‘Honesty is important, yes; but in order to fulfil your own creative requirements, you often need to re-structure the scheme of things, or at least the chronological order in which stuff happens. Because you want readers to understand and accept your book in the way it was written.’
Being an avid reader, there are two worlds known to me. One that’s real; that I see with my naked eyes; that’s responsible for my and others’ being. But there’s another one that’s not visible to eyes; that takes shape in one’s imagination and vanishes with fading memories.
It’s subtle, sublime, and spellbinding like that of the first sunray kissing the surface. It’s a figment of some creative minds that, since ages, are fabricating this fascinating world with words woven employing imagination and intuition. Author, writer or wordsmith – we know them by many names.
Let us meet a young wordsmith who’s already proved with his stories that he is here to stay. He is only 23, up with his second novel. He is a Harry Potter fanatic, and reveres the works of Joanne Kathleen Rowling.
He admires Arundhati Roy, John Green and Gabriel Garcia Marquez et al, who according to him are the beacons of literature and storytelling. His world is driven by the forces of good literature and the language of fantasy presented in Fiction.
He has written for many anthologies, including ‘25 Strokes of Kindness’ and has contributed to the bestselling series titled ‘The Backbenchers’. He struck many chords with his debut novel, The Pink Smoke and now he is all set to steer sentiments, evoke emotions and touch hearts with his second solo work, Life Served Hot, which is scheduled to release on Valentine’s Day, the day when love is celebrated.
He is Shomprakash Sinha Roy who had started weaving words to shape stories when he was in school. In an exclusive interview with Learning and Creativity, he talks candidly about his upcoming book, Life Served Hot, and his perspective about Indian publishing industry.
Excerpts from the interview:
L&C: Let’s begin with the obvious question, when did you realize the first time that you are designed and destined for writing?
Shomprakash: That epiphany reached my head through gradual stages of appreciation by people, about the material that I had produced right from my rather imbecile efforts to write (in high school) and then through my blog posts.
When I was in college, I used to think a lot about developing a side of me that I didn’t know about. I’ve quoted my father so many times about this one statement that he made for me; he might just sue me now. He said ‘Writing good literature is very similar to puncturing a rather bad wound, to let the pus flow. That’s what Kafka did. That’s what you need, before you can write well.’
I tried to look back at all the ‘pain’ that I was supposed to write about, and there wasn’t much of it to be tapped into. Later, when I wasn’t expecting it, some really bad stuff happened, which effectively put a dent to the way I had planned my life. I think, it was at that point, when ‘writing’ switched into a mandate, from being a passive hobby.
L&C: The title, ‘The Pink Smoke‘ hints doping, drinking, damsels and dating and we did find a lot of it in the book along with other interesting elements. Can we hope Siddhant Roy will mature and see life in a new light in ‘Life Served Hot’?
Shomprakash: Well, we can always hope. Siddhant was a manifestation of a darker side that exists within all of us, and like all fabled legends, he too must learn to accept things the way our morals dictate them to be. All I can say is, Siddhant will learn to stress the importance of being himself, in this book.
A new light? Maybe. Above all, this is the part of the story where he needs to do his own thing, to make his mark, to let go of every inhibition that holds him back.
L&C: ‘Life Served Hot’ is releasing around Valentine’s Day. So can we expect some ‘mushy’ romance in the core of the story?
Shomprakash: I can hardly call Siddhant’s romantic escapades ‘mushy’. Honestly speaking, I’ve always wanted my lead characters to be a bit more natural, a bit more human, and in that sense, I would’ve appreciated the ability to make Sid converse like a regular guy who flirts, but that’s just not him.
He doesn’t flirt, he doesn’t go on regular dates, he enjoys the comfort of his wry little ‘shell’. He’ll make more friends this time, but you’ll have to read the entire length of the book to find out if he retains them.
L&C: Most of the writers choose their own experiences, partially or completely, to debut in storytelling. Does it go the same for you?
Shomprakash: I used to read about how Ian Fleming based certain aspects of Mr. Bond, inspired by the things that he did himself, or the habits that he picked from people who seemed ‘interesting’ to him.
While I genuinely believe that developing a good ‘character’ for your story can be more realistic if you imbibe real-life traits into your book, it is also highly awkward to expect an honest-to-god reflection of your own life in a book, which you want other people to read.
Honesty is important, yes; but in order to fulfil your own creative requirements, you often need to re-structure the scheme of things, or at least the chronological order in which stuff happens. Because you want readers to understand and accept your book in the way it was written.
If your own life was way too unstructured like mine, then tweaking events and adding a bit of fiction to it might just seem to be a good idea.
L&C: Will ”Life Served Hot’ again be a college rom-com story woven around pals and gals with a college life in the backdrop or you are choosing a different plot this time (sorry I can’t resist the temptation to peek into the story)?
Shomprakash: There are Siddhant’s friends who have been placed in different scenarios through the book. Siddhant’s entire journey is about people and places – that’s what makes him work.
But I sincerely don’t believe that there is anything stereotypical about Sid’s life. For example, he meets the ex-CEO of Infosys in the story (there’s your sneak peek) and later in the day, Sid behaves like a total jerk.
Yes, there are women in the story, who to a certain extent will influence the situations that Sid will get into. But it’s hardly a regular ‘college’ romance. Most of his life is documented through his experiences outside the college campus. He says he is in love with the city; this book is more about how he gets to survive that love affair with Bangalore.
L&C: How much is Siddhant Roy similar to Shomprakash Sinha Roy?
Shomprakash: We’re very dissimilar. I can probably say that Sid is similar to a version of me that walked, talked, and ate just like me back in 2009/2010. Like you had pointed out in an earlier question, Sid needed to evolve. Shomprakash Sinha Roy is the manifestation of that evolution.
Besides, Sid is still young and has time to figure out stuff for himself. I, on the other hand, have been given the task of writing about what he does. I’m very jealous of the kind of freedom that he has! Jokes apart, he’s a character, and being the man who created him, I have a special place in my heart for his misgivings. After all, he’s the boy who makes me feel like god!
L&C: Do you think in this fast-food era, the conventional storytelling or the literary works have been pushed to backseat?
Shomprakash: Nah. Even when people pick up romantic books and coffee table books at an alarming pace, I see tons of classics making their way out in hefty shopping bags. I grew up reading the works of Rowling, Marquez & Kennedy with equal fervor, as much as I enjoyed reading Sheldon & Archer. And I generally tend to make it my personal business to peek into the books that my friends read.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ is a part of regular conversations among a lot of people that I know, and so are other conventional books. I think, the shift which is gradually expanding its reach across all books, is a general dilution of the line that divides ‘conventional’ from ‘alternate’.
Literature stays the way it always was. It’s the psyche of people who buy books that keeps changing.
L&C: Whom do you admire the more – Amitav Ghosh or Chetan Bhagat or some other author?
Shomprakash: On the Indian writing scene, I genuinely respect Arundhati Roy, because what she achieved with ‘The God of Small Things’ was beyond literature. It was a whole new language. I hope she writes another work of fiction, I’d probably stay awake all night waiting outside the store to get a first copy or something.
On the international front, I am a huge fan of JK Rowling, John Green & Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Rowling, for the sheer pleasure that she gave me through my childhood days, Marquez for teaching me the language of poetic expression without getting into an actual rhythmic stance, John Green for writing stuff that can make me laugh & cry at the same time.
L&C: Are you still stuck to a day-job? If yes, do you have any plans to shift to full-time writing as Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi or Ravinder Singh did?
Shomprakash: Being someone who doesn’t know these people personally, I cannot comment on the austerity that must tag-along with a high-paying job.
As far as I know, the first two of that list were investment bankers, and Ravinder worked at Infosys. Their choices were purely their own, and I respect their decision to pursue a profession that connects with their creativity.
Thankfully, I’m happily employed at Dell and the job that I do, helps me involve my creativity into my desk too. I’m a content developer who designs graphics, and I don’t see myself giving up on that anytime soon. I think everything that I do, is a day-job for me.
L&C: With so many publishing houses around along with the self-publishing platforms, don’t you think the quality of the storytelling and narration is deteriorating thereby putting the readers off?
Shomprakash: Touchy topic J Frankly, I have been put off on more than one occasion by books that I picked up, and that happened way back, even in 2008. Not every book is a work of magic, and people who read a lot can figure that out.
Now, with so many self-publishing options, people are driven to see their work in print and are willing to shell out a price for it. But the real difference is made by every reader who walks into a store and buys that book.
Personally, I don’t see myself as someone who can ever go into self-publishing. Mainly because I can sleep better at night, knowing that someone has reviewed my work and finds it readable. But I don’t hate or detest self-publishing – because not all self-published work is bad either.
I had a rather interesting conversation with an ex-Bureaucrat recently, who remarked that the sole purpose of self-publishing to him was a consolidated timeline. And the world has benefited a lot from certain books which were self-published initially.
There was ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ which later went into traditional publishing after it found an audience; ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ had the same way of coming up. We’ll never really find out unless we read more.
L&C: And finally, your golden advice to aspiring and budding writers.
Shomprakash: Read as much as possible. Read books that win Booker awards, because that jury only picks the best of the best.
For people who want to write romantic novels, I will suggest reading books by John Green & Thomas Kennedy. To understand the power of the English language, read Arundhati Roy’s books.
Read poetry, if you want to understand and develop the ability to express better. And whenever you write something, print it out and read it back to yourself. See if you’re able to laugh at the humor that lies within your words, verify if your own story can make you cry.
Don’t just write, write well. And no matter what else you do, always buy my new book (winks).
Read other interviews of authors on Learning and Creativity.
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