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Interview with Manish Kumar

He is a veteran Air Force pilot, an author, and a motivational speaker. His recent release is My Comeback Trail.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I play guitar and violin and going to learn saxophone. I am a keen player in tennis and squash. I work mostly at the night and sleep at around 3:30 am. I religiously listen to music (mostly gazals, bhajans, and sufi songs) for almost one hour before sleeping.

Q.2 What inspired you to write My Comeback Trail?
The aim to write My Comeback Trail was to inspire people not to give up and stage a comeback from whatever condition they are in. The other aim was to prevent depression and suicide among young adults.

Q.3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I lost my father two years back. I stood near the pyre for three hours. I had some revelations about life then. My next book On My Father’s Pyre is about that. I am also working on two more books: Apprentice to a Modern Master and The Doffels.

Q.4 How long did it take you to write this book?
It took me three years to write the book and another four to edit it.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Four words: Acceptance, Non-judgement, Patience, and above all Forgiveness.

Q.6 How did you deal with the book's emotional/sensitive impact (on yourself) while writing it?
It was tough to remember and write the things that were better left forgotten. Every time I edited the book, I relived those memories and even had nightmares. Meditation helped me lessen the impact but not fully.

Q.7 What was your hardest scene to write?
I missed my son the most when I was in the mental asylum. On 02 Jan 2003, I was to be discharged. But without any reason, I was picked up, tied to the bedpost, and a heavy dose of haloperidol injected into me. My discharge was canceled. The fact that I would not be seeing my son that day shattered me. This was the hardest scene to write.

Q.8 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing? Tell us about your marketing campaign?
Yes, it is vital to get exposure and target the right readers. I believe that writing is one part and ensuring that your book reaches the reader is another part. The writer must be actively involved in the process. I am active on social media, especially Facebook where I have more than 5000 followers. 
I have requested the best book bloggers in the country to review the book. I have also submitted the book to various media houses. 

Financial Express has called the book “Mesmerising.” I have got a review from the Senior Associate Editor of Business Standard. The response from others is awaited. I will also be appearing on National TV Channels for the book promotion. I have also tied up with bookstalls at all the major airports and six smaller ones to showcase the book.

Q.9 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I believe in writer’s block and suffered from it for a long time. The book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield helped me get over it.

Q.10 What piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?
One word: Write. Please read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. These two books helped me immensely to unleash my creative energy and get into the mindset of a creator.

Q.11 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I self-published I Have the Controls in 2009 which was picked up by a publisher and republished as Be Your Own Pilot. It sold more than 50,000 copies. Being my first book, it will always remain my favorite, more so because it established me as a motivational speaker.

Q.12 How do you select the name of your book?
I go by the feel and the rhyming of words. I also test it on social media.

Q.13 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?
Writing the book was cathartic for me. The most surprising thing I learned while writing the book was my power of forgiveness. Although there were people who almost destroyed my life, but I felt no angst or animosity toward them. In fact, I felt grateful to them for propelling my life into a different trajectory and making me what I am today.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
My favorite book is Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Dr. Deepak Chopra. It has made me realize my true potential and keeps nudging me on my path. I read one chapter of it every day.

If I can add one more book, it will be Creative Visualisation by Shakti Gawain. This book has taught me visualization and affirmations which I practice and preach.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture?
My family and friends are very proud and supportive of my writing venture as I am the first author in the family and from my school. I have the continued blessings of my teachers. Almost all of them had written a review of Be Your Own Pilot. However, everyone was worried about the inordinate delay in the completion of My Comeback Trail.

Q.16 What kind of impact would you like to make with your book?
I want My Comeback Trail to be The Bible for staging a comeback. As H W Longfellow said in A Psalm of Life:

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing shall take heart again.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Yes, I religiously go through my book reviews. Luckily, Be Your Own Pilot had just four one/two-star reviews out of hundreds of good ones on Amazon and Facebook. I take both with gratitude, humility, and equanimity.

Q.18 Who designed your book cover? How did you select them?
The book cover was designed by Ms. Shaurya Singh, a NIFT topper. She read the book twice and offered to design the cover. I believe with the mirror imaging and the color contrast, she has beautifully portrayed the essence of the book.

Q.19 Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
When I do a first draft, I write all the ideas that come to my mind without editing them. In my second draft, I choose what I need and then edit it. Throughout the day I keep noting down ideas, words and quotes to be used somewhere.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
When I was leaving the Air Force, I made a list of things I would wish to do. Being an author was last on the list but luckily it became first. As a helicopter pilot, I have saved 12 lives but as an author, I have saved many more and touched many. 

The experience has been humbling. I feel like a medium of the Creator to create words that will last for eons and a messenger to uplift humanity or the level of consciousness a few notches up. My prayer remains, “Krishna, play through me and guide me.”

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