He is the writer on a mission; a frenzied mission. He is the official record holder of the fastest published Indian and looks nowhere in a mood to slow down. We get inKonversation with Joygopal Podder as he gets ready with his 13th novel Goddess. An inspiration and role model to writers all over with his body of work, he talks about writing passion, managing it so quick and getting back to his love at age 50. Read on:
You have often been called ‘The Marathon Writer’, what according to you will be a milestone feat?
In writing, quality comes first. An author should not write to break records; I do not. The records have just happened because of the fast pace of my writing, which is not a deliberate strategy. I love writing and storytelling; I have a passion for it. So the output is fast.
Milestones are already established; I am the fastest published author in India today, for two consecutive years (according to the Limca Book of Records). I also would like to be known as the highest selling author, which will take a lot more hard work and some more years, perhaps.
The maximum number of books written by a writer in one year is 52, as per the Guinness Book of World Records. I may get there – and cross it – one of these years!
You write a book in the time most authors conceive their stories in. How does the planning-writing phase work out for you?
While I am writing one book, the seeds of the next have already been planted in my mind. For example, in my next release “Goddess”, which would hit bookstores in mid-February and which is about film actresses, I have touched upon infidelity as one of the sub-plots. It struck me that I may also like to devote a book on the tensions a woman goes through when she knows that her husband has discovered her affair but is behaving as if he hasn’t. That’s now one of the themes of the book I am presently writing, which I have called “Desperate Lives”.
Novel writing happened to you at 50 but you and writing go back a long way. Tell us about the story of the beginning and re-ignition.
I came to writing at age 7, in London, where I was born and spent my childhood. My first published story was at age 12 in a children’s magazine in Delhi. I was a freelance writer during my school and college days.
Then I earned a gold medal in Law, got offers from multinationals, joined Brooke Bond and then Godrej, and a management career took over. Writing took a backseat. Bills had to be paid, cars had to be bought, and a house had to be built…
When I was 48 years, my wife nearly died of blood poisoning and I went through a financial crisis. My wife survived – but lost her kidneys. I saved my house – but with great difficulty. The unpredictability of life made me want to fight back – and leave a legacy of some sort. I decided to go back to my first great passion, writing. I floated a few blogs, and began to struggle to start a book.
I was struggling for many months to find a story. I first thought of writing teenage detective fiction on the lines of a popular series I used to write for ‘Target’ magazine three decades ago. Then I went for an office conference in Austria and discovered that my professional world was full stories of struggle and triumph and human drama. So I based my first book on the NGO sector, where I have been a Director for 12 years. I love reading thrillers and crime fiction, so that’s the genre I chose. What emerged was a thriller featuring a social sector activist.
My next novel delved into my earlier experiences in the corporate sector. I developed a story involving criminal activities which get tangled up with a corporate takeover battle and billionaire family intrigues. The fourth book involved a serial killer, and this had nothing to do with any kind of personal experience from my life. I let my imagination run riot, but grounded my story in familiar geographical territory, namely Gurgaon, where I have my home.
I have authored fourteen novels in two years; so the plots span a wide terrain. Bollywood and its stars and directors and producers provide interesting characters and plotlines for many of my books. Some of my novels are police procedural, others are devoted to human drama.
I will explore historical drama and humour novels at a later date.
When one writes at a pace that you do, don’t stories float around in the head all the time? How do you cope with the other things in your life, especially a full time job?
To take the second question first, the secret lies in the ability to compartmentalize. We all do this, with different levels of efficiency, in our daily lives, but don’t realize this. The focus should be on task orientation; do one task at a time, personal or official, work or hobby, with family or friends, without thinking of anything else, and do it well.
Stories do not float around my head all the time, but real life experiences are filed away for later use. Also, newspapers and magazines provide constant source material for storylines.
Today you have multiple publishers but how was the journey of the first manuscript to the first publisher?
The publishing industry is very tough for newcomers, but then so is the music industry, the film industry….I could go on and on.
The first novel I wrote was also the first book of mine that was published. The struggle for me was short, but it was intense. I went to bookshops and copied down the e-mail addresses or websites of various publishers from the book jackets. I did research on the internet for more publisher details. I then sent the manuscript to 14 publishers. The spate of rejections did not deter me; I focused on writing my second novel. The 14th publisher I approached thru’ e-mail accepted my first manuscript within 3 weeks.
With so much writing coming out of your pen/ laptop do you get time to read? Tell us about your latest favorite book?
I read authors, not books. Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham, Arthur Hailey, P G Wodehouse, are amongst my favourites.
I do, of course, prefer to read crime fiction and thrillers as a genre. Amongst the classics, I favour the detectives Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. From contemporary crime fiction I would choose characters like Jack Reacher, Peter Decker and Harry Bosch. There are no favourite murders or crime scene descriptions, though I remember a striking sentence from an Agatha Christie book: “You would never have imagined that such a frail man had so much blood in him!” This sentence held the clue to the eventual solution of the crime mystery.
My latest favourite book is “Mary Mary” by James Patterson.
What is your biggest aspiration as a writer?
Not given much thought to this. However, since you’re asking, I’d like to spearhead the crime fiction genre into popular and mass readership, and also inspire many younger authors in India to take up writing mystery novels and thrillers.
Your most preferred genre to write so far has been crime thriller; if you had to recommend a book from the genre barring yours what would that be?
Amongst contemporary crime fiction writers, Lee Child (actual name Jim Grant) is a great favourite, for his gritty descriptions and racy style. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series is another favourite.
When you started writing at 50, how did family & friends take to it?
Firstly with disbelief, which changed in a few days and weeks to full-fledged support. My wife and daughters found time to read my under-development manuscripts and added suggestions and views for improvement. Now, they can’t keep pace!
What’s next, from the Limca Book record holder marathon author, on the literary scene?
What next? More books and more records. I would like to try my hand at historical fiction and also humour. What drives me is the positive feedback I get from my readers. As long as they love what I write, I will keep on giving them my books!
I hope, of course, to become better known as an author, as the years go by, and perhaps see some of my books come alive on the silver screen.
Your words of wisdom for newbie writers
Read and read and read. Then write and write and write. There are no short-cuts to writing success. And write so that you are remembered for generations – not forgotten in six months.