Chillibreeze Interview with Joygopal Podder
Joygopal Podder, a gold medallist in law and Director - Fundraising of International NGO ActionAid, has published 11 books in 22 months. He finds an entry, for two consecutive years, in the Limca Book of Records as the fastest published Indian author of crime novels.
1. Can you tell us about the record you hold for writing novels? 11 books in 2 years! How did that come to be?
When I started writing my first novel two years ago at the age of 50, I had no ambition to break any record.
What did happen was that I re-discovered my childhood passion for writing stories and I realised that this is what my calling in life was. So I resolved that, for everyday for the rest of my life, whether I was at home or travelling, whether it was a weekday or a work day, I would make sure to write around a thousand words a day. It is this frenzied pace which has led to 11 books from my pen, all published, as you have rightly mentioned, within two years.
Book covers of novels by Joygopal Podder
Writing (especially in the evenings) has now become a daily stress-buster. It relaxes me.
I also firmly believe that writing is like playing a musical instrument; the more you do it, the better you get at it.
In my first year as an author, itself, I found an entry in the Limca Book of Records as the fastest published author of crime novels in India, with 5 books in 9 months. I am slated to continue as a record maker in the next edition of the Limca Book with 10 crime fiction novels in 21 months. Only one of my books so far is non-fiction.
My 11th book, Merchants of Dreams, has just been released. The twelfth, titled Vanished, is due for release by the end of the year. The thirteenth, titled Goddess, is complete. This novel is loosely based on the life stories of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, in an Indian setting.
I am writing my 14th book Dynasty. In this novel, the family members of a hotel tycoon are being stalked, attacked and warned, but nobody knows why...
How did all this writing suddenly happen? Well, I must thank my parents for encouraging this passion when I was very young. My parents encouraged me to spend a sizeable part of my free time in libraries, as a child in London and later in Delhi. My mother would collect my notebooks in which I had penned my childhood writings and show them to relatives and neighbours in London, where I was born. When we came to India and settled in Delhi after a brief sojourn in Kolkata, I was only eight years old, and at that age my father gifted me Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’ and a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. Is it surprising I became an author?
I used to write stories and articles for newspapers and magazines while in school and college, and I earned quite a bit of money while still studying full time. I won a gold medal while pursuing a law degree and this opened up many corporate doors for me. That’s when a management career took over and writing stopped.
After 17 years in the corporate sector, I shifted to the social sector, as a fundraising specialist. I am now working in my third NGO, ActionAid, as a Director, and my twelve years in the social sector have been the most satisfying of my life.
I always wanted to return to writing. My wife and daughters encouraged me to write again after meeting Delhi school children who had read some of my older stories in their English text books. I began some blogs in my mid-forties but kept prolonging the decision to author a book. My NGO jobs were also quite demanding and left me with very little time.
Then my wife almost died of blood poisoning. She recovered after a very big scare and a long stay in the ICU, but she lost her kidneys. For the last four years, she has to be hooked up to a dialysis machine in a hospital for four hours a day three times a week to stay alive. All this taught me how fragile and unpredictable life is. I realised that one should not defer fulfilling one’s passion to a later date since that day may never come.
So I struggled to find a story to begin my first book. I found it during a fundraising conference in Austria, when I was made to remember that the social sector itself is so full of stories of tragedy, triumph and human drama. I returned to India and started writing my first book Deceivers two weeks before my fiftieth birthday. I have not stopped writing for a day ever since.
My inspiration comes from life itself. The world around us is filled with interesting and valuable stories, if only we can develop the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
I write the kind of books I like to read.
My genre is drama, crime, mystery and thriller. Several of my novels are also set in the Indian film industry. Geographically, my novels are located in familiar territory for Indian readers: Indian cities and Indian milieus. The events unravel in the streets of Delhi, in the gardens of Bangalore, in the malls of Gurgaon and in the film studios of Mumbai. Resorts like Mussoorie, Goa and Ali Bagh are not just holiday destinations in my books but locations for action, drama and plot twists.
My readers write to me with very positive comments about my books. This inspires me to author more books. My fans like my racy style and my simple language (though I sometimes use metaphors and get into an occasional descriptive mode). My publishers are now encouraging me to author books at a rapid pace, although it was not always the case.
4. Considering your pace, would you like to give any advice to people who suffer from writer’s block?
Look around you. Read newspapers in detail. Imagine the life stories of people you meet.
Do it (writing) only if you love it. Everything else will follow.
An author is a storyteller first and foremost. You become an author because you can construct and then tell a proper story in an interesting way. Language is a tool to take the story forward – not for building roadblocks. So I write simply and with a racy style. If I use metaphors and difficult words, which I do not do often, it is only because I feel that the setting of a particular scene and the atmosphere will be better accentuated by this.
6. You have also written a non-fiction book. Considering that this is the only one, was it difficult to convince publishers that you could write non-fiction as well?
No, it was not difficult. In fact, that particular publisher feels that I have a great future in non-fiction as well. But my present inclination is towards fiction – and later for historical novels. Non-fiction can wait. This particular book was an offshoot of a popular blog that I maintain on exotic and unbelievable real life stories. This book was just waiting to happen.
7. You are working as a fund-raiser for an NGO. Would you like to tell us more about your job?
As Director- Fundraising of three NGOs in twelve years I have directly enabled hundreds of young Indians (by providing opportunity, by imparting skills and by giving guidance) to build a career by raising funds to improve lives of poor and desperate people, instead of taking up ordinary commercial jobs. The sense of satisfaction this gives me is a shade higher than even my record as India’s marathon author.
There has been a sea-change in the mindsets of Indians towards ‘organised social work’ and charitable giving in the past decade. When I entered the social sector, it was difficult to raise funds; Indians would rather donate for religious purposes to satisfy their need to do some good. Our earlier efforts in marketing social causes are now paying dividends: people now understand the need to contribute to help improve the lives of those less fortunate and they appreciate the work of social organisations. Proper communication of your work on the ground is the key here, in order to raise funds and more importantly in order to retain donors.
8. What are your plans for the future?
My ambition is to establish a public library, in the name of my parents, populated with at least a hundred thousand books; a library which will be freely accessible by all.
I also want to write a hundred books. I’m now on my 14th...
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