I love interviewing debutant Authors about their books their thoughts and stories, because their advice and path of publications and writing books is a road map for others who seek to get published –
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing GS. Subbu an engineer, banker, blogger, and
author of ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ with us on A living series talk.
Hi Subbu, thank you for agreeing to this interview I’m so very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet you and talk to you.
Welcome to A living series talk.
Let me say that the pleasure is entirely mine. Author interviews help in bringing the writer closer to the reader. So I guess I should thank you.
Pleasure! Subbu let’s begin with our introductory segment so our readers are profound to know about their authors, so please tell about yourself?
You will pardon me if I take the liberty to quote a few lines from my book when talking about myself-
I have lived my life as it is expected to be. I grew up as any other person; studied, married, worked, had children and seen them settled. I have even seen my grandchildren. I guess that is a normal life. An engineer from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India, by qualification, and a Banker by profession, I retired from the State Bank of India in the year 2010. As a youth I was into writing poetry and later over the years it was only in spurts that I wrote; nothing very significant. But I did start painting. Though self-taught I can now say that when I look back at what I had done it has not been bad. I resort to it even now when I find myself at a loss for words literally. It was only after retiring from my job that I became active on my blog and writing became an outlet for exploring and reflecting on the lessons learnt during the process of living my life. Ever since I have been an avid blogger and write regularly on my blog ‘Sublimation’ at subbusg.blogspot.com. This I consider as the start of my journey as a writer which ultimately culminated in the completion of my first book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man.
During my college days I was active in the music and dramatic circles and to this day music remains a passion. Though not formally trained I do understand the nuances in Indian Classical music. I still identify myself with the music of the sixties and seventies and it encompasses all genres. I have been a member of book clubs, done book reviews and given talks on ‘Appreciation of Art’ in some forums. That I guess sums up a little about myself.
I’m so excited to talk more with someone like you who has engulfed varied forms of life experiences to share that would be inspiration to many,
from a youth who wrote poem towards engineering to writing,
it’s a long journey indeed!
What have you written?
It was mostly poetry which I wrote during my youthful years. These still exist and I do nurture ambitions of publishing them at a later date. But it was after I started writing on my blog regularly since the last five years that I evolved as a writer. It gave me an opportunity to explore all the areas of my interest – art, music, religion and philosophy and relationships. There are nearly 200 posts on my blog with a fairly large readership. This has been the foundation stone for my first book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ a fictional autobiography, a novel that takes you through the process of growing, living, aging and tackling the questions that arise regarding the purpose of living and finding a meaning. The novel is written in the form of a conversation with a friend who is also my alter-ego, interspersed with monologues. I am happy that it has evoked some very good reviews.
Though grounded in Hindu Philosophy, I recognize that the existential angst is very real and is present in every individual. How he tackles it, is a personal choice. Not everyone can be Buddha or a Ramana Maharishi. Whether it is the theistic Existentialism of Kierkegaard or the Atheism of Sartre both tackle the same question. While one offers hope, the other points towards authenticity in living. I have tried to tackle these questions in my book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’, especially in the section on letters to God and in the concluding chapters of the book.
Yes, I do agree Subbu and in this process called life, we do learn and grow individually every minute, so do have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I usually write at night, mostly between10.30 pm to 1.30 am. My day is fairly structured with time slotted for my evening walks, meditation, listening to music, reading and watching television. I am basically an extrovert and like to socialize with friends and relations. So you see that though I am a writer, I am not a solitary person. I do love my solitude at that time of the night which I indicated and I retreat into it when I sit down to write.
Hmm! Solitude pays your imagination working best in form of creativity and thus we do face some obstacles too. What is the hardest thing about writing?
Well, the hardest thing about writing is getting down to write. Like we have our schedules for breakfast, lunch and dinner which we consider as essential activities for our physical sustenance, we should also set apart a slot during the day just for writing and religiously follow it. Treat it as an essential activity of your daily life. We may say translating one’s thoughts into words is the toughest part. True but unless you write them down you would never know. Once you read what you have written down you will be in a position to find better ways of expressing yourself. Reiteration is a must to bring you as close as possible to the truth.
Great tip Subbu! Loved your thoughts “Treat it as your daily essentials” and I’m sure all those budding authors must have noted this tip as well.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I think a book series can happen when the author decides to stick to a particular genre and has already a larger plot in mind which can be developed over a series of books. Take yourself for example, your writing revolves around your personal experiences and the lessons you have learnt and getting it across to people. These would fall under the category of motivational and self-help books which is evident from your naming it as ‘A Living Series’. In my case though both my books tackle questions of understanding life in its entirety, they cannot be categorized as part of a series as each has a distinct identity. I call them fictional realities.
That’s a good thought and thank you for sharing with our readers moving on let us talk about reading do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
In the past I was a voracious reader, but now I have slowed down since most of my time is taken up in writing. However of late I found Jhumpa Lahiri’s writings are more in my zone of preferences. Apart from that I can only reiterate that my favorite authors all belong to my earlier days and they still continue to be – Dostoevsky, Hermann Hesse, Albert Camus, Andre Gide, Sartre to quote a few. I get back to them whenever I need to boost my inspiration.
Great list of authors indeed appreciate that Subbu. For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I have always loved the feel of the printed book in my hand. Even now I take out my old books just to feel and smell them. They transport me back over the years, for you tend to establish a relationship with each one of them. However I am now awake to the emergence of e-books and that is how it is going to be in the coming years. My daughter presented me with a Kindle Fire and ever since, I have got hooked on to it and bought a number of books. But I still prefer printed books and buy those which I feel should form an essential part of my personal library on my bookshelf
That great idea, infact I too prefer paperback. So let our readers know what are your future projects?
I have just completed my second book ‘Darkness and Beyond – A Medley of Many Lives’. This book explores through each of its chapters, a slice of life with the message of hope that darkness is not perpetual for just as the night is dissolved with the dawn of a new day, there is always a ‘Beyond’ to the ‘Darkness’ that threatens to engulf our lives. The nine chapters in the book relate stories of faith, loyalty and the belief that life is a succession of darkness and light. I write about people who we may have met sometime, somewhere; of people who have left an imprint on our minds. It is a glimpse into the lives of those of whom we have heard and cherished in our memories. Though the book is now complete and ready for publishing, I am taking my time, may be a couple of months more.
Wow! All the very best for your book Subbu. I wish abundance of success. And we all know beyond publishing lies the reality of book marketing.
What are your views on social media for marketing and indexing your books? Does it help boost up the sales?
For a debutant author the chances of getting one’s manuscript accepted is a very difficult process and is frustrating. That is why we see the spurt in Self-Publishing companies. Since in this case the marketing is left to the author unless he pays for additional services, the only available source is through the social media – Facebook, Twitter and others. It does help boost the sales of your books, but I have found that only around 15 percent of the contacts you have on these media respond. The support from your friends and relations also fall short of your expectations. I did repeat my requests to friends on the social media to buy the book and post a review. Though some did, many did not. After a certain number of attempts I stopped as I felt that it affected my integrity as a writer and I did not want to turn into a bookseller.
Well, that’s again a personal choice though what I’ve discovered most of the writer do feel they needed exposure and unless we index our books on the right shelf they would never get noticed. Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
I can only state that a person with greater marketing skills can get away by selling an inferior product than a person with a good product but poor marketing acumen. I guess you can infer what I want to say. But the problem is more complex. The ease with which one is able to write a book now due to the advent of the computer has given rise to a large number of people ending up as authors. The result being that the traditional publishing platforms and the book reviewing mechanisms have been choked with submissions. Under these circumstances I really do not know what standards these publishing houses have in place to properly evaluate the quality of a manuscript. If you are lucky to have your manuscript accepted, it could take any amount of time for it to be ultimately published. I feel the author of a well written book needs backing by way of financial resources and the necessary coverage by way of reviews from media (which once again is not easy to get). Book launches and availability through bookstores do create visibility but that costs money and not every author can afford that over and above the publishing costs that have already been incurred. A lot of well written books have thus fallen by the wayside. We can only hope that they will be discovered someday.
Hmm! Indeed a topic to be debated as I personally think all genre’s of books need appreciation in some or the others way since every writer do put there life into his or her work.
How do you relax? Any special destress technique as writing involves a lot of sitting.
By temperament I am not a person who is prone to too much stress. Like I told you earlier, my day is well structured. Of course this has been possible more after retirement. I have been a regular practitioner of Yoga, though now I only do meditation for at least half an hour daily without fail. I rarely miss my daily walk along the seashore while in Chennai. I do have other interests like painting and music which help in stirring up my creative urges at times when I face a ‘Writer’s Block’. People keep asking whether there is such a thing but honestly there are times when I find myself totally blank, incapable of putting down a word for days on end. Of course, the more we bother about it the more it blocks our creativity.
That sounds cool!
Yes, indeed yoga and meditation are best destress techniques and let our readers know what keeps you motivated. What is your favorite motivational phrase?
I shall give you two of them and which I have quoted in my forthcoming book –
Soren Kierkegaard’s “Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced” and
Robert Frost’s “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
Thanks for your valuable thoughts and thanks for sharing them with us. So, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Persistence ultimately pays. The only advice I can give from my own experience – sit down and start writing, the thoughts will flow. You can always go back and streamline what you have put down. Break that barrier. I have fully experienced the travails that an aspiring author undergoes.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wonderful advice.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
The only way is by getting people to write reviews of the book. Bloggers and Newspaper reviews are very important. But I have found that this also is a very difficult process. It requires persistence and pestering people to do so. I would say that reader’s reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are ones which help in your work being noticed.
I am thankful to you for making a review of my book and taking this interview for I believe that it will give me and my book the necessary exposure among your circle of readers. Thanks once again.
There are some interesting posts which I have made on my blog about writing and the travails faced by aspiring authors. Though written in a lighter vein I have been able to get my message across to my readers. I am giving the links below –
Confessions of an Author
The Death of a Bookstore
The Writer’s Dilemma
The Writer’s Block
The Travails of An Aspiring Author- Part 2
That’s interesting indeed I can see lots of info indexed here, I’m sure readers are going to make most of it. Can you give us the Sneak peek
‘I am just An Ordinary Man’
Certainly here it goes-
Sir, you asked me who I am. What shall I say? I have been asking myself this question for quite some time and reached nowhere. After all I am no saint to throw away everything that I have and go in search of an answer. If I had, I would have been a saint. Don’t you agree? Well I have a name, but what’s in a name? You may call me an Ordinary Man.
The narrator in a series of conversations with a friend who he says is his alter ego, and through his own introspections, unfolds the process of growing up and aging, and exploring all that had brought joy in living, to serious questions regarding God, religion, destiny, freewill, compassion and as to whether we have been really honest in our relationships; the relationships that have affected us at various stages in our life and continue to influence even our present living. They are all locked up somewhere within our private world and which we release and relish in our solitude.
Though ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ is an autobiographical novel, it is only in parts that real events have been narrated to build a base for addressing the questions and the existential angst which arise in the mind of any person during the process of living and the realization that the first step towards resolution is in acceptance of the reality of existence and the finality of death.
Thanks again Subbu for taking the time out of your busy schedule and being a part of A living series talk. It was absolutely amazing and great to hear from you.
I wish you abundance of success for your future plans and projects.
Same here Kaur
God bless you dear!