University of Toronto graduate student Sunanna Bhasin is a published author in the flesh, but a hardworking accounting student right underneath. She shares her experiences in the writing world with me and also uncovers the guidance it took, and the moments that made her take UNDERPASS, her self-published book, one step further.
As an undergraduate student at McMaster University, Bhasin’s studied in the Arts and Sciences program where she flourished as a writer and found solace in words instead of numbers. Now, she’s in grad school pursuing a master’s degree in Management and Professional Accounting, worlds away from anything a writer may find themselves getting involved in. When I ask her about the sudden stray away from writing and literature, she says that she often gets questioned about this.
“Truthfully, I was originally inclined towards journalism as a career path. However, after writing for McMaster’s paper The Silhouette and gaining an incredible amount of insight into journalism as well as experience, I realized it was not for me.” This, she says, comes from the urge of following her own path in the writing world.
“I don’t like being told what to write. I write from my heart, and you could say that I tend to write only when I feel inclined to or am inspired. This is problematic if I were to pursue it as a career, where there are often strict deadlines and not as much room for creativity as I’d like.”
When Bhasin describes the experience of writing one of her first big projects, UNDERPASS, she says that it was an assignment she felt that she “had to take.” Wanting to make an impression on the professor and needing to receive feedback from the course was what drove her to undertake the project.
“At its core, it’s a story about parents whose past lives in India both haunt them and remind them of important life lessons. These parents, particularly the mother, spend the novel advising their daughter, who has been born and brought up in Canada and has little knowledge of their struggles in India. The father is more closed off and is plagued by nightmares and bad childhood memories, most of which stem from his parents’ neglect.”
The title is something that may impress readers most. It’s metaphorical but easily understood through the eloquent way she’s been presenting it to readers who ask about it. “I called it Underpass because the literal underpass is an important place in the story, but also as a metaphor for two paths crossing—one of the parents and the other of the daughter, who gets to know and understand her parents and find her own way. I imagine an underpass as a dark tunnel with few lights that one must drive through to get to the other side. In a way, I am playing on the idea that these family members need to face the dark aspects of their pasts if they are to make it through.”
With her decision to self-publish the book, she expresses a great experience with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. It was speedy and reliable, and she told me that the entire process only took within a week’s time. “The great thing about KDP is that it suggests pricing based on the length of your work. However, you have a lot of freedom to set whatever price you’d like, as long as it is in the required range. It only costs about $2.50 USD to print, and Amazon simply takes the amount out when you make a sale.”
She also tells me that Amazon’s self-publishing service is free, but an author will make money off royalties, all while having the convenience of publishing a book straight to the internet. “Essentially, it is a free process to self-publish. You make royalties, and you have the flexibility to publish both an e-book and paperback version, and Amazon does the work for you. I think it’s fantastic and super convenient.”
In regard to advice she would give to other aspiring writers, Bhasin suggests that if they’re doubtful, it’s okay to act quickly on ideas they may not be so sure about at first. “Honestly, just do it. Don’t think too long and hard about whether your work is perfect, because believe me, that is not possible.” According to her, it’s about overcoming the fear of placing your hard work in someone’s hands and going for it:
“There are too many people out there who want to write a book and simply haven’t gotten around to it. It is easier now than it has ever been to promote with social media and to have your work publicly available and retain your rights. The hard part is sitting down and writing that story, but if you believe that it is a story that needs to be told, you need to go for it. After all, once you write your first book, you’ll be even more motivated to start on a second.”
Bhasin’s novel UNDERPASS is available on Amazon.com.