Becoming a Writer, Making a Movie, and Finding a Physical Practice that Works
Soman Chainani’s debut series, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, has sold more than 3 million copies, been translated into 30 languages across 6 continents, and will be a major motion picture from Netflix in 2022. Each of the six books in the series — THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, A WORLD WITHOUT PRINCES, THE LAST EVER AFTER, QUESTS FOR GLORY, A CRYSTAL OF TIME, and ONE TRUE KING — have debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list. Together the books have been on the print and extended lists for 38 weeks. Soman has recently announced a new book, BEASTS & BEAUTY, coming September 28, 2021 from HarperCollins.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University’s MFA Film Program, Soman began his career as a screenwriter and director, with his films playing at over 150 film festivals around the world. He has been nominated for the Waterstone Prize for Children’s Literature, been named to the Out100, and also received the $100,000 Shasha Grant and the Sun Valley Writer’s Fellowship, both for debut writers.
We talk to Soman about growing up in Florida, transitioning from filmmaker to writer, making his first novel into a movie, and the accidental physical practice that keeps him sane.
Books, People, and Halloween Parties mentioned in the episode:
05:20 The Soman/Starrett origin story; Tim Ferriss; Wound care
07:40 Soman was not suited to growing up in Florida
09:20 Soman’s grandfather was the first Indian to come to Florida and he and Soman’s mom and aunts have things named after them in Daytona and Ocala
10:40 Kelly is noticing some major similarities between Soman’s youth and The School for Good and Evil
12:10 The Immigrant State of Mind; Soman is essentially Tedros
14:21 Soman graduated Harvard #1 in his major and #2 in the whole class, but had never been more miserable
14:54 It took 5 New York Times Bestsellers and selling the rights to his book for a movie until Soman’s Dad said it was ok for Soman to waste money on Ubers
15:45 “Happiness is positive cash flow”- Soman’s Dad
16:13 In retrospect Soman realizes that he was living in his head and was not attuned to his physicality; His adult life became about regrounding with yoga and meditation
18:11 In order to have a big creative engine, you have to be trying to escape your body by living in your head. You’d be hard pressed to find an artist that doesn’t start from a place of imbalance.
19:22 Kelly mentions that Soman is one of the hardest working athletes he knows
19:50 Soman has found that having a more physical practice changed his mental health. Yoga was too much in his head, too similar to writing. Soman accidentally tried CrossFit and was hooked.
21:20 Career transitions: Pharmaceutical Sales Rep → Author of the Cliff’s Notes of the Kama Sutra
23:02 Soman went to film school and became a screenwriter; was supposed to direct a movie that fell apart, which led to Soman coming up with the idea for The School for Good and Evil
24:45 How does Soman keep track of all these characters?!
26:49 The universe conspired to make Soman face the horrors of his youth
28:50 The School for Good and Evil explained
31:12 Each book is binary: good/evil, boys/girls, old/young
31:40 Netflix if putting out a movie based on the first book in the series directed by Paul Feig, starring Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, and so many more.
33:40 Soman’s describes his first moment on the set of the movie
35:07 Soman feels that Paul Feig is the perfect director to create all the different tones in the book
37:00 Soman explains how he came to sell the idea for his first book(s), which starts with a Yoga Cult
39:22 HarperCollins buys 3 books before a word was even written
40:26 The writing process: Soman tutored 4pm-10pm 7 days a week, and wrote from 9am – 3pm everyday. A case study in imbalance.
41:50 Being out of balance seems to be a theme for building something great, but it is not sustainable
43:20 Soman found balance for the 4th book by way of an accidental CrossFit session
44:48 Soman is very engaged with readers and fans, and is such an advocate of reading
45:40 Soman is less interested in morals and more interested in feelings
46:18 Reading keeps the imagination sharp
48:40 Soman’s new book, Beasts & Beauty comes out Sept 28th on HarperCollins
52:11 Soman attended the single greatest Halloween party the Starretts ever threw: Midsommar
54:05 Soman’s socials
This episode of The Ready State Podcast is sponsored by Paleovalley Essential C Complex. Created to be the most powerful, completely natural and organic source of vitamin C on the planet, Essential C Complex is one of the only supplements the Starretts take every single day. Because nothing’s funny about scurvy. For more info and 15% off, click HERE!
This episode of The Ready State Podcast is sponsored by Kion Aminos. Available as powder or tablets, these aminos are 100 percent plant based with no artificial ingredients. Essential amino acids are the building blocks for all muscle and tissue but your body can only absorb about 50% from food which is why Kelly takes them everyday. For more info and 20% off your first purchase, click HERE!