Today I am happy to introduce author Geetanjali Mukherjee.
What genre(s) do you write in? Tell us about your books.
I write non-fiction, although I do have a novel I am working on as well. I have written a few guides for students, as well as a short biography of Albert Speer and a book on the adoption of the treaty banning cluster munitions, which started as an independent process outside the UN. I have a background in law and public policy, and I bring that to my writing.
What book are you promoting right now? What is it about?
My most recent book is Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades. It is aimed at anyone who is a student regardless of age, whether in high school or college, an adult returning to full-time education after a gap, or even someone who just wants to pick up some new skills.
From the book description: Anyone Can Get An A+ is a conversational, down-to-earth guide for high school and college students on how to maximize their learning and get the grades they want. This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives students practical advice that they can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of their study time and improve their grades significantly.
I am really passionate about this subject because to me it goes beyond just wanting to get better grades in school. I wrote this book for anyone who has turned away from pursuing something they want to believing they don’t have the “smarts” to achieve it.
Is there one passage that you feel gets to the heart of your book? If so, can you share it?
“It’s only recently that I have come to rethink the whole question of what it means to be smart. Does being able to effortlessly do something make you smart, or can intelligence be changed, improved? I now think that maybe we put too much emphasis on “being” something – smart, beautiful, talented; and too little on “doing” – challenging ourselves, learning something new, expanding our circles of knowledge and influence. Maybe it doesn’t matter how smart you are or aren’t, but how much you are willing to learn. More than ever, the world is changing incredibly rapidly. Already many of the things I learnt in school are outdated. Most of us will change careers a few times in our lives, what we learn in school and college will become obsolete and we will need to upgrade our skills. We need to learn how to learn, how to adapt to our changing world. I firmly believe that those who will thrive are those who aren’t wedded to this idea of who is smart and who isn’t. Those who are willing to learn and try things will have the advantage.”
– Excerpt from Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades.
Tell us about your writing process.
I think my writing process is still evolving, and it also changes from book to book to some extent, possibly as I am getting more used to the act of putting words to the page. For my most recently published book, I wrote the first draft pretty quickly, within 3 weeks or so, but the editing process took me a long time. So far generally I write the first draft quickly and then struggle through the editing. With my current book, for some reason my process has changed, and the first draft is taking ages, but I think it will require far less editing time (she says, crossing her fingers).
Bear in mind that my books are non-fiction, so this process wouldn’t work exactly the same for fiction. Basically once I have an idea and have done a lot of research on a topic, I have a good idea about the things I want to write and brainstorm a list of topics. This might be in the form of a mind map or just a regular list, in no particular order. For my most recent book I literally started the first draft with a list of about 15-20 topics, and I just wrote the draft from that list, by hand. After I typed up the manuscript (into Scrivener), I moved things around and grouped the various sections into logical chapters. Some of this changed after a few rounds of editing, but most of that initial structure made it into the final book.
I do several rounds of editing, with each round having a different focus. Initially, I focus on the structure of the chapter itself, and check for holes in the content, whether I need to do more research, or add something, or decide if a particular section shouldn’t be moved elsewhere. The next round is for line editing – where I try to make the words flow and check to see that I have properly explained my ideas. I find this round especially important for non-fiction, because you can know your topic so well that you assume certain facts or use jargon that the reader isn’t familiar with. So you really do need to take a step back and try to read the words as they are on the page, without your own unique knowledge to fill in the gaps mentally. This round was the hardest for me with my most recent book. After that, basically I put the book aside for a while, and come back to do the final edits and proofread, checking for typos. At this stage I might give it to someone else to read, although I am struggling for beta readers, because I write in genres that my family and friends don’t read.
Where do you get your ideas for your writing? What inspires your creative process?
I read a lot, and from a wide variety of genres. I follow a lot of blogs, on writing, business, productivity, entrepreneurship and technology, and have recently started listening to podcasts on these topics as well. I also watch a wide range of TV shows and movies, some of which I pretend is for research. All of this is to say that I find inspiration from taking in ideas from many different sources, and letting them bump into each other. I also find inspiration in walking, often getting ideas that I scramble to type into my phone or write down when I am back home. I think ideas are everywhere, we just need to be open to them.
Do you have any advice for someone starting out as a writer?
Think of writing as something you do over the long haul. Some authors do strike it big with their debut book, but more often than not, authors that are successful are those that have built up a career over time, writing many books. Also, define success for yourself. I hear a lot of advice on what genres to write in, and what sells. But most of us start out wanting to be a writer because there are specific types of stories or books that we want to write. Decide for yourself what is really important to you, whether it is commercial success or writing a certain kind of book, and then find out how to achieve what you are specifically looking for, instead of listening to all the advice out there and trying to follow it all. And most of all, write! Keep writing, hone your craft and become the best writer you can be.
How do you market your books?
I have been trying various different strategies, and I am constantly learning. The challenge is to do marketing while at the same time not let the process take over all the time available for writing. I have been focusing on expanding my author platform on social media, and learning more about the various channels from a marketing perspective. I have also experimented with setting my books free, discounting them and using KDP Select, with varying degrees of success. I am also focusing more on getting book reviews, as readers are more inclined to pick up a book that others have recommended.
How do you get book reviews? Has this been successful?
I have reached out to book bloggers and reviewers who read in my genres, which is actually not a very large list. I have also contacted some Amazon reviewers who review books in my genre, offering them a free copy. Lately, I am also getting some review interest on Goodreads. I think it’s a slow process, especially since my genre isn’t that popular or well-organized as some other ones are.
What do you read? What are your favourite books and who are your favourite authors?
I read from a wide variety of genres. In fiction I like thrillers, mysteries, chick lit and literary fiction, and in non-fiction I mostly read business and self-help / how-to. My favourite authors are all over the map, but my absolute favourites in no particular order are Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Amy Tan, Vikram Seth, Agatha Christie, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Marian Keyes, Amitav Ghosh, Malcolm Gladwell and Scott Adams. The list is long, and this is just what I remembered off the top of my head. I also love the Harry Potter series of books. Other than that I browse in libraries and bookstores and pick up books that seem interesting, and I do that virtually as well. I just recently discovered the cozy mystery sub-genre, and have found some delightful books by indie authors that I am tearing through. I also have a lot of books on my shelf (physical and virtual) that I plan to read, with many books by indie authors that I discovered through their non-fiction or writing advice that I want to try out.
If you could have dinner with a character from a book, who would you choose and why?
This is a far harder question than I realized at first, because although I have a lot of favourite characters, many of them are too serious to talk to over dinner. My answer at the moment is therefore Amit Chatterji from A Suitable Boy, mainly because he quite often spoke entirely in verse at mealtimes, and I think it might be entertaining to have a conversation like that. I actually tried that in school, when I first read the book and was inspired to walk around spouting verse to people, but it didn’t really go down too well.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
If I could have a superpower, I would want the ability to desire or decide to do something, and then be able to do it, without the pesky needing to spend years mastering the knowledge, or overcoming the obstacles that our brains put up in the way. This would come in very handy for instance if I wanted to write in a new genre, or learn how to play the piano, or lose another 20 pounds. All of these are things I want to do by the way, so ideally if I could somehow acquire this superpower overnight, that would be pretty awesome!
Thanks, Geetanjali, for being here today and for sharing your books with us.
Geetanjali Mukherjee is the author of six non-fiction books, three of which are written for students. She has a background in law and public policy, with a keen interest in human rights and international relations. She has lived in four countries on three continents, can cook dishes from around the world, and loves to binge watch TV crime and medical dramas. Geetanjali’s latest book, “Anyone Can Get An A+” is a guide for students struggling with the pressures of schoolwork, giving practical tips gleaned from the latest research in psychology, neuroscience and cognitive thinking.
Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with certain subjects and believe that maybe you’re not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Maybe you think that some subjects are just not for you. Maybe you don’t like to study, because you secretly believe that you just don’t have what it takes, so why bother? Maybe you are a parent, worrying about your child’s grades, worrying whether they will be able to qualify for the opportunities you want for them. Studying for tests and exams can be stressful, not just for students, but also for teachers and parents. Grades in school exams and standardized tests can seem to determine your entire future, and yet many students are not able to get the grades they think they need to succeed.
Anyone Can Get An A+ is a conversational, down-to-earth guide for high school and college students on how to maximize their learning and get the grades they want. This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives students practical advice that they can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of their study time and improve their grades significantly.
The book includes sections on how the right nutrition and diet can aid learning, how to organize your time and study schedule, how to keep track of all your deadlines and school-related paperwork, and how to overcome procrastination to complete your schoolwork on time. The author also discusses how students can incorporate the latest research on education and learning into their everyday study habits.
Anyone Can Get An A+ contains 39 tips on various aspects of studying and preparing for exams. In this book, you will learn:
• How best to prepare for exams
• What is the top mistake most students make when doing exam preparation and how to avoid it
• How to overcome procrastination and use your study time wisely
• How to break down larger assignments into smaller chunks
• How to write a paper
• How to use small segments of time effectively
• How to get help to understand difficult material
Places you can find Geetanjali Mukherjee:
Geetanjali Mukherjee’s books:
From Auden to Yeats: Critical Analysis of 30 Selected Poems
Will The Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up?: The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect
Creating Consensus: The Journey Towards Banning Cluster Munitions
Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades