Anurag Anand is a prolific author, a corporate professional and a devout family man, who finds himself shuttling between Pennsylvania, where his family is settled and Gurugram. Two of his works the Legend of Amrapali and the Quest for Nothing have made it to the final shortlist in the past editions of the Crossword Book Awards. His other books are Love on 3 Wheels, Where the Rainbow Ends, Birth of the Bastard Prince, of Tattoos and Taboos. and Reality Bites.
He is a contributing author to several renowned publications, including the Times of India and his column, ‘Corporate Whispers’, is a monthly feature in the Suburb Life magazine. The biggest reward for his writing, he believes, is hearing from his readers and interacting with them.
His latest book ‘To Hell & Back’ has topped bestsellers charts on Amazon and well received by the critics. We recently interviewed him and chatted up for a while. He is honest and has some quick come backs
1.) Your book ‘To Hell and Back’ has been receiving rave reviews right from the catchy cover to the intriguing blurb. What motivates you to write and how do you respond to your critiques?
The motivation to write is purely internal. Writing, to me, is a medium of self-expression, a cathartic release of sorts. I look forward to the act of putting my thoughts and emotions on paper, and this doesn’t require any external stimulus.
Of course, it is humbling to see your work displayed in bookstores, and readers paying to read what you’ve got to say, but that is just one of the few highs that the vocation of writing has to offer.
2) The audience is shunning the typical college romance novels and are now inclined towards thrillers. With so many books of that genre releasing in the market of everyday, how is your book different than the rest?
Well, I wouldn’t say that readers are getting away from romance novels. In fact, I believe that the audience is fast maturing and they are now evaluating each title on its merit, irrespective of the genre. I look at this as a progression that augers well for serious authors across segments.
As for To Hell and Back, its USP is its relatability. It deals with several subjects that spring up in our conversations on a regular basis – road rage, female foeticide and the constant erosion of societal values. The characters of the story are people that we meet and interact with in our real lives, and the happenings that bring them together too are just as real. To Hell and Back is bound to make its readers ponder whether their own lives are truly as safe and secure as they tend to believe or is this sense of security only an illusion. Several readers have also commended the book on the unexpected manner in which the suspense unravels.
3) The tagline of your book is ‘Not all tragedies are orchestrated by fate’. Do you believe on the power of fate and how according to you, can it make or break a person?
Call it fate or destiny or what you want, but not many will refute that there is something beyond the linear equation of karma and its rewards that guides our lives. There are times when things happen without much effort on our part, and then there are times when things don’t happen no matter how hard we try. This unseen and unknown factor that influences our everyday lives is what I have termed as fate, and yes, I do believe that it has a rather significant role to play.
However, whether or not it can make or break a person is debatable. There are several other factors, ones that we exercise greater influence over – like our resilience, grit and determination – which, I believe, has a more definitive role to play in shaping us.
4) You are working full time and writing books alongside. Does the strenuous routine get on your nerves sometimes? How do you manage to derive the best of both worlds?
I would be wrong if I said that work and family commitments don’t ever derail my writing schedule. They do! However, the advantage of having a full-time job alongside is that I am not bound by timelines and I can write on subjects that I wish to.
Writing, as I have mentioned, is my passion, and I love my work just as much. Hence, the balancing act doesn’t require much more than certain degree of prioritization as and when needed. I am perhaps one of the blessed few who is able to derive best of both the worlds without having to do much towards it.
5) What did you learn through the course of your corporate career that helped you in writing and vice versa?
A prerequisite for writing fiction is to be a keen observer of humans and their behavior. My workplace gives me the opportunity to interact with people belonging to different strata of the society, and that leaves me enriched as an author.
Similarly, the sensitivity to people, their actions and reactions, that I have gained along my journey as a writer helps me during my interactions with people at work. Be it my colleagues, customers or other stakeholders, I find myself better equipped to deal with them empathically than I was in the past.
6) Do you have a fixed schedule allotted for writing or do you write on impulse?
It is difficult to stick to a fixed writing schedule given the demands of my job. However, whenever I am in the midst of penning a story, I try not to stay away from it for long. In my experience, such gaps do not auger well for the flow of the story. And if they turn out to be particularly long, I find it difficult to get back to writing the same story later. The stock of semi-finished manuscripts I have accumulated over the years are a testimony to how crucial it is for an author to remain connected with a story until it reaches its conclusion.
7) You have been writing since a long time. Can you elaborate on how the publishing scene has changed over the years?
When I started writing there were a handful of publishers in business, many of them international players, and they were skeptical to sign new Indian authors. It was in the early 2000’s when the chick lit genre suddenly exploded that homegrown authors began to find a market for their works. New publication houses emerged on the scene and a golden, but unsustainable period in Indian publishing dawned. I call this phase unsustainable because in the rush to dole out new titles, the quality of works that were picked up for publishing severely deteriorated.
However, the average Indian reader has matured now, and is conscious of the kind of books he reads. Resultantly, we rarely see one-book-wonders emerging on the scene now, and many of these fly-by-night publication houses have bowed out of the scene or are in the process of making an exit. This is clearly a phase of stabilization and consolidation for the publishing industry, and I can almost sense that it is on the brink of yet another explosion – a digital one!
8) From Pennsylvania to Gurugram, you got to witness multitude of cultures. Has this cultural diversity become a part of your books?
Traveling itself is a great teacher. I find myself enriched whenever I visit a place I have never been to before. And invariably many of these locations manage to seep into my stories. When thinking about the setting for a particular scene or event I prefer locations that I have visited in the past. I believe I can do more justice in describing them as compared to places I have never seen. And in this context, shuttling between two homes – Pennsylvania and Gurugram – is certainly a blessing.
9) Looking at your timeline, it seems that you have met quite a number of people of repute. Any particular memory that has remained with you that you would like to share?
My work as well as my writing has brought me in proximity of several prominent figures from the corporate and entertainment worlds. While I don’t have any particular anecdote to share, I would certainly like to call out the one common trait that I have observed in most of them – humility.
10) Apart from writing, what are your other activities you like to indulge in?
I like reading, watching movies and spending time with my friends. Sometimes, especially after a long day at work, a drink or two in the company of right people is what it takes for me to unwind.
11) Writing is a tedious process. A writer is often lonely and detached from the world during the course of writing a magnum opus. Have you ever felt that and how do you overcome this?
You are right, writing is a lonely process, and I like to switch myself off to the world when I am in its midst. However, I am an out-and-out extrovert otherwise, and perhaps this helps maintaining the average as far as my state of mind goes.
12) Are you working on any projects at the moment?
Yes, I am working on a very special project, and I am hoping for it to hit the shelves within this calendar year. I wouldn’t like to reveal much about it at this point, but I am certain that my readers are going to love this one.
We wish him all the luck with future projects and awaiting his next book. Keep writing, Author!
( This interview is a part of exclusive Author promotion run by Half baked beans)