For most students university is a time of self discovery, growing up and landing on ones own two feet. Of course with all of that comes a lot of socialising, partying, drinking and almost definitely having sex. Sex with mates, sex with new found long term partners, or sex with random people on one of the cash machines on campus… you know who you are. For some of us it is a fun, well-rehearsed game and the tally is rising way into double figures. However others are having to tackle the dreaded first time. The nervousness, the pressure, the hoping that everything goes right.
And then it happens, it’s over in a sticky mess and you know you will never be quite the same again.
Enter Radhika Sanghani, 23 year old City of London grad, writer for The Telegraph and now the author of her first novel V!RG!N, which follows 21 year old third year Ellie Kolstakis on her quest to lose the big V. The novel is full to the absolute brim with awkward vagina stories, sex talk, masturbation, pubes, blow jobs (or rather, “bite jobs”) people coming out of the closet and the crushing realisation that uni is coming to the end and the real world lies ahead, waiting with baited breath. Think Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman mashed up with the HBO series GIRLS. I caught up with the lovely Radhika and bombarded her with questions on writing her first novel, getting published and her reasons behind writing this coming of age book about sex.
The fact that you work at the Telegraph and have just published a novel all by the ripe old age of 23 is pretty amazing. How have you found writing your first novel?
I actually wrote it all in a month! I had to take some time off work for health reasons and thought that it was always something I had wanted to do, and then I actually had the time to do it. I was just writing it for myself and my friends at first and it was about half way through writing that I thought maybe other people would want to read it too.
Who was your main influence for Ellie? Or was she just a mix of different people rolled into one?
Ellie was completely fictional, but I wanted her to be realistic, open and honest. I wanted everything she went through in the book to be relatable to the reader, because we’ve all had different experiences like that at some point or another.
Some of the situations in the book are so awkwardly hilarious – are there any situations that are true or is it all fictional?
It’s a mix of both. The most awkward ones are true. I mainly used different stories from my friends but it gets to a point where you think all of this can’t have happened to one person!
The book is quite graphic with all of Ellie’s female dilemmas – is there anything you felt you couldn’t put in for fear of going too far?
No, I put EVERYTHING in. Even though a lot of it is pretty graphic, I didn’t think it was too taboo. Vagina’s shouldn’t be a taboo subject and society shouldn’t be embarrassed by them.
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
The hardest part wasn’t writing it because I was just doing that for myself at first, I didn’t think anyone else would read it. The hardest part was definitely when I got an agent and a book deal – having to go back and edit 80,000 words! Not fun.
So when you realised that other people might enjoy your writing as well, how did you go about getting it published?
I basically just googled everything. I googled “how to get a book published” and I learnt that you have to get an agent first and then they sort out the book deals with the publishers. So I then googled “how to get an agent” and I found a list of agents in the UK, and I sent out submissions to the appropriate ones. A submission usually consists of the first three chapters and a synopsis of the whole story. I went with the first agent who got back to me, she said she really loved it. It all happened so quick!
What advice would you give to aspiring young authors?
Don’t feel daunted, just throw yourself in. Writing as a profession always seemed so closed off, but you just have to write YOUR book. Don’t think about the publishing side of things, just write the book you’ve always wanted to write.
What would be the main message in your novel that you would want your readers to grasp?
People should stop questioning themselves and what society expects from them. Insecurities are completely normal and we should be comfortable making the right decisions for ourselves, not just doing things because everyone else is doing them.
Radhika, just like her main character Ellie, seemed like the kind of person you could say anything to and they would just laugh along and completely understand. She is in the process of writing her sequel and dedicated each Sunday to writing 5000 words in order to get it finished in time – good luck Radhika! Can’t wait to read what Ellie is getting up to next.