Eshan’s Special Interview Series : Joygopal Podder
National Record holder and best seller writer.Books: (September 2010) Deceivers (Pustak Mahal)
- (October 2010) The Inheritance (Peacock Books)
- (2011) The Landlord's Secret And Other Stories (Atlantic Publishers)
- (2011) Millennium City (Prakash Books)
- (2011) High Alert (Atlantic Publishers)
- (2011) Truth Is Greater Than Fiction (Atlantic Publishers)
- (2011) Superstar (Prakash Books)
- (2012) Mumbai Dreams (V&S Publishers)
- (2012) Beware Of The Night (Vitasta Publishing)
- (2012) A Million Seconds Too Late - Vitasta Publishing
- (2012) Merchants Of Dreams (Vitasta Publishing)
- (2013) Vanished (Vitasta Publishing)
- (2013) Goddess (V&S Publishers)
- (2014) 3 MIXED UP MEN (Omji Publishing House)
- (2014) Dynasty Omji (Publishing House)
- (2015) Chief Minister's Mistress (Fingerprint Publishing / Prakash Books)
- (2016) The Anniversary Killer (AuthorsPress)
- (2016) Cancer (AuthorsPress)
Q1. Please tell our readers about your childhood, student life and career? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Was it your dream?
My writing journey began at age seven in London. My mother loved taking me to public libraries and immersing me in story books. So my love for the written word was born very early in life. She soon encouraged me to pen tiny stories in note books, which she would keep casually lying around on the living room coffee table, for visitors to read. So my love for an audience was also born very early on in life.
The family came to India when I was eight and settled down in Delhi. That year, my father gifted me Robinson Crusoe on my birthday; the next year, it was Jawaharlal Nehru's Discovery of India, which I got as a birthday gift. I really didn't get much of a chance to deviate for deep absorption of literature from an early age! Meanwhile, my mother got me a subscription to Children's World magazine. It took me about three years. But I finally got a short story published in CW at age 12. The feeling of seeing your name in print, below a story written by you, at that tender age, in a magazine with a wide circulation, is indescribable.
I earned my first payment, of a grand amount of Rs. 75 in 1974 at age 14. It was for best letter (titled Black is Bountiful) in JS (Junior Statesman) magazine. After that I made myself at home in Hindustan Times Children's Page and Target Magazine. During my college years I was earning enough money to keep several girlfriends entertained with movies and lunches, while still opening a new fixed deposit every six months or so.
My Gold Medal in Law from Delhi University and track record of extra-curricular activities got me Management Trainee job offers well before I completed my studies, and I joined Brooke Bond. A marketing manager's job is a hectic one, and writing took a back seat, particularly after I joined a Sales Management position with Godrej. Marriage followed, and family. My father's passing away while I was still in University put added pressure of responsibilities me. So writing stopped.
My earlier stories started appearing in books (short story collections and school textbooks) and youngsters began appearing on my doorstep, asking for autographs.
A friend discovered a book (in a bookstore) which carried stories by Satyajit Ray, Ruskin Bond and many others. Mine was the first in the book collection, with my profile. It had been published by India Today Group, and was a collection of best stories of Target. This was 10-12 years after I had stopped writing for Target.
In my early forties, one day a bunch of school children knocked on my door (actually, rang the house bell). They were from Delhi Public School, had been passing by my home, seen my name on the name plate, and wanted my autograph. They were studying a story of my in their English textbook. Later I learned it was another of my 'Target' stories (written while I was still in college).
When I saw the pride on the faces of my young daughters and my wife, I decided to start writing again. But it wasn't easy; I was, and still am, a full time corporate - later, social sector - professional. Time was a hard-to-find commodity.
I re-started slow: floated a few blogs on interesting (to me) subjects, and updated them with new stories and articles every week. But the book wasn't happening.
Then, in early 2008, my wife fell seriously ill; almost lost her life. I was 48, and learned one of the most important lessons of my life: do not procrastinate; do not take life for granted.
Once I had decided to resume my writing career by authoring a book, the choice of genre was easy. Crime fiction and thrillers had always been my favourite, from childhood, and well into adulthood, and so I felt I would be able to write such novels with ease.
It still took me 2 years to find an appropriate plot. My learning: Debutant authors should delve into personal experiences and topics they are truly familiar with for their initial books.
In end April 2010, I travelled to the ski resort village of Alpbach in Austria to attend an NGO conference. It wasn't planned, of course, but my 'first book plot discovery' breakthrough happened here.
The former Chairman of an international NGO, at the inaugural session, narrated his experiences of witnessing hunger, death, struggles of the very poor, and real life courageous battles against adversity, during his travels in Africa.
Some of these stories really moved me. They also reminded me of stories of challenge and stories of change I had witnessed in my own career in the social sector.
The seeds of the stories of my first two novellas had been sown. I married my plot ideas with genre of choice: thriller and crime fiction.
I started writing the book immediately on return to India, on May 1. I insisted on attending my sister's birthday bash only after writing 2,000 words on my first day. I think my speed writing instincts were also born that day.
Q2. You recently broke your own Limca World Record, how do you feel? Do you treat yourself like Usian Bolt breaking his own world records?
In early 2012 I discovered I had established a National Record as India's fastest published crime fiction author (I have been breaking my own record every year since then) and in 2014 also found myself featuring in the Forbes India list of Celebrity 100 Authors.
I have written 18 books in 6 years: 16 crime fiction thrillers, 1 romantic comedy and 1 non-fiction bestseller called ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’.
Accolades (National Record Holder / Forbes Celebrity Indian Author) are always motivating and satisfying. But I don’t want to break records for the sake of breaking records; I write so I can get an audience, the larger the better. The next step would be to get my books made into movies.
Q3. You must be a busy person obviously, so do you get enough time to write? When do you do your writing things? Is there any secret place where you write? What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write every day. I find the time for it, at least one hour or so. To develop stories for my novels, I read newspapers and real life case stories and keep a bank of plots always available. I write every evening, even when I am on tour. I try and develop some of my characters from real life people I have met. I share every chapter with my wife for immediate feedback.
Since I write for fun, not to get published (the publishing deals follow in due course), I do not get writer’s block. What I do get is writer’s diarrhea; I can go on and on with an outpouring of words and ideas and I need to pull myself up and stop, else I would never give myself a good night’s rest but write till morning!
Most times the plot idea is already formulated in my mind before I begin writing a book, but new twists and turns in the story crop up with the flow of the narrative, and I am always open to experimentation with storyline and characters.
I edit as I write; my publishers take care of the rest of the work (proofreading / final editing / cover design, etc.).
Q4. What inspired you to write your first book and likewise all your books?
Evil fascinates me. Evil has cockroach endurance. Evil is an essential part of life and I like my books to reflect life. Mystery is intriguing……and I enjoy taking my readers along on a journey of putting together a difficult puzzle, bit by bit, until they arrive at the full picture – and then wonder why they hadn’t hit upon the truth before! Hence, while most authors are writing love stories, I prefer to stick to crime fiction, mostly.
Each book begins with an unanswered question or an unexplained mystery, and you need to reach the very end to quench the thirst so generated. I try to create characters who compel you to follow their story. Many of my readers like my style of writing and so pick up book after book.
Q5. Would you like to co-author with me? (Smiling)
Why not? I would like to co-author with talented youngsters like you who would / could bring in fresh ideas and a fresh, young, perspective.
Q6. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Every leading crime fiction and thriller writer in the world is a favorite. I like all styles of writing in crime fiction, and also court room fiction. So John Grisham is a favorite. Le Child is another author I follow. Amongst the older lot, Agatha Christie’s books I have grown up on, as also Erle Stanley Gardner (and his Perry Mason series).
All good writers (the authors I like) write gripping stories, what is universally called ‘unputdownable’). Their characters are also well fleshed out, and language simple yet elegant.
Q7. So are you working on another book? How do you develop your plots and characters?
I am always working on another book, sometimes two at a time. Some of my characters and attributes come from real life. Some are from imagination.
I like to think that every new book of mine is better than the last one. Writing is like playing a musical instrument; the more you do it, the better you get at it.
Two tips, from my writing style: 1) Do not stop writing until you reach a plot twist; then take a brief pause. 2) Describe less; have your characters talk more.
Q8. Writing can change the society. So what aspect of the society you want to change through your writings?I want to, and can, change nothing in society. I take from society what I need for my stories, plots and characters. I can only give back good literature; this I try.
Q9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
There are two ways to become an author. The first is that you feel an urgent need to tell a certain story in a particular way, and you try and master a style and technique and then put 'pen to paper'. This is good, but few do it. I feel I follow this. But present day budding authors prefer the other route: they 'analyse' market 'trends' and try to develop a 'product' to meet apparent demand. Some publishers also encourage this. But you are an author only in name this way, not a true storyteller. Not much shelf life for such authors.
Q10. Readers it’s again a personal question but still I will ask :) Mr. Podder that Sir what would you like to say about me?
You have a great enthusiasm for writing and for understanding the writing process, which is great and commendable.
Q11. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
The biggest mistake new authors make is that they listen to too much advice. Follow your heart!
Thank you very much sir for joining me in this special Interview series with Eshan only on Writer’s Destination!
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