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Kissing the Demon by Amrita Kumar – A Crash Course for the Creative Writer

28th June, 2017

Book Review: Kissing the Demon by Amrita Kumar

How can you swim through an idea in your head, get it printed on paper and sign a book deal? Kissing the Demon is the creative writer’s handbook and has the answers to all (I mean, ALL) the questions in your head about the publishing industry and the writing process.

Review

This is a very difficult book to review because it is a help book for writers. A new writer is always confused – Do I need an agent? Should I self-publish? Can I do my own marketing? How to start? Is my idea good enough? Will I survive? Should I have a day-job? Where can I write? And so many more! Let me put it this way – If you are interested in writing or looking for an online course to brush up your writing skills, this book would be an excellent investment. If you know nothing about the publishing field but want to write a book and eventually publish it, this is the handbook you can live by. This book tells you the ABC of everything related to writing a book, right from when you get an idea in your head to creating a book out of your idea.

I really enjoyed reading the book. I was curious about the book after reading a review on Books and Strips which praised the book. I am happy to report that the book deserves all the praise. Kissing the Demon is divided into many sections – The empty page, Narrative Techniques (Structure and Plot, Characterization, Narration, Dialogue, Settings and Description, Beginning and Endings), Getting ready to publish, The publishing process and Ten Commandments for Writerly Life. Each section elaborates on the topic and includes several subsections with a generous amount of examples quoted from famous novels, movies and lives of other writers. There are writing exercises included at the end of some sections that will help you to tune your skills.

The book was very informative for me. For example even though I knew some aspects of the written word, I did not know the terms that defined them (objective information and subjective information regarding a character). It was interesting to see how the earnings of a single book are distributed among the publisher, marketing personnel, the editor and the writer; and what the book’s profits will be depending on how the book is sold (bookstore, online market etc). Amrita, having four decades of experience in the publishing industry, points out mistakes and clichés writers fall into, terms in your contract you should be careful about before you sign it and what to do if you do not have that perfect dream desk to write on.

The writing is direct and Amrita does not beat around the bush. Each chapter is very specific and brief; so they aren’t written in the form of telling a story (like Stephen King’s On Writing, another fabulous book). The tones in the book sometimes echo that of Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic. Overall, the book reads like a lecture series that you would attend in a writing workshop. This style worked for me (even though I usually prefer the story- telling style) because Amrita packs so much relevant information in each chapter. The book tackles the same question from different angles – What is your story? What would your audience want to listen to? How can you and your editor arrive at a consensus? This made it very interesting to read. The book ends with the exercises writers need to do at regular intervals to take care of their health. This was the only part where I felt a bit let down because it seemed like an abrupt end to the book than a personal one.

Would I recommend?

Yes, definitely! This book is like a crash course into the writing and publishing world. Though the book is more relevant to the Indian publishing industry, international aspiring writers will find it equally useful, especially the parts about conceptualising your idea onto paper. The only portions where non-Indians (rather I should say non-Bollywood movie watchers) would have a slight problem is when Amrita gives examples citing some Bollywood movies. But that is a very small inconvenience indeed. As for Indians, this book is a ‘must-buy’ because most of the online courses and help materials available do not address the publishing scenario of India. A perfect book to add to your shelves whether you are starting out new or have many books to your credit.

Title : Kissing the Demon
Author : Amrita Kumar
Publisher : Harper Collins
Published : 2017
Language : English
Pages : 268
Rating : 4.5/5

Disclaimer : Much thanks to Harper Collins India for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own

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Have you read Kissing the Demon? Do you have other recommendations for books or courses on writing?

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Kissing the Demon: The Creative Writer's Handbook
This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. I’m intrigued by this book too ever since the review on Books & Strips. Now that it has your stamp of approval too, I’m definitely buying this for myself

    1. This is an excellent book Vijayalakshmi. It lists out everything. Sure, it is no substitute for an extensive course on writing but it makes you think about what mistakes you might be making, how to look at a piece of writing from another angle etc.And there are many technical terms that you should be careful of in your contract that the book lists out. I think I have come to appreciate writers more than ever after reading the book. They put in so much work.

      1. They sure do! And this book is the first if its kind for the Indian market, I think. I certainly haven’t heard of any others. So definitely adding this to my library.

        1. I agree. Most of the help resources available online are for UK and US publishing industry; not that of other countries. Amrita also lists out the difference between the Indian and the foreign market. I think you should have a look at this book. Let me know if you will enjoy it.

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