An interview with Abhishek A. Hemrajani – Author of Black, White And The Grays In Between.
Abhishek A. Hemrajani was raised in Mumbai, India and spent most of his twenties in Dallas, Texas. The idea of this book has traveled and lived with Abhishek for many years. Abhishek attributes his writing style to the strong influence that Khaled Hosseini, Paulo Coelho, and Gabriel García Márquez have had on him.
Abhishek lives in Hyderabad, India, and is currently a Product Manager for Microsoft. Black, White And The Grays In Between is his debut novel.
Please describe your book in one sentence.
Black, White and the Grays in Between is an emotional saga of hope, betrayed dreams, and the endless shades of gray.
Tell us in brief, what led up to this book?
“Life has an extraordinary ability to leave you unfulfilled.”
A thought-provoking and poignant moment led to the book. I had the title in my head for more than eight years – Black, White and the Grays in Between. I knew it was going to be a story about Kanak and Neil. As I developed the narrative around my own experiences in Mumbai, Texas, and Hyderabad, I found Rukhsar and Ashar. I like to think of the book as inspired-fiction. The struggles of a dear friend are at the core of the book. I initially started writing it as a blog series, but I found the medium very restrictive for what I wanted to write. Eventually, I ended up waiting for a few years until I felt I had the right maturity to deal with sensitive themes such as infertility and adoption.
What authors do you admire?
I deeply admire Khaled Hosseini, Gabriel García Márquez, and Paulo Coelho. Their writing styles are a strong influence on me. I am also a huge fan of J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, and Haruki Murakami. Of the many writers that I’ve read, Khaled Hosseini inspires me the most. He has the unique ability to incorporate storylines and themes from his ethnic background and still appeal to a wide and diverse audience. That is sincere and expressive writing. It should help transcend social, cultural, and political barriers.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I am a Product Manager at Microsoft by day and an Author by night. I find both my gigs equally gratifying. I don’t think of writing as a profession; for me, it is a form of expression. I had a few words and a story to tell – somewhere along the way, I found the characters and my voice as an author. Now that the book is available and is being well-received, it is amazing to hear how people interpret it. I am enjoying the conversations and I am humbled to know that it is giving my readers the opportunity to think about sensitive themes.
Do you have an agent?
No, but I would love to find one. Publishing a book can be a lot of work and if you are not a professional writer, an agent can be a terrific support.
What inspires you to write?
Situations, people, memories, life. Most of what I write comes from a personal and heartfelt place. I cannot write without feeling a connection with my words. Most of my book is inspired from real-life events and I think that’s why I could write it from a personal perspective. I guess that is exactly why people who’ve read the book feel that there is part of them in it.
Do you have days when writing is a struggle?
Of course; you’d have to be unattached to your writing if you never have an off-day. Writing, to me, is an emotional experience and how I feel or how exhausted I am plays a crucial role in how much and how well I can write. I usually take a walk and try to reflect on what I want to write. The key, however, is to be disciplined about your writing goals.
What are you reading currently?
The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie. My sister recommended the book and I am enjoying the read.
What are your favorite books to give and get as gifts?
Books that have personal significance and have left an impact on me are the kinds of books that I like to present. The same goes for the kind of books that I like to receive as presents. The conversations that follow a shared book make the read that much more interesting. The Alchemist is one of the books that I bought multiple copies of for my friends. The same goes for The Kite Runner.
One of my dear friends back in Texas bought ten copies of my book for her closest friends. That felt fantastic.
One of these days, I’m hopeful that someone will buy me a collector’s edition of the Harry Potter series.
Hardest thing about being a writer?
Publishing is perhaps the trickiest and hardest part of being a writer. The publishing industry, unlike other content-centric industries, requires more work and has lower returns. It is becoming harder for first-time authors to find the right publisher and launchpad. You often end up playing multiple roles as a writer. You write and you edit, you review and you iterate, you manage your own social mediayou’re your offline events. In fact, I think of myself as an authorpreneur and not just an author.
Best piece of writing advice?
One piece of advice that I truly appreciate is what J.K. Rowling said:
“Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.”
I found this to be very relevant and effective in my case. I often wrote at the end of a busy work day or between conference calls. I used to set a weekly word count target for myself, while working on my debut novel. There are days when you just don’t want to write, but those are the days when you absolutely must write. In the process of publishing, there is ample opportunity to review and revise. Discipline, not leisure writing, is what gets a book done.
Your advice to aspiring writers?
Just write. Write because your most favourite words need expression. Write because your thoughts need a voice. I am amazed that I managed to do it, but I also believe, more than ever before, that if you love what you do and believe in what you want to say, the words will come.
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