We reviewed Sumit Aggarwal‘s ‘Office Shocks‘ here on BTL. To complete the cycle, we have Sumit today for a short interview on his book, and his future projects.
Q1. Firstly, congratulations to you for your debut novel ‘Office Shocks’! When and why did you begin writing?
I think I read this quote somewhere which means – If there’s something you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it!
I started writing long before I came across this expression but it really articulates the motivation, rather the urge to write.
Q2. Who is your favourite author and what strikes you most about their work? From whom do you take inspiration from?
The clean and crisp writing style and originality in the books by Ayn Rand have inspired me a lot apart from so many other books like Don Quixote, The Great Indian Novel, An Equal Music, The Hungry Tide etc. the list goes on. But each and every book I have read has been inspiring in one way or the other.
Q3. As a writer, do you prefer the keyboard or the good old pen and paper? Why?
Both are indispensible! Pen and paper really helps when one wants to brood, deliberate on and plan. And keyboard helps you keep up with the speed of thought when you are writing.
Q4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The insomnia it can induce! Notice that some people read books before they sleep using it as a soporific. Poetic justice?
Actually, writing fiction has many simultaneous processes e.g. imagining and perceiving, forethought and audit etc. which makes it very challenging.
Q5. What do you think about the current English Writing scenario in India? Do you really think it is a good time to take on writing as a full time profession?
Indian writing is proliferating and evolving. It is heartening to see so many pick up the pen and so many who have befriended books. An elitist view on reading and writing is passé.
Having said so, my only concern, and a big challenge there is that, we are yet to see more consistent quality & literary value. What that means is the need for a refreshing agenda that creates a lasting noteworthy impact in the books we write without compromising entertainment value, which ideally should stem from that agenda and the structure of the work.
These are encouraging times to take up writing but a full time writing career still remains subject to an ironic grounded leap of faith.
Q6. How did you go about writing ‘Office Shocks’? Did you have a particular goals and schedules?
It was such a long time back. I have read and re-read the book through the editing process and even before submitting it so many times that that whole process is a blur. But I knew that I was writing with a chalked out theme, plot and style.
Q7. From where did you conceive the idea for ‘Office Shocks’? Is it autobiographical?
Most of us grew up reading Reader’s Digest. It invariably carried one of the most hilarious sections called ‘All in a day’s work’ which contained short humorous anecdotes from the workplace. And then I also read works by Scott Adams who has written extensively on office culture, processes and office folk in the immensely popular Dilbert and Way of the Weasel. So office came to me as the obvious first choice to write in the fiction/humour genre.
Autobiographical accounts can become an addictive contrived crutch! Imagination based on your perception of reality fuels the creative engine.
Certainly, You draw from memory certain details like tables, chairs, ties, pen, laptop, taxi, cigarette etc. and how does a person interact with the environment while the environment and circumstances are completely drawn from fiction. Also, while narrating a first day at work which was full of ‘surprises’ can be easily autobiographical, for a Shocking first day at work, imagination serves better and then keeping it in the realm of realism is the challenge.
Q8. Since you are a first-time writer, what all expectations did you have from the Indian publishing industry?
I knew it would be a challenge to find a publisher. I knew it would take good deal of patience to get through a book’s gestation period after signing up. I knew the whole process of finalising the book cover, the title and the manuscript right up to the launch would be very engrossing, at times tiring and more often than not, enjoyable. And truth be told, the Indian publishing industry did not disappoint!
Q9. Are you working on a writing project now? Can you tell us something about it?
I am currently penning a sequel to Office Shocks. In terms of agenda and theme, it will be much more than the first book.
In every office, the first few months are usually termed as the honeymoon time for the new joiner. But the only similarity between honeymoon and new employment is the process of commingling of two estranged parties. The plot is based around an attempt to reconcile this strange analogy with what is usually amiss- an exotic location, the promise of a holiday, a panic-driven mental feud to leave the other, some ‘action’ and so on. So Aniket and Tia (the protagonists) introduce you to a sinister, malicious and of course hilarious alter-ego of office. You can stay tuned to the Office Shocks FB page (www.facebook.com/officeshocks) for more updates on this soon.
Q10. Do you believe that the success of a book depends much on the publicity that goes behind it? How have you chosen to publicize your book in these days of social media networking?
I would like to think that it does, especially with so much clutter around. Given that the content is good, the book is available at key bookstores and online book stores, the price is right for that well-identified target audience you still need the right publicity push to get the book noticed. And with books, the title can stick with a potential reader even if they come across it briefly in a magazine or a newspaper or a social media circle etc. But even if one of those ingredients is not right, the readership suffers.
I was lucky to get Office Shocks some media attention close to and around the time of launch. Now, with some ‘Book Marketing’ Agencies/consultants springing into action, some of whom seem to have done a commendable job for certain books, this aspect will need considerable commitment of thought and resource going forward.
Meanwhile, I enjoy updating the Office Shocks wall with quirky one-liners and other content. Idea is to perk up the appetite of Office Shocks fans, readers and those who’ve just been introduced to it, for more!
This interview has been conducted by Hamsini Hariharan. She’s working at BTL because she says that she likes Indian fiction but her true intentions are world domination through flower power.
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