Hi everyone! I’m so excited to feature Rahul Kanakia and his debut novel, Enter Title Here. Learn more about the book, Rahul and don’t forget to enter the giveaway below!
About the Book
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
Releases August 2nd 2016 from Disney-Hyperion
Add it on GoodReads
I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.
Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.
What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.
But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.
Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)
About the Author
Rahul Kanakia is the author of a contemporary YA novel called ENTER TITLE HERE (that’s its actual name, guys) that’s coming out on August 2nd, 2016, from Disney-Hyperion. It’s been described (by his agent, so you know this is a thoroughly impartial assessment) as GOSSIP GIRL meets HOUSE OF CARDS.
Rahul’s short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, Nature, and the Intergalactic Medicine Show. He holds an MFA in fiction from Johns Hopkins University. He also holds a BA in Economics from Stanford University. He used to work for the World Bank, in their South Asia Environment division.
ENTER TITLE HERE is a book about writing a book. How were you inspired to have a main character who was working through writing a novel?
Well, the book was inspired by that infamous YA novel from a few years back, How Opal Mehta Got A Life… which is a book about an Indian girl who gets told, by the dean of Admissions at Harvard, that they only want well-rounded applicants and that she seems too robotic to get in. Basically he tells her to relax, and that if she doesn’t relax then she won’t get into Harvard! Which inspires her to go home and, with her parents, devise this whole big plan to win friends, get a boyfriend, etc.
Huge sections of that book turned out to be plagiarized from Salman Rushdie and Megan McCafferty, and the book was recalled. Which to me added an even more interesting wrinkle to the story. Because that book was written as a light-hearted romp. But what if we took it seriously? My book tries to imagine the kind of character who actually would cynically attempt to pass herself off as a carefree, happy, and typical high schooler.
With your debut releasing in only a few months, is there any wisdom you’d like to impart onto aspiring writers?
Onto aspiring writers? Yes. Everything bad that can happen, will happen. You think it won’t. You think it will happen to other people, but maybe not to you. And yet it’s not true. Everybody loses editors. Everybody goes out of print. Everybody gets bad reviews. Everybody has a book flop. Everybody gets called racist by a bunch of people online. Everything bad that can happen, will happen.
Once you realize this, it’s a bit easier to take. Because most authors, especially YA authors, tend to put a good face on things, you tend not to realize all the trouble that’s under the surface. NYT best-selling authors still have books rejected by their publishers. And behind all the success and all the book deals, they’re always (and I mean ALWAYS) a tremendous amount of trauma.
So when bad shit goes down, don’t take it personally. It’s really not just you.
How do you think teens, particularly high school seniors, will be able to relate to Reshma’s journey?
Reshma is a pretty entitled and pretty angry person. She’s gotten a lot in life, but she thinks she deserves more. In some ways, that’s a very unsympathetic thing. And yet I think that mirrors the experience of most Americans. Most of us have gotten more in life than we deserved, and most of us feel like we deserve still more than that. That’s the reason why all young adult novels are about these put-upon outcasts. Were we all put-upon outcasts in high school? No. But we most of us felt like we were.
I think her anger makes Reshma relatable, but it’s her confidence that makes her heroic. She doesn’t ask for forgiveness, sympathy or help. She knows what she wants in life, and she’ll stop at nothing to get it. Which would be horrifying, if the stakes were high. But they’re not. Fundamentally the book is about grades and class ranks, which are, in the grand scheme, pretty trivial things. Because of that, it becomes easier to relax and cheer her on.
Your short stories have been featured in many different publications, what was the biggest challenge in writing this novel versus a short story?
This novel was so easy! I wrote it in thirty-one days. It all came out so quickly and so easy. It was less like writing and more like transcribing this crazy voice that was talking in my ear. Nothing else I’ve ever written has been so easy.
In general, the biggest challenge of novels vs. short stories is structure. Novels live and die by their structure. Short stories not so much. For short stories you can get away with just creating a mood. But a novel needs plot and character arc and tension, and those are not things that you’re just born knowing how to do. It took a lot of tinkering before the structure of Enter Title Here felt anything like a real book, and even now it’s still not perfect.
In your FAQ, you mention that you’ve written four other novels prior to this one but ENTER TITLE HERE will be your debut. What’s the process behind this system? What has your publishing journey been like?
I wish I had a process! With some books I outline, and with some books I just sit down and try to figure it out as I go along. With some books I write by hand and with some books it’s all on the computer.
More interesting than the three novels I wrote prior to Enter Title Here are the six novels I’ve written since! Yes, two middle-grade books, two young adult books, and two books for adults! And none of them has yet sold (although I still have high hopes for three of these books).
That’s what I mean when I say everything bad is gonna happen to you. When I sold Enter Title Here I was like, alright! Maybe everything I write isn’t gonna be amazing, but it’s at least all gonna be salable!
But nope, that has not proven to be the case. Even after your debut, you still have a lot of learning to do. The only difference is that now you’ve got agents and publishers and fans who’ll be disappointed in you if you fail.
Thanks Rahul for answering all of my questions and for participating!