Monthly Archives: March 2011

Book Review of “Cross Country” By James Patterson

Cross Country

By James Patterson


A thriller by James Patterson featuring the forensic detective Alex Cross.


The plot revolves around the cold-blooded murder of Ellie Cox (Alex’s friend / first real love) and her family by a criminal known as “Tiger”. Many people are brutally murdered by this horrendous person and Cross takes it upon him to catch “Tiger” and deliver justice to Ellie and others murdered by him. His quest lands him in Africa.

The grim reality of this new country though depicted well (to a certain extent) is very graphic in nature. The corrupt government officials in Nigeria arrest, jail and torture Alex for three days before the CIA can come to his rescue. He witnesses some of the most horrible situations and conditions of the people of Africa, far beyond anyone’s imagination. The dire situation in Darfur and the diamond mines of Sierra Leone are boldly portrayed by the author.

Though Alex comes across as smart detective in most of his books, in this one it feels like he walks into lame situations without giving it any thought. How did he simply fly over to Africa tracing a murderer without any political or government assistance?! Why does he end up landing his family into trouble and pain?

The gruesome murders, the contrived situations, and a loose and somewhat complicated plot did not satisfy me as a reader.

Patterson’s short chapters ending with a cliffhanger made it easier to finish the book but the poor action did not keep me engrossed like before.


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Book Review of “Black Ops” By W.E.B. Griffin

Black Ops

By W.E.B. Griffin


Though beginning with a slow start, this last part of the Presidential Agent series picks up its pace and thrill midway engaging in a fascinating plot till the very end.

But I could see more of low points in the story. There’s too much unnecessary detailing; strong opinions of Russian history that seem somewhat unimpressive; a bit of mindless love interest / sex that doesn’t lead anywhere; high action-packed-drama missing; and most importantly the interesting climax seemed to end too soon!

No doubt the book is well written and characters well etched, but it failed to satisfy me as a reader.

The only ray of hope or anticipation is what’s gonna come of Castillo’s future in the secret operations arena.


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An Indian Is, As An Indian Does…


We live in an interesting era. New-age Indian authors are on the rise. The market is flooding with authors churning out English books that revolve around campus fiction, contemporary fiction, murder mysteries, local everyday drama, and the commercial story sorts. They give an almost accurate picture of society as it exists today. The real and sometimes pretentious situations; the fictionally honest thoughts; and the simply elaborate settings gel remarkably to make up for fun breezy reads that (usually) are highly appreciated.
And adding awesomeness is the fact that Indian writers no longer write to impress the Western audiences / readers. They write for the masses of their own country. Hence the clichéd content, sometimes. But one of the highlights of their writing is the prolific use of “Hindi” or “Hinglish” or vernacular words /phrases that seem to register and appeal more to the readers.

A movement started by some of India’s renowned and elite authors has finely trickled down to the young authors who do complete justice to the language and its sense (and by that I mean maintain the boundaries of decency and not irk the reader).
Pick up any recent contemporary fiction offered in the last few years and you are sure to come across some of the most widely used terms. Bhagwan, Guru, jungle, chutney, bungalow, Namaste, pajamas, veranda, pundit, loot, bindaas, masala, curry, tandoor, Yoga, Mantra, Nirvana and many such every day terms no longer feel alien when seen used in an English statement.
And not just these. The liberal use of profanity too has occupied a prime spot in scripts nowadays. I don’t think anyone any longer thinks twice before using words like – saala, chor, chup, kamina, badmash, etc.

As I see it, it is a marriage of convenience. The graceful flow of a sentence beautified with the sprinkle of vernacular words that portray just the right feeling at the right time, at least to the Indian at heart. (As long as it doesn’t offend any specific language/nation/person.)
You know how satisfying it is to call someone “saala chor” than just “thief”! You can actually feel the emotion and the adrenaline rush associated with the statement.

Vernacular words seem to infuse a new life into the unadventurous simple language. It feels exotic, given the fact that India and our umpteen Indian languages are truly colorful in nature. It feels as if such generous borrowing from the Indian languages is only making the English language a bit richer. It is hard-hitting. It is effective. And it comes from the heart.

And talking about “Indianization” of words –it is a well known fact that we have proudly “chutnified” the language of the “firangis” by adding an English prefix or post fix to Indian words. Yes, that’s our beloved “Hinglish”.
If I remember right, Oxford included some eighty Indian words (including “Hinglish”) in its 11th Edition of the Concise Dictionary, recognizing the fact that the world’s third-largest English speaking community belongs to India. I’m sure constant use of other choicest words might earn them a place in the dictionary as well.

But that’s not all. Some authors indulge in literal translations (from the local dialect to English), bringing in humor to the most serious of situations. The generalized question tag (Isn’t it? Hai na? Kyu ji?); the repetitive words (take take, morning morning, madamji madamji, fast fast do); the local “lingo” (one-by-two chai, tiffin box, four –twenty (a thief/thug), band-baaja, naach-gaana) are some of the ways of making the situations more bright, cheerful and yes, close to your heart. It, after all, reflects the “Indian” character.

As someone rightly pointed out, the increased usage of Indian languages (words and phrases) is contributing significantly to changing the interface of the English language, adding spice, fun, color and variety to a truly global language. Perhaps the best is yet to come!
Till then I guess we are on the ‘write’ track folks. Just keep them, words, coming.

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Book Review of “The Lifeguard” By James Patterson and Andrew Gross


By James Patterson and Andrew Gross


Let the name not fool you. This one does not have a straight-up “beachy” plot, but none-less-less good action.

This new thriller is filled with suspense and high tension “who-dunnit” guesses.
So we have Ned Kelly, a college graduate turned lifeguard/pool boy/handy man sorta guy at the Palm Beach. His father Frank Kelly is a small time criminal. And so are his friends Mickey, Bobby, Dee, and Barney.
Ned falls in love with a rich and beautiful “out of his league” girl Tess McAuliffe. He wants to give up his rotten ways to settle down with her.
His friends coax him to join them in one last heist, worth millions, so as to live a comfortable life with Tess.
It is supposed to be an easy job. All Ned has to do is trigger out several house alarms, as a distraction, while his friends steal the multi-million dollar worth art pieces from the mansion of Dennis Stratton.
But thins do not go as planned. The art pieces are not where they were supposed to be. They are double-crossed. All four end up being murdered. And Tess too. It seems like someone has framed Ned.
Ned flees to Boston, escaping the clutches of the cops, some criminals and of course the mastermind of the heist (Dr. Gachet).
Ned is soon caught by FBI agent, Ellie Shurtleff. But soon she too is almost convinced of his innocence and together they set out to nab the real criminals.

Though this one is quite fast paced and full of suspense, it does lack depth at some places. Ned seems to be forever sulking (initially). I wish there was more of Champs (the Aussie guy). There were some really silly instances portrayed (taking off car plates; trying to rob million dollar worth stuff with no artillery; etc).
The plot is decent, not an extra ordinary surprise ending. Lot many characters sometimes spoil the structure – but thankfully JP has managed to hold it, albeit missing the usual wit/humor. I don’t like JP co-authoring books. They tend to burn out soon.
Overall this one is worth a read.


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Book Review of “Rise And Shine” By Anna Quindlen

Rise and Shine

By Anna Quindlen


So the story goes:

Bridget Fitzmaurice, the narrator of the story, works for a women’s shelter in the Bronx while her older sister, Meghan, co-host of the popular morning show Rise and Shine, is the most famous woman on television.

Meghan is married to Evan, a high-powered lawyer and they have a college going son – Leo.

Meghan’s life is hit by nasty tidal waves when her husband walks out on her and she ends up using certain forbidden words ‘on air’. Life changes. But not for the better.

Meghan leaves without a trace. And Bridget comes to the forefront.

Bridget is like the sharp, intelligent, unglamorous daughter while Megan is the airy popular kind. When Meghan disappears Bridget dons the coat of a detective and with Irving Lefkowitz’s help (a big, lumbering 67-year-old cop) she traces some clues from her childhood to find her sister.

At the heart of the story, it examines life and relationships and their importance.

I wouldn’t call this Anna’s best. I might not even recommend this.

And here’s why.
The story is interesting in bits and parts, more so towards the climax. Otherwise it is quite slow and dull.
Bridget Fitzmaurice’s character is interesting. Her job at the Bronx; her assistant, Tequila; Bridget balancing professional life, personal life, and romantic life made up for a good read. Rest of the characters were just about okay.

Had Anna Quindlen focused on the relationship of the sisters it could’ve been more interesting.
Meghan’s character could have been sketched a bit stronger.

The time frames mentioned herein aren’t very clear, making the narrative a bit confusing and losing the reader’s interest. And there’s too much focus on the socialite culture of New York. Overall it ain’t all that good.


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Heart To Heart With Ankit Uttam

We have all been bitten, at some point in life, by the “love” bug. Certain “in your face” traits are absolutely hard to overlook. But certain hidden facets (of the bug) reveal their true self only after you’ve been battered and shattered, crushing many a dreams and aspirations.

Ankit Uttam, a published author/ software engineer, reveals the true nature of the bug in a very realistic manner in his first published work –Beyond Love. A roller coaster ride through college life when the bug bites most of us, bringing in a furor of emotions, the story bares the different layers of Life and Love and everything beneath and beyond it.

His insight into the realms of human emotions is sure to make you nostalgic and take a drive down memory lane.


Is writing your mainstream profession, or a passion?
Professionally I am a very bad software engineer. I started writing as a part time hobby in the  final year which later became a passion and now it is an integral part of my life.

Since when have you been in the field of writing? Is this your debut novel?
I started writing, as a hobby, in the final year of my college. But in the wake of the recession I  was forced to search a job. And in the process of job-hunting I thought of creating another  option for myself in case I didn’t get one. That’s when I started taking it (writing) seriously.

This is my second book, but the first to be published. My first book was on a very revolting subject. It’s got rejected by many publishers but I still hope to get it published one day.

What inspired you to write this book/ this particular subject?
Recession. It inspired me to find another vocation in the form of writing. There were no jobs in the market and I felt this could happen again in the future too. I could be kicked out of my job at any time. So this (writing), in a way, is my survival backup plan. My first written work was very revolting for my age, that’s what most of the publishers said. So I started writing on a college love story which apparently is a more appealing topic for our dear publishers and definitely had better prospects of getting published.

In the mean time I also learned the basics of investing in the stock market and how to determine which companies are worth putting your money on by checking their balance sheet. So in a way recession is the golden era as far as I am concerned.

What brought about the ideation of four (and a half) love stories?
I really don’t know. There were many lives which touched mine in the college. When you go to college you meet many people. There are many aspects and facets of life that you observe. Same thing happened in the story. I had tried to keep it as real as possible with no lovey dovey overdoses.

I had tried to touch all the aspects of love through various couples. As I have already said in the books’ synopsis that love doesn’t have a single trait. My aim was to touch as many facets as I could without breaking the story.

When I finished the story I actually counted the number of couples and it turned out to be 4.5 in number.

How would you summarize this book for people who have not yet read it? I have seen/read numerous books on college lives and budding love stories. But most of them are purely a work of fiction, presenting a rosy picture of colleges and college life, mostly based on movies and far from reality. “Beyond Love” though fictitious brings out real feelings and real dreams of the aspiring few.

For instance, when I went to college I really felt that girls would welcome me in miniskirts and guys will be playing guitars.

Maybe it was the after effect of “Bollywood” but at that point in life it made sense (in my head) – just like it did to the umpteen other newbies around. But come to think of it, the reality will always be much different rather opposite.

If someone is about to leave his/her home for college or is studying in one already or preparing for some competitive exams, he/she has certain aspirations and dreams about their second home in their mind.

Beyond Love” is a tale of real dreams, few achieved and several broken, wrapped with characters that are close to each one of us at some point in our lives. This book is not about the characters but YOU, The Readers.

We can’t deny the simple fact that we feel jealous when someone looks at the girl we like even though we have never ever talked to her. We end up finding our best friends (for life) in college but also lose some.

“Beyond Love” is an effort to capture all this and much more in some 200 odd pages through four and a half love stories.

Any particular instance from your college life that you wanted to pen but did not?
I wrote this novel at least five times before penning the final draft which eventually got published. In my initial drafts there were many instances college but they don’t feature in the published work.

I won’t disclose them here too. Like they say – some things are better left unsaid.

Any aversions from critics that you did not expect?
I expected a far better loathing from them about the literary quality of my book, which I am still waiting for.

I expected a rating of about 1/5 or 0.5/5 but surprisingly the response is amazing. I never expected a simple story to touch the lives of so many people in such different ways, to accumulate such popularity. I’m thankful and amazed!

What next novel are you working on?
I am working on the second part of a trilogy. The first and thirds part will come later. So I am starting from the middle.

Why such an approach?
While developing the story I saw a great potential in extending it in a trilogy.

The book deals with the protagonist’s encounters with failures, and even death at a certain point of time. He then realizes that there has to be another way to live one’s life.

The person who helps him in this was evidently a drug peddler, a car thief and a fraudster. But he had something, so invaluable, in his possession that the main protagonist agrees to do whatever is asked of him.

All the three parts are complete in themselves. So the readers won’t have any problem in reading the book.

But the main theme will remain the same in all the three parts.

What according to you makes a best seller?
I am not sure about it but I guess when I go to a book store only two things attract me towards a book are:

1) Its cover design and

2) The synopsis on the back cover

But the ultimate point is the content. You just can’t do away with that. Without a story everything is worthless.

Name some of your favorite authors/books/inspirations?
Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”. I had stopped reading fiction after reading that book. Every other fiction was worthless for me after I stumbled on that novel in my college library.

Fiction bores me to death. I just can’t stand reading them. I mostly read non-fiction.

Among the non-fiction writers and speakers I respect Zig Ziglar, Robert Kiyosaki, Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Jim Rohn and Shiv Khera.

What is it that you like doing the most, apart from writing?
Sleeping and eating.

If you had a book club – what would you name it?
I might name it Books-Pals or Books-Bums.




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Knocked Out By Shaiju Mathew

Childhood and early adulthood are amongst the most cherished phases of our lives. We indulge in really goofy, crazy, silly, yet amazing stunts that, usually come too naturally as a part of growing up. And it’s funny how thinking about some incidents that made you cry back then now bring a smile on your lips.
A great way to relive most of our memories, in today’s fast-paced, workaholic schedule, is by reading Shaiju Mathew’s debut novel – Knocked Up.

On a quiet evening at BookChums’ hub with Shaiju, full of laughter and mirth, reliving such memories of “wackiness at its best”, we got to know a really humble and wonderful young man behind the writer.

Read on and find out for yourself!

So when did the “writing bug” bite?
●      Well…I’ve been writing poems from childhood days. We had a certain concept of  Newspaper in Education (NIE) in our school, wherein different schools would be featured in the  newspaper and students could send in their creative works. I wasn’t much into athletics and  this was my way of standing out in class – “getting featured in a newspaper!”

I also contributed a few of my short stories to the “Chicken Soup” series. So writing has always been a part of me.

What brought about the ideation of this particular book?

●    I have a great set of friends. And I used to pen a lot of “our” incidents in a journal of sorts  and was an avid blogger as well. When my friends (and other people) went through it all, there  was a lot of appreciation. It boosted my confidence and kinda triggered me to churn out this  book. The dramatization or as we like to call it the “masala” that I sometimes added to zing  things up a bit helped in pepping up the situation.

And the title – “Knocked Up” – was it a consciously chosen one or a random impromptu thought?

●    (Smiles) “Knocked Up” is a slang (in the US) …for you-know-what. Yes, it involved a bit of thought process and I had to wrap up the “knocked up” part in humor to cater to readers of all ages. I did not want to offend or fall in the bad books of say a 60 year old who’d pick up this book for the pure joy of it.

A clichéd question this one: how long did you take to write this book? And how much of it is real?

●    I was done writing the whole thing in about 20 days. I have a journal of sorts which helped me refresh my memories and like I said the “masala” was always there.
The book is 60% real (based on real incidents) and of course 40% fiction. All the friends mentioned herein are my real-life friends and we have pretty much lived up to most of the craziness penned in this one.

Tell us about your professional front.
●    I feel that Indian authors do not really get the kind of visibility or promotion that they truly deserve. Even a great piece of work fades away soon and the author is lost in the crowd. Very few publishers go about selecting your piece and pay a meager amount as royalty. So recently a few of my friends and me have ventured into a company –Magic Moments – wherein we help (Indian) authors gain more visibility. Apart from publishing their work we do help in editing, cover page designing, events, promotions and definitely share a good chunk of the profits (with the authors) earned from book sales.
Also, I’ve been working on some movie scripts. Hopefully Knocked Up too will see its movie edition.


What are you currently working on? What next do we see from Magic Moments?
●    As of now we are busy with certain events almost every month (of course related with the book promos). I am looking at certain movie scripts and also working on a script for the movie edition of Knocked Up.
Next year you’d definitely see the second part of the book.

Certain books/authors usually leave an everlasting print in our memory. What book/author has had the most influence on you and your writing?

●    Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner has had a tremendous impact on me. The emotions portrayed are very deep and humane. Also, his second book A Thousand Splendid Suns was a great one.
I grew up reading a lot of English Classics. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ruskin Bond, Mark Twain and the likes so yes they too hold a special place.

What is it that you like doing the most, apart from writing?

●    I sing, read, travel, meet people, make friends, love to go for long drives and of course watch a lot of movies. My friends call me the “encyclopedia” of Bollywood.

Any comments on India’s literary scene as you see it (shaping up)?

●    We have a lot of talented writers in the country. But lack of visibility and promotions gives them a setback. I’m sure we can reach international standards provided we are given the right kind of platform. Hopefully Magic Moments should be able to do its part.

If you had a book club – what would you name it? And what would you be reading in there?

●    Oh we “creative” ones are all mad in the head. I guess I would name my club The Mad Men’s Club.
I’d like to have a hoard of light-hearted comedy and humorous books for its members. But yes, I wouldn’t miss out on housing age old classics and dramas too!



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Interview With Rashmi Kumar

A versatile new-age writer, Rashmi Kumar represents everything a “girl in the city” should. Glamorous, smart, intelligent and very humane. Currently working for Business India, there’s more to this lovely lady than just being a journalist.

Read on to know more…

Coming to your first book: Stilettos in the Newsroom-What brought about the ideation of the story?

I’ve been a journalist for the past eight years and this book reflects my observations in this field. I am a keen observer and a sensitive one at that. That’s quite a lethal combination if I may add. I wanted to show the readers and my (ex) bosses, colleagues, family and friends what I feel about the profession and how I see it.
Secondly, we all know much is written about other (business/corporate) sectors; and whatever has been penned about journalism is by very experienced journalists or experts of the field. Nothing is jotted down by freshers or the new-age journalists. I wanted to show things the way a young journalist like me saw and experienced them.

How did you zero down on “Stilettos in the Newsroom”?
There was a lot of playing around with the usual journalism jargon – Black & White; By Line; and the  usual…but it wasn’t appealing enough. I wanted the title to represent the main protagonist Radhika.  She comes across as a girl-next-door but pretty intelligent, sensitive and a graceful young woman  at that. And stilettos as you know represent grace, glamour and a certain style. All this put together  with human emotions represent Radhika (and yes to quite an extent me).

Coming to your writing style – it includes a move/jump from the future to the past to  the present. Was this a conscious effort?
Yes, this was pretty much a conscious effort. And it did come easily since I was bent on following it.  Personally I feel some people haven’t been able to cope up with it. They thought I missed some  chapters in-between.

Was there any point during the writing process that you felt you were stuck? Like  reaching a dead end and don’t know where to proceed?
Yes, in Chapter 15 (where I mention the Firangi Date) I felt much of Radhika’s personal and professional life was covered. I took a few days off to think and connect again to proceed with the story.

Given a choice, would you change any part of the book?

(Ponders) That’s a good question. I really haven’t thought about it much. I might not change anything about the book, personally, because everything that I wrote was well structured consciously in my head. But people who’ve read it did recommend that I should’ve shown Radhika as a single, career oriented woman rather than falling in love with a guy and waiting for him. She is a non-conformist as the story reveals, and readers felt I should’ve let her be more idealistic and “single”. But I wanted to show the entire process of a relationship; the love, the longing and pain that come as a part-n-parcel of any relationship; etc. The thing is – I am very feminine but I am not a feminist.

How much time did it take for you to finish writing the book? What kind of research did this one involve (if at all)?
It took me about a year to finish the book. I had to get my facts about certain places in Pune and Delhi right.

That’s fast – considering that you juggle from being a journalist to a radio jockey to working with an NGO! So what do we see next from the desk of Rashmi Kumar?
My next book is about a girl who works in the corporate sector. There definitely is quite a bit of research happening for it, – how the protagonist goes through life, relationships and corporate culture. I should be able to get it out April next year.
And yes, I’m sticking to “Fiction” – that’s the genre I’m most comfortable with (as of now). Later I might do a bit of travel writing since I’m an avid traveler.

Touching the other aspect of your life – the radio show – tell us something about “Heart of the Matter”.
Every Thursday evening I’m on air – 102.6FM (Rainbow India in Delhi) with the show – Heart of the Matter. It is a request based show that touches various topics like office gossips, sibling love/rivalry, anger control etc – basically anything and everything under the sun. Listeners call in to talk about a certain issue/concern and request a song of their liking.

We would also like to know about the NGO that you are a part of?
Sumaitri is a crises intervention center for the distressed, depressed and suicidal. People from different walks of life volunteer as listeners who counsel people in distress / depression. We befriend our callers, hear them out and guide them to the best of our capabilities. I dedicate five hours every Saturday to this cause.

What are you currently reading?
Eat, Pray, Love. It seems like a great read. I can somewhat relate to it.

Your favorite author list would include…
Khaled Hosseini, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Amitav Gosh, R K Narayan.

On a relaxed, lazy Sunday afternoon –who/what keeps you company?
My Pillow!

Three “good to know” facts about Rashmi –
•    When tensed or stressed I eat a lot. It’s my stress-buster!
•    I’m a completely hopeless romantic at heart. And since this is a “fading out” trend, I feel out of place.
•    And I wish to build a house by the sea-side – enjoy the sun-rise and sunset each day and spend time in the sand…


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Passionate About Writing


Life does lead you to your passion, ultimately. Who better to vouch for it than Mr. Prem Rao himself?
Turning to writing after 36 years of professional work as a Talent Management Specialist and Executive Coach, he is an avid blogger whose professional blog People at Work and Play has gathered a huge fan following. And his recent blog Writing To Be Read is soon catching up globally. Alumnus of The Lawrence School, Lovedale; Loyola College, Chennai and XLRI, Jamshedpur, Prem Rao’s passion for writing and his outstanding skill of creating suspense have reflected quite well in his debut novel “It Can’t Be You”.
BookChums got a chance to know more about the author. And it’s all here.

People tend to write about things they have experienced or seen or lived  around/with. You come from the corporate sector (Talent Management  Specialist and Executive Coach). 36 years of Corporate environment and you  come with a psychological thriller!!! How did THIS happen?!
I have always loved people, psychology and thrillers. When I was a kid I often dreamt of  writing one someday! I am inspired by Irving Wallace who urged writers to use their  imagination.
He said “ Da Vinci did not have to attend The Last Supper to paint it”. My novel is built upon  strong research and vivid imagination.

When, where and how did the writing bug bite?
From childhood I was a voracious reader and I guess enjoying writing is an off shoot from  enjoying reading. I wrote very often for my school magazine. A couple of years ago, I started  writing short stories. This encouraged me to take the plunge and attempt a full-fledged novel.

What brought about the ideation of this novel?
The theme flows from my love for human psychology and the military. This novel sits at the intersection of both these deep interests.  Frankly, it did not occur to me at all that a psychological thriller would be a rarity for a debut novel.

Did novel writing come easy or was it a very conscious effort (given that writing blogs is a bit different than writing a full-fledged novel)?

As I have said in the Acknowledgement for my book  “ Wishes would remain wishes without a catalyst”. For me the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it is popularly called was my catalyst. It motivated me to write 50,000 words in the month of November 2009. This was then built up to the final size of about 81,000 words.

What kind of research did you execute for this book? How much time did it take you to complete the novel?
With 50,000 words through in November 2009, it took me another 4-5 months to write the remaining part of the book, re-validate the plots and cross-check initial research. Editing is the toughest part of writing a novel. This takes huge amounts of time and effort.

The style of creating suspense in the very first page has worked in your favor. But did you ever feel that you are venturing into an unknown territory with what you assume to be your best weapon–> a psychological thriller? Did you experiment with any other genre before finalizing on this one?
I went straight into this novel without experimenting with any other genre. The story did change a few times as it emerged in my mind. The first draft was in some ways very different from the final book, especially how the story ends. I was very much struck by a nice saying I read somewhere  “ Write the firs t chapter with your query in mind and the last with your next novel in  mind”.

Did you face any point of stagnation during the writing process?
Not really. I was fortunate that I had tremendous enthusiasm – this being my first novel- and loads of time at my disposal.

Any aversions from critics (yet) that you did not expect?
None so far, but I do realize that it’s awfully important to accept both praise and criticism with a great deal of equanimity- more so as I still have much to learn, this being my debut novel.

Looking back – given a choice, would you change any part of the novel or frame it differently?
No, I am quite satisfied with the way it went for me. I have tried to place huge emphasis on internal conflicts – choosing the first person narrative- to dwell on this in greater depth. I find internal conflicts more difficult to write about than external ones- perhaps that’s why they are somewhat less common.

Certain books/authors usually leave an everlasting print in our memory. What book/author has had the most influence on you and your writing?
Too many to recount but most had to do with World War II, and the Cold War that followed when I was  growing up. More than any single book, I would say I was enthralled by books on espionage, mystery and thrills.  As you know, Scorpios are supposed to be the detectives of the Zodiac and perhaps being one myself this comes instinctively to me.

Name some of your favorite authors/books?
I have loved the books of John Masters, Ian Fleming, Harold Robbins amongst others. My favorite author  though is not a thriller writer at all. It is P.G.Wodehouse!

What are you currently working on?
I wrote 50,000 word in November 2010 for NaNoWriMo once again. “Lucky For Some, Thirteen” is again a thriller. It is set in Bangalore, India and is a story of a terrorist attack and its aftermath. The major action culminates on September 13, 2010 and this is one- amongst several other reasons – for the title.

What is it that you like doing the most, apart from writing?
I like playing with my grandson who will shortly be two and is the apple of my eye.

Any contemporary authors you’d recommend?
I like James Patterson, possibly the most prolific writer in the world today. Among authors in India, I like Mukul Deva.

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In Conversation With Ahmed Faiyaz

Ahmed Faiyaz, Managing Director, Grey Oak Publishers and a prolific writer with a deep insight to relationships, as they exist today in the urban cities, shares his thoughts and views with BookChums.

Beginning with the mundane/clichéd question: When, where and how did the writing bug bite?
I’m not sure actually, to be honest. I guess being a voracious reader (as I am) is what pushed me towards writing in the first place. Back when I was 10 years old, I wrote an English composition for a unit test, a story where three friends and I ran away from home, roamed around the city and got back home at the end of the day as we were tired, had no money left, and thus had nothing to eat. My teacher who also happened to be our class teacher called me to the staff room and questioned me a lot about this little story. She believed it to be true though it was completely fictional. As a child I also made my younger brother dig up my grandparent’s garden telling him stories of little people who lived in a world beneath the garden. It was this little world I had created through stories and he believed me for a long time.

Your first book was “Love Life and all that jazz”. Would  you like to share your experience of writing that one? What brought about the ideation? How long did it  take to pen it?
I think it was a learning process for me as a writer. It is something  I believed in and enjoyed thoroughly. The story built up in my  head when I was living in Mumbai post my MBA and going through  the quarter life crisis – confused about relationships, career and  pretty much a lot of other things. The first draft took me a couple  of months to write, but by the time I got to the final draft it was a  year. The hardest part is editing your work and removing what  didn’t fit in. I had written over a 100,000 words and was edited  down to about 84,000 words.

Coming to your second book- “Another Chance” – the  story is predominantly about a female (Ruheen) and her  relationship with the men in her life. How difficult or  easy was it to think from a female’s perspective?
You’re right, Another Chance revolves around a female  protagonist and a lot of the story is written from her point of view.  I guess as a writer I am influenced by what I see around me, what I  read and of course cinema. I had to isolate myself and get into the  skin of the character, to think and react from her perspective.  Even some of the scenes where Aditya is in a pensive mood and is  dealing with heartbreak were difficult, but here I had some  experiences that I could relate to. Then again there’s a bit of  creativity we hope to tap on and wish that it works. It was difficult  to write some of those scenes in Another Chance. I was actually  apprehensive about some scenes I had written about Ruheen. I  had a couple of close friends, women of her age and income  background and another writer friend read these, and honestly  they completely loved these scenes and felt it was an accurate depiction of her state of mind.

People usually find it easier to pen their experiences. Was there an incident that inspired or provoked you to write “Another Chance”? How much time did it take to complete it?
Another Chance again was a story that built up over the years. The idea first came to me when I was sitting and sipping a cup of coffee in Amsterdam. I saw someone who looked strikingly similar to someone from my past, and I imagined what I would do then if it really was her. So I guess I let my imagination run wild and the story kind of evolved. Aditya’s love and pining for Ruheen is quite similar Pip’s love for Estella in Great Expectations and something like Jay’s love for Daisy in The Great Gatsby. I’m a big fan of the classics and I guess subconsciously that influences my writing, though I like to keep it contemporary and real.
It took me three months to write the first draft and six months to edit and fine tune.

We see both the books majorly focused on “relationships” and they definitely are “coming of age” as we say. Was this a conscious move (to write about relationships)? What is it about relationships that you, as an author, are trying to tell people?
I believe Love, life & all that jazz… was a slice of life coming of age story about these four youngsters and the people around them. It is about career, friendship and living your dreams for these characters and it is more than just about relationships. There are many fun filled moments in this book.
Another Chance is the morning after novel, it is my ode to love and life’s choices. Another Chance has more detail, it is fast paced and there is depth in characterization; it is more poetic and soulful and needed a well developed narrative style. Though different in their treatment, I believe both of them are quite visual and relatable in different ways.

How did you go about choosing Bruna Abdullah as the face of Ruheen?
I was sitting and sipping chai in the balcony of our hotel in Mussoorie. My wife and I were on holiday, a well deserved break after sending Another Chance out to my editor. Sunny Sara, a very good friend called and we got chatting about the book. I told him the story and explained how I wanted to get the cover right this time. I wasn’t too happy with the cover we did for Love, life & all that jazz’s 1st edition. He suggested that we get Bruna on the cover after hearing a short narration on Ruheen’s character. All thanks to him, she was onboard in July 2010 even before Grey Oak formally came into existence. It was nice working with Bruna; she’s a nice person and is someone I’m fond of. I had first met her at a friend’s wedding years ago when Sunny introduced me to her. I had no clue then that I would write a book and she would be on the cover. But the idea and the execution was Sunny’s idea and Nitin Patel’s too, the photographer.
In this age, we notice that professional and personal lives are messed up. What is it about our generation or work culture today that irks you the most?
I think what concerns me the most is many among us lack conviction in what we do and the lives we lead. We are submissive to material wants, pleasures and what society expects of us. The need to make an impression is only growing in our society. Look around you, celebrities who repeat a dress or a shirt are ridiculed and made fun of. Look at the number of magazines that talk about yachts, watches, first class travel and luxury cars. People are selling illusions and people are lapping it up. The guy or girl, working 14 hours a day in a job he/she hates but still does just to afford a certain lifestyle, is at the end of the day spending 2-3 hours on the road in a city like Bangalore or Mumbai. They splurge at an expensive lounge on weekends or end up paying a ridiculous amount to watch the latest movie. This is what most lives have become and it isn’t good. It affects everything – your health, relationships, equations with friends and family, and your state of mind. I’m glad I became a writer, today I’m close to a lot of people who aren’t a part of the rat race and who are doing what they believe in 100%.

Do we see a movie version of Another Chance in the making?
Inshallah! You know there’s so much interest, I’ve been contacted by quite a few people. I feel it is more easily adaptable to the big screen. I’m working on the screenplay now.

If you had to choose a celebrity to play the parts of Ruheen, Aditya and Varun – who all would you pick?
I would pick more than one person for each. For Ruheen I would say Bruna is a good option as she brings Ruheen to life on the cover. Chitrangda Singh, if this is a mainstream film. But Nauheed and Kainaz are equally compelling choices. They are strikingly beautiful women, they are wonderful human beings and more importantly two actors I’m fond of as they are dear friends. Ruheen has a very endearing character, she’s hopeful, she’s a fighter. She never gives up on life, she only emerges stronger. I see that whole positive spirit in Nauheed and Kainaz’s personality, it’s almost infectious and rubs off on people around them.
I think Aditya would be best played by Purab Kohli or Rahul Khanna, actors with a lot of range in their abilities and that knack to pull off the brooding underdog act.
Varun could be played by a lot of actors of our day and age. Maybe Sanjay Suri or Jimmy Shergill, both underrated actors who deserve to seen more on the screen. Neil Nitin Mukesh also has finesse and sophistication to pull this off. Unconventional choices but that’s how it’s always been for me.

Any aversions from critics (yet) that you did not expect?
With Another Chance it is too early to tell, no reviews have happened by the critics as yet. I guess one has to grin and deal with whatever the outcome is. All I can say is that it takes a lot to put yourself out there, a book is completely a writer’s baby, quite unlike a film where so many people are involved. So when people say they like my work it makes me grin like a fool all day and when they don’t, it isn’t a happy feeling. But as writers we’ve already put ourselves out there, and at the end of the day it’s a personal reaction. Its opinion and it differs from one to another.
With Love, life & all that jazz… I mostly got positive feedback and it made me extremely happy. The aversion of a few is well taken and in some cases is well deserved, they had a point and it only helps me introspect and grow as a writer which I did with Another Chance.

Certain books/authors usually leave an everlasting print in our memory. What book/author has had the most influence on you and your writing? What is your favorite genre when it comes to reading/writing?
I’ve been influenced by so many writers and so many books. Charles Dickens, F Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, Hanif Khureshi, Haruki Murakami, Nick Hornby, James Frey and back home there is RK Narayan, Amitav Ghosh and Omair Ahmad. These authors are outstanding storytellers and extremely honest and passionate about their craft.
I read all kinds of books, from Fantasy Fiction for young adults to Inspirational stories and travelogues. I like reading about people and places that are far removed from the world that I’ve grown up in. I read very little Indian fiction and most of this is of the literary variety. Among the mass – market fiction variety I’ve only read my writer friends’ books in the past one year.

What next do we see from the desk of Ahmed Faiyaz?
There are two novels and a novella planned for the next couple of years. Also, a few short stories for anthologies planned by Grey Oak. A collection of my short stories is also on the horizon.

Could you also shed some light on Grey Oak Publishers and your role in the organization?
Grey Oak is a recently set up trade publisher, focused on Indian writing. Grey Oak’s primary focus is to publish mass-market paperback Indian fiction aimed at a general audience under the flagship – ‘Grey Oak’ imprint. Besides this, Grey Oak also aim to publish a limited list of titles under the ‘Silverfish’ imprint, targeted at young adults (12-17 age group) and a limited list of contemporary writing on travel, self-help, inspirational stories and biographies under the ‘Chiron’ imprint.
I wear the marketing hat in Grey Oak. My focus is on marketing, building and fostering trade relationships. My focus is to build a brand for Grey Oak as a reputed, quality publisher in India.

What is it that you like doing the most, apart from writing?
I love to travel. I’m happiest slacking off somewhere in the mountains or on a beach. I’m a movie buff and enjoy watching all kinds of films, a lot world cinema.

A few facts about “Ahmed Faiyaz -the person” and “Ahmed Faiyaz -the author” that you’d like to share with our readers.
The person loves to read, he’s very introverted and is truly known by a few among his friends and family. He hopes to do what he truly believes in and wants to give time and support causes he truly believes in. I want to retire at 40 and just write and do non – profit work focused on education and the environment.
The author hopes to grow and write stories on a broader canvas and about subjects he truly believes in. He loves to hear from his readers and obsessively replies to every email in 24 hours. His wife hates this habit and has secretly tried to destroy his BlackBerry. She was a strong supporter of banning BlackBerry services.

Contemporary authors in today’s time who you think are doing a good job?
There are so many of them. Some of them are of my generation and are dear friends – Omair Ahmad, Mridula Koshy, Amitabha Bagchi, Paritosh Uttam and Rikin Khamar. I think Karan has successful at going mainstream. Then there are Deepak Dalal, R Chandrasekar and Sujit Saraf as well who are doing very well as writers.

Your advice to budding writers would be?
Write what you truly believe in and focus on editing as this is the most important part of writing – it’s taking out what you’ve written and re-writing which takes a while to get used to. Also understand who the audience is and write from their perspective.

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