers who ask them to pay to get their book published. If a publisher is asking you to pay, it usually means they don’t believe in your work. Keep writing, keep getting better at it. Eventually, if you have the drive and a good story to tell, you will find a readership. Now, it has also become easier with Kindle Direct Publishing and social media.

Thousand Miles: Do you think Indian parents should encourage their kids to pursue their passion?

Author Mitali Meelan: First, it’s important to know if the kid is serious about his or her passion. Sometimes, we can mistake our whim for passion. The easiest way to differentiate between the two is to understand whether we are in love with the end result or the process.

Parents should encourage their kids to follow their passion, but first they must help them discover it. Over time, a whim might fade away but passion keeps getting stronger and is impossible to subdue. So give them time.

Finally, do encourage it, but also give the kids some dosages of reality from time to time so they don’t get carried away by what they want and forget what they already have.

My second full-length novel ‘A Long Way Home’ touches upon this issue, whether parents should be supportive of their kids’ choices in career and let them either thrive or fail on their own, or whether they should push them to take a safer, more secureand sensible route.

Thousand Miles: Your thoughts on being featured in the ‘Anniversary Issue’ of our Magazine.

Author Mitali Meelan: That’s an honour. Thank you. I wish you many more successful years in the publishing industry.