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GETTING LUCKY

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She wrote Lucky Me as a form of escapism through her high school years. But now Saba Kapur is the lucky one.
Like any typical teenager, Saba Kapur grew up on a diet of cult TV shows such as Gossip Girl, books by Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Plum, Sophie Kinsella, to name a few. She loved the romantic comedy genre with a hint of mystery and thought the protagonists, in many ways, made up much of her personality. It’s one thing to be an avid read but it’s altogether another thing to absorb the influence where you pen down a book that publishers are willing to lap up. But that’s what happened to Kapur who just turned 20. After three years of secretly keying in words after words into the night, she has finally come out with a fiction that is being released worldwide very soon.
An excited Kapur says, “But both Kindle and paperback versions can be ordered by from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble from April 5. The paperback Australian edition will be available by early June.”
Kapur, who is studying Criminology and International Relations at Monash University, says her love for writing began as a kid scribbling diaries but soon decided her life was not interesting enough. So she started writing short stories at age 12. “I didn’t take myself seriously of course. Writing was never something I thought I would have as a career. I went to so many possible career paths when I was young. I was stuck on wanting to be a princess till I was 12, then I wanted to be a vet, suddenly one day I woke up and said ‘Mom I want to be a lawyer’, I wanted to do criminology so my Mom was surprised.”
However, the consistent factor in her life was the fact that she loved reading. In the confines of her room, she was happy with a stack of books, a computer and to go unnoticed for days. During her high school years, Kapur’s love for books transformed into something else. More so because there were the usual problems associated with teenage years. “I had a friendship problem, I had a bit of a tough time and it’s cliché when people say high school is so cool. I was trying to find a group that I could fit into until I realised I didn’t need a group, I just needed one or two people I was comfortable with, and to feel wanted, respected and supported.” So it was during this time that the library became her sanctuary and the librarian her good friend. “I loved getting lost in books and in the world of characters. It was a massive form of therapy, it was a good escape. And discovering the joys of being able to write your own version of something you have so much control over as opposed to reality, over which you have none.”
However Lucky Me is not about Kapur’s personal experiences though there are, as she says, personal characteristics she shares with her characters. For instance, her main character Gia and she share a lot of similarities but they are vastly different as well. “I just tried to think what I would think in a particular situation and then tried to fit that to her lifestyle. I knew she was exaggerated and far more impulsive than I am. So I would think from her perspective and I had to try and keep each character consistent so they wouldn’t do one thing and change their mind the next minute. It is difficult to write so many characters and it was hard creating a world in itself leave alone the characters.”
Lucky Me is a novel based on 18-year old Gia Winters who has a movie star for a father, a former Playboy bunny as a mother, a Hollywood mansion, and a closet stocked with Chanel. But her world is turned upside down when her father mysteriously hires a group of bodyguards to trail the family 24/7 and threatening phone calls from a “Dr. D” start buzzing daily.
When Gia scores the coveted role of Miss Golden Globe, she is forced to strike a deal with her bodyguard, Jack, who is almost as arrogant as he is attractive. Juggling Gia’s romantic failures, fashion faux pas, and celebrity obsessions, the duo investigate a series of clues with the help of a police cadet, who has a special set of skills and an even better set of dimples. But with the Golden Globes just around the corner, danger levels rise higher than her stilettos as Gia learns that the biggest secrets might be the ones buried in her own home. In a place where the hills have eyes, high school nemeses, bad hair days, raging parties, and stolen kisses, there can only be trouble for a girl who was just starting to consider herself lucky.
“It took me two years and lots of re-write to come out with the book,” says Kapur, adding, “I used to find time at night because sometimes you have an idea and you won’t sleep until you put it down.” Clearly it was a hobby to begin with.
Through this writing phase, Kapur found a lot of support from her best friend. She would write a chapter and during lunch breaks pass it on to her friend who couldn’t wait for her to go on to the next one. There was a lot of constructive criticism too, she admits, and one of the characters in the book is a result of her friend’s feedback.
But it was when elder sister Rahat pushed her to sit down and edit it properly (since she was already spending so much time on the book) that she started contemplating the idea of sending it out ‘just to see what happened’. But before that she asked her librarian at her school to give the manuscripts to some students to get some feedback. The result was amazing. The students loved it. Instantly Kapur realised her story made sense. “I knew the grammar stuff could be fixed later on,” she reflects, adding, “I am so grateful to my editor at Amberjack because editing is a long and tedious process.”
Kapur says candidly that she never expected anything would come out of her writing. She was already warned about the competitive nature of the publishing world and that the chances of her book seeing the light of print was dim. While she did get a few responses nothing turned to fruition and truthfully admits to having given up until last June when US based publishing house Amberjack asked for the entire manuscript, gave an excellent feedback and asked for a Skype interview. The rest, as they say, is history. At barely 20, Kapur is an author by her own right.
“It was overwhelming when I got the contract. I have been lucky because the people in the firm are young. It adds a good perspective to the book because someone older would not understand. They have a successful PR team on board based in Texas. It feels they can relate to the book and market it properly.”
Lucky Me, published by US-based Amberjack Publishing, is targeted at teenage girls “but boys can read as well,” says Kapur. “I am at a good advantage to have this much experience writing this book but also be in the target age because I know the thinking, the lingo, and I am, or was recently, a teenager. A lot of what is in the book is based on my personal experiences –of what I can see in the media, what appeals to me.”
The title of the book has a double meaning, reveals the young author, who is still getting used to the idea of being called an author. “Gia has this amazing Hollywood life but at the same time there is so much behind the surface that is going wrong that it is almost sarcastic. From her perspective it is sarcastic, from the outside perspective it is ‘wow I would like to have your life’… I won’t give much away but I can guarantee there are attractive men,” laughs Kapur.
Asked if her parents have read the book, Kapur says her father does not get what it’s about but joked he would make it into a Bollywood movie someday. With her proud parents and family by her side, Kapur is finally in the home stretch and very excited.
Kapur is also in the process of writing a sequel. “At the end of this one there were quite a few things left unanswered. There was a pathway to continue and I left it like that. When I wrote it I never really thought of it as a sequel. But when I was getting to the end of it I felt I can’t fill everything in it and make it rushed. I would rather slow it down and remove certain things if they don’t seem to fit.”
A normal college goer who likes to hang out with her few close friends, Kapur is into fashion, as well as books, and spends a lot of time by herself. “I am comfortable with who I am now and it took a while to get there and I learnt a lot from high school… Sometimes people think if you are into fashion you don’t have brains. I have written a novel. It’s not for any other reason, it’s about confidence.”
That a floppy pink book with a little puppy on the cover would actually have a mysterious story line is symbolic of Kapur in many ways. “And if they do make a make a movie or a Netflix series I am happy to cast myself,” she laughs.
NOTE: The print version has erroneously said the official release date worldwide is April 5; however, the paperback Australian edition will be available only by early June.
Kindle and paperback versions can be ordered by from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble from April 5.
By Indira Laisram

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