Tuesday, January 04, 2011

20 Questions With Faraaz Kazi

It gives me great pleasure to bring you an interview of Faraaz Kazi – author, marketer, journalist, film writer, soft skills trainer and more…and oh yes, a management student too. 

Faraaz Kazi is currently pursuing his post-graduate studies in management in Mumbai. He is a certified soft-skills trainer and runs his own academy in the same field. He completed his creative writing from XIC and possesses a diploma in freelance journalism from the British Institutes. He is fondly referred to as ‘The Young Marketer’ and operates a revolutionary blog with the same name and writes for major media houses on the same subject. He is a fellow member of the esteemed ‘Film Writers Association of India’. 

This interview seeks to know more about Faraaz Kazi, the writer, and his new book Truly Madly Deeply. Read on to get more insights about writing and being a first time author.

Me: When did you take to writing?
Faraaz: At a very early age, perhaps when I was seven or eight. It was a silly adventurous novel about six friends who somehow reach a forest full of cannibals and dangerous animals. I remember it was a novel and not a short-story as most people would expect, because I wrote for days scribbling in a fat notebook. Next, there were a few more fantasy fiction type novels, stemming from watching too many movies and reading too much of young adult fiction. It was not until two years back, when I had taken a break from academics and had time on my hands, so I decided to enrol for a creative writing course. It opened a dormant side within me and I realised somewhere I always wanted to be a writer (not quite a full-time one though. You don’t make much of a living that way unless you end up writing about making five points on someone during a night in some call-centre and then erring with three mistakes in two different states) as I found my romantic short-stories to be applauded by the other thirty odd students around me. And then, that was motivation enough to try my hands on a novel. I started writing, more like a satisfying outlet to my emotions rather than earning money on the love that people will give me.

Me: Where do you usually write? What is your favourite setting to write in?
Faraaz: I like to be left alone and only my thoughts are allowed to disturb me. If it is the day then I switch off the light and depend on the sunlight from the window, otherwise a lamp usually suffices. I switch off my cell and sit for long hours on the bed with the pen in hand (if I am writing the draft) or the laptop staring at me (if I am editing).

Any setting which does not disturb me and welcomes the muse is suitable for me.

Me: Do you have any rituals/superstitions as a writer? Something you like to do before you start writing? A favourite pen?
Faraaz: I like writing with a red gel pen of a select brand, somehow it seems to aid my thought process and the story seems to flow from the tip. Sometimes when the words don’t come, I sit down and admire my writing. And as I said I try and avoid talking to anyone while I’m writing as more than a few times some very ingenious ideas have been snatched away from me just when someone knocked on the door or called out my name.

Me: Typing or writing on paper? What do you prefer and why?
Faraaz: As I said earlier, I always write the first draft on paper and then when I need to finalise it, I pick up the laptop which could sue me for assault anytime soon. It gives me scope for improvement and I can add or subtract as I type, thus serves both purposes- aiding creativity and editing. Though I wish I could submit my hand-written manuscripts (I do seem to have a perfectly legible handwriting) but unfortunately as far as I know only Ruskin Bond and Jeffrey Archer are permitted to do that.

Me: What was your first piece of work ever? Do you still have it?
Faraaz: As stated earlier, the earliest work I wrote on paper was a fantasy kind of a novel about six children who get lost in a forest infested with wild animals and dangerous cannibals. It filled around two books of five hundred pages each but I have no idea where those two books landed up. Both the books might have been stashed in my old bookshelves which housed over a thousand books when I was eleven until one day sagging wood and silverfish destroyed the whole lot.

Me: Who are your inspirations as far as writing is concerned? Any writers you would highly recommend to readers?
Faraaz: I love JK Rowling, not just for her creation of such an imaginary world but also the struggle she underwent, both personally and professionally, to publish her first book. Khalid Hosseini and Jean Sassoon awed me by displaying the turbulent middle-eastern areas in their writings. Cecilia Ahern and Nicholas Sparks touched my heart with their romantic works and I drew a lot of inspiration from them. Closer home, Tuhin Sinha has been one writer I have followed. Even his first book was a breezy romance read and today, he is writing literary fiction. I avoid recommending books to people as I think a book fits its reader and not every opinion is the same. But I do write down the best ten reads of the year and review the top five on my website. These were my picks for the year that went by.

1) ‘Of love and politics’ by Tuhin Sinha.
2) ‘Johnny gone down’ by Karan Bajaj.
3) ‘Turbulence’ by Samit Basu.
4) ‘Battle for Bittora’ by Anuja Chauhan.
5) ‘The Rozabal Line’ by Ashwin Sanghi.
6) ‘Herogiri’ by Mainak Dhar.
7) ‘The great depression of the 40s’ by Rupa Gulab.
8) ‘The beetlenut killers’ by Manisha Lakhe.
9) ‘The journey of Om’ by Chandru Bhojwani.
10) ‘A romance with chaos’ by Nishant Kaushik.

Me: What inspired Truly Madly Deeply?
Faraaz: The school days! I just knew I had to write about them, there was so much to write, so many events to capture on paper and I had to keep out a lot of things lest the book ended up looking like the Britannica encyclopaedia the protagonist in my novel drops on his leg in the library. On a more frank note, the book stems from a short story I had written for a national story-writing competition of a popular newspaper, seven years back.

Once it won a prize there, I knew it had potential and six years later, an idea came to my head that it could be expanded into a novel. People advised me against it, saying it will lose the flavour of brevity. But I believe if your heart says so, then there’s no use delaying it. I had the plot, I just changed the surroundings a bit and did all the things that fiction writers do, to make it more appealing and more pleasurable to the reader.

Me: We all know that while the author is solely responsible for an idea, the execution of the idea is impossible without the support of people who believe in the idea and the author. So who are the people behind Truly Madly Deeply, other than yourself?
Faraaz: I think I could write a whole book on that! The care of my parents and their upbringing gave me the strength to complete the project. My aunt always supported me and encouraged me to follow my heart. My best friends, Ismail and Priya also contributed their part, especially the latter, who is also my informal editor and mentor.

In the industry, most first time writers have some godfather who makes their entry easier through a referral or a recommendation. Unfortunately, I had none. The blurbs on the book came after I had found a publisher and the book was almost on the printer’s shelves. But fellow writers like N. Sampath Kumar and Tuhin Sinha have been a great guide. Rohit Gupta from Cedar has always been supportive once the book was published and I can’t forget Gurnoor Kaur, my editor who polished the manuscript in areas where it lacked.

Me: Did the story of Truly Madly Deeply come to you easily or did you find yourself stuck with a writer’s block sometimes?
Faraaz: I already had the plot in hand from the short story but writing it was a little challenging. Removing time from the schedule is the hard part as writers like me don’t make their living on our passion. I usually think of the best manner possible to portray what I have in mind and try and edit as I go. This gives me time to form the flow in the back of my mind. The fear of the blank page roots itself in the mind of every writer and it can be only defeated by taking it from its horns. So many times my laptop screen glared back at me calmly as I thought of punching it in frustration. Words don’t flow when you are coming back to writing after a long time.

Me: What is your personal most effective way of getting over a writer’s block, if it ever strikes you?
Faraaz: After trying to take breaks and waiting for the muse which refused to answer my personal invitation, I tried typing random things on a separate document. Mostly they were ramblings of what happened a day before. Better still, if it was some scene I was stuck at then I would try looking at from a different point of view and writing down the same. Often it gave me new insights. If there is time on hand, I go back to a nice read from the genre I’m trying to write and it does give me some sense of inspiration and motivation to continue.

Me: Do you agree that there are always autobiographical portions in any writing? Are there any in Truly Madly Deeply?
Faraaz: Most people talk of an author’s book as his child, made of his blood and sweat. In that sense, the child does have his parent’s DNA. So yes, the book has a part of the author somewhere, either hidden or easily visible to people who know the author. And this all the more applies to the first book.

‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ is a mix of fact and fiction where dominant traits of certain characters have been drawn from people I knew in the past and my own memories of my school days.

Me: Can you describe the journey of Truly Madly Deeply in short? How do you feel now when you look back on the entire creative process?
Faraaz: In one word- Turbulent! It wasn’t easy to start with because I was suddenly exposing myself to this level of writing and personally and professionally, I had not much support. Ideating for long intervals, taking notes in a diary and then sitting down to rattle them on my keyboard was challenging but thoroughly enjoyable.

It is very difficult to find a publisher for a first time writer and there were some very unprofessional people I encountered when I first began my search for publishers. Greed and envy are part of every industry and this was no different. It was really tough. 

However, when I was at the brink of giving up my search of a publisher, I met Mr. Sampath Kumar who guided me to Cedar and they picked up the manuscript almost immediately.

Me: How easy or difficult was it to get Truly Madly Deeply published?
Faraaz: Difficult is an understatement. I gained so much experience of the publishing process that if it was not for capital constraints, I would have turned a publisher overnight. I was even contemplating writing a book on the publishing industry in India meant for newbie writers but I ended up doing a simple analysis of the market in an article and that was it.

Finding a publisher is very difficult if you don’t have any godfather in the industry and almost always you have to cross out the biggies from your list. That doesn’t leave you with many options with respect to quality. The moral of the story is simple- Beggars can’t be choosers. 

I lost count of the rejection mails in my inbox and sought guidance of everyone from the writing industry I was in contact with. May be that was not a good strategy as I ended up sounding desperate. Some people like Thomas Abraham and Mridula Koshy were very helpful, others whom I would not name were equally helpful in the sense they gave me all the more reason to fight it out to prove myself by discounting me as just another kid on the block. I was determined to get the book published and ultimately, I had three publishers interested in the work and it so happened I landed up with Cedar. But as I said, all’s well that ends well and God has reserved some angels for me to see me through the unstable times.

Me: Do you agree that any author also has to be a good marketer? Or are there mechanisms that can take care of the marketing bit, allowing the author to concentrate solely on content?
Faraaz: That’s the hard part. The book is out in the market and if people don’t know it, it doesn’t sell and they don’t know you. It’s as clear as that. The author can relax a little if the publisher has a dedicated team working for the purpose which handles not just events but also contests, celebrity appearances, et al. The problem lies for authors without any platform and struggling with small publishers, who don’t quite have the budget for this kind of a thing. They maintain that once the book is printed and the author receives his quota of complimentary copies, their work is done. Distribution is another major issue. Often, authors have to get down and dirty.

There is no one who knows about the work better than the author and I believe that you have to be shameless in promoting yourself. It’s a selfish world; others won’t do it for you. Moreover, any kind of publicity is welcome publicity. 

I have seen to it that I utilise social media to the best of my abilities and being the author of one of the most followed marketing blogs in India, I know a thing or two about the same.

Yes, the author has to focus on content while he is working and marketing the book is more like crossing the bridge when it comes. Fortunately for me, people have appreciated that and I have had a couple of friends who kept spreading the word about the book on social networks and then some fans also joined in.

Me: What is your advice to writers out there who might be looking at getting published? Any helpful pointers?
Faraaz: Haha, too difficult to summarise. Remember the book?  Most important thing is they should pursue writing only if they are confident about their work and are capable of handling criticism. Today, I see so many writers with poor writing skills, coming out with their own autobiographical fiction set in some engineering college or management institute. Small publishers lap it up because the market (read nouveau readers as India is seeing a growth in habitual readership) demands so. Some who have good financial backup even go to the extent of starting their own publication houses that just produce their own title and no one hears about them again.

Second most important thing is too approach publishers directly as much as possible. It doesn’t make sense for new writers to trust strangers and I learnt it the hard way. Yes, it does get irritating while you await replies of the publishers but that also teaches you perseverance and patience, two of the most important qualities for a successful writer. Also avoid people who ask for money even if they are literary agents. At the end of the day, they will return you the manuscript with some changes that a tenth grader could have picked up and you’ll end up losing your wallet in the bargain. In short, be cautious and active at the same time.

Me: What is your message to anyone who is considering picking up Truly Madly Deeply for a read? What can he/she expect?
Faraaz: A journey into the most extreme emotions of a heart. A flashback down memory lane. A ride over the nuances of complex teenage behaviour. A promise of falling in love again. I don’t know. Any piece of art has unique interpretations to each one who appreciates it. But yes, the book has something in it for everyone. All those who have ever passed through the turbulent teens or ever fallen in love will cherish the book.

Me: Who is Truly Madly Deeply dedicated to?
Faraaz: It is dedicated wholly and solely to my late grandfather as mentioned at the start of the book. He was the only person in the world, who encouraged my writing since a very early age. My parents were not too supportive of my interest in books and they wanted me to just concentrate on academics which I always performed consistently well in. My grandfather was the only saviour. I sat on his lap since I was a kid and he narrated some of the most wonderful tales I will cherish all my life. He evoked in me the love for stories.

Me: Do you have more stories to tell us already that we can expect in the form of books soon? Are you working on something?
Faraaz: I hope there are many more to come. Pray that the muse visits me soon. I have two projects in hand, one is fiction while the other is non-fiction. Though I’m not sure whether I will get time to finish the latter as I already have a deadline to complete it. I hope I’m able to.

But yes, definitely I would be writing something but I can’t say how much time will it take me to do so.

Me: Apart from writing, what else keeps you busy? What are your passions/interests?
Faraaz: The complimentary activity, reading! When I’m not in the company of books, I exercise my vocal chords a little as singing has been another passion. I try and grab a game of cricket if there is a call from the club which I play for. And yes, I’m also a final year management student and it does take a toll on me at times.

Me: What is the one thought you would like to leave people with when they think of Faraaz Kazi, the writer?
Faraaz: Someone who fought against all odds to emerge as a humble human being, a noble soul, an obedient son, an eternal lover…

That’s a wrap on the interview folks. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Faraaz can be reached at contact@faraazkazi.com and you can log onto www.faraazkazi.com to know more about him.

Here is the blurb of Truly Madly Deeply and the link from where you can get signed copies of the book. 

There are some who love and conquer...
There are some who love and forget...
...and then there is RAHUL KAPUR!

A pompous Rahul is head over heels in love with Seema, his beautiful female equivalent from the same school. After a whirlwind of innocent encounters, their teenage romance blossoms yet both of them never confess their love to each other. A series of misunderstandings and ego clashes cause them to drift apart. Rahul loses his sanity and ultimately his love. By the time he realises the magnitude of his loss, it appears to be too late. Will Rahul get back his Seema? Or will Seema never realise the depth of Rahul’s feelings?

This teenage love story seeks answers to all these and more as it alternates between the past and present and makes you wonder; do all love stories have a happy ending? Or do all love stories end, ever? TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY promises to be an emotional saga that will captivate the reader’s heart and fascinate his mind and leave him pondering-DOES LOVE TRULY CONQUER ALL ODDS?

6 Thinkers Pondered:

priyaiyer said...

That was a lovely read! Thanks for doing this interview! :)

PULKIT said...

interesting ... will try n grab a copy!

Akash said...

Thanks for this nice author interview. I enjoyed it. I read book reviews on different sites, I find your review very genuine and orignal.

Damini Pandey said...

One of the most touching romances ever written. Written from the heart. The book stays with you long after you have turned the last page.

Bharat Triphati said...

Really great interview of this budding romance author. I liked his writing style.

Sapna Shah said...

Nice read. Thanks for the interview.