Tuesday, 10 July 2018

A Chat with Andaleeb Wajid

Few meetings happen on the spur of the moment and become quite dear. One such cherished moment was meeting Andaleeb Wajid at the launch of her latest book Twenty Nine going on Thirty’ at a leading book store in Bangalore. While visiting the store, when I got to know about it, I couldn’t resist but enter the book launch. Ms Wajid was already speaking. Unlike some of the contemporary authors, her crowd was matured and engrossed in catching every word she uttered - smiles of admiration on their faces.

Andaleeb Wajid is a writer of miscellanous topics, such as food, relationships and weddings from a Muslim perspective. Some of her popular books include Kite Strings, My Brother's Wedding, More than Just Biriyani, No Time for Goodbyes, and many more.

The Interview

~You are a wife and mom of two – managing your family along with writing. Share a sneak of your daily life? How do you manage to successfully juggle everything?
My kids are grown up now, so it’s easier to write. I take my writing seriously and look at it like a proper full-time job. I sit down at my desk in the morning and try to get some writing done before midday. After that, I catch up on reading, TV shows, etc. If I’m in the mood to write more, I might write more than my usual one chapter per day.

~You have been a writer ever since you were 10. What made you aspire to be a writer?
I’ve always been interested in telling stories but mostly because I do enjoy talking a lot. I realized that writing stories was the next logical step and didn’t really think of it as a career option. It was something I had fun doing and for the longest while, I didn’t associate having a career and having fun at the same time, as being possible.

~How did your course of writing altered over the course of your writing career?
I think my craft has honed quite a bit over the years. I was not very technical earlier and would just write from the heart but now I concentrate on the plot and make sure that every little detail is there for a valid reason.

~Among all of your works, which is the one that makes you the proudest? Why?
Almost all of them, actually. Getting a book published today is easier than before but it doesn’t make the achievement any less important. Each of my books holds a special place in my heart for various reasons. Readers however, have shown immense love for My Brother’s Wedding, More than Just Biryani, Asmara’s Summer and the more recent, Twenty Nine going on Thirty.

~What is your greatest experience as an author till date?
Every time readers write to me about my books, it makes me smile. But one of the most amazing and surreal experiences for me was to go on stage and pitch my books at MAMI Word to Screen last year in Mumbai, in front of reputed directors like Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj, etc.

~Was publishing your first book a piece of cake or a hard nut to crack? Share the journey of your initial days.
It was extremely difficult. Today, the process is easier and slightly more transparent. Back then (2008-9), several publishers didn’t have websites and it wasn’t easy to get in touch with them. I faced numerous rejections from many publishers repeatedly for my first book. Some of it was also due to my inexperience in the craft of writing and because I was unable to slot the book into a defined genre like YA or romance. Finally, a publisher agreed to publish my book but I’ve retrieved the rights from them in 2012 and it can be read for free from my website. 

~When not writing, what are the things that you indulge in?
Reading. I read whatever I can get hold of but I have a fondness for thrillers and murder mysteries. Romance too. I watch TV shows with my kids, Netflix, etc to unwind.

·    ~Any upcoming book(s) on your cards? If so, what should your readers look forward to?
My first novel for kids – The Legend of the Wolf has been published by Speaking Tiger in May. I have two more books coming out this year – The Sum of All my Parts, published by Amaryllis in August and House of Screams, published by Penguin in October this year.

·     ~Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
So many of them! JK Rowling, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Mo Hayder, Diana Gabaldon to name a few.

·    ~What is your message for writers in the making?
Read as many books as you can. Without reading, you can’t possibly become a good writer.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Vineet Bajpai says what it is like to be an author

When it comes to versatility in career, we come across names like Vineet Bajpai. The author has dipped himself in more than one career paths and has come out as a winner.

Vineet Bajpai has established his name as the Founder and Chairman of Magnon Group. He is also the CEO of Talentrack. His venture as an entrepreneur has earned him the title of 'Entrepreneur of the Year 2016'. He is a professor of strategic e-business and management information systems at Skyline Business School. And not to forget his four already-published books that he has to his name:
  • Build from Scratch: Steps, Strategies and Practical Insight into Building a Successful Start-up Enterprise (2004)
  •  The Street to the Highway (2011)
  • The 30-Something CEO (2016)
  • Harappa – Curse of the Blood River (2017)
The Delhi-based author whose upcoming book PRALAY – The Great Deluge’ is ready to be in the hands of the readers on January 19th, talked about his life as an author.

Excerpts from the interview

  • After writing 3 books for corporate and entrepreneurs, why did you change the course of your writing? Why this particular genre of historical fiction?
As I see it, I wrote business books because over my entrepreneurial and corporate journey I truly felt I had learnt things I must share with readers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and the corporate community around the world. And, I am glad I did. But just as I wrote management books to share my experience in the industry and help my readers build better companies and careers, I also felt a strong urge to express the creative storyteller in me. I wanted to write about India’s ancient mysteries, our rich heritage, our way of life, our profound myths, epics and more. Therefore, ‘Harappa’ had to be my first fiction project. 

But the writing of a business, management or inspirational book is a completely different ballgame than writing a fiction novel. Being a management ‘guru’ so to speak, is a very different role from that of being a storyteller. It was during the writing of 'Harappa' that I realized the intensity of a storyteller.

‘Harappa’ made me comprehend the amount of emotional connection that is needed between a fiction writer and his work. It's like a storyteller has an umbilical cord connected to his work. We can’t say that writing a business or management book takes no emotional energy, which of course it does. But it's different with writing fiction.

When a storyteller believes and deeply feels his/her own story, its characters and their emotions, he/she feels an unparalleled level of contentment within his/her own self. With ‘Harappa’ I have felt it and I am sure readers will find the book very gripping and very forceful.

  • What amount of research work and time did you invest in perfectly creating your novel ‘Harappa - Curse of the Blood River’ that is based on mythology and history?
Harappa is a book that takes you on a journey spanning 3,700 years, right from 1700 BCE Indus Valley to modern-day Delhi and Paris. And that needed immense research and clarity. The book spins a tale that revolves around some of the most debated, unanswered and haunting questions of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Yes, the research was long and arduous. I spent several months deep-diving into the Internet, Wikipedia, books and papers about the life and society of Harappa and its neighbouring settlements like Mohenjo-daro and Rakhigarhi. But it was also most gratifying. It took me about two years to complete Harappa. Having said that, I have made it a point to add a disclaimer at the beginning of the novel where I have made no claim to the correctness or veracity of historical facts, events etc. To put it simply, I am a storyteller, not a historian. 

  • You are a business leader, professor and author. Which role do you relish the most and why?
Since you have asked I must say that my roles as a corporate CEO combined with being a start-up entrepreneur as well as a writer are extensions of the various facets of my personality. I love doing all of these equally and it is very hard to say which one of these I like doing more. I think I would feel empty if any of these high-passion careers was missing from my life. In that sense I am truly blessed.

  •  Do you think, writing a fiction based on Indian history and mythology might create another social and political upheaval like Padmavati? Share your outlook about the same.
What creates upheavals in the first place is the media asking such questions! (Laughs). 
No, I don’t think there is any such probability. ‘Harappa’ has been written with a deep sense of affection and respect for all faiths and beliefs, as well as with a strong patriotic fabric. Moreover, while the backdrop is historical and mythological, all the characters are absolutely fresh and new. Lastly, the novel also has a parallel modern-day story, which runs like a contemporary thriller.

  •  How is life before and after being an author? How has being an author changed the course of your life?
I have been an author since the age of 24. My first book, 'Build From Scratch' was released back then. So, I have been an author for over one and a half decades now. Quite frankly I don’t remember what it was like not being one! But yes, I have to confess that the love and popularity I have won after 'Harappa' is unparalleled. Thousands of readers are sending me emails, Facebook messages, tweets and reviews. It has been one of the most gratifying phase of my life.

  • If you are asked to experiment with your writing, which will be the genre you would like to experiment with?
Romance/Relationships and Science Fiction are very dear to me. You will hopefully see books from me in these genres soon.

  • Any upcoming books on your cards?
Yes, of course. We are speaking at a very opportune time, Madhurima. Only a few days from now, on the 19th of January, the much-awaited sequel to ‘Harappa’, ‘PRALAY – The Great Deluge’ is going to be launched. I sincerely hope they enjoy it as much as they loved Harappa. I want them to see the key characters like Vidyut, Dwarka Shastri, Damini, Naina, Manu, the Maschera Bianca and Vivasvan Pujari become deeper, more profound, more complex personalities. I cannot wait to see the reactions of my affectionate readers when they see new and intense characters being introduced in Pralay.  

  •   What’s your message for your readers and budding authors?
To my readers I would only express boundless gratitude for the love they have showered me with. I also want them to know that it will be my sincere and constant endeavor to only better my writing and offer them stories and books they would love and remember.
To budding authors, I will say – writing and building a loyal readership is a long-drawn, high-effort process. It takes years to become a known and admired author. So, keep writing and be ready to give it everything you have. Rome was not built in a day. Nor was JK Rowling.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

A chat with Novoneel Chakraborty

So, I talked with Novoneel Chakraborty, an established Indian author and script writer whose latest work, 'Forever is True'  is going to hit the shelves on October 21st. Grown up under the spell of literature, a humble Novoneel shares his journey of being an author...

~ ‘Novoneel Chakraborty’ and ‘romantic thrillers’ have become terms synonymous to each other in Indian literature. Why have you chosen this genre? Why romantic thrillers?

The genre is something which happened without me having to do anything with it. I didn’t choose it.
When I was writing my first book, I didn’t exactly focus or plan the genre. I just came up with this one particular story I wanted to work on. Whenever it comes to creative endeavors, I express myself the way I want, that is, creatively; rather than following the market trends, worrying what is going to work and what won’t. That way the creation itself starts having a personality and offers its own exclusivity. By the time I reached my second book, I knew what is coming out naturally from me, and embraced it. And, thus, ‘romantic thrillers’.

~ What is 'that thing' you have in your head every time you write a book or a script?

Only when I am doing the first draft, I always surrender to the story and its characters. But the only ‘thing’ is that when a story or its characters start building in my head, I want to ensure that I put it on paper the same way I felt the vibe and pulse of the story or the characters. It’s both exciting and challenging.

~As a successful script writer, what kind of script experimentation you think Indian television needs at the moment?

It’s a two way process. The writers can change the scripts from their end, but the consumers of Indian television haven’t changed much in the last 10-15 years. Right this moment, the audience has to evolve at first, and has to reject things which are redundant and regressive. Only then producers and directors will start experimenting as they will realize these are no longer working. They will discover something fresher, newer and hopefully progressive. Otherwise as providers of entertainment, the writers, producers and directors will continue repeating the same thing as they also want to offer what the audience want and not experiment because a lot of money is involved.

~ How did the publication of your first book influence your life and the style of your writing?

The publication of my first book did not make much of a difference in my personal life. The close ones’ approach didn’t alter.
Recognition is always good. In that way you know that readers are embracing your stories but the moment you are famous and successful, you get rigid and blind to a lot of your own weaknesses. So, I made a very cautious decision of not changing anything because fame ends all success.
As a writer I try not to be rigid. I try to keep an open mind – open to every perspective and experience. Then I like to choose what to believe and what not to believe in. If I get rigid, it will be a creative suicide.

~How was the initial journey as an author?

10 years back when I started my journey, I was very naive, having no experience of the publication world. I thought I will be able to make it. My confidence spiraled out of my ignorance. But the scenario was very different. For publishing houses commercial contemporary fiction was not on the cards at all. But with writers like Chetan Bhagat coming to the fore, the scenario changed.
With my first book the problem I faced was, it took time for me to understand where to send the manuscript, especially because at that time we were not this technologically advanced and the publishers’ websites were mostly outdated. I had to go through hunting the internet searching for a postal address, where I sent out a hardcopy, got rejected at first and then got accepted it.
 So, a lot of to and fro happened and finally the book got published and it was a life changing event because I could finally turn my dream of being an author into reality. I was elated. In that way my first book had its own charm.

~Have you ever had ‘writer’s block’ while tailoring your books and scripts? How do/did you deal and overcome them?

Every writer has their own process of writing. Mine is that I work on multiple stories at a time. So, while working on 3-4 stories at a time, what happens is when I get blocked in one, I start working on another. Juggling from one story to the other not only helps me to freshen up, but also helps me to develop an objective view, which is not the case when you are working in one story because things start getting blurred. At least this is how I deal with it.

~ Who is your most favorite author and why? Mention the books that are your favorites.

I would rather mention my favorite books than authors because some works of a particular author makes me go head over heels, and some don’t. The list of my favorites includes ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand, ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho and ‘The Famous Five’ by Enyd Blyton. Buddhadeb Basu’s stories have touched me very deeply. His ‘Raat Bhora Brishti’ is a favorite. Sidney Sheldon has been an influencer for me. His ‘Blood Line’ is one particular book which I go back to repeatedly.

~ In this technology driven lifestyle of present generation, what are the things that a book can deliver which blogs/e-articles cannot cater to its readers?

For me, books are souls, others are only machines. Reading e-books and pdf influence me but don’t make me feel what a book does. Holding a book in my hand and reading it, teleports me to a world where the story and its characters come to life! The feeling is astounding! It's an emotion that needs to be felt than spelt it in words. But this never happens with me when I am reading on Kindle.

~What's your perception of the readers of the current generation?

The current generation may look brash to many, but like any other generation, they are trying to find and relate themselves through this personal experience of reading. That’s why relatibility in a story is so important.

~ Any upcoming book that your readers should know of? What should the readers look for in the book?

October 21st is the release of the last part of my Forever series -'Forever is True'. I am really excited as it’s the last part where the mystery unfolds. Also looking forward to how the readers would think about it. Overall I am very excited about the release!

A Chat with Andaleeb Wajid

Few meetings happen on the spur of the moment and become quite dear. One such cherished moment was meeting Andaleeb Wajid at the launch ...