Faraaz Kazi, the author of ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ has been a good friend from the time I started interacting with him, courtesy his debut novel. And it has been a good way down till now. It was inevitable that I will like him to get featured in my blog.

I wrote about the book review requests from Faraaz (alongwith that of Bhavna Rai) here. As he promised I received a copy of ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ and here is my review of the same. Really one of the most talked about novel this year, it was a privilege for me.

About the author: Faraaz Kazi is a versatile personality- a writer, management student, singer, soft-skills trainer,media man, all rolled in one. He is the author of the much-hyped romantic novel ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply…memoirs of a broken heart’s first love!’ and he is currently working on his second romantic novel and a non-fiction book. He operates a small media consultancy and freelances as a soft-skills cum personality development trainer under the FSK Academy banner.

The bio above is just an excerpt from Faraaz’s Facebook info.

Here’s what I talked with Faraaz about:

Q1. Firstly, congratulations Faraaz for your first book! Why have you decided to take up writing this seriously? What or who is your inspiration behind writing?

Thank you. Writing has been a passion right from my school days. It’s important to take your passion seriously if you need to succeed in life, though not always will the passion be the route for success. But in the process, you end up discovering a lot about your own self and trust me, there are no limits to that. So as a tool for self-discovery, writing is a wonderful medium.
As far as the inspiration behind my writing is considered, strangely I have none. So many writers keep jumping up and down for the muse to visit and bless them and the truth is, there cannot be a single inspiration as such, behind every scene there might be a hidden element of reality that a writer borrows it from.
For ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ in particular, yes. And the inspiration here was my school days, the days of glory and notoriety.
And where personalities are concerned, I have been a great admirer of Cecilia Ahern and Nicholas Sparks, who touched my heart with their romantic works. I also cannot rule out Khalid Hosseini and his style of writing that had a major impact on me. Closer home, Tuhin Sinha has been one writer whom I have followed since the start of his career.

Q2. A third person narrative or a first person autobiographical – you prefer as a writer? As a reader?

It is easier to write using the former. A third person point of view gives a more omniscient display to your writing and the writer can in fact go on to justify whatever he wishes. There can be no accusations from the reader like ‘how did that happen?’ Trouble is when the writer indulges in generous helpings of description.
As a reader, it is easier to connect with the latter as. As far as the first person POV is concerned, it is indeed more striking. The writer has more room for direct emotions like humor and sorrow, both of which can strike a chord with the reader almost immediately if they have been following the characters for a while. The impetus on ‘I’ makes it seem like the reader is actually listening to the characters narrate their tale. The effect of dialogue and scenery also differs in both.
Ultimately, the communication process is important. The reader’s understanding of the writer’s style, structure, emotions and words should be as close to as possible with what the writer had thought of while penning the scene. Both have their obvious pros and cons.

Q3. Are you happy with the outcome on the sales volume of your book?

It has been good going being a debut writer, as most would put it. The first edition sold out within forty-five days, the book garnering decent reviews and grabbing a few eye-balls on social networking sites and amidst the literati. It was nominated on quite a few aspects for the Goodreads annual awards including the Best character and Best romance novel lists. It was in the top lists of almost all online book retailers. A better edited second edition is running currently, and continuing on the lines of the first. People keep showering compliments and I keep getting calls from readers from Mohali to Coimbatore. All this does make you feel a little better about yourself. I am happy but not content, if I can put it that way.

Q4. As a writer, do you prefer the keyboard or the good old pen and paper? Why?

I always write the first draft on paper and then when I need to finalize it, I pick up the laptop which could sue me for assault anytime soon. It gives me scope for improvement and I can add or subtract as I type, thus serves both purposes- aiding creativity and editing. Though I wish I could submit my hand-written manuscripts (I do seem to have a perfectly legible handwriting) but unfortunately as far as I know only Ruskin Bond and Jeffrey Archer are permitted to do that.
But due to paucity of time, I am trying to change this habit and focus on the screen (no matter the energy wasted).

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?

We saw a transition in the scene post Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Five point someone’. The primary genre of writing changed from literary to light reads and we had every other person who had some story to tell trying their hands at writing chick-lit or college romances. The situation is still the same because the market too has changed with more youths trying their hands on such books and the reading population increasing. Overall, the impact has been good but genre wise, it has been kind of a blue ocean market with only specific light genres seeing a substantial increase in readership.
I even did an article some months back on my blog regarding the same and it was well received by people. It’s just a passing phase, for the moment this trend is fulfilling a requirement of getting busy people out of their lives, especially youngsters (who are too busy hanging out at coffee shops admiring the fairer sex and bunking lectures) to read books. Such books, howsoever grammatically irrelevant are finding an audience and that’s why publishers have their schedules jammed. In the US, practically one of four people have been published somewhere or the other, or even appeared on television. Talking of the US, another case in point has been the onslaught of paranormal romances post Stephenie Meyer. The question is are we going to see a similar ratio in India or just urban India (keeping out the 70% of the hinterland)?
Writing for joy, for self-fulfilment is the real motive for a true writer. It’s a gift that not everyone is blessed with, as Ms. Shobhaa De once told me. A profession is like a boat in waters, neither too wobbly nor too steady. It should move and it should do so at the right speed. Writing as a career is still frowned upon in India, though prominent writers almost have a celebrity status. But as I say, you don’t really make it unless you end up making five points on someone during a night in some call-centre and then intentionally err with three mistakes in your life in two different states.

Q6. It’s common for writers to experience ‘writer’s block’. What’s your take on it? How do you overcome a writer’s block?

Any field of creativity faces obstructions, more internal than external. Writing is no different. The fear of the blank page at the end of the day is only a ‘fear’ and fear can be overcome. I believe if a person can right fantastically on one day then he can do so on any given day if he gets himself in the MOOD. So many times my laptop screen glared back at me calmly as I thought of punching it in frustration. Words don’t flow when you are coming back to writing after a long time.
Personally, whenever I feel the handcuffs on my hands, I just get down to type random things that might be irrelevant to the story. Most of the time, some moment later some thread of the random thoughts starts merging with the story and I can take it from there. Another useful method is to avoid writing altogether and give yourself time to do what you want to at that particular moment. I try sketching at times or read a book from the genre that I am trying to write. The logic is that once you have satisfied what your heart wants, your heart will be most likely to oblige you next.

Q7. I guess you are aware that the title of your book is the same as a famous song from the West (by Savage Gardens). Did you know that when you named your book? If yes, did not you fear that people may take it for granted?

It’s been a long time since Savage Garden came out with their song. It was used in an award winning Cannes ad for Puma. There was a Hollywood movie of the same name. There are at least four-five other books with the same name and at least eight with similar names. Then why this?
The truth is the title was essential to the story and forms part of an intense dialogue at the end between the two primary characters. Also it brought out the essence of the story, this is not just a story of love, it’s a story of obsessions, of emotions exceeding judgment. Earlier on at the manuscript stage, the book was titled’ First Love’ and there are more than ten books with the same name and thought relevant to the story, the title sounded somehow to banal and people asked me if I could change it. I scouted the story for some memorable phrase and I found ‘Truly Madly Deeply.’ It did two things for me that any other title could not have, it gave me a readymade marketing platform on which the memorable campaign of this novel was worked on and then I also found space to accommodate the former title in the subtitle as at the end of the day, it is a story of first love.

Q8. How tough was it for you to get a publisher once the manuscript was ready? Did you have any certain publishing house in mind or have taken chances on as many as you can? Do you regret of not having a Godfather to guide you through?

One always thinks that once a novel is completed, it will just take a couple of months before it gets published. The writer could not have been more wrong. Of course, it all changes if you have been commissioned but that is rarely the case with first-timers.
Writing is the easier part. The real adventure begins once you complete the novel and start seeking a publisher for it. It is an arduous task to keep yourself from getting demotivated as you notice the rejection e-mails coming in faster than the Nigerian lottery scams.
Finding a publisher is very difficult if you don’t have any godfather in the industry and almost always you have to cross out the biggies from your list. That doesn’t leave you with many options with respect to quality. The moral of the story is simple- Beggars can’t be choosers.
As a first-time writer, one always hopes for the biggest names in publishing to select your book but it doesn’t turn out that way all the time. There are of course, pros and cons of both big and small publishers. The real question to be asked is what does the writer want at the end of the day? Recognition, money or plain appreciation? I tried to juggle between the two extremes and gave a couple of big publishing houses a look over due to certain terms that I was not comfortable with. Godfather or no godfather, ultimately the writer has to take this journey alone. Fortunately, I had a couple of friends in the industry, who were there to advise and introduce me to the publisher. It took only half a week for the manuscript to get accepted after that.

Q9. While going through ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ one question always hounded me. Now that I am getting this chance to interview you, I will like to ask you whether the story of TMD has got anything to do with your personal life? Or is it a story of someone close to you?

Every book has a part of its writer somewhere, either hidden or easily visible to people who know him. And this all the more applies to the first book.
‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ is a mix of fact and fiction where dominant traits of certain characters have been drawn from people I knew in the past and my own memories of my school days.
A writer draws a lot from himself in his writings and memories are one such tool to aid his occupation.

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? What all efforts have you personally made to market your book? Organized events, contests, give-aways?

Once the book is out in the market and if people don’t know it, it doesn’t sell and they don’t know you. It’s as clear as that. The author can relax a little if the publisher has a dedicated team working for the purpose which handles not just events but also contests, celebrity appearances, et al. The problem lies for authors without any platform and struggling with small publishers, who don’t quite have the budget for this kind of a thing. They maintain that once the book is printed and the author receives his quota of complimentary copies, their work is done. Distribution is another major issue. Often, authors have to get down and dirty and do the job themselves.
An author is the best marketer of his own book as no one knows the book like the author, complete with unadulterated thoughts and the flavor of the story but that does mean that he goes on justifying the story to each and everyone. I allowed every reader to take what they could from the story. As an art form, writing is open to interpretation. I have seen to it that I utilize social media to the best of my abilities and being the author of one of the most followed marketing blogs in India, I know a thing or two about the same.
The campaign for the book was planned out in detail right since the beginning and drew a lot of admiration from the online public. Facebook and Twitter helped me connect with my readers a lot better than I would have done otherwise. Viral promo trailers of the book that rocked the social media circuit were well received by my network and then of course, for the first time ever a promo ringtone for a novel was created. Again, it was made available for free for the online world. Posters were put up in bookstores and small bookmarks made available to online sites where the novel was selling almost twenty copies per week. There were a couple of contests organized in association with Buzzr books, Booksvilla and Infibeam where the winners got signed copies of the book. We are planning a giveaway for the second edition. I did some guest posts for popular sites and was interviewed by a few bloggers which helped too.
I had a small group of friends working dedicatedly on the book, posting updates, interviews, etc. on the Facebook page and creating a group with a similar theme. I am yet to take out time for an official launch but hopefully it will be done soon at least in one city and then I might do a couple of reading events in Mumbai. It all depends on the continuing success of the book which I am positive about.

Thanks Faraaz for taking out time from your busy schedule for this interview. More thanks for the extensive replies. It is always nice to know how a person thinks, how he/she approaches a situation under another situation. Interviews that way are real eye-openers.

For the readers, and the girls already going ga-ga over Faraaz, here’re his contact details (if Faraaz does not mind):
The author on Facebook: Faraaz Kazi
Fan page of ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ on Facebook: Truly, Madly, Deeply
Author’s website: http://www.faraazkazi.com/

For buying the book, please follow the links:
[Author signed copies: ]
Crossword Bookstores
Bookbazaar India
Pustak Mahal