Sitting crossed leg on the sofa, eating jam toast prepared by mum whilst talking excitedly about Harry Potter is the norm for most teenagers. However when you’re a debut novelist at the tender age of 15 years, with renowned journalist and film critic Anupama Chopra as your mother and distinguished producer-director Vidhu Vinod Chopra as your father, the casual scene juxtaposes with the lineage of talent that runs within teenager Zuni Chopra. Perhaps it is this contrast between realism and fantasy that has made her debut book ‘The House That Spoke’ the talk of the town. The young adult was recently in town on a whirlwind tour to promote her book, a story of a magical house against the backdrop of Kashmir. BizAsiaLive.com were fortunate to catch up with her to talk books, friends and social media.
Zuni, congratulations on your first novel. How does it feel for your book to be receiving such a positive response – was it expected?
It was definitely a surprise that Penguin agreed to make it into a book at all because I didn’t think that was going to happen. I didn’t think it was that good, so it is really gratifying to have people enjoying it and responding to it. The fact that it’s been made into a copy is a little bit crazy. When we were at the Jaipur Literature Festival, my whole family were standing and looking over their shoulder to see if anyone was buying it. We were so excited that it was selling. So I would say it’s amazing and definitely very surprising especially because I’m not someone in the past who has had a history of self confidence.
So this experience helped you to grow?
Oh yes definitely but not self confidence in terms of I’m not sure of myself or my personality but I’m the kind of person who would walk into every exam thinking automatically I’m going to fail and walk out thinking I’ve failed so yes that type of confidence has upped a lot since the release.
Your parents have seen huge success in their respective fields – do you feel any pressure to continue that success or are you looking to carve your own path?
It’s definitely really nice to have a fellow writer to go to for problems right in the house with you so it’s nice to know that I’ve got a support system but I don’t really feel that much pressure exactly. My parents have only ever given me advice if I’ve gone and asked for it and they are very good at not putting pressure in that way. It’s the same for my brother, we have two completely polarised passions I love books and want to write, and he loves sports and hasn’t picked up a book in the last five years. But there is no pressure on either of us to achieve super success but to follow what we enjoy.
Has your brother read your book?
No I don’t think so, I don’t think he could make it through it! He doesn’t even read comic books.
What support have you received from your friends and peer group?
I have dedicated the book to my three friends who I have known for the last 10 to 12 years and I’m really close to. So in terms of peer group I’m not really too affected by what does the rest of the class think of me because I know that I have these friends who are really accepting of everything I am. We are really candid with one another which is great as there’s a real sense of trust and they’re never going to be judgemental. You need them to be objective and they’re really great at that. I think that’s what friendship is based on – if you can’t trust what they’re saying how can you trust anything?
You have made a traditional hobby of writing exciting again in an age where social media dominates. You are not rampant on social media compared to your peer group. Is this deliberate?
I guess it’s strange I’m not on any social media. Of course now I’m on Twitter and Facebook but that’s for the book and less of my own personal updates about what I am eating for breakfast this morning. It’s tweeting things that are book related and what I’m doing with it because after you publish a book you have to really get it onto some sort of digital platform but before that I was never really on social media. I don’t even have a Facebook account which is what most people’s bread and butter. I just never really liked social media and I’m not judgemental of people that do like it, it’s something that’s important to know about in today’s day and age so I would never be judgemental of those that choose to be on it but it’s not something I am really into.
How do you think social media has affected the age old tradition of reading?
There was this girl in my class and she thanked me for giving me a copy of the book and I asked did you like it. She said to me ‘don’t take this the wrong way but I tried to read it but there was just so much description that I forgot what the story was about’. I was like oh wow ok I will take that into account. She said she couldn’t even get through the first chapter and I didn’t know what to say to her but felt sorry for her.
The cover of the book has received some great feedback– is this something you also designed?
Penguin designed it and again it’s really amazing that they put so much effort into it, into everything, not just the cover but into the edits, the page illustrations and really made it into an amazing book. I didn’t think they were going to put this much effort into it which I took to take that they really believed in it which is again an amazing feeling to have.
Finally what is your favourite book?
One of the books I really treasure is Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I read that when I was really young and it terrified and moved me.
‘The House that Spoke’ is a sumptuous book of magic and growing up and is available to buy online and in shops. BizAsiaLive.com wishes this young author all the best.