An interview with Abhishek A. Hemrajani

An interview with Abhishek A. Hemrajani – Author of Black, White And The Grays In Between.

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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.

Buy yourself a copy of Black, White and the Grays in Between here.

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Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik [Book Review]

514pg6W7kCL.jpgTitle : Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged

Author : Ayisha Malik

ISBN : 9781785770036

Publisher : Twenty7

Genre : Chic lit

Pages : 456

Source : Publisher

Rating : 4 Stars

Sofia Khan is not obliged is a fresh and feisty romantic comedy on Muslim dating.  The protagonist Sofia Khan, a strong-willed and flawed Muslim woman, works for a publication in London. She refuses to marry her fiancé who’s expecting her to stay with his parents but has a ‘hole in the wall’ situation, which is basically a hole in the wall between the two houses.

Sofia narrates the entire incident to her bosses at work and is asked to write a book on Muslim dating! Sofia is skeptical at first but after the initial advance, decides to take it up. Sofia starts writing the book and has inspiration flying in from her family, friends and the people she meets from dating sites. What comes later forms the rest of the plot.

Sofia Khan is not Obliged is a debut novel by Ayisha Malik and for a debut it is pretty exceptional. The book has been called the Bridget Jones of Muslim dating and I must admit I found a lot of similarities. The book is written in a very informal and chatty style and is laid out in a diary/journal format with dates which makes it a fast-read.

What I loved most about the book, apart from the fact that it has a universal appeal and not just Muslim readers, is the portrayal of Muslim women and their lifestyles which aren’t stereotypical at all, in fact it is quite the opposite. The book kind of changes the preconceived notions or expectations people have about Muslim woman and Muslim dating. It is shown in the way Sofia chooses to wear a hijab, though her family never forces it on her. In fact Sofia’s mother would like it if she removed it.

Sofia is portrayed as a fearless and courageous woman, who has a sarcastic wit and prays five times a day. She is rather bored when people are surprised she wears a hijab. The secondary characters (Sofia’s family and friends) are rather vibrant and diverse.

The book is a light read! It is sharp, intelligent and is jammed with witty humor and a few laugh-out-loud moments. The tone of the book is pretty balanced between serious, romantic and funny and it has a good and satisfactory ending! Although the book is often referred to as a ‘chic lit’ it is much more than that.

Although the book is mostly character-drive and is engaging throughout, the plot could have been presented in a more condensed format. Having said that, the book is light hearted and refreshing. I’d highly recommend this. The author has announced the release of its sequel next year which is quite exciting!

Buy yourself a copy here.

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The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri [Book Review]

Final Lowland cover.inddTitle : The Lowland

Author : Jhumpa Lahiri

ISBN : 9780307265746

Publisher : Knopf

Genre : Contemporary fiction

Pages : 340

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

Decades of lives of the people who are linked to each other in a unique way, a guilt that binds all of them, which ends by giving no notion to the readers. An amazing journey that embarks from the beginning of a new life to the end, a beginning of a second life deeming for the end of it, amazingly written by Jhumpa Lahiri.

The story takes you to the places, alternatively, yet very precisely, that is left with the content of living, content of absolute solitude and a thirst to get up as the lives linked, that seems thinner than a membrane, move with a steady phase. The responsibilities that are taken, neglected by the creator for a better/worse reasons, ending with the deep longing of what was left, what could have been theirs and what would not have been specific, considering how misplaced and lost life was.

A steady journey of revolt for the better tomorrow that threatened to bury the present deep beneath the arcs of life, love towards the other brother, same yet very different, precise and yet deeply mortified for what they are, Marriage that is shared for better and worse that engulfs the lives that are surrounded that is affecting the generations yet to arrive and the promise that are promised to break, shattering the foundations of what could have been beautiful.

A novel, slow in pace, that does not make you laugh and yet make you close it, stare at the wall for a minute and go on with where it was left, only to realize, it was never really the end.

Buy yourself a copy here.

Reviewed by Pavan Kumar B C

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