Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sheeja Jose: "I worked almost 20 hours every day without any holiday"!!! (Interview)

  Sheeja Jose is one of the rarest authors who work hard on their books and writing skills which has led two of her books getting released within the time frame of an year. Not many author opens up in interview as Sheeja has done and I really appreciate the way she have answered each and every question. And yes, let me add, she is one of the beautiful authoress out there. Now you can go ahead towards reading this interview. Haha!

1. Sheeja Jose, how has been your journey from last year to this year as a writer and publishing two novels in such a short time?

In one word – tough! In detail, it was a great journey. I worked almost 20 hours every day without any holiday. Goodbye Girl and Gone with the Bullet were tough ones. Writing the first draft was always enjoyable. It’s such a pure joy of the journey. But real work happens after the first draft.  I could have taken it bit slow but I wanted both the books in the same year. I have to admit, I have learned so much more in the last year than I have in my previous ten years in this industry. Uncovering the world of crime and unravelling layers of shocking and sad details has made me a better human. I met some wonderful people in this journey. They are still part of my life and writing like S. Hussain Zaidi, Merlin Joseph and Mohan Nadar.... I would have never met them if it wasn’t for my book. Hussain Zaidi made a huge impact in my life and my approach to writing. I cherish every pearl of wisdom I have learnt from him. My friends Shridhar Raghavan and Arijit Biswas stood behind me like rocks. Merlin sacrificed her holidays for reading and re-reading Gone with the Bullet. Friends like Ketan Sadani and Navneet Choujar were there being in two different time zone. They showed me the value of friendship. I have many more names who contributed in a different way to this books and my writing journey. Yes, I earned every one of these experiences and for that, for them, I am eternally grateful.

2. We have found a basic trend in both of your novels that it had something to do with a female protagonist but still didn't have much of feminine touch to it. Tell us something about this.

My protagonists are teenagers in both the books. Well, they were like any other girl growing up, they were protected and loved by their families and were falling in love with boys and figuring out the sexual curiosity they face at that age. Then something happens; life changes, their dreams shatter, their survival becomes their priority. This world is not for pacifists. I wish I could say otherwise. Let me tell you a small example. If anyone grew up in a joint family or for those who have siblings you know the smartest one always gets whatever he/she wants. In schools, the soft spoken boys and girls always face the bullying. As they grow competition is tough, only the aggressors or the go getters march ahead. This is not something new. We all know ‘Survival of the fittest’. Our concept of evolution is based on this.  Only 1 in 14 million ejaculated sperm reaches the fallopian tube and fuses with the egg and becomes a life. Now you know what I mean.   My protagonists eventually shed their vulnerable feminine approach and tears. They chose a grimy path and stick with it. They are intelligent, smart and better than the rest. However we can see that they still have emotion, longing for love and affection.  They miss their family. They still dream to be protected by a man, sleeping next to him holding, him tight. But that’s not where their priorities lie.

3. Your first book was almost 400 pages while your 2nd novel is also above 300 pages. How do you manage to write long stories in such a short period of time?

I worked every single day. I haven’t travel out of Maharashtra in a year and a half.  I didn’t have any festivals or bank holidays. I hardly met my friends during this time.  I couldn’t devote time for the movie script assignment I was signed for. I returned my signing amount and, luckily, another one got delayed. I left my handsomely paid Creative Director job.   All I did was writing and publishing.  

4. Tell us something about what inspired you to write "Gone with the bullet"?

My first book Goodbye Girl was an unusual revenge drama. I explored the psyche of the victims and criminals alike. It opened a very brutal world where we are scared to acknowledge facts that are as real as you and me. It spooked many. Then when I wanted to write the second book, I wanted to look at crime in a less dense way.  At the same time, I wanted the book to be a psychological analysis of looking at crime through a different angle.  I was challenging my own ability to write one of those kinds. It was a risky approach, not usual for Indian writing and probably even for international writing. 

5. How did you associate with Whitewall Publishers? And how has been your collaboration with them till now?

Until the Gone with the Bullet book launch very few of my friends knew that Whitewall Publishers was started by me. Becoming a publisher was never in my to-do list.  It all happened during one of my meetings with a top publishing team in India. Goodbye Girl was submitted to Penguin for publishing though I had the slightest hope they would pick something up from an aspiring author. To our surprise, that’s what happened. In the first week of reading it, they asked to meet me in Mumbai. I was on cloud nine. My friends celebrated, and we were anxious about the next step. Then their chief editor suggested some changes. They wanted the girl’s journey without a family back ground. They were excited about the intelligent plotting in the manuscript. But I wanted her to be one like a next door girl who grown up in a perfect family as a perfect child.  Then I told them “Sorry, I don’t want to change.” It shocked them. My friends all proclaimed how stupid I was. I was stupid. But I had a great feeling about Goodbye Girl and I wanted to keep her alive as the way I gave birth to her. My ignorance of the complication of getting a book out helped me too. Once I got into it did I realised the amount of work and money I needed to start a publishing house. But I enjoyed the process. I learned a thousand things. I met wonderful people who influenced me in my life and writing. In short, when I look back, though still it was a stupid decision, I am happy. I am glad that I can help other new authors in a small way. Two books in a year from new authors is my next target. 

6. When are you coming up with your 3rd novel and if possible, can you please give us some insight about it.

In 2016 for sure. It’s a romantic story. I have a beautiful title of the book  I will start writing next month. I need a break now, desperately. 

7. How was the launch of "Gone with the Bullet"? How are you associated with renowned journalist, S Hussain Zaidi and critically-acclaimed movie maker, Sriram Raghavan?

I can’t be more grateful. I had the best names associated with crime next to me, though it still gives me butterflies. I was really nervous about being on the stage with them. These are the people I look up to and adore. So imagine my situation!  And everyone who came for the launch made my day. It was a huge turn out beyond my imagination. Though we had the launch at the Oberoi mall, we couldn’t accommodate them and they stood through the whole event. That was so kind of them and very encouraging for a new author. Then the shock of my life came in the form of Chief Guest S. Hussain Zaidi. I have no idea what my chief guest and special guest were going to say.  Everyone knows Zaidi is a veteran crime journalist and the bestselling author of many crime books and many movies under his belt and above all a proud Penguin Publisher. I met Mr. Zaidi and his team when Penguin picked up Goodbye Girl to publish. It was he who gave me the insight of the book world. I was completely new in this industry. I was so glad to see my favourite author as publisher too. Then the changes suggestion came from the chief editor in Delhi and I decided to go ahead with as the way it is. However, I was so blessed he still encouraged my writing. When I got stuck with the publishing and writing, I had Mr. Zaidi to look up to.  He was generous in parting his wisdom and encouraged me to write better. When he explained this in his speech, I was overwhelmed. It showed us just how great a human being he was. He appreciated my determination then, and that is why he was there at the launch. I can never thank him enough. 

I have known the Raghavan brothers and their family for over a decade now. As I don’t have my family here, I can say, they have really made up for it. They are all  well read,  motivated to do wonderful things in life and have a loving  and adorable mother who reads my books as well as helps me with my writing. Shridhar Raghavan, Shivam Nair, Arijit Biswas, are those three people I send anything I write to first and then Merlyn Joseph.  I narrate the stories in details to Mr. Zaidi in between his busy schedule. I valued their suggestions.  I think I am blessed to have great people in my life. Still one has to find her/his own way. They can’t write for you. They all can just guide you. 

8. You looked very hot and beautiful and looked no less than any Bollywood actress at your launch. What do you do to remain fit and maintain an ideal figure?

 I am blushing now. Thank you, that’s a bonus compliment anyone would like to hear. I eat without worrying about my figure. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. And I of course I inherited it too. So thanks to my parents. 

9. What are your dreams as a writer and where do you see yourself after 10 years? 

Nothing can give me as much happiness writing has given me. I loved the journey with my characters. I see writing more books without worrying about genres; though crime is my favourite. And I see myself directing the movies written by me.  After ten years, I see myself travelling more, developing the habit of reading, writing books, making movies, and supporting aspiring writers and movie makers.  I tell Mr. Zaidi, his approaches to new authors and the support he showers on them gives me a reason to give back the same to others and be a better person.

10. Any words for your fans who are the reason behind your books' success.

Thanking would be just taking away my gratitude I have in my heart for them. Without them, me or any authors would never be inspired to write because it is a long and lonely journey.  Only you can keep us going ahead. Pick up the email id, write to them even if love their book or hate it. You have no idea how much it will help us. It helped me immensely. It gave me a reason to write better, and to write more. Only love and hugs.  ( though i have hardly any here :) 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Gone With The Bullet by Sheeja Jose (Book Review: 3.75*/5) !!!

     I am just done reading 6th novel of the new year and what can be the better way to celebrate your weekend than sitting with a book for hours. Isn't it? This time I picked up Sheeja Jose's 2nd book "Gone with the Bullet" which is published by the Whitewall Publisher. This 318 pages thick book is a crime thriller about how a girl falls in love with the man who might be her father's killer. It's always wonderful to read a thriller written by a female author because there's already many men in this genre releasing book one after another. Last time, Aarti Venkatraman surprised me with her "Kingdom Come" and I can surely say that Sheeja Jose is another competitive author in our Indian market. 
         The writing style of the authoress is wonderful and she narrates her story very well. The best that I found in this book has been the way the past life of each character is intertwined perfectly and the way it has its reflection in their present behaviour in the social circle. Even though the book stays on its main plot but still the characters are built with each chapter and you can understand what's going in mind of each one of them. Also the curiosity of what shall happen in the end stays with you as a reader which makes this book a great page-turner. Author have researched well therefore the technical terms that she have used for explaining the backdrop of shooters, terrorists and police force is worth-reading. 
     Initially, it is hard to get into the flow of the story because the way the first chapter begins isn't reader-friendly but once 60-70 pages are done, we start getting used to the author's unique way of narration and start enjoying the story of two couples simultaneously. Also, Mark begins to get over you and becomes the favorite character by the middle of the book. And the final section when the task has to be executed is also well-written and you are surprised by the turn of events. Though it had become predictable at one point of time that who among the protagonists would ultimately do that final task in the climax but still the whole scenario is worth reading and experiencing.

            Coming to the drawback: I felt that the author stretched the story for almost 40-50 pages. Even after the climax when the suspense starts getting unfolded to us, it takes almost 50-70 pages and you are made to read the same scenes again with a different angle which is interesting in the beginning but starts irritating after a while and you want to skip the pages even when you want to know how exactly the real player ended up ruining everyone's plan. Also, as I have said it above, the initial chapters aren't reader-friendly which could have been written little better. Author have failed in narrating the first 50 pages and the last 50 pages of the book. Rest, it is a wonderful book which should be read if you are into thrillers. Just for this I am cutting 0.25 stars from my rating which is 3.75* out of 5. But Sheeja Jose is one of the better Indian authors away from the mediocrity that we are finding in bookshelves daily. 



Monday, January 18, 2016

Our Impossible Love by Durjoy Datta (Book Review-3.9*/5) !!!

      And I spent my Sunday reading Durjoy Datta's 12th novel named "Our Impossible Love" which is my 5th book of this year and I'm very glad that I managed to complete this 289-pages book in a day. It's a very light read which makes it easy for you to keep turning pages to explore what will happen with the protagonist in the very next sentence. Durjoy Datta is a young author who knows what his young audience needs from him. He always manages to write a book based on teenagers yet touch a different layer of emotion each time. From last 2-3 years, he have begun experimenting with characters in his books which is proving him to be a writer better than many other claiming to sell more than him in off-seasons when these bestselling authors don't release their work. It is incredible on the author's part to write more than 12 books in his writing career of 9 years. Kudos!     

           Our Impossible Love is a story of Danish Roy and Aisha Paul, both different in their own way since school time, and find it very hard to compare themselves with their classmates and peers. But time brings both of them together and then how chemistry changes and twists and turns happen is what makes Our Impossible Love a book that you would ask everyone to read at least once. Yes, the initial 35-40 pages of the book are little annoying as some uncomfortable situations of both the characters are talked about and it becomes hard to accept in the initial pages itself and you assume that the whole book would carry about their trauma with their changing hormones etc. But the moment author starts introducing more characters in the story in form of Sarthak, Ankit, Vibhor etc, you know that the tale is about to begin. 

           Durjoy Datta has chosen to tell the story in first person for the main protagonists which gives a special touch to the narration. The Indian pulp-fiction writers should learn from Durjoy on how to speak about a current topic without being preachy yet speaking everything that's politically and morally correct. It doesn't bore you even for a while and you want to read the author's viewpoint on many other youth issues too. Author talks about uncomfortable sex a girl has to go through in the name of relationship, the scary days after the girl decides to stop the boy from misusing her body, an emotion of a boy who hears rumour about his sister sleeping with different boys daily, an emotional turmoil of a boy who realizes that he is a gay and his fight against daily abuses from his classmates for being something which isn't in his control, an inferiority complex of a boy who is always treated extra against his brother who's a performer and achiever etc. 

           This book talks on so many youth issues in such an interesting manner that you couldn't believe in the end that you read a story which actually opened your mind towards different kinds of people you have around you whom you don't even consider in your life. This book is definitely one of Durjoy's best attempt and the author have finally managed to find a purpose behind his passion of writing. I have always been a good critic to the author and have rated him both- High and Low but this time, it's definitely on a better side- I rate this book 3.9* out of 5. GO FOR IT! It's a recommendation. 0.1 less than 4 because I found climax little silly and not a very good end to a story which carried itself with a great stature throughout. :-)



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Heart of Bullets by Nikhil Kushwaha (Book Review: 2.5*/5) !!!

      I am done reading the 4th book of the year this weekend and I am quite happy with the way it's moving right now. And this time I picked up Nikhil Kushwaha's 3rd book, "Heart of Bullets", which is published by one of the recently founded publication- Petal. The cover page of the book is indeed appealing and even the title. The book is basically about story of a soldier and his past life. It is spoken by one of his friends who also joins the army along with him and has been his friend since 2nd grade. I liked the idea of how author chooses one of the friend who always lost the race against his friend as the protagonist to tell the story and still kept the main hero of the book in the character of the friend who wins every time but leads a sad life through out.      

           I liked how the book begins with a scene based at LoC which gives a feel that we are about to read story of some great characters. A life of soldier during their vacations is also narrated in the initial chapter itself and you can surely relate with it if you know someone who is in army. And later on when the book moves towards the hero of this book- SAM, the tone of the story telling changes and becomes little mature. I liked how author has developed his character as intense and someone who keeps quiet with out letting anyone knows what pain and loneliness he feels within. And after a point of time, the book goes into a long flashback where his life is talked in detail. 

           And that's when I found this book going into the right direction but got really disappointed to read the whole teenage and immature love story once again. And author has narrated the whole thing in such details that it becomes irritating and unwanted after some time. Few scenes are surely worth reading but over all, I feel that it could have been cut shorter by almost half the length at which it is currently written. Coming to the climax, it is quite filmy which does not sound realistic from anywhere and therefore, you do not relate with it. Yes, indeed it is emotional and you will find yourself emotional but something that you'll soon find funny as it's quite like Bollywood of 90s when such things were done in the end to make you become emotional and feel good about the creation of the artist. 

           Nikhil has a great talent of writing which definitely gets proven in few of the scenes that he have written. The poems in the book are also very nicely woven but I felt they are inserted more than they were actually needed in the story. His passion for writing can be surely felt whenever he wrote regarding the life of soldier at the battle field and all the scenes he have written related to them are better and worth reading. Coming to the editors and publishers, I feel that the book is very badly edited with lots of grammatical and spelling mistakes. Also, the same story could have been completed successfully in about 240-250 pages but it seems nothing is edited out from what writer submitted as the final draft. Little effort on this front could have helped this book. I give it 2.5 stars and it surely reflects author's pure intention towards writing it. Kudos to that!



Friday, January 8, 2016

My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik (Book Review-3.75*/5) !!!

          I had read a lot about Devdutt Pattanaik but finally read his first work which is also his latest release- "My Gita", published by Rupa Publication. First of all, I must say that the cover page is very excellent which makes you curious to know what exactly is written in the book and you will not want to keep it aside until you are done with all the 18 chapters. I took almost 3 weeks to complete this book as I wanted to remember most of the events and understanding of the Hindu mythology. I must say that the reading experience has been great as the way Devdutt has made the concept easier for the novice readers isn't an easy task. The effort gone into research, translation and conversion can be easily deciphered. 

          The book starts with the introduction of Gita where the author tells about the numbers of Gita that are available around us and which one is the most popular among them. He also tells us about the connection between each one of them and during which era some of them originated to let us know their reliability. Also, the arrangement of chapters in Gita is also discussed along with what motive it serves. And then Devdutt continues telling us how he has written his version of Gita and what exactly is his purpose to write the same. The good thing about Devdutt's Gita is that he didn't focus only on Hinduism but also discussed other cultures too. He also tried explaining why cultures differ with each other.

           In the book, Devdutt have not only given references of Mahabharat but also Ramayana and the period between both the major events. He have also made us understand how Krishna, Hanuman etc are related with both the epics. The verses and their explanation with diagrammatic representations make the experience of reading interesting, joyous and exploring. Devdutt have managed to not compare two cultures and prove which one of them is better but leaves it upon reader to find his own ideology among the two and go with any one of them. Talking about the drawbacks, I would say that the book is not even that good the way it is been over-rated on social media. It is just a fine attempt and not something I would recommend people every time someone asks me a good book on Hinduism. I would give this book 3.75* out of 5. 



Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Not Right.. but It's Okay by Anuj Tiwari (Book Review-3*/5) !!!

     I spent first Sunday of 2016 in completing the 2nd book of my year to start the year well in terms of my reading journey. This time I picked up Anuj Tiwari's "It's Not Right... but It's Okay" which has been released on 1st january, 2016 itself. As this is Anuj's 3rd book in 3 years of his writing experience, I had big expectations this time and I had decided to be harsh in case I see no improvements in his writing style. It's time to be little tough on the Indian fiction authors who write under romance genre. They are just writing the same kind of story each time with little twist and claiming it to be a true story. It becomes hard for readers to judge it considering that it's a true story and they start sympathizing with the protagonists without giving consideration to the quality of writing.
           Well, getting back at the review, Anuj's writing has definitely improved twice than his last book. I witnessed a growth of 200% right from the first sentence to the last. With a flavor of romance, author have tried to tell a mature story with several characters having different background and personalities. The story sounds realistic hence you believe every scene that is been told in several small chapters and start imagining the characters around you. Anuj does justice to the locations he have chosen this time and the characters relate to the places they belong to. The story keeps moving in a flow with some sweet incidents, descriptions of tragic past, cute conversations, romantic Whatsapp chats etc until the last 25% of the book when a twist takes place and the characters start introspecting and believing and disbelieving and crying and resolving their cases to finally getting what they want from life with few exceptions. 

             The transitions that takes place in the story is well handled and you do not feel that the author was doubtful about any part that he was writing. Whenever the locations or the chemistry between the characters gets changed, you do not find a drastic change in terms of writing style or flow of story which makes this book one of the better light reads that you would love to carry with you while traveling or for a single-sitting read. I completed this book within 3.5 hours and it isn't boring at all like previous books of Anuj Tiwari which becomes monotonous after a point of time. This one surely stands out from his last two babies. I give this book a good 3 stars this time and I am sure Anuj is going to get better with each book that he's going to write. The only drawback about this book has been the distraction from the twist even when in the pre-climax part which begins to irritate a reader. Anuj should have handled it properly. Rest, it's a fine attempt. 



Family Life by Akhil Sharma (Book Review-2.5*/5) !!!

     I had heard about Akhil Sharma's "Family Life" a lot when it was released more than an year ago and since then I wanted to read it. But no one had told me that its a tragic story. As I am done reading this novel which is not quite lengthy, I have a totally different kind of emotional turmoil in my head. I am unable to understand if I liked the book or not. It is kind of a memoir and autobiographical narration where a small boy starts telling his story in terms of how each of his family members are. He tells about the relationship each one of them share with each other. As the book progresses, the story keeps taking leap and it finally reaches to making the protagonist earn his graduation degree in the climax.     

          The story mainly focuses on many emotions that the protagonist goes through in his life and how his thoughts keep getting changed with age. The book moves very slowly which might make people leave it in between as even I found it hard to continue with it after some 35-40 pages. No conversation is described in the book but only the thought process of the boy who is telling his story. It is all fine until he is in school but the quality of narration and language remains the same even when he turns into an adult. It is quite disappointing then as you want author to change the lane of the language in which the book is written and the fact that author have taken almost a decade to complete this book, expectations were quite higher.

        Some issues are nicely depicted in the book regarding how racism gets introduced for a middle-class Indian when he gets migrated to a foreign land initially. Also how Indians are always looked down because of their standard of living is also well-stated. The emotions regarding other Indians in a foreign land is also discussed and that's the most cutest segments in the book. Haha! The protagonist is uncomfortable when it comes to girl and therefore reading even those scenarios were also enjoyable. Whenever author starts discussing the condition of his ill brother and alcoholic father, the book takes a tragic turn and it becomes hard to digest those chapters. Dysfunctional family life is what this book is all about and may be this genre wasn't for me hence I do not have much say whether you should go with it or not. I give it 2.5 stars from my side. 



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