Interview with Shrey, the author of Saltwater, plus a giveaway

When I was asked to be part of Shrey’s launch of his debut book Saltwater, to be honest, I wondered what it was all about. The cover seemed to be ladlit. The premise seemed debauched enough. But the book, when I read it, just blew me away. And honestly, I am too stolidly built to be blown away that easily. If you’ve ever read Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hugh Selby Jr, this is our equivalent, albeit from the other side of the class divide.

So here is a photograph from the launch event:



And here is a short interview with Shrey about the book, the writing process and why writing chooses the writer rather than the other way around.

1] Beginning with the obvious one, what made you write this book?

I believe writing chooses you rather than the other way around. I have always written, it is my way to make sense of the world. The peeling away of the randomness to find underlying patterns. It took some timely encouragement and a leap of faith to believe this writing could lead to an actual book.

Saltwater was inevitable. I believe it just HAD to be written, a representation of the chaos of youth in brutal, honest terms. The world itself is compelling – with all of its rules and insecurities, and the cause-and-effect relationships that govern its narrative.

There have been books before Saltwater that cover the desolation of growing up in an otherwise benign environment – I think the genre is categorised as ‘Blank Coming Of Age’…

These are books I have loved very much. None however spoke of an Indian experience, and yet, I was taken aback at the similarities that were easily visible to me.

This increasing similarity to a “western” growing up experience, with all of it’s good and bad, is one of the things we are going to have to grapple with…

2] The book is very dark, unrelenting and disturbing. Did you feel there were places you consciously held back from getting grimmer?

From the beginning I was extremely clear on how I wanted Saltwater to end.

I had to be very careful in the construction and order in which the scenes are assembled – to get the mood exactly right, to pull the reader into the head space of Rish, the protagonist.

Saltwater gets trippy and out-of-control, but I don’t think any of the events are terribly implausible in the context of its larger world.

There were a lot of pretty good scenes that got left at the editing table for many reasons – but I didn’t consciously hold back from going to specific places, just because they might be difficult to palate.

3] What is it about the protagonists of the book, why are they so purposeless? Would you call them the lost generation?

Rish, the protagonist is purposeless, and I think he struggles with it through the novel. Other significant characters move through the book with purpose – even if their short term goals do not satisfy our, or even Rish’s scrutiny.

Perhaps the millennials are a lost generation; they are definitely a generation in transit.

They can afford to find their own purpose, as opposed to having a purpose defined externally, through society or whatever… This is, of course, the ideal scenario.

However sometimes it takes some time to find that reason, find that purpose, some may never even find it at all. Is that better or worse than chasing goals which aren’t yours? I am not sure.

4] How long was this book in writing?

The book took me the best part of 2 years to write and edit into a complete draft.

There were extended editing sessions with my agents and then subsequently with Penguin. Everyone was great though – despite the edgy content, the book went through without a single cut.

5] Who are the authors, the books you turn to over and over again? Have any of them been inspirations for this book?

I was 14 when I read The Great Gatsby. It completely blew me away; it is when I decided that writing a novel is going to be a life goal. I still re-read it, and the words have that same electricity every time. That power has not faded for the better part of a century.

I also love Bret Easton Ellis, his early work is a huge influence on my writing. I like a lot of American writers in general, now that I think about it. Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski are other favorites I revisit a lot.

6] What are you working on now?

I am working on a second novel for Penguin though it is still a little early to discuss any details. It is a departure from Saltwater.

I am also working on a few smaller projects. I guess a bit of a palate cleanser when the novels get too heavy. It is liberating to stop digging inside psyches, which is essentially what attracts me to the Novel as a medium; it’s good to just forget all that and simply chase the awesome.

Finally, if you want to read an extract from the book, go here.

I have an extra copy of Saltwater with me, which I’m going to send out to the most interesting answer to the question “Which novel would you call your coming of age novel and why?” Only India addresses please, as usual. Contest ends end of March. Shrey will select the winner, and I have no role to play in the selection, as always.


About Kiran Manral

Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush (2014), All Aboard (2015), Saving Maya (2017); horror with The Face at the Window (2016) and nonfiction with Karmic Kids (2015), A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up (2016) and True Love Stories (2017). Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey (2017) and Boo (2017). Her articles and columns have appeared in the Times of India, Tehelka, DNA, Yowoto, Shethepeople, New Woman, Femina, Verve, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Conde Nast Traveller, DB Post, The Telegraph, the Asian Age, iDiva, TheDailyO and more. She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. She is a TEDx speaker and a mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017.
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12 Responses to Interview with Shrey, the author of Saltwater, plus a giveaway

  1. phoenixritu says:

    The Catcher in the Rye is an all time favorite as a coming of age novel, but then it is a classic. Hunger Games is another, but it is somewhat of a cult favorite right now. I found it lacking impact, it was fantasy. For coming of age, we need to ground the novel in a familiar milieu to make it universally identifiable. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse comes to mind as one of the best. Once Upon a River is a relatively new novel by author Bonnie Jo Campbell. A 15 year old girl who is raped by her uncle flees on her grandfather’s boat, to find her mother. But mostly she wants to be free, away from school, society and law. It is kind of like the movie Highway … freedom through travel. I loved it. Sorry for the long comment


  2. Sri says:

    My favourite coming-of-age novel would have to be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte..I was about 13 years old when I first read the book and it has had a profound impact on me…I even used to think about Indian actors best suited to play the characters of Jane and Mr Rochester!


  3. Gede Prama says:

    Well written. May peace be with you 🙂


  4. Meera says:

    Hmmmm.. I am thinking hard but I can’t name any novel as my coming-of-age novel. May be Saltwater will be it if I win a copy


  5. Shrey Z says:

    Guys thanks so much for your responses!
    Yes all the books mentioned are amazing – and have played big parts in my life!
    Hope you get an opportunity to flip through saltwater!


  6. Mark Miranda says:

    While in the 6th Std, I started reading Shakespeare and literary classics condensed for kids of my age and I was quite taken up with the visions and the ideas they shared with the reader. But when I reached college, right after my SSC, the book that had a deep and profound impact on me was Khushwant Singh’s ‘The Company of Women’. I was somewhere between 16 – 18 and that year in 1999, I read what it was to be a man and how as he grows older, his sexual instincts travel from his middle to his head. That book was really the coming of age for me, a shy guy growing up with attention given and received and I don’t know what to do with it and how to take it forward and how do I even reciprocate my own demons. That fine line between needs and wants may have been drawn around that period. I think it was a fantastic book, quite simple to read and yet had a profound wisdom that wasn’t openly written about. We need more authors like him and from what I read a little of the excerpt from your book, I would want to read your book completely. Maybe sit in a coffee shop or some dark cave and finish it


  7. Shrey Z says:

    Hi Guys, thanks for the responses!
    The coming of age novel provides important context to our own journeys.

    I choose Mark Miranda as the winner of the book giveaway. I am sure you’d like it!



    • m60insurrector says:

      Thank you very much Shrey and it means a lot to me to have won a copy of this book. I am extremely elated and have been going around sharing this good news with all my friends since evening.
      Thank you Kiran for creating a platform for readers/bloggers like us and sharing this on your blog without which I wouldn’t have heard of it.


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