Friday, July 29, 2016

Fiction is born out of a fact!

A mesmerizing and a thrilling tale of love, hate, and revenge
Fiction is born out of a fact! True, isn’t it?
But, this holds true when the facts are presented in a right manner in a fiction. And, that’s what Ayan Pal has done in his book, Confessions on an Island where he have presented the facts in a well thought off manner. This book is intriguing and at the same time has a prefect recipe of thriller. Hats off to Ayan to pull out such a gripping tale of love, betrayal, and revenge. Ayan is a wonderful human being and now he is also a bestseller novelist in the making who has a unique way of storytelling that would keep you engaged and glued to the book right until you finish.   

Confessions on an Island is a tale of an abducted woman who is trapped in an island by a man in a mysterious manner and there is only one option for her to escape—she needs to tell stories. But the clue is that the stories must relate to the ones that are told by the abductor himself. Though, she feels clueless as to why she who is also a bestselling author has been asked to play such a game but she has no choice but play along. And, then, the thrilling tale in the deserted island begins. In addition, the book touches upon some social causes as well while trying to tell the readers about what wrong is happening in the society. And, I am even impressed to see the kind of details Ayan have put in and this also shows how much research he might have done like for example, there is one story where the author mentions about the food in Rajasthan or even a restaurant in another story. In this book, Ayan have very nicely woven all the stories in a manner as if we put all the beads together in a thread. In addition, all the stories are well connected and relate to each other. Ayan is a master storyteller already as he has coauthored several books like Chronicles of Urban Nomads, Crossed & Knotted, Rudraksha - When Gods Came Calling, and When They Spoke and with his debut novel he has proved it right.

Now, I am really looking forward for the sequel or another part of Confessions on an Island as it suggests in the end of novel and that is even more compelling and thought provoking.
Confessions on an IslandConfessions on an Island by Ayan Pal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intriguing, Mind Blowing, and Terrific. Hats off to the author to pull out such a gripping tale of love, betrayal, and revenge. He seems to have a unique way of storytelling that would keep the readers engaged and glued to the book right until you finish. The book is full of emotions and at times I even empathized with the characters. In addition, the book touches upon some social causes as well while trying to tell the readers about what wrong is happening in the society. And, I am even impressed to see the kind of details the author has put in and this also shows how much research the author might have done like for example, there is one story where the author have mentions the food in Rajasthan or even a restaurant in another story. I especially also like the way all the stories has been woven just like the beads are woven together by the thread. For more details, click here:

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Interview with Ayan Pal

Chat with Ayan Pal - Author of Confessions on an Island

You are currently working in the IT Industry. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Was there a particular moment when you thought, ‘Yes, I can do this!’?
I wanted to be a writer ever since I realized how much I enjoy creative writing - yeah, even essays as a part of the school curricula! But it wasn’t until I watched the movie ‘Signs’ by M. Night Shyamalan that I actually began to piece together several incidents in my life as being much more than mere coincidences. This slowly led me to a place where I was able to confidently proclaim ‘Yes, I can do this!’

What inspires you to write?
The thought of making my imagination come alive in the readers’ minds. And the ability to inspire and / or influence them through my words.

Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
I don’t manage to write on a regular basis due to my professional commitments as an IT professional. I usually write late in the evenings, early mornings, or over the weekends. A typical day would involve waking up in the morning, reading the newspaper, shifting to my favorite part of the room, and playing some ambient music before slowly drowning myself in the process of writing. I do take breaks in between, but usually try not to hamper my flow of writing when I manage to find a rhythm.

How is the market like for the new writers in India who want to start their career as a writer?
It’s both easy as well as difficult. While self-publishing has made it easier than ever before to become an author, it’s the crowd of often mundane books that makes it difficult to distinguish oneself from others. The money is there, but through content writing, technical writing, editing, and of course freelancing. However, if one has faith in his or her work, and is willing to give it the best shot, no matter what, then with some clever marketing, the sky is indeed the limit. But yes – it will take one a combination of passion, patience, and perseverance which isn’t the easiest thing in the world!

Is there any specific genre you target when you start writing a story or a novel? How did you choose the genre and title of your book?
As a short story author, I have tried several genres so far. My solo debut novel Confessions on an Island is a psychological thriller with several sub genres in it.  I chose to attempt this genre based on the feedback received on my short stories and anthologies so far. This helped me understand what is it that my readers connect with more and accordingly I set about writing this novel, which in a way combines the elements of my favorite stories so far. Naming the novel wasn’t easy but I was able to come up with it after discussions with my editor, publisher, and a wonderfully supportive group of beta readers, who also happen to be my co-authors over the years. I am also keen on attempting a series of books under fantasies, magic realism, and literary fiction provided my debut does well!

Please tell us a bit about your book?
Confessions on an Island is a story narrated by an island, a bestselling author, and a seemingly heartless abductor. The following is a blurb of the book:An abducted woman trapped on an island is given a chance to escape, provided she tells stories emerging from the stories her intriguing abductor tells her. Clueless about why she is being forced to participate in this game of Russian Matryoshka Dolls, the woman, a bestselling author, decides to play along. And therein begins a thrilling tale narrated by an island. Of a man and woman consumed by the power of their imagination and truth, even as the stakes are gradually raised. Soon the only way out is in – into the past, heart and mind. The island is ready to confess. Are you ready for the truth?

Does social media help the fiction writers? What role does it really play? Does constructive criticism play any role in the age of social media?
Social media does help an author reach out to a wider audience and connect with fans beyond one’s home town for instance. But social media by itself is not enough. Nothing can beat a reader and author interaction through a book reading or panel discussion for instance. But not everyone is in a position to utilize that, and hence social media helps one better one’s cause, so to speak. Having said that, it can also be detrimental. Here not just praise, but also criticism is for all to see. So it’s important to be careful and to try and strive a balance between online and offline / print presence. Having said that, constructive criticism, provided it’s not a paid review, always helps and that’s where social media comes in – to help one spread the word.


Do you have any role model or an influence as a writer? Tell us about a few of your all-time favorite authors and books.
Of course I do! I will always remain grateful to the following list of storytellers whom I have never met, but who inspired me through their passion, perseverance, talent, hard work and determination: Agatha Christie (especially the books featuring Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot), Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things), Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, and Unaccustomed Earth), JK Rowling (Harry Potter series), JRR Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series), M. Night Shyamalan (for his stories & scripts of The Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Village) and Satyajit Ray (Professor Shanku and Feluda series).

I also love The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk, Animal Farm by George Orwell, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
I have also enjoyed the works of Jodi Picoult, Mitch Albom, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jeffrey Archer, Rick Riordan, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, and Enid Blyton at various points in life.

Have you re-read any book from the list of your favorite books?
Yes, or course! On the top of the list would be the Harry Potter series of books, which I have read several times. I have also read The Alchemist at various points in my life, and many books by Enid Blyton multiple times while growing up.

How do you build your characters? 
I start off with a basic idea of what I want, but as I start writing, the characters almost always develop a mind of their own and end up chartering their individual journeys themselves.

You have published various short stories and now you have just written your first novel. How different are both of them?
It’s funny really, but I started off by writing a novel which took years to complete, and unfortunately isn’t quite ready yet. But then, when I switched to short stories, I almost immediately began to see the results for myself. I was able to not just try my hand at different genres, but also effectively gauge my readers’ reactions to my writing, thereby being able to identify my strengths and weaknesses.
Since 2014, I have had the opportunity of seeing my work published in as many as 10 books, some of which also went on to become Amazon bestsellers. My first composite novel Crossed and Knotted also found a mention in the ‘Limca Book of Records’. But the creative satisfaction of coming up with a solo novel is entirely different. As a writer, a short story is at times quite difficult, due to restrictions in terms of words to completely narrate a story, but a novel is an exercise in commitment and much more difficult, for it requires planning and a huge amount of investment time wise. But the writing of short stories can ultimately help one develop ways of plotting a chapter of a novel much better – at least it did for me! This, for me, was a wonderful way of getting my bearings right and come up with the perfect novel – which I hope Confessions on an Island is.

Any advice for aspiring fiction novel authors…
Start with simple plotlines and ideas. Try your hand at short stories, and read. A lot! The best way to learn writing is by reading. Especially recent books, be it from the genre you wish to pursue or otherwise. To try and understand what works and what doesn’t. It’s important to recognize your shortcomings, identify areas of improvement, and at all times to believe in your dreams. The rest will automatically follow. All the best!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

A blissful journey of rejuvenation to Dharamshala and Dalhousie

Finally, we are back to the heat and dust of Delhi with the temperature soaring to 37 degrees and we are surviving to the artificial air of air conditioner.  But, when I look back to the memories of our blissful vacation trip with my family, it feels wonderful. It all started a month ago when we were still deciding where to go. We had a variety of destinations to choose from like Goa and Darjeeling. We even thought of Srinagar but nothing really worked both from cost and weather perspective. We were told that Goa will be too hot and humid in this month. So, we chose Dharamshala, Dalhousie, and Khajjiar for our summer vacation. I am glad that we chose these three destinations to relieve ourselves from the heat for a while. It all started with a month of planning when we were choosing a hotel in Dharamshala. We had searched on various travel sites, like goibibo, yatra, and makemytrip and finally we put our money on Gandhi’s Paradise as I got a good deal (around 60% discount) from makemytrip. We chose to travel by road and had booked the Volvo tickets through HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation). After having booked our hotel in Dharamshala, we chose Hotel Grace Mount in Dalhousie and booked the luxury Suite directly from the hotel itself as we didn’t get any deal for Dalhousie in any of the travel sites.  Finally, the day arrived when we had to travel to our vacation and I still remember it was 25th May. Even God was in favor of our journey so much so that the weather had suddenly become cooler than before.  Few hours before our departure, a thunderstorm had started and it rained heavily with hailstorms as well. But, thankfully, it stopped raining when we had to depart for our journey and I had booked a taxi from OLA to Kashmiri Gate ISBT. We reached Kashmiri Gate ISBT by 7:30 PM as our Volvo bus was to depart by 8:05 PM and it was spot on time. It had stopped midway for about 20-25 minutes to give some break to the passengers. It took us around 11 hours to reach Dharamshala and we reached McLoedganj bus stand at 8 AM where we boarded a taxi to reach our hotel as it was a little far away from the bus stand in McLoedganj and it cost us around 200 Rs. Our hotel, Gandhi’s Paradise was in Mcloedganj i.e. Upper Dharamshala. We reached the hotel in about 10-15 minutes and we were really surprised to see the location of the hotel. Though, it was at a distance from the market but it had an excellent view of the mountains. There was an initial hiccups at the hotel as we had little early before the checkin and the room was still needs to be prepared though we had already informed the hotel in advance about our time. However, the hotel staff were polite enough and I must say that the owner of hotel Sanjeev Gandhi took special care to make us feel at home. They made all arrangements to make us feel at home in their restaurant. The hotel also had a kids play area where my son really enjoyed. We refreshed ourselves and had our breakfast from their Ala Carte menu before we got our room at around 10:45 AM. The room was well maintained and t had an independent balcony with a spectacular view of the mountains, and the beds were aligned in a manner that the sun rays fall upon us in the morning and it looked amazing. Upon reaching the room, we refreshed a bit more before moving to sightseeing trip. As it was already 1 PM so we decided to go only for local sightseeing in McLoedganj and we had boarded the same taxi that had brought us to the hotel from the bus stop. The taxi cost us around 800 Rs for local sightseeing tour.  Mcleodganj is located in upper Dharamsala at an altitude of 1700 meters above the sea level, and is a home to the holi highness, Dalai Lama. Mcloedganj offers you a variety of places to visit such as Dal Lake, Naddi point, Dalai Lama temple complex, Bhasunag temple, Bhagsu waterfalls, and St John’s church.
Our day ended with bhagsunag as it was near to our hotel and since we were really tired from the overnight journey and the sightseeing tour so we decided to call it a day to relax ourselves at the hotel. We decided to move to the terrace to embrace the beauty of dhamarshala at night and ordered our dinner at the hotel’s restaurant before dozing off to sleep. Next day when we got up, we were greeted with the sun rays that fall directly on us and the view looked amazing. We had a morning tea and ordered breakfast of masala omlette and toast and parathas before proceeding for sightseeing tour of Dharamshala.  Dharamshala also offers you a variety of places that you can explore. A must visit is the war memorial garden that is situated before the main bus stand near Dharamshala college. The garden is dedicated to all those brave men who have sacrificed their lives while defending their motherland. Its walls embark the names of the brave martyrs as a sign of respect to all of them. About 1 km from the memorial is the International Cricket stadium, which is also a must visit. This stadium has a unique architecture that would immediately catch your attention.
Next, we went to explore the tea gardens that offers a splendid view and we even bought tea as a souvenir and then we also visited the kunal pathri mandir. Our sightseeing ended with the last and final destination of Gyuto Monastery, which is one of the most famous monasteries in Tibet and is known for its study of Tantric meditation, Tantric ritual arts and Buddhist philosophy. We stopped our sightseeing at the Mcloedganj Main Square market. This place is a centrally located in McLoedganj and is lined with shops that allows you to buy variety of stuff, such as handicrafts, clothes, gifts, and restaurants. There are various famous restaurants in the main square market, such as Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen, McLlo, Tibet Kitchen, Namgyal Café, Lobsang's Four Seasons Café, Taste of India, and so on. We had our lunch at the McLlo restaurant we ordered a pizza and a beer and costed us around 300 Rs. We also decided to taste some of local delicacies so we ordered few veg momos and thukpa from a street food vendor and I must say that quality was as good as any 5 star restaurant. We also did some shopping and bought some gifts and souvenirs for our family and then booked an auto rickshaw from the auto rickshaw stand to proceed to our hotel. We were very tired when reached our room in the hotel from the whole day sightseeing so we decided to call it a day and have the dinner at the hotel restaurant itself. After taking some rest, we took some time to take some selfies of the views from room (do not forget to carry your selfie stickJ).  After having dinner at the hotel, we decided to call it a day and bid a last good night to Dharamshala as next day we had to travel to Dalhousie. The next morning was really special for me as it was my 39th birthday and it was first ever time when I was celebrating it outside. My wife and son had made plans and already had ordered a cake from the hotel. I must say that it was a pleasant surprise for me to make me feel at home. We got up early as we had to leave by 9 AM. I had already hired a taxi the earlier day to go to Dalhousie. The taxi arrived sharp at 9 AM and we checked out from the hotel at 9:30 AM and had our breakfast midway at Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen where we ordered tomato pasta and omlette and then continued our journey to Dalhousie. We reached Dalhousie at around 1 PM and checked in to the hotel Grace Mount at 1:30 PM. I had already booked a Luxury suite room at the hotel as most of the hotels were booked due to heavy rush but I really got a good deal and hotel was on a good location. It was right on the khajjiar road and gave an excellent view of valley. The weather in Dalhousie was different from that of Dharamshala as it was bit cold. To our good fortune, it started to rain in the evening and it became really chilly at night. So, on that day, we really couldn’t do much of sightseeing apart from going to Punjpulla and do some adventure activities. We reached hotel after having stuck in the traffic for over 3 hours and ordered a lavish dinner at the hotel itself. The next day, we went to Khajjiar and I must say that experience was really wonderful. Khajjiar is called the mini-Switzerland of India and rightly so. It has lake called the Khajjiar lake at the center and is surrounded by trees on all sides and has a huge ground with lush green grass and also has an excellent view of mountains. Though the sun was brightly shining but it looked wonderful and we didn’t feel the heat. We really felt that we have come to the heaven. And, as the name suggests, it looked absolutely mini-Switzerland of India and is a must visit spot in surrounded by hills, sceneries and lush green landscapes. The place is ideal for picnics, photography, strolls and more. Khajjiar offers a lot of activities to keep you and your family busy for both children and adults. For kids, there are various kinds of rides such as horse riding etc and for adults, you can plunge into the adventure activities, such as zorbing and paragliding. Out day at Khajjiar ended with a visit to the nearby Khajji Nag temple, which is rich in history. This temple dates back to the 12th century and still stands in the magnificent splendor in Khajjiar. You do not have to worry about where to stay or what to eat. Khajjiar has budget hotels, luxury hotels as well as resorts for accommodation.
Almost every hotel offers panoramic views of the snow-clad mountains. We came back exhausted at the hotel and took a plunge into the bed to take some rest and then we took a walk into the hills to proceed to the Gandhi Chowk, which is the main market of Dalhousie. Gandhi Chowk is the most happening shopping area in Dalhousie with a number of shops and delectable eateries scattered all over the place. It is the central area of Dalhousie, with the most important buildings, post office and restaurants along with a small Tibetan market selling handicrafts items situated in the vicinity. We had our dinner at the Gandhi Chowk and then boarded a taxi to reach our hotel. We were so tired because of the day-long journey that we just plunged into the bed for a last night at Dalhousie. The next morning was very pleasant with sun shining brightly. It was our last day at Dalhousie so we decided to take an early breakfast. The hotel’s restaurant offered buffet breakfast with a variety of dishes being served from vegetarian to eggeterians. After having our breakfast, we got ready to check out from the hotel as the checkout time was at 11 AM. Since our bus was supposed to leave at 8:30 so we had ample time for our departure but the hotel were wise enough to advise us to visit the Dainkund peak, which is a gentle, sloping walk near an Air Force base in Dalhousie, leading to a Hindu temple. Daikund peak is a tourist destination perched at an altitude of 2755 meters. We relished a 360 degree view of the entire valley of Dalhousie from this peak. The view from the top of the Daikund peak is breathtaking and stunning, and the noise of the breeze passing through the trees makes a musical sound, due to which this peak has also obtained the name, the singing hill. You need to walk at approximately 5 KMs to reach to the top of the Daikund peak but once you reach the top, scintillating view of the mountains will leave you mesmerized and another 2 KM trek will lead you to the Bholani Devi temple. Dainkund is the highest peak in Dalhousie and gets maximum snowfall during the winter season.


We stayed there for a while and had our snacks at the temple complex. There are few eateries at the temple that offers little variety of food like maggi, pakodas, tea, and cold drinks. And, then we stared to move down when we came back at around 3 PM. Finally, we came back to our hotel to pick our luggage and then we proceeded towards the Gandhi Chowk to give a final touch and collect few souvenirs for our family and then had a heavy lunch at the market. And, then we left the taxi at the bus stand where our bus was to arrive to move towards our destination. We boarded the bus at around 8:30 PM and as the bus was about to leave Dalhousie, we bud fare well to the mesmerizing hill station with a hope to come back one more time.