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Interview with R Santosh

He is an established Endocrinologist and the founder and director of Magna Centres for Obesity, Diabetes, and Endocrinology. In addition to his clinical work, he is known for his academic excellence. He has published numerous papers and presented at various national and international conferences. Writing has been his hobby since he was young. He is the author of five books, two of which are also being considered for OTT. He is an ardent follower of football and cricket.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
My daughter inspired me to put pen to paper. I used to tell her ‘Mystery stories’ at bedtime. As she grew, she demanded more complexity in the stories, and storytelling became a passion thereafter!

I own all of the Tintin comics and read them multiple times!

I won the crowd favorite award at an all-India Karaoke showdown in 2012!

I have strongly supported Manchester City Football ever since Leeds United got relegated years before the funds were poured into Man City!

Q.2 Will we be reading more from you in the near future? Do you have any new projects in the works?
Yes, I am working on a new book now. I can only say that the coming book does not include a science background!

Q.3 What inspired you to write Been There Before?
Right during the lockdown, I watched the movie Interstellar, and there was one concept in the movie that I thought was the basic plot around which my next story could evolve. 

At the same time, a senior doctor came down to meet me (just after the lockdown was lifted) just to narrate the story of his father and him. He wanted to know if I could use this story in my next book. I took both concepts and came up with the plot of Been There Before!

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I don’t feel that it is greatly difficult to write about women because I have three women with very strong mentalities in my life; my mother, my wife, and my daughter. Observing them all my life made my job easier!

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I don’t use any set formula for characters. My plots thus far have strong roots in Scientific theories and, in some cases, cultural and religious beliefs. However, my next book will be the first exception to these. I generally base my stories on towns and cities that I am familiar with. This makes my job easier, as I am generally aware of popular restaurants, hangout places, cultures, and customs.

Q.6 Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
In my endeavor to get the stories on the cinema or TV screen, I had numerous interactions with people in the movie industry. Most were encouraging, but some were blunt enough to say that my stories lacked a strong hero-like figure to build a story around, no punch dialogues, and no physical action scenes. 

I was guilty thereafter because I tried to structure stories in my mind with a ‘hero’ like figure. I got frustrated and had a prolonged writers block. It was then I realised that I would rather stick to my style of intricate plot writing, rather than building stories around mass media expectations.

Q.7 How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
To write a book, it probably takes an average of one year. What comes after that takes equal time; proofreading, editing, correcting, typesetting, and getting it ready for publishing. On average, it takes me two years to get a book out in its full shape.

Q.8 What’s your writing schedule while working?
As a clinician and a family person, my priority during the day would be clinical and academic work and spending time with family daily. I restrict my writing to late nights (often between 1130 pm and 0030 am).

Q.9 How many books you have written? Which one is your favorite among them?
I have now written five books: The Science Redemption, The Fifth Dimension (which was withdrawn from the market to improve the final product), The Subconscious, The Creation Conundrum, and Been There Before

It would be very difficult to choose which one I like the most, as it all involves a lot of passion! However, if I had to really choose, I would probably say the Fifth Dimension! I would like to improve the final product and re-release it soon!

Q.10 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
I would like to mention a character called Pooja Savarkar in the book Fifth Dimension. She is perceived to be a girl with depression and delusions. Her true character is revealed at the end of the book, which surprises many. Zeenat in Been There Before, Munna in The Subconscious, and Sneha in The Science Redemption are all also very dear supporting characters.

Q.11 It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. Tell us about your marketing campaign?
The initial awareness has to go to friends and family. People who are really close and avid readers will help you gain initial genuine feedback. Been There Before was first released at a conference that I attended. After that, there was a flurry of awareness posts with the help of my own Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages. 

Then, it was the turn of genuine book reviewers who took up the project and raised more awareness to a larger audience. The real icing on the cake came when WH Smith chose it as one of the top books to display at the Delhi and Hyderabad airports. Then, it became self-sustaining!

Q.12 If you could get a chance to travel in time, where would you go and why?
Oh! I would absolutely like to go back to my childhood to relive all the awesome moments and, if possible, rectify some silly decisions I have made in life!

Q.13 If your book makes it into the movie, who would you like to play the role of Arjun and Avtar?
I think the late Sushant Singh Rajput would have done a good job as Avtar Singh. Akshay Kumar would be great as well. For Arjun Rathore, I would probably like to go with Vicky Kaushal.

Q.14 Who designed your book covers? How do you select them?
The self-publishing team helped design the covers. Inexperience played a role in the first two books, and the covers lacked finesse and conviction. I really thank the latest self-publishing team for helping design beautiful covers for The Subconscious, The Creation Conundrum, and Been There Before.

Q.15 What advice do you give to aspiring writers who want to explore themes related to sci-fi in their writing?
Sci-fi in movies and sci-fi in writing are poles apart. For example, Aliens attacking Earth or traveling to some distant galaxy may be a good theme for a movie, but it makes boring reading after a while. Sci-fi-themed books, in my opinion, should have a lot of contemporary fiction intermingled with some unique concept that could give a sci-fi ‘twist’ to the story

Q.16 How do you select the names of your characters?
This may be a day’s work sometimes! The names of the characters have to be carefully chosen, keeping in mind their place of origin and the ‘generation’ or ‘era’ they lived in. This becomes especially important when the stories span multiple years.

Q.17 What do you want readers to take away from your books?
I hope I have maintained suspense until the very end of all the books. I pride myself on that. My favorite was the suspense of the book The Subconscious, which sparked a debate among the readers about the actual interpretation of the end of the story!

Q.18 What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Juggling with professional work was probably the hardest thing while writing. Also, this book involved tremendous research into history and physics. It was something that I enjoyed thoroughly, but I have to admit it was hard!

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
My top five books would include If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon, The Gemini Contenders by Robert Ludlum, Asura by Anand Neelakanthan, and Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer

However, beating all of them by just a whisker is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The author combined historical and religious fiction with an intense and thrilling chase in modern-day France and England. It served as an inspiration and opened up new thinking with a ‘mash-up’ of genres, something that all my books have to date.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
My initial fiction writing was confined to school magazines and satirical newspapers in the two colleges where I studied. The latter concept became a huge hit among my friends. After that, my writing was more about professional subjects, research papers, and textbook chapters. After I had settled in my career, I started working on my first story, Science Redemption. I realized that I enjoyed writing! I remember typing furiously on my BlackBerry phone while waiting for a delayed train at a train station once!

When my first book was out for editing, I instantaneously started working on my second book, The Fifth Dimension. As mentioned before, this book was somewhat closer to my heart, and the story, the plot, and the scenes unfolded in my mind more smoothly than any other book I had or have written. It was a great joy to see both published one after the other.

According to me, The Subconscious book was a work of pure art, as it involved tremendous research and intricate storytelling. Although it received great reviews, there were suggestions that it slowed down in many places (creatively, it required slowing down, but perhaps the readers wanted constant gripping excitement).

The Creation Conundrum was a stark contrast as a result. It had a furious and breathtaking pace throughout, something that all the readers and reviewers praised. However, the timing of the release of this book was unfortunate, as it was released probably just a month before the dreadful Covid pandemic and lockdown. People had many other things to take care of at that time, and I was a tad disappointed with the sales (it picked up much later, and it did well!).

I am very happy to see the success of Been There Before, which was also written with a lot of passion.

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