Interview with Author Manan Kapoor

 First of all, I would like to welcome you in the Literary World. Being capable of expressing feelings in the form of words is itself an achievement. Here, at WordCurd we would like you to express your feelings and experience as a writer, reader and as a human.

What is special about your book? What makes it different from the others and sets it apart for readers?

I think every book is different in its own way. Even though every novel is essentially a reproduction of the same basic ideas and notions of human life, as is all art, I still think that in many ways books are similar to people, uniqueness being one of the common characteristics. Just like people, books might share settings or have similar plots, but they all have very distinct, separable qualities.

I really can’t fathom why someone would pick my book over an eminent author's. But I’ve been told by a couple of readers that The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky is an honest book in terms of expression and language as well as the emotions anchored with it. I think I’ll let them answer for me.

What do you think of writing as a career? What importance does literature play in your life? 

I don’t see it as a career, but as an experience that makes one come to terms with himself. I understood the world around me through writing because it answers the questions I didn't realize I had. And labelling it as a career wouldn’t be apt.
As for the importance of literature in my life, I’ll simply paraphrase Kafka. It is a “way of understanding, interpreting and putting order into the world.” I think art as a whole adds value to life, a sense of vivacity. Every novel I’ve ever read has brought me closer to the world itself for books hold mature veracities about life.

What, according to you, is the best way to connect to the readers? Is it words poured from the heart, an extraordinary story or something else? 

Honesty of expression, emotion and thought. I think even though some of them might not come from the heart, for it is fiction – an infinite universe of ideas – it needs to be honest. If you’re writing what you believe in, I think it will turn out to be something that people will appreciate, if not love. If you start writing something just to please others, the reader will notice the lack of authenticity in your prose.

When you were in the initial phase of your writing journey, what obstacles did you face as a debutant author? 

It felt like I was manoeuvring through an asteroid belt initially. But I think the fact that I read books, made me a better writer. I could experiment with different styles of writing and narration. The novel aged for over two and a half years, so it wasn’t as difficult towards the end. But initially, when all I had was an incipient notion about the rudimentary plot, it was definitely something that petrified me. I never thought I would make it here.

What do you think is the purpose of your writing? What difference does writing make to your life? 
If not writing, then what? 

It is not about a purpose, but a very basic question of want. Desire would be a better term to describe the emotion attached to writing. I write simply because I am gripped by the overpowering desire to, which compels me to pick up the pen (or keyboard, to be precise). For me, writing is about reflecting upon the things that I have absorbed over the years – emotions, memories, experiences. A blank page is a place where I have freedom and complete control to mould and transform my reveries into something substantial. While I'm writing, I have the power to question the things that are wrong with the world, questions that I need answers to. Some questions answer themselves in the process, the others remain unreciprocated. Even in this book, there were a series of thoughts that unbosomed during the process and they’re secretly hidden in the psyche of my characters.
I don’t think I can invest time and energy in any other areas except writing or other mediums of art anymore. Choosing a banal profession would be really tough now. Some people cave in if this doesn’t work out financially, but I don’t see myself as someone who does this to earn a living – it would be great if it does, but even if this doesn’t work out, I will continue to write.  

At any stage, did you feel like giving up on your manuscript? Who would you like to give the credit of being a constant supporter?

I gave up almost every single day. I didn’t have a mentor who could guide me through the process when I started and so the only advice I’ve received is from prominent authors who left behind a set of instructions for people like me. For instance, Hemingway taught me that “You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.”

What do you usually prefer – pen, typewriter or computer?

I would prefer the typewriter. But we live in miserable times and sadly, I’ve always used a computer.

What are the core qualities an author must possess?

Joseph Campbell has rightly said that you have to learn to recognize your own depth. The narration is the clumsiness of a writer in conveying a thought. You need to have your own voice, something that people will associate with you. If you try to write like somebody else, you’ll end up as somebody else and at times, you will lose track of who you were.

Tell us about your latest book.

On the most fundamental degree, The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky is about how you’re never immune to loss. No matter what you’ve seen, experienced, fought, you will always feel it caress you gently, at every point of your life. The novel, Inayat’s story, is an augmented mirror of an average human life. I think the basic purpose of writing this novel was to elaborate that loss is a downward spiral that never ends. The moments when you think you’ve achieved salvation are like words in one of those awfully long sentences written by Proust or Faulkner – another word follows, always.

How much is your plot influenced by real-life stories?

I firmly believe that a novel will always be a reflection of the writer. And simultaneously, it will continue to exist as pure fiction. Orhan Pamuk writes in his novel 'The Naïve and the Sentimental Novelist' that this paradox is the driving force of the novel. And I think most of my thoughts, musings and lies are there in my novel. So I exist, and I am absent at the same time. The reader can, if he reads thoroughly, comprehend not only my muses, my passion, but my most deep rooted secrets after reading the novel and at the same time, he will still be oblivious to who I really am as a person. I’ll leave some space for speculation.

These days every author wants to come in the list of ‘Best-selling Authors’? What do you think about it?

“You’d kill yourself for recognition, kill yourself to never ever stop.” A good friend of mine quoted Radiohead as he explained to me the importance of the self, almost seven years ago now. All writers have a style, a pattern, an impression that they leave on you – and I think to compromise that for three more pats on the back, is sheer folly. The fact that people are writing to become bestsellers is simply defeating the purpose of writing. The best books I’ve read till date, haven’t been written by best-selling authors. I think it’s merely a tag that will make the reader buy your new book on the basis of a book that you’d written three years ago. I wouldn’t mind being in the Best-selling Authors’ list, but that isn’t a wish.

Tell us something about your goals and ambitions. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?

I think it would be the same as it is today. I will be writing, rewriting, rephrasing and reworking on a draft. Ideally, I picture myself like Allen Ginsberg – sitting naked in a room at 4:00 am with nothing but a hat on my head, furiously pounding away at a typewriter.

How much time do you take to complete a novel? Is ‘patience’ the keyword to become a successful author?

As much time as it requires. I think you should never compromise with your work. Writing requires patience and diligence. It took me two and a half years, and about eleven drafts to get here. It's not something that needs a deadline. If required, I would spend a decade on a single novel, but I would make sure I don't settle for a mediocre draft.

The last, but most important question the readers want to know –  Are you working on another book? If yes, how different is this from your last work?

I am. Two years ago, I would’ve told you that I write about pain and why it is necessary. I was reading novels such as A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, The Famished Road and The Lowland – books that compelled me to devise an intricate plot. I now think that I’ve written a rather complex plot for The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky – there’s a colossal design and a setting that magnifies it. But today, I don’t think I need the setting of Kashmir in the early nineties or an elaborate plot for a novel. I would be happier writing about the trivial pleasures of insignificant victories in daily life rather than an elaborate tragedy, about a battle rather than a war. Currently, I am working on a novel that’s still an embryonic thought in my head. But I’m sure it will turn into something I can embellish, and eventually, after a couple of drafts, develop and mature through time into something I would want others to read.

Thank you for sparing your precious time!
We hope you enjoyed the session.

Team WordCurd!


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