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Interview with Mayank Chandna aka Abhaidev


Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself?
A. I am a 33-year-old guy who is an alumnus of VIT Vellore and MDI Gurgaon. I have five years of experience in the IT sector as well as investment banking combined. I always wanted to become a professional writer. However, I could never muster enough courage. But it was during my banking job when I took that thought seriously. Four years back, I took the plunge and became a serious writer. And here I am doing what I love. I am an avid reader and devour classics. And when I am not reading, I am either thinking about writing or actually doing it. I hope to pen down stories that are not run-of-the-mill. And I hope to make a mark in the world of literature.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you soon? Any new project you’re working on?
A. Yes, I am simultaneously working on two projects. One is a fantasy/sci-fi thriller, and the other is speculative fiction with a mix of philosophy. These two books will be a complete departure from the one I got published recently. I have evolved a lot in these past two years, and I hope that my readers will be pleasantly surprised.

Q.3 Where do you get your ideas?
A. I get my ideas at the least likely places and inappropriate time. Especially when I am not anticipating them at all. For example, when I am bathing under the shower, or when I am dreaming. Often, I wake up in the middle of the dream and jot the core ideas down in my notebook, so as not to forget them when I am fully awake. My dreams are vivid and strange. And I hope to turn some of these weird dreams into actual physical books.

Q.4 What advice do you have for writers?
A. I am not in a position to advise young writers yet. However, I could indeed give my two cents to those who are yet to begin. Create your own style! Find your own voice! There is no point in emulating others. The world needs the originals and not the copy-cats. And when you are true to what you actually are, the world will adore and laud you for certain. And last but not least - write. Don’t wait for perfect conditions. Until and unless you do not hit the keys of the keyboard, your entire isn’t going to come true.

Q.5 How do you come up with the name of this book?
A. Subodh is a special guy. He is way too self-absorbed. He is way too introspective. He is quirky. And it is his uniqueness that drives the whole story. That Thing About You is a reference to this very quirky nature of my protagonist. The title couldn’t have been anything else, you know. 

I didn’t think of a title when I began writing this story. But by the time I was half-way through, That Thing About You got stuck in my mind. I can’t explain how it works. But it is always a revelation. The title of the book just occurs to you from nowhere and sticks in your mind. And that I believe is the case with every writer.

Q.6 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A. I know we can't turn the arrow of time, but if it were possible to meet and advise my younger self, I would say - read as much as you can! Don't waste your time on futile ventures. Ponder over the sentences and pay attention to the words.

Q.7 What are the most important magazines or websites for writers to subscribe to?
A. I am not aware of physical magazines. However, I am indeed a member of various online writing groups. I also follow Brain Pickings and Writer’s Digest on Facebook. These two websites regularly post articles and blogs which are not only insightful but are also helpful to serious readers and writers alike. Thanks to the internet, the modern-day writers don’t need to commute to some commonplace for exposure and exchange of ideas. Facebook writing groups are fantastic. They are the melting pot of writers from all over the world.

Q.8 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A. Writing about characters from the opposite sex is indeed challenging. Especially when a male writer is writing about a female. One has to be cautious and be faithful to the motives. Otherwise, the character would appear phoney. Romance writers should be especially careful. A lot of male writers end up creating unbelievable women characters who either do not fit in the story or appear stretched or fake. This, I believe, happens because a lot of men do not understand or research enough about women psychology. Thankfully, I do not write romance. So, I think it is less of a problem as far as I am concerned.

Q.9 How do you select the names of your characters?
A. Actually, I don’t ponder much about it. If it sounds right and suits the character, I don’t make much of a fuss later.

Q.10 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
A. Yes, I try to read each of them. While like every other writer I crave applause, I do also try to learn from reviews that offer constructive criticism. Feedback is necessary. Absolutely necessary. As it helps the writer to grow and evolve. But I also realize that no matter what you do, it is difficult to please everyone. So, reviews, be it good or bad, should always be taken with a pinch of salt. There is a lot to learn from them, but you can't take things completely to your heart. I know it is easy to say such a thing. As no matter how hard we try, we are affected, indeed. We writers are extremely sensitive and susceptible creatures. Every feedback, good or bad, changes our mood likewise.

Q.11 Does your family supports your career as a writer?
A. Yes, they do. I will always be indebted to them, for they have always supported me no matter what.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block?
A. I am not a professional writer yet, though I try to write every day. I think there are two types of species under which a writer can be categorized. Those who write a lot every day no matter what, and those who are the impulsive ones who await perfect mood or conditions. It is the latter who face writer's block. Once you train yourself to write every day no matter what, you'll never have writer's block.

Q.13 Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
A. Writing gives me relief. It is not pleasure per se, but a sense of contentment or achievement. I feel satisfied the day I write. And the day I don't, I feel terrible. It is almost like an itch or an addiction. Once you venture into the world of writing, there is no turning back. Writing gives meaning to my life. It is the only thing that makes me feel peaceful. So there is my answer. Yes, I feel energized the day I write.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
A. I don't think I have any such aforementioned habits. However, I do, at times, leave things which need immediate attention, and put them on hold whenever I am struck with an idea or thought which is impossible to resist. At such times I have to write it all down on a piece of paper, no matter where I am and no matter with whom. 

Q.15 What inspired you to write this book?
A.  There are a lot of books out there about mature people, but very few in which the main character (protagonist) is an immature man. I wanted to write a book about one such person. I wanted to write about an individual who simply refuses to grow up. That Thing About You is dear to me, for it is semi-autobiographical. I too was a lot like Subodh a decade back. We all have been Subodh at some point in our lives. But we don't discuss or tell about that phase ever. This is why I felt the urge to write about such a story. That Thing About You is a different tale. Finishing it brought a sense of closure. I can now move on.

Q.16 Do you Google yourself?
A. Lol. You have indeed cornered me. Well, the answer is yes. Yes, I am guilty of this offense, but who isn't? We belong to the generation of netizens. And every netizen has googled himself at some point in time. It is not paranoia, but a strange sort of curiosity. We all want to know how we appear on google search. The lure is hard to avoid. It is too tempting, you see.

Q.17 Describe your writing style.
A.  I would describe my writing style to be moderate. It is not literary, and I don't think it is pulp either. I don't use metaphors much. Though I would like to. I am evolving with time, so you'll see a lot of improvement in my upcoming books. I don't want to be an obscure or abstruse writer. Yes, the more artistic the use of words, the more flowery the prose is, the better is the work of art. But what is the point if the majority of the people are unable to understand you? I would try my best to convey great ideas through simple, easy to understand words. Kurt Vonnegut is one of the writers who are my inspiration. His writing has depth, yet his prose is simple. I aim to write like him someday.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A. Oh, God! There are a lot of dead people who I would like to meet. The list is too big. But if you insist on choosing two icons at max, then they would be Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein. I don't know; whenever I read about their lives or their books, I feel connected to them somehow. Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein in one room debating each other. Well, that would be super awesome.

Q.19 What is your favourite book and why?
A. One can't have a favourite book, especially if one reads a lot. There are so many books that have succeeded in touching my life. Naming each of them here would be impossible. But I can indeed tell you the kind of writers I like. Huxley, Dostoyevsky, Salinger, Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, Hesse, Camus, Kafka, etc.

As you can see, I like classics. So there are a lot of books which are dear to me. But the book which has touched me recently is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I finished the book two weeks back, but the hangover is still not over. So it is the one that I would like to mention to the readers. Daniel Keyes, you have found a new fan! I would suggest Flowers for Algernon to every serious reader out there.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A. The journey has been a pleasant one. Each day I am discovering myself more. And each day, I am evolving into a better writer. I hope that I will succeed in penning down stories that are not run-of-the-mill, and I hope to make a difference in the world of writing.

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