Tuesday, December 10, 2019

On Writing with Rajesh Konsam

Today on 'On Writing' we have Rajesh Konsam, a young software engineer and writer. A geek at heart, he loves programming and feel-good novels in equal measure. He also enjoys writing poems and occasionally dabbles in dance. Although Rajesh hails from Manipur, he works in Chennai after completing his B.E. in Coimbatore. Bittersweet is Rajesh’s debut novel, and he is working on his next.

Let's welcome Rajesh Konsam...

Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that gave birth to the author in you?

I guess the writer in me was dormant all along. I was never the voracious reader to begin with, but I was always creative and expressive as a kid. Despite maintaining a journal like most people do, the thought of completing a novel and then publishing it never occurred to me.
It was on this one day, during a trip to Mysore with my college friends, that the idea behind my debut novel ‘Bittersweet’ germinated in my head. I discussed it with my boys, and they encouraged me to execute it. As an ambitious young man who was standing at a crossroad and still figuring out his life, there were noises in my head, and I just wanted to vent off my feelings somewhere. So, I picked up my pen and paper, typed my heart away and eventually began enjoying it to the fullest.

How important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend agonizing hours deciding on their names?

I do a lot of research while deciding the names of my characters. 
For starters, my male protagonist is soft at heart despite having rough exteriors.  
Roshan was a meaningful name, and it didn’t sound too contemporary or traditional—just what I wanted.
Secondly, I wanted to bring in a bohemian female lead, and for that, I created ‘Shanaya’. I wanted her to be half-Indian (despite not mentioning that fact explicitly in the book), so I looked up various surnames belonging to people living in Goa. That’s how I named her Shanaya Pinheiro, envisaging her as an Indo-Portuguese girl. It adds to her personality.

What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a favourite place to write?

I write only on the weekends or on national holidays as I zone out on weekdays with a job I equally love. Hence, it’s hard for me to come up with a new book. I do enjoy this slow process and try to remain consistent. I love writing in dimly lit rooms. Just me, my laptop and no one bothering me.

What is different about ‘Bittersweet’? 

I have been told by my readers that the story is very real and relatable.
‘Bittersweet’ is about a group of young millennials, led by Roshan, who struggle to find footholds in the creative industries, as they tackle first jobs, financial independence, second relationships, compromises, loss of identity and fear of failure.
Coming to the romance subplot of the book, I used the love story between Roshan and Shanaya to deepen their relationship. As two creative people looking for their big break, they share a common flair for creativity. The support system they have for each other during predicaments is what most of us yearn for in life.

While still being character-driven, it offers an exciting plot and is even packed with surprises.

Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

The protagonist Roshan is my favourite character in the book because he is real, headstrong, unapologetic, flawed and naïve but stands up for himself when he needs to. The kind of thoughts that cross his mind reminds me of the time when I was struggling in life.
I created him at a time when I wasn’t even aware of the publishing industry and poured whatever I had in my mind.

Which do you prefer as a reader? EBook or Paperback?

I have a split personality while choosing books. I prefer reading half of my books on Kindle with the night light turned on because I read at night and I travel a lot. But with my most favourite books, I make sure I own the beautiful hardcover editions and nothing less.

How long did it take to finish writing ‘Bittersweet’? 

It took me two years, as I was straddling between the manuscript and my college projects.

How important do you think is marketing in today’s world for any book?

Marketing is pivotal for the success of any book because for the initial word-of-mouth which many authors rely on, the book must reach its first set of readers. 
Secondly, when people talk about marketing, I think about creativity. It’s important that we spin up unique marketing plans. When everyone else is doing the same thing, how would you make a difference? Quality over quantity, anytime!
Another important thing is that, as authors, our writing should speak for ourselves. Come up with the best book titles, book covers, blurbs and first paragraphs. That’s marketing. 
Lastly, an author should not have any wrong notion about marketing, as it’s proven that it’s beneficial to any author. 
As someone who doesn’t like sharing his photos on social media unless there’s an important event in my life, it was a life-changing decision to come out and promote my book.

Please share a passage or quote from ‘Bittersweet’ for our readers.  

You acquire taste. You soak them in little by little. A soul that has appreciation for art continuously expands itself to new dimensions. Enjoy the natural learning process. Just because some critics ask you to ‘learn the craft’ you shouldn’t force everything down your throat. Every successful man we know initially started off with the dumbest ideas. And when you feel you’ve learnt to some extent, break free. You will surely find your forte, your unique voice. You’ll do well, young heart. Now, go and flourish.” 

What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?

1) Read a lot. Go out of your comfort zone and read books from different genres. One might teach you how to write a satisfying plot twist, and another might inspire you to write beautiful prose—all of which are important to surviving in the industry. Learn from different authors and aggregate all qualities into your book. 
2) Spend time developing your characters and focus on both the internal growth and the external goal. Characters are the driving forces of your story.
3) Write what you love, not what people insist you to read or write. 

Thank you, Rajesh. Wishing you the very best in all that you do.

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