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!

To buy the Confessions on an Island book, click here:
  1. Amazon
  2. Readomania


Sohyle Jain said...

Interesting interview.

Arundhati Datta said...

Engaging interview

Suvayan Sen Gupta said...


maria shalini said...

Enjoyed reading this! Interesting interview, makes me want to read the book all the more! :) Good luck!