Ayan Pal is an IBM Accredited IT Consultant with almost 11 years of experience across IT Majors CISCO, WIPRO, and IBM in Problem Management, Incident Management, Learning Design & Development, Training & Facilitation, Communication, Marketing, Branding, and Social Networking. He is also an author known for his acclaimed short stories in the #1 Amazon Bestseller ‘Chronicles of Urban Nomads’ and #2 Amazon Bestseller ‘21 Tales to Tell’. He has also contributed to India’s first composite novel – ‘Crossed and Knotted’, ‘Upper Cut’, ‘Her Story’, and ‘Rudraaksh’ respectively. He is passionate about public speaking and leadership and has been an Area and Division Governor of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organization headquartered in Santa Anna, California. Ayan was the recipient of the highest honor from Toastmasters – “Distinguished Toastmaster” becoming the first person from Kolkata in 90 years to do so, and amongst the only two who received it from Eastern India. He has also received multiple service excellence awards fromIBM and a Brandan Hall Silver Award, considered as the “Academy Awards” by Learning, Talent and Business Executives. He loves reading, creative writing, and binge watching his favorite TV Shows. He is currently working on his debut novel – ‘What If…?’ that is expected to release later this year.
N: Dear Ayan, Welcome to Q & A – Virtual Talk with Niranjan! Let us get started. I have four sections for you. Let us begin with a space-bar question – Who is Ayan Pal?
A: Ayan Pal is an author hoping to find a permanent place in the reader’s hearts through his writing!
N: Okay 🙂 Let’s talk about your stories that got published in anthologies. The three stories that come to your mind instantly?
A: Rudrakhsa, Confessions of a Benarasi Saree, and The Diary of Joseph Varughese
N: All from Readomania!
A: Yes, all come from Readomania. ‘Rudraksha’ is my first attempt at mythological fantasy, a genre I personally love as a reader. ‘Confessions of a Banarasi Saree’ is more of an emotional story told through the eyes of an inanimate object. It’s one my favorite stories since it’s based on real events and/or people, and finally ‘The Diary of Joseph Varughese is my first thriller and a part of India’s first composite novel – Crossed and Knotted.
N: That brings me to the next question. How was ‘Crossed and Knotted’ crossed and knotted?
A: The thought of a composite novel had ‘crossed’ my mind way back in 2006. However, I was too crisscrossed with work to be able to complete the developmental editing of that novel of nearly 70K words which I wrote in 15 days spread of 7 weeks. However, I discussed the idea with Dipankar (Founder of Literary Social Network – Readomania) once, and we came to the conclusion that different authors would make it even better. I was the first ‘composite’ author in this experiment so that I could show the way. I guess it worked, and I myself learnt a lot through this splendid journey!
N: Composite novel is a novelty in India. There will be many people wanting to know about the experience. Can you elaborate on that?
A: It was a very difficult experience to be honest. I had left characters hoping to be picked up, but had not predicted how differently my story could be interpreted by following authors. Initially I found myself to be a bit too possessive about my characters. But gradually, I realized that they must be allowed to be set free. Especially when my main lead – Shivi started developing into a possessive person in the book! I realized that she was acting like her creator – me!
That’s when I got my message. We authors also gave each other inputs regularly. We were lucky to have Sutapa as a fantastic editor who helped stich the stories together. Likewise the last author Arpita, another resident editor, beautifully tied the loose strings. In spite of it all, and despite mine being the 2nd story, I am glad that in ways it is still open! I hope to complete it through a novella in the near future 🙂
N: That’s a nice window you have made for yourself, giving space for another story in the future. Before we move to your future book, let us talk about the writing process. How long have you been writing?
A: Since I was in college – Since 2003
N: Twelve years into writing. Cool! What is unique in your writing when compared with the writers of modern generation?
A: I feel I am able to mix genres very well. My writing will remind you of different types of books/authors, yet together, its nothing like anything (at least my novel)! I have (hopefully successfully) tried multiple genres to see where I stand, and what might not work for readers. This will be reflected in my novel. This I hope can be an effective mix of my writing evident in the various short stories I have written. I guess mine is a complete package of multiple genres which can be enjoyed together – just like life – which does not have one emotion in it, but multiple hues. I guess I am a VIBGYOR (smiles). I hope I find the pot of gold at the end of my writing rainbow someday (winks)
N: You will certainly find the pot of gold at the right time! Coming back to the next question: Are you a writer who plans out everything like Dan Brown?
A: A big NO. I plan the characters/settings, and general plot. But as I write, the story writes itself.
N: What book do you wish you could have written?
A: Lord of the Rings. Because it’s an epic tale so beautifully told – I would love to create something like this! May be some day 🙂
N: Do you have strange writing habits?
A: YES. Too strange to be revealed (winks)
Actually I CANNOT read while I am writing. Even though I love reading, I have to sacrifice it while writing. Since I get too affected by stuff happening around me when I write. Also, I cannot write unless I face my lucky directions as per Feng shui.
I love listening to music – the same soundtracks – while I write – more as a break between writing. It helps me go back to the same space in my head and connect stuff. So in a way, I have my routine which I religiously follow while writing.
N: Yes, Ayan. As a chess player, I am very particular about sensing modes in the game. I use the themes in order to connect with my intuition and the routine/system that I create in my training helps me in real games.
After reading your stories, I found that you choose your names of the characters very carefully. In that context, how important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
A: Fantastic question Niranjan! I choose my names carefully. They either mean a lot, or because they sound a particular way, or both. The names make me visualize the characters better in my head. So for me, everything’s in a name! 🙂
N: What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
A: The editing process for sure! I actually hate it! I feel editing, at least developmental editing, is akin to exercising. I love eating (as in writing), I love looking good (as in in critics review/sales) but hate exercising – as in editing (smiles). However, this is a necessity evil that makes my work better so I have begun to like it more than I used to before. It’s still the least important part of writing though for me for now!
N: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
A: That one subject would be ‘How to be a billionaire in 10 days’ – Because 1 – I have no idea, 2 – if I did, I would rather keep it a secret (winks). But on a more serious note, I would probably not like to play with religious sentiments or make fun of any particular religion through my writing. I am very spiritual and would hate to see me purposefully insult anyone’s faith or beliefs.
Now that marks the end of the first part. The next part will see more of your creativity!
N: If you were given these amazing powers what would you do?
- a) You’re given a power to bring the world to a complete standstill for fifteen minutes by saying ‘Pause’. What would you do with the fifteen minutes?A: Okay, that’s a wonderful question! Actually, not much! I would rather have the power to say ‘go’ and make the world listen to what I was saying.
On a separate note, one of my favorite films by Satyajit Ray, has had the main characters have the power of pausing people while they were singing and playing the drums in the iconic films – ‘Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen’ and ‘Hirok Rajar Deshe’. So if I had such a power, I would like it to be that when I speak, the world pauses to listen to what I am saying
N: Ahan! Profitable bargain there 🙂 My next question in the segment:
b) You’re given a pen to coin a new term. What would the word be and what would it mean?
A: Ayana – someone who appreciates Ayanisms and it would serve as a mirror to my work
N: (Laughs) Next – c) You’re given a power to read the mind of one person. Whose mind would it be?
A: It would be my Mom’s. I really want to know what she is thinking about me – now that I am on my way of hopefully achieving dreams that we dreamt together for years.
N: What does this quote by Boethius really mean – “For in every ill-turn of fortune the most unhappy sort of unfortunate man is the one who has been happy’’
A: Unnecessary complex! The speaker is probably drunk or more educated than I can ever hope to be! But on a more serious note, I would like to interpret this quote as follows ‘fortune does not favor someone who has forgotten how to be happy’.
N : Starting from twenty, write a tiny story with each sentence beginning with the next number or Count up – Starting from ten, write a tiny story with each sentence beginning with the previous number
A : 10 – that’s how old he was when he went missing. 9 days had passed by, but there was still no news. 8 minutes ago though, it all changed. 7 times the clock had chimed and then an ominous shadow had crawled into the room. 6th December that’s the day our lives changed forever. 5 seconds was all it took for me to remember it all. 4 – the number of candles he had managed to blow before falling on the cake, head down, breathing his last. 3 – the number of people who saw him die. 2 – the number of witnesses who had to die to ensure no one else knew. 1 – me – the one who has been waiting by his cancer stricken son’s corpse for days – waiting for his soul to return… ‘Daddy’ said someone and I could feel the fingers tightening around my throat. 0 – how it all ended – how it always ends – the number of souls who now remain…
N: Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do? (Lit-Chat)
A: When I lost my mother last year, I saw myself plunge into the depths of depression. What didn’t help was the weight of a failed relationship on the threshold of matrimony. It was a situation I frankly had no control over. However I eventually managed to channelize my pain into my writing and found a gradual sense of relief. That, and of course the combined strength in the form of my surviving family and incredibly supportive friends helped me bounce back, with time acting as the perfect catalyst.
N: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
A: The best compliment – someone read my first published story ‘A Choice Between India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh’ and said this is the greatest story possible to be written about partition. Now talking of criticism, I used to be criticized for writing very long sentences. I have come to terms with it. Apart from that, someone once read my novel and said that the 2nd part had nothing apart from someone crying and someone wailing. I thought that was pretty below the belt. The strange thing being, this same someone also gave me a brilliant compliment when she said that my writing reminds her of Arundhati Ray who happens to be one of my favorite authors!
N: Let us move to the third segment of the interview. Your WIP (Work in Progress) What is ‘What if?’
A: ‘What if…?’ is a part dramatic thriller, part fantasy adventure, and full literary extravaganza set in early 1950s India and England. It’s about a 16 year old’s quest for the ultimate truth.
N: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
A: In the book there is a place where a major plot point is revealed under the water – I actually got goosebumps while writing it. It’s my favorite part of the book for the reason that the author and writer in me was amalgamated. Even though I was myself writing it, I for a moment was shocked by what was being written as a reader.
N: Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those if any.
A: Concepts, yes. Very much. Vocab, no. I do not wish to reinvent the language right now. To elaborate, In terms of concepts, there are mythological characters and concepts/interpretations in my book which are not comparable to anything you might have read so far. I guess as a writer that was a big risk, but I hope it pays off!
N: When will we see this book in stores?
A: September, 2015 – If the editors and the publisher, and of course God is willing!
You will have to defend your preferences by stating out a reason
- Critical Acclaim or commercial acclaim?A: Critical Acclaim – when there is praise, I am sure a raise will follow!
- Editing or Writing
A: Writing – Food is better than exercise any day!
- Kolkata or Bangalore
A: Kolkata – roots are always stronger than the tree.
- A Good book or a Good TV soap
A: A good TV Soap based on a great book!
- Batman or Spiderman
A: Spiderman – Light is better than darkness and I kind of liked Tobey Spiderman Maguire. Nolan was brilliant, but the film was a bit too dark at times.
N: Now – rapid fire!
a) If not Ayan Pal, who would you be?
A: A mischievous God
- b) Worst nightmare and the best dream!
A: Nightmare – I am in the exam hall and EVERYTHING goes wrong. Also, I used to have nightmares of falling. But not anymore. I have a recurring dream where I am standing with a bow and arrow and hit the target. Repeatedly. Don’t know why I keep seeing this. Hope it’s a sign 🙂
But in terms of nightmares and dreams with my eyes wide open, my worst nightmare is to lose those I love, and best dream is to receive a major award (preferably an Academy Award) and the acceptance speech I give thanking those who really matter to me (smiles)!
- c) An ideal vacation
A: Anywhere calm, quite, and known, with a book in tow, a high resolution camera, and great food!
- d) Your dark fantasyA: My dark fantasy involves my legally wedded wife and I am living it at times, especially when it’s dark (winks)
- e) Favourite Bollywood pick up line
A: Naam toh suna hi hoga
- f) Favourite fictional character
A: Professor Shanku by Satyajit Ray
g) Favorite sport
h) The best publishing house in India at the moment
A: Readomania – after all, yeh paapi pet ka sawaal hai!
N:It is finally time to present questions that I have gathered from the audience.
N: How has writing changed your personality?
A: It has made me a much more rounded personality. I also feel I am much more patient at times
N: Increasingly, the tribe of new writers seems to be too full of themselves and do not necessarily understand that modesty is something that is still appreciated by some. I get that self-marketing is important but so is subtlety. What advice would you give to your young and old colleagues on this?
A: One advice – to each his own. In films, SRKs charisma and promotions work as much as Aamir Khan’s marketing strategies of maintaining a low profile. So if you feel you can blow your own trumpet, and if you know how to do it in a musically, please go ahead and do so. But if all you can create is ungainly noise, please stop. Don’t do something because others expect you to. Subtlety works just as much. So, choose your style and stick to it.
N: What inspired you to write?
A: The films ‘Signs’ by M Night Shyamalan and the first ‘Lord of the Rings’. Watching them caused within me a burning desire to tell stories whirling on my mind.
N: Pick out a few lines from your work that you hold close to your heart
A: Time is a book that has a beginning, but not an end. The end is yet to be written, and is being thought of. As soon as one reaches the end of the book, another page gets added, and so the process continues. A process that involves a past we fail to remember, a present we fail to utilize, and a future which we can never reach.
N: Wonderful! How has married life impacted your writing for the better?
A: I guess I can finally write legitimate erotica – and that’s not a bad thing at all! On a more serious note though, it has taught me to appreciate whatever time I can legitimately claim to spend by myself and put it to good use through my writing 🙂
N: As a writer, do you write from your heart or from your head?
A: From my heart, by following the path set out by my head 🙂
N: What does literary success mean to you? Does it depend on pleasing your readers or on commercial gain?
A: Success would mean pleasing readers of course and thus a commercial gain. Literary success would for me mean critics appreciation and awards, but naturally.
N: I think I know the answer to the next question. I’ll ask it anyway. If you were marooned on an island, which is the one book you would like to have with you?
A: A book titled ‘How to survive on a marooned island’
N: Oh there! You tricked me 🙂 next, do you go to a place and disconnect yourself from the world to write?
A: Yes, I do that. It helps!
N: Dear Ayan, I’ve been a great fan of your works. And in each and every genre you’ve proved yourself, be it thrillers, humor, fantasy, or mythology. You are versatile at almost everything. How can this be achieved? And what must a newbie do in order to be versatile?
A: I guess it’s probably because I have also read and enjoyed these genres myself at some point of time. Which is why I urge newbie authors to try and read as many different genres as possible. And then maybe try their hand in telling such stories. If they work, great, if not, even better – for then you will finally know which genre you must stick to!
N: Finally, What would you like to say to your fellow readers and upcoming writers?
A: To readers – please read – whatever it may be – because nothing can beat the power of imagination.
To writers – remember – writing is a long term relationship and not a one night stand. If you are in, be ready for the praise, as well as the brickbats. If you can’t handle criticism, and/or are not patient, this is not the place for you.
N: That completes the interview, Ayan. Thank you for answering all the questions patiently!
A: You’re welcome. I thoroughly loved answering the questions!
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