After reviewing ‘The Long Road‘ here, this time I have the man behind the much-successful novel on ‘Between The Lines‘ today. For those of you who are not aware of him, Dr. Vivek Banerjee, the author of ‘The Long Road‘ is a “Full time paediatrician ( by choice) and part time author ( by chance)” (in his own words).
About the author: A pediatrician by profession, Vivek Banerjee lives in Saharanpur with his parents, obstetrician wife and two children. The pressures of his profession leave him with little leisure but he still finds time for his varied interests. An avid traveller, he has covered the length and breadth of the country in real life and the rest of the world in his imagination. A voracious reader, music lover, self-confessed geek and an amateur ornithologist, he would rather walk the road less travelled, given the time and opportunity. A Bengali by birth, he has grown up in various towns of North India and studied in many different schools and colleges. He started writing on Rediff blogs where he is known as Ben and went on to write this novel. He has also authored many short stories as a preparation for writing this novel. [Source: Author’s website]
Here’s what all we discussed:
Q1. Firstly, congratulations to you for your debut novel ‘The Long Road’! Why have you decided to take up writing this seriously? What or who is your inspiration behind writing?
Thank you. Writing for me is an escape from the stress and strain of my profession. I started off as a blogger on Rediff where I am known as Ben. The wonderful response to the short stories on my blog and the comments of my fellow bloggers gave me the idea of attempting something more ambitious. All the authors I have grown up reading are the inspiration behind my writing.
And let me tell you something about THE LONG ROAD. It started off as a story on my blog. When I penned the first chapter I had a vague idea that I will write about an ambitious girl trying to breach a male bastion i.e., Neurosurgery. Beyond that I had no plot, no plan and no other characters. As the story moved along, the various characters entered and the plot emerged. In fact, on the blog the story ended when Sarika and Rahul were reunited after the Mumbai attacks. But there was a howl of protest from my readers who wanted me to carry on and I did.
Q2. You have been a successful Medical practitioner for long. Do you think you will able to do full justice to your passion of writing? I mean, how do you plan to balance your professional life along with your life as an author?
I am a doctor and shall remain one. That is my first and foremost priority in life. As for writing, it is done at night, usually at the cost of my sleep. But that is okay. With the approach of middle age, my need for sleep has decreased as well.
Q3. Why YA (Young Adult) as the genre of your book? Are you a fan of YA as a reader too?
Ha ha. That is a good question! Honestly, I like to describe myself as young at heart, slightly older in other places. I guess that answers your question.
Q4. Since you are a first-time writer, what all expectations did you have from the Indian publishing industry?
Not much, except a fair chance.
Q5. Were your expectations fulfilled in a positive way? What all obstructions did you face to get a publishing house for your book?
I have no complaints. English language publishing in India is still in a state of flux. There are too many players; everyone is a writer/ potential author; the distribution uneven and the market still emerging. So you can say that these are the best of times and these are worst of times.
As for obstructions, you can draw your own conclusions from the fact that I approached 24 publishers, got 15 rejections, 6 no replies and 3 acceptances.
Q6. Do you think how a book fairs in the market depend much on how it is publicized? How have you used social media networks for the publicity of your book?
The commercial success of a book is completely dependent on ‘hype’ and ‘buzz’. The only fortunate aspect is that books have a long shelf life and if a book is good enough, sooner or later it will find its way to the readers.
I am very much indebted to social media for the success of my book. The first edition has sold out in less than four months of release and it was all due to facebook, blogs and twitter.
Q7. Apart from online publicity, did you participate in offline publicity too? Organized events, contests, give-aways?
Apart from online publicity, we did organize launches in Delhi, Kanpur, Saharanpur and Mussoorie.
We are planning to launch the second edition at IIT, Roorkee and do a few book give-aways as well.
Q8. Are you satisfied with the outcome of the sales volume of your book? If not, are there any marketing aspects you would have liked to work on if given a chance?
For a debut book, I guess I did well enough. I just wish that the fiction market was not so publicity and commerce driven.
Q9. They say, a writer’s first work always turns out to be close to his autobiography. How much resemblance does ‘The Long Road’ has with the story of your life? Dr. Ajay Ghai, who was your roommate in your college hostel, commented on my blog on the review of ‘The Long Road’. How does it make you feel?
No, the book is not autobiographical. Yes, some of the characters and situations are inspired by real life incidents. Dr. Ajay Ghai, who is a dear friend, did pick up the nuances and the similarities from our mutual friends/ experiences in Medical College but most of the allusions are very subtle and will be missed even by people who were there with me those days.
Digressing a bit from the question, I am very happy with the way readers have identified with the protagonists and their lives as depicted in this book.
Q10. Finally, as a writer, do you prefer the keyboard or the good old pen and paper? Why?
Definitely the keyboard! I really wonder if there are any takers for the pen anymore. Yes, the pen will always remain the symbol of creative writing but the actual writing will be done on the keyboard.
And so, at the end of the session, it was me who learnt a lot of things regarding the big bad world out there, and also about how well one needs to handle situations, when necessary arises. It’s always our privilege to have people like Dr. Banerjee giving out precious time from his schedule to interact with us.
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