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Monday, August 8, 2016

Author Interview - Amit Sharma

After reading False Ceilings by Amit Sharma, I was overwhelmed with the story, the bizarre nature of the plot and the psyche of characters that he deeply dwells into. Supplemented with a "slowly reveal the puzzle pieces writing style" if one may simply describe it, the story is one not to leave you anytime and knock upon your thoughts many times, catch you unawares keep you wondering time and again. So I decided to pick his brain for he is certainly one of India's youngest and best writers to look upto. He was gracious enough to take out time for us and have this conversation:

Q.   Describe your journey into writing.
A: During the initial years of my job, a friend introduced me to blogs. I was initially terrified of the world as it allowed strangers to judge your work. I wrote short stories on my blog that were well received but I knew writing a book was a different ball game. The readers of the blog were very encouraging. Then I went to Manchester for two years and had enough time on my hand to try writing the book. I started writing believing that the book will never get published.

      Q. What does writing mean to you?
A: For me, it is a way to unwind. I believe that all of us should do at least one thing in our life that we really love. Some people like to listen to music, some paint, some go for long treks in the mountain and some play a musical instrument to unwind. I write.

      Q.  How did the characters and the story of False Ceilings take form? 
A: The story is based on true events. The setting of the pre-independence era story of Shakuntala and her marriage to Manu is largely based on the stories my grandma told me of her life in Dalhousie. I have taken snippets from her life, like when she saw an owl just before her father’s death.

Most of what happened in Delhi from 1950 till 2002 is based on true facts and incidents. The affection, friction, distrust and malevolence that bind the six protagonists are real. That is one reason the readers found the characters very believable because they were not a mere figment of my imagination. They displayed shades just like a real flesh and blood human, like they did in real life. The story is much more about the revelation of the secret in the end. For me it was about getting under the skin of this dysfunctional family, to present them as I saw them in real life, to make their actions and thoughts believable and human.

     Q. Your writing style is unique that of just randomly throwing the pieces of          puzzle and then putting the together. How did you arrive at it?
A: Before I started writing False Ceilings, I toyed with the options of writing it in a linear or non-linear fashion. I concluded that the story would be more interesting if written non-linearly. Also, I have a bit of a weak spot for the technique. I think readers are going to see it in all my books (although not in the complicated format I used in False Ceilings). I am going to use the technique in my second and third book as well.

      Q. Have you ever experienced a writer’s block or difficulty in writing a plot           or a character or an inevitable end? How did you overcome it? 
A: I haven’t experienced writers block till now. It is probably because I do not write every day. Writing over the weekend gives me enough time to ponder over my characters and plots and given me enough fodder to work seamlessly over the weekend. Secondly, I do not start writing unless I know the end. The storyline has to be chalked out on paper before I start writing a book.

     Q.  How was the journey into publishing?
A: I had my share of rejections (around fifteen) before the book was picked by Lifi. Even after that, it wasn’t a very smooth journey. A writer needs to be very patient. The whole process is painstakingly slow but the trick is to start thinking about your next and work on it. There isn’t much an author can do once the book is out of his hands.

      Q. Are you a methodical or a moody writer? 
A: Methodical. I plan and prep for a book before I start writing. There will be a few months of research depending on the theme of the book and the era. Then I would work more on the characters and chapter outlines. I refine the story till I am satisfied with the final outcome. It is only after this that I start writing the book.

      Q. How do you manage your day job       and writing?
A: I write over the weekends. I usually wake up early in the morning and write for 4-5 hours. I think it is good to have a day job with your writing career as it allows you to be more creative and not succumb to the demands of the market. Although it does get unbearable at times to wait for the whole week to put the ideas rotating in my head to paper.

            Q. Your favourite writers?
A: I have enjoyed works of Margeret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Geroge R.R. Martin, Jeffery Eugenides, Robert Jordan, Toni Morrison – to name a few. I would like to believe that I do not have favorite authors. There are too many good books out there to try to find favorites.

      Q. Your favourite books? 
A: Here is a list of few of the books I have enjoyed reading -
Everything is illuminated by Jonathan SafranFoer
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Roots by Alex Hailey
The Brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides
Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami
Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
Night Film by MarishaPessl

      Q.  Your favourite lines from a book of all times?
      A: “With writing, we have second chances.”
      ― Jonathan SafranFoerEverything Is Illuminated

      Q.  How do you describe yourself as a person?
A: I believe in the theory of Live and let live. I think an adult should be allowed to make his or her decisions unless they are hurting someone physically. I find this world a place that has been unnecessarily complicated by humans and do not understand what the fuss is all about. Can’t we just sit under a tree beside a river and read a book and be happy?I do not like manmade complications in life – based on religions, gender, pieces of lands, skin color, love on any other variety.

      Q.  Your hobbies include?
A: I am a voracious reader. I love watching world cinema (I am a huge fan of South Korean movies). I like to cook and bake at times (when the weather permits) and treat my family with cakes and muffins. I love to travel preferably to places where there is bearable quantity of human population. Sometimes, I play Asphalt 8 like a maniac till my wife threatens to delete the game from my laptop. I also like to listen to the incessant blabber of my three-year-old daughter.

      Q.  Your idea of leisure is?
A:  It keeps changing. Currently, it is to sit on a comfortable sofa and read a book with a view of mountains from the window. Sometimes it is to walk to the top of a cliff and watch the expanse of Earth from there. Sometimes, it is to watch the sunset on a beach.

      Q.  What do you do when you are sad?
A:  Sleep. That is the best medicine. It is a time machine that takes you away from the miseries of the present.

      Q.  Your favorite place on earth?
A:  I do not have a single favorite place. The world is too beautiful to number the places. I like England. It has a beauty that is unmatched. There are beautiful places like the Lake District and Isle of Wight that will take your breath away. I like the madness of Paris and the rich experience it offers.

Q. One thing you would like to change about yourself?
A: I love running and would like to maintain a fitness routine. Unfortunately, my work hours and commute does not allow me the luxury. So, I would like to change my lifestyle a bit to include these elements that I have always enjoyed.

Q.  Wise advice for budding writers…
A:  Research, polish and market well. I am learning the ropes too but these three aspects of writing are very important. Once you are done with your initial draft, keep polishing it till you are satisfied with it. Don’t rush it. Give it to your friends who are avid readers and ask for opinions. Give it to a beta reader. Keep aside money for marketing. You have no idea how difficult is that going to be. 
      Q.   A few words for The Readers Cosmos
A: I really hope that I will find a market for my books and the readers will enjoy them. I enjoy writing and would continue to write books that are different. I am very thankful for all the love and appreciation that has come my way for False Ceilings and I would be eternally thankful for it. Thank you for taking out time and reading the interview. 

NV: Thank You Amit for this amazing Q&A session. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Amit: The pleasure is all mine. 

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