I’d love to write a “spiritual science fiction”: Srini Chandra
Marketing professional and author of a book that is Spiritual Fiction! That is Srini Chandra for you, who wrote a book that I love to call crash course in life discourse. But if you happen to read Srini on Twitter most of the times you don’t get a philosophical discourse, you mostly are rolling out of your chair. While we await the release of his next book Instant Karma, Srini talks about his journey of being an author (though he is not ready to call himself one)
inKonversation with the man who seems to be going the Indian Paulo Coelho way:
Thank you, Reshmy! 3 Lives has done modestly well and has exceeded my expectations. Honestly, I never imagined that the journey would come this far. I’m exhilarated and humbled simultaneously by the (largely) positive reception it has got. Many thanks for your wonderful review!
Spirituality plus humor is not as strange a combo as one might think. If you think about it, the two kind of go in hand in hand. Part of letting go is to be able to not take oneself too seriously and to be able to laugh at oneself and with the world. Someone once said that humor may be the only way to find those wrongs, which are truly worth committing! The world of humor is one in which there is no belief so revered that it cannot be satirized and no cow so sacred that it cannot be parodied. Spirituality and humor are two overlapping spectrums at which I prefer to reside as I watch life go by.
How did this journey with penning words begin for you?
To be perfectly honest, there was never a point in my life when I wanted to be an author. I’ve always loved to read. I’ve been in love with books since I was five years old. I’ve enjoyed writing too, which is not the same as entertaining notions of being an author. Writing is such an act of honesty! It’s cathartic. All the writing I’ve done before authoring 3 Lives were essentially letters, emails and a handful of short stories. So, I can claim neither expertise nor passion when it comes to authoring books.
Writing 3 Lives was not planned. It was a culmination of thoughts rolling around in my head in the months preceding the act of starting to write the book. I continue to be amazed at how and why this happened. There were no warning signs unfortunately for those around me at that time that this was about to happen ☺. I took a couple of weeks off in December 2010, combined it with the Christmas break and started writing. I finished the book in about 25 days. Then, I spent a few months honing, shaping and trimming it down to what it is today.
Sometimes, the most amazing things happen when you don’t have an agenda or a vested interest and do something for the sheer enjoyment of it. Maybe that’s what happened here.
3 Lives is self-published. Is it the often-heard struggler’s tale about manuscripts and publishers or you chose it this way?
The self-publishing journey has been an interesting one. For starters, I had not planned on publishing the book. I’ve never really fancied myself as an author. As I said, I have neither the credentials nor the experience. To me, an author is an Oscar Wilde or a PG Wodehouse or a great like them. To attempt to include myself in that bracket seemed (and seems) such a sacrilege. I first shared the book with a small group of family members and close friends. Their reaction went from being (suspiciously ☺) positive to a chorus of wanting to see it published.
At first, I resisted and then after a while, I succumbed to the temptation. I approached three big names in the publishing business. Two politely turned me down for the reason that it “didn’t fit their portfolio.” At some level, this was perfectly understandable to me; almost expected. I don’t recall feeling a sense of rejection. I do recall being disappointed though. The third publisher engaged, but with a fair amount of reluctance. In short, none of them jumped out of the chair to publish the book. But, they were all very nice. And, they had cogent reasons. The feedback was, in short, “You write well. But this subject won’t sell.”
That’s when I published it on Amazon Kindle store. Why? Because anyone can publish a book on Amazon! Fortunately, a couple of top Amazon reviewers picked it up and wrote glowing 5-star reviews. One thing led to another and the book picked up momentum and was downloaded 10K+ times in the first nine months, which, frankly, is stunning when you think about it. No marketing. Just sheer word of mouth.
And then came the second of the major strokes of fortune in this journey. I ran into a colleague at work, who had read the book on Kindle. He had self-published half a dozen (technical) books and is now a successful publisher and author rolled into one. He offered to get 3 Lives in print and on Flipkart. And that’s how it happened.
Tell us about the journey from getting the manuscript from your laptop to a hard copy book.
Honestly, I’m not an expert on this. But, here’s how it happened. There was one reader who gave me a 1-star review on Amazon for ‘poor editing’. So I sent the manuscript to Jill Gile, an editor in the US, for proofing. Then, I ran serendipitously into Jurgen Heiss, a creative designer, and he began work on the cover which you’ve rightly described as amazing. Once you get past these two stages – proofing/editing and designing a cover – the rest is about engaging with a printer, getting sample copies, iterating and then printing the first lot, and finally getting the book listed on Flipkart. Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. But, it’s a lot easier than people might think it is.
After spiritual fiction, which was partly philosophy, self-help, and fiction, what are the genres you want to write in?
I’m constantly fascinated by the worlds that lie at the intersection of science and spirituality. I’d love to write a “spiritual science fiction” book, which plays off the tension that exists between science and philosophy. I’m fascinated by what makes us human and intrigued by our notions of concepts like happiness, death, time and love. I would like to create something that is clever (but is not about being clever) and honest. Something that will make the reader wonder about notions she’s always held dear. A work that will either leave the reader with awe for the world around her or something that will make her laugh at it. I don’t know what I should call this genre.
What’s next on the literary front?
I have a collection of short stories, called “Instant Karma” coming out in print by December 2012. It’s already on Kindle store here. You can read more about it here. I have a third “Past Imperfect,” which is nearly done. This one falls into the category of ‘paranormal thriller’! I’ve got half a dozen great concepts cooking in my head, each of which I’m sure is a blockbuster! ☺ I do not know when I can finish these. But I sure do know what I plan to do, when I decide to hang up my corporate boots.
Your words of wisdom for newbie writers especially who want to take the self-published route.
I am hardly qualified to provide advice, but that’s never stopped me in the past ☺ So, here goes. My advice to new writers simply this: Be passionate about your writing. Write only about what feels authentic to you as a writer. Don’t follow fads or readers. Where there is passion and authenticity, good things tend to follow.