An Exclusive Insight: Bina Nayak on Storytelling

In the world of creativity, Bina Nayak shines brightly as both an author and graphic designer. From her roots as head of Walt Disney’s design team in India to her vibrant career as an author and graphic designer based in the picturesque land of Goa, Bina’s story is as captivating as her artistry. 

In a recent interview with Zorba Books, Bina Nayak shares insights into her literary voyage.

ZB: Were there personal experiences or observations that influenced the development of the story?

Bina: Certainly. The idea came from my interactions with influencers. I have had the misfortune of living near a road in Parra, North Goa, that was briefly featured in the Bollywood film- Dear Zindagi. After the film became a hit, we would get a few tourists every month, asking for directions to that road. (To tell you the truth- there are thousands of identical-looking, coconut-tree-lined narrow roads in the villages of Goa! So any tourist will get confused) In the beginning, I felt great pride that our little road was known by people in other parts of the country. But after Covid, that trickle of tourists became a flood. Now we residents could not use the road, as influencers were constantly on it. There would be crowds, sometimes literally lying down on the tar road- even on hot afternoons, just to get the right shot.

That road was my jogging track, so often when I would dodge the influencers, I would wonder- why doesn’t a coconut fall on their head, or their tripod-mounted mobiles! And that thought became the first opening para of Goagram(my latest book)!

Zorba Books (ZB): As an author, what challenges did you encounter while writing a story centered around the world of social media and influencers?

Bina: I am much older than the average influencer and the audience that consumes the content put out by influencers. So, in the beginning, it was difficult to put myself in their shoes. I observed what youngsters do- I have a daughter in her twenties and have watched her grow up in a Social Media world.

That being said, people of my generation were the first users of the Internet, email, Napster, and later Social Media- be it Orkut, Myspace, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, et al.

I also did not want Goagram, published by Harper Collins, to be like a rant or spread hate on influencers- because that is the easiest route. So I feel like I set myself quite a task when I decided to show their human side, their day-to-day life challenges, the other side of the glamour- all through the lens of my main protagonist- Madhur Chopra, aka Maddie.

ZB: Goa is not just a backdrop but a crucial element in your story. How did you use the location to enhance the overall narrative and evoke specific emotions?

Bina: Goa is also where I live. It is the land of my ancestors. My first novel- Starfish Pickle (now a movie on Netflix by T-series, called Starfish) is also based in Goa. I know Goa well and tend to write about the things and the places I know. So it’s not that I was using the location to evoke anything- it just happened organically.

The state of Goa (the smallest in India) depends a lot on tourism, and the government literally bends over backwards to please tourists. As a result, most people who come here treat it as a place to just have fun, trash it, and go back to their homes. They don’t even seem to realise that ‘real people’ reside here, people who have jobs, and whose kids go to school.

ZB: Were there any surprises or unexpected turns in the narrative that arose during the creative process?

Bina: I don’t want to give away any spoilers- but the main character faces a dilemma at a point in the story. As a writer, I struggled there, wondering whether to give in. But it would have changed the whole plot, it would have been an out-of-character for my protagonist- who I have crafted as a strong, but a sensitive and empathetic young girl.

ZB: What do you hope readers will find most memorable or thought-provoking about your book?

Bina: I hope that my readers will come away with a more humane perspective on Influencing and influencers. I hope that they will learn how not to get addicted to Social Media– to use it wisely, rather than be used by it.

ZB: For aspiring authors, what advice would you give based on your experiences in writing and publishing?

Bina Nayak: Unless you come from a privileged/rich background, you cannot survive on writing alone. You cannot expect to be a famous writer, getting fancy advances, all that takes time—and there is every possibility that it will not happen at all. In the meanwhile, write content, write articles as a journalist, write advertising copy—all these are forms of writing that will pay your bills and put food on your table. And while you do these jobs, you will meet interesting people who will inspire you, or trigger you to write that ‘Great Big Novel’. But write seriously, and also read a lot.

Take me, for example, I am a trained graphic designer first. My design pays me more than my writing. So even after 2 novels, of which one was turned into a movie, if I get a design assignment, my novel writing is immediately put on hold- without batting an eyelid! And it’s also probably why I took nearly 20 years to publish my first novel. It was written in 2002-2003 but was published in 2021. I was constantly putting it aside to attend to my design work!

ZB: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges influencers face in maintaining authenticity in their online presence?

Bina Nayak: I think it is their audience expectation- or what they perceive as their audience expectation. It is very difficult to be your authentic self when you become a public personality.

This does not happen only to influencers. Whether it is film stars, cricketers, celebs, or leaders- the average person tends to put them on a pedestal and treat them like demigods and superheroes. Then, every action of theirs is scrutinized. Every wrinkle is counted, every milligram or inch gained is pointed out—and made fun of.

We hope this interview with Bina Nayank will arm writers and authors with greater insights into the life of a successful writer. Her answers weave tips for writers and authors. I hope this and other interviews with authors will immensely help writers and authors looking to improve their writing and marketing skills.

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