Q. Tell us and your readers something about yourself – your childhood, background, your life in Bangalore and your family.
Junaid: My Dad is an international Table Tennis umpire and my Mom is a teacher (once a teacher, always a teacher). I am the eldest of two siblings. My younger brother is finance professional and is more into cars and bikes. I have lived in Bangalore all my life (and still do) except for brief stints in US for education and work. I am married to a post-doc researcher from IISc and we have a 5 year old son.
Q. How and why did you start writing?
Junaid: It was my Mom who instilled in me a love for English and Writing. She made sure that there was always something I could read at home. It started out with Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha, went on to Reader’s Digest and Young Adult novels like Hardy Boys, (and eventually to the Sidney Sheldons and Jeffrey Archers). With my Mom’s guidance, I won prizes in school for writing – and they were the only prizes that I won in school.
Junaid: My love for the English language and writing stuck with me through Engineering and Grad School. I loved to write and I knew I could do a fairly good job at it. I would help out in writing an odd love letter or an assignment for a friend and I believed I could do more.
A few years back, I was catching up on some of the bestsellers by Indian authors. I realized that I had a story to tell which was much more interesting and entertaining than a lot of novels that were out there and as they say, the rest is history.
Q. Tell us what is ‘different’ about the way you have spun the story of five college friends – Sahir, Sandeep, Gopal, Anand and David.
Junaid: i. The narration style of the novel is very unique. The story is told through emails and first person accounts of events. This format emerged from the story I had to tell. I tried different narration styles, but they weren’t telling the story the way it needed to be told. It had to be how it ended up being – emails and first person accounts of events by different characters in every alternate chapter.
ii. The novel captures a slice of time during the 1990’s India when there are tremendous socio-economic changes are taking place due to liberalization. There are plenty of western ideologies being brought in and bombarded into consciousness through media, directly influencing the thought process and behaviour of a section of population who were at an impressionable age.
iii. The story is original and entertaining. If it wasn’t then it wouldn’t have mattered how I told it or when and where it was set.
Q. You have written, designed and published the book all by yourself. How difficult was doing everything?
Junaid: I admit, writing a novel does take a lot out of the writer, especially if one has a full time job. It does take a lot of discipline to not start thinking about the story during work and not to start thinking about work when one is trying to progress on the story. It is a difficult process, but in the end, a highly fulfilling one.
While writing this book, I had plenty of self-doubts. I wasn’t sure if portions of it were grammatically correct and if how I wrote would make sense to a majority of the readers. Another challenge was getting the voices of these different characters in the book right.
Around this time, I attended a three week ‘Just Write’ Fiction writing workshop with authors Anil Menon, Anjum Hassan and Rimi Chatterjee which helped enormously in honing my story telling skills, gave me lots of answers and dispelled my self-doubts to a large extent.
After trying with several publishers, I realized that it is very difficult for a new author to publish on his own – unless the author is a celebrity. I tried the traditional publishing route. I got a contract, but the terms seemed too stringent. I did ask a couple of friends who were published authors if I could accept and work at those terms. They advised me to run away from such contracts. There were other publishing houses which asked me for money to publish my book and were also dictating the terms. This was unacceptable. Eventually, the self-publishing route seemed the most promising.
I then started out in earnest using what I knew and learning what I did not to format the novel for publication. I took help from a design student who basically taught me most of what I know now about formatting a book for publishing including the distinction between the several thousand fonts that are out there and what could be used for my book. I also found a printing press whose proprietor refused to compromise on the quality of the end product.
All in all, I am very happy with how the book has turned out. The journey from the first draft of the book to holding it in my hand has been an immense learning experience. In spite of all the challenges, I am very happy and have no regrets for choosing the self-publishing route.
Q. Do you plan to quit your full-time job and become a writer?
Junaid: I have no plans to quit my full-time job and become a writer. I do love what I do at work and am not thinking about giving up on that anytime soon.
Q. What are you writing next?
Junaid: I did the NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. There is enough quality content from what came through NaNoWriMo to make a novel, but there is still work to be done on it before it can be ready. There are quite a few threads going on in it. I am not sure how it will end up after all the editing and rewriting. But, one thing though – it won’t come out half-baked and it will ha
ve a unique narration style.
Q. Any message for budding writers?
Junaid: A new writer will have to first find a story that he/she really wants to tell. That has to be the underlying motivation. That is the only thing which will enable the new writer to start and even complete a novel when all the glamour associated with writing goes away and he is staring at this sheet with white space which he has to fill with black letters.