Like any field, as you delve into becoming a professional, you meet people along the way who change your perception of what you're doing and how you're doing it.
Nisha Sharma is one of those people for me.
An author, a lawyer, an advocate, all while juggling a movie deal for her first novel My So-Called Bollywood Life (out May 15th!), an upcoming wedding, and of course, her love of Bollywood and dancing...If you want a role model or someone to take some serious planner tips from, Nisha is your girl.
I'm so lucky to speak with her today...and I'd recommend you follow her on Twitter (she's hilarious!) @nishawrites and on Instagram at @nishasharmawrites. Her website can be found at www.nisha-sharma.com (it's SO CUTE!).
Give us the deets...who are you? What do you stand for? To quote John Green...tell us "your story. Your hobbies, your passions, your weird fetishes."
First, thank you so much for having me! You’re one of my favorite book people, so I’m so glad we could do this interview.
My story is relatively boring. I’m a book nerd, a lawyer, a MFA grad, a former classical Kathak dancer, and I’m just as awkward in person as I am on Twitter. I love Bollywood movies, Indian food, traveling (but only if it’s boujie-travel, and not some backpacking thing), and my family.
I’m passionate about food, about books, about my pets, and trying new things. Also, I hate olives.
You've received multiple book deals, a movie deal, and you're incredibly well educated. What propelled you to chase each of these dreams with such vigor?
I don’t think there was ever a moment in my life when I didn’t want to be a writer. The only problem was that I felt an obligation to be successful in what I’ve always called my ‘backup career’ as well. The backup career concept was something that stemmed from cultural and social pressure, but it was strong enough to push me through law school.
I think the more I succeeded as a lawyer, which came naturally to me, the more I wanted to prove myself as a writer. I didn’t want my family, my friends, and most importantly, myself, to forget the fact that law was just a backup and writing was where my heart would always be.
I also believe that a lot of my success has to do with my parents as well. My mother is a house wife who loves my father dearly, but she had dreams and ambitions that she wasn’t able to complete before she had an arranged marriage. She pushed my sister and I to achieve every success we could obtain instead.
My father always believed education was the most important tenant in someone’s life. He was the descendant of a long line of physicians, and wanted my sister and I to be just as educated.
Basically, I was screwed from birth, haha.
You were destined for nerd life! But it's clearly paid off as you're an expert in so many tracks. What do you love most about each pursuit you've chased?
The lessons I’ve learned along the way. Not the knowledge exactly, but the life skills. In law school, I learned never, ever expect other people to teach you what you need to know. Go after the knowledge yourself, and fight for what you believe in. In my MFA program, I learned that if you’re stuck, delete the last ten pages and start over. I think those skills are more valuable than textbook knowledge any day.
You talk about diversity and inclusion a lot (I know, it's part of your day job too!). What are some ways people can encourage and promote inclusivity in their daily lives?
There is this new initiative in corporate called ‘belonging’ that I’m starting to really get into it. To explain, diversity is being invited to the party, inclusivity is being invited to the dance, and belonging is bringing your whole self to the dance floor and dancing like no one is watching. I think it’s important to be mindful that sometimes being invited to the party isn’t the end of the discussion, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done to change people’s mindset AFTER disadvantaged communities are asked to join a conversation. The concept of diversity and inclusion isn’t comfortable, and it shouldn’t be. However, allies can do a lot to help in making disadvantaged communities feel like they can bring their whole, authentic self to the table.
I LOVE the notion of being invited to a party versus rocking out on the dance floor without judgment. The concept of diversity and inclusion are seamless in your book as well. Your upcoming novel makes plenty of references to Bollywood movies, an Indian movie industry loved around the world. What are some of your favorites and why?
There are to many to list! If you purchase a copy of MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE, you can find a glossary of movies at the end of the book, and the ones that are rated five star by my main character, Winnie, are pretty much my favorites as well.
If you pre-order a copy of the book and submit a copy of your receipt to: https://www.getunderlined.com/perks/enter-the-my-so-called-bollywood-life-by-nisha-sharma-pre-order-giveaway/ , you’ll get a huge list of awesome Bollywood movies as well!
It's nearly inevitable that people read books about diverse characters with at least a few preconceived notions. And hopefully, their eyes will be opened while they read. What is something you hope readers gain most from your books? (Outside of the amazing read they'll be partaking in!)
I was really conscious of pre-conceptions when I drafted MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE. The biggest one is that all Indian parents don’t understand their kids. This happens often, but I wanted to show that sometimes, Indian kids are really close to their parents, too. That’s why Winnie’s family is a huge support system in the story. I also wanted readers to understand that South Asians born and raised in the U.S. aren’t always conflicted with their culture. Sometimes, they’re completely understanding and happy straddling the line.
Three weird facts about you that the public doesn't know...go!
I have an OCD about closing things. I will go through my house before bed to make sure that all the doors and windows and cabinets are closed.
I have insane muscle memory when it comes to dance routines. I can watch a Bollywood dance song, and practically mimic the entire thing after only seeing it a couple times.
I was actually published by a small press before, for 2 adult romance e-novellas. The novellas were about cowboys and witches. I wrote them under a pen name and that is the extent of information I’ll reveal.
It's five years from now, and you've achieved your dream. What does your vision look like?
I hope to be writing full time, have a family to take care of, and no law school debt. The last one is probably my biggest dream.
And now it's your turn to be the wise one! What is advice you would give someone who is getting their vision off the ground?
Repeat this mantra to yourself every morning:
QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION.
If you believe in your goal so much that you’ll never quit at it, then you won’t fail. Rise and grind, friends. When you do, anything becomes possible.
Top three bucket list items:
Hitting the NYT list
Paying off all my school debt
Taking a cooking class in Tuscany
Five people you recommend people follow and why they've influenced you.
Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin, is such an inspiration. Follow that girl!
Roshani Chokshi is talented, funny, kind and beautiful. Her newsletters are hysterical!
Agent Eric Smith! He’s super woke, and probably the kindest person in publishing.
Patrice Caldwell is a mover, a shaker, and the biggest supporter of POCs in the industry.
Ellen Oh. Not only is she super talented, but she tweets incredibly thought-provoking discussions on diversity.
And of course, YOU!! Thank you again for having me. I loved doing this interview with you!