Interview with Author Jass Aujla.
By Hillary Hart
A long work commute can be a hindrance to a lot of people, but author Jass Aujla used her commute time on the train to pursue a personal dream of hers—to write her debut novel. When the pandemic happened and she lost her commute time due to work-from-home mandates, she adapted and found the Twitter community to be a supportive and inspiring outlet to regroup and grow as a writer through different writing prompts and challenges. Congratulations on writing your debut novel, Next of Twin. What inspired this story? Next of Twin is a suspense thriller about identical twin sisters Anjali and Riah who each want what the other has It basically started as a ten-page submission for a writing retreat I attended in Italy in late 2018. And then those ten pages grew into a full-fledged first draft by June 2019. The interesting part of writing this novel is that I wrote about 95% of the first draft while I was commuting to work every day from the suburbs into the city where I worked in Toronto. I almost felt like I was writing at the same speed the train was traveling. There was always a sense of urgency. I’m often asked why I don’t use voice-to-paper apps—it’s because the idea isn’t quite formulated in my head yet. However, when I close my eyes and start typing, the idea gets flushed out between my brain, fingertips, and computer. Then Covid happened, it actually set me back with my novel. I was no longer required to travel to work. The commute was about 55 minutes each way, which was about two hours of writing a day that I no longer focused on. The editing phase during Covid was difficult without the extra writing time during the commute. However, at the end of the day, I still feel I have a great novel because I took additional time to edit it. It's very inspiring that you managed to balance both careers and used that commute time as a positive and productive time to pursue your writing while on the train. How did you adjust your writing time during the pandemic when you lost that commute time? When I was promoted in 2018, it meant I had a longer commute to work, so I made a conscious effort to use the commuting time as an opportunity to pursue a personal goal that I’ve always had. I’m very grateful for the time I had during the commute. When Covid happened, people were raving about no longer having a commute, but I went from 55 minute to a 30-second commute to my home office, which made it challenging to find focus time for writing.
I joined Twitter in 2021 and fell into the writing community there. I found daily prompts and started to write short Twitter poems. This rejuvenated my creativity as I didn’t have my daily writing commute time anymore, so I would wake up every morning and find the daily prompt and write. This allowed me to re-explore and fall in love again with the words themselves. While I was editing Next of Twin, it helped me tremendously. Some of the early feedback I'd gotten back on my earlier drafts was that the pace of the story was good, but the language was basic and certain parts lacked emotion. Being able to expand my vocabulary in such a way through Twitter by exploring and writing, also expanded my mind to create from there. I think it also helped me elevate how I was describing things and the mood within the storyline in Next of Twin as well. With Twitter, you can record and publish your voice and audio as well, which is great because it allows poets and authors to be able to have their work out there by voice as well, so it’s not always visual. I love writing suspense thrillers, but I also think I have at least two to three books worth of poetry from Twitter. As I got to know the writing community, I found calls for poetry and micro-fiction stories which enabled me to be published in several anthology publications. It’s been great to contribute to not just my own personal writing goals by writing a novel, but to also be able to contribute to other anthologies. The most recent one I contributed to is called Hidden in Childhood, published by Literary Revelations. I believe it includes around 150 poets and 280 poems. The anthology is a powerful poetry collection, and I’m proud to be a part of it. When did you first develop a love for writing? Did you start with poetry? Poetry is probably my first love. I was born in India, and I migrated with my parents to Canada when I was two years old. As a child, I loved reading and making up stories in my head. When I was eight, I wrote a short story, and it landed me a seat to an exclusive Canadian young writer’s conference. I believe that elementary assignment at eight became my destiny. I studied creative writing through high school and as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto. I had a passion for writing throughout high school and had teachers encourage and support me to pursue writing. I applied to a journalism program which was extremely competitive to get into and was accepted. Ultimately, I decided to go to the University of Toronto to pursue finance. After I finally got traction in writing my debut novel, I felt this was how it was meant to be. I’ve been able to have a professional career and now pursue my creative side as well. Even though my creativity and writing have always played a part in my life, having the opportunity to pursue writing now is so exciting. Although poetry has always been in my blood and a way, I translate the world and process my emotions, I have many ideas for longer novels. What have you learned from writing a book and the publication process? I’ve learned there’s a lot of material out there—a lot of authors, books, modes in how you get your entertainment. There are audiobooks, physical books, and electronic books. There are a lot of choices out there for audiences of literature and I think the key is finding your target market. I’m excited because I’m also learning about how publicity works and the benefits of traditional media outlets and marketing mechanisms. It’s interesting and it’s a learning process all in one! Do you have any advice for new writers or things you wish you’d known when you first started writing? My advice is if you have a passion and goal to write, then just write. Put pen to paper or fingers to typewriter or laptop, and write. It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s the beauty of any type of writing—you can edit it. I’ve learned so much about the editing process through my own experience. There’s an exercise I went through where I highlighted different crutch words I was using throughout the document in different colors. I tended to use the word “that” a whole lot, and I would highlight it in green. There was one page that literally looked like a sea of green. Write, and be open to learning throughout the process and sharing. After the initial writing retreat, I then attended the Writer’s Digest Conference the following year in June 2019. This was a great experience because it allowed me to meet other authors and people who aspired to write as well. I also had the opportunity to pitch to different literary agents. It was encouraging because getting feedback from agents and people more experienced in the industry was so helpful. You have to start somewhere—so just start! Are you working on any other projects? I’m at a place right now where I want to fully focus on giving Next of Twin the push and boost it deserves, but I do have a few ideas I’m bouncing around. I’m hoping by the summertime, I’m going back into the office three days a week so I can get back to having more commuting time to focus on writing. I have a couple of ideas I’ve been bouncing in my head. My next book will definitely be a suspense thriller, but with a more ethereal quality to it, and maybe it will be set in a woodsy environment. Something to do with the soul. More spiritual but maybe with a twisty murder. It’s still fresh and steeping in my brain.
Where can readers find your book and connect with you?
There’s They can pre-order the link to Next of Twin on the landing page of my author website: www.jassaujla.com
You can also find it as of May 16, 2023, on Amazon, any Indigo store for my Canadian friends, and Barnes & Noble for my American friends.
You can connect with me on social media at: @byjassaujla