At a nice little restaurant in Tollygunge, I was waiting for Rajarshi Motilal, a young and talented new author whose debut novel “And then she said yes!” had been creating some buzz in the town. A few minutes later a shy, polite Rajarshi joins me at the table and we started talking. From the beginning, he had an easy and comfortable air about him and conversation flowed freely. Gradually I noticed that I was engaged in some fantastic, incisive, frequently hilarious discussion and realized that this man is going places and will definitely create a name for himself. So here’s my candid conversation with Rajarshi…
Congratulations for an amazing portrayal of ‘And then she said yes!’ Tell us about the book and the background of it…
Thank you so much. Well, the book is all about friendship, love and growing up. It is a journey of a young man Ayushman Bose from his early school days till mid-twenties. And during this journey, there’s a lot of thing happening to him, similar to what happens to all of us in our childhood, adolescence and youth. Like, you and I, even Ayush had his school life crush, like us, even he has a best friend, like us, he is extremely aspiring and ambitious, like us he falls in love as well and like a lot of people he gets dumped. But that does not complete the circle for Ayush. In this circumference of life, he comes across some of the greatest women of his time – they are beautiful, rebellious and time changing. Together, they create a story which changes the lives of Ayushman Bose and every single character of the novel.
What kind of feedback have you been receiving…
Honestly, being a debutant author, the movement is slightly slow. People take time to convince themselves to buy a book of a first time author. But once they do, they either love you or simply thrash you in and out (you will know if you read the feedback posted in the ecommerce sites). Touchwood, for me, I am on the other side. My friends and family will of course say that the book is amazing and they have never read anything like this before.But the kind of feedback, though less, posted on the ecommerce platforms and on Goodreads are pretty fascinating. People are taking all the effort to analyze the characters, their high and low points, they are talking about my style of writing and poetry and so on. So yeah, overall the feedback is nice.
Being a debutant author, did you face any kind of difficulty with publishing the book? Please tell us your experience with the Publishing industry. How would you rate Leadstart publishers?
It was Extremely difficult. I mean extremely with a capital E. See, when you send your manuscript to the publishing houses, they JUST don’t consider you unless you have some great content or a thick wallet (I am talking about the Self-Publishing mode here). That’s one. Secondly, let’s say if you are on the “great content” side of the publishing game, the wait is long. Really long. Because there are others too in the queue with their great content. For me it was almost 4 years. Considering the competition in the current scenario and the number of books published on a daily basis, it’s really hard for the publishing houses too to get you a place in the shelf. During my childhood, we used to wait and look forward to Christmas or New Year for a great book to be released. Now, it happens daily. So you understand the pressure here.
My experience with Leadstart was pretty good, especially for the agent who was managing my novel. However, I expected a little more from the editorial team. But that’s okay, you are a debutant and you don’t have much say (hehe). I’d rate Leadstart 6.5 on 10 may be.
Is this story based on your personal encounter? Or to say, is the protagonist inspired by real life Rajarshi? What made you write this particular story?
Are you mad? I am not even a quarter of what Ayushman is. Speaking to girls freaked me out, always. Even today I freak out. I feel paranoid and scared as hell going up and talking to a girl. Ayushman is a lady-charmer and I am a repellant. He has a larger than life way of living. I am simple, extremely simple and ordinary. He is constantly in search of new adventure and meaning of life. Well, though I can slightly relate this to myself, but the speed he moves, he will take a round of the universe and I will still stand still, preparing myself at the starting line. So yeah, no, Ayushman has nothing which is a portrayal of my life or my personal encounters. He is unique, courageous and exceptional, unlike a lot of us.
What kind of support are you getting?
I feel great to know a lot of people now. The number of friends I have on my Facebook friendlist spiked up to 1700 or more from 300. They email me, they ping me on messengers, they talk to me, ask me about my story, ask for suggestions and some of them also tell me that they have read my book and liked it. After this book got published, I have come across a lot of new people, likeminded people, they have engaged me in some of the amazing projects that they are doing. So the support, so far is phenomenal.
When did you decide to become a writer? What is your ambition for your writing career?
Honestly, I never took a decision to be a writer. See there are few things that you can do and you love to do and that’s what you do for the rest of your life. I feel, all I can do is writing and making up stories (from my early childhood) and I am just doing it. Yes, in course of time this book got published and you are doing my interview, but going back home all that I will do is read and write. So, I was always a writer. I became an author recently (smile).
Could you tell us something about your school and your college years? How did your parents and your college education influence you in shaping your attitudes and ambitions and in making career choices?
My parents have very very high influence on my knack for writing. My mother is a voracious reader and my father was a writer all his life. Being a member of the IPTA, he was associated with writing theatre screenplays from his young days. So, right from my birth I have grown up with scripts, stories on people movement and revolution. And thankfully, since we did not have mobile phones and tablets and play stations during my childhood, I
could spend enormous amount of time either reading or listening to bed time stories narrated by my mother and later flipping through the bundled scripts written by my father.
With my school and college, it was a mountainous change that I experienced. I am a student of Jodhpur Park Boys’ School and then Jadavpur University. If there’s something I am indebted to, it’s to the wonderful days of my school and university. My perspective towards life completely changed during my +2 and the 3 years of graduation from JU.
How much research do you do?
A lot. I promise you I do a lot of research and I take pride in that. Basically I love reading and enjoy fact finding which, in turn, might help me in building a story at some point. I might sound weird, but I have interest in almost everything. So I am equally eager to find out the label meaning of a wine bottle as I am interested to find out about the much celebrated Dream Theory of Sigmund Freud (laugh). Don’t think I just drink and dream (laugh).
How easy or difficult is writing according to you? What is the hardest thing about writing?
There’s a cliché, if you love doing something then it’s never difficult. Trust me this is so wrong. I find it extremely difficult to decide on a story, the narration style, the characters and the emotions attached. I break my head night after nights, I go cranky, I fight with my girlfriend and that’s all till the time I am happy with whatever I have written. So, writing is difficult to me but at the same time it is satisfying. It is even more difficult for the people around me who deals with me day in and day out (hehe)
What other books and authors do you like? Is there any single book which has particularly influenced you?
I am a diehard fan of Jhumpa Lahiri. I love Jeffrey Archer as well. I love reading period fictions, autobiographies and books on socio-political changes. Jhumpa Lahiri feeds me with almost all of these. I also enjoy reading Buddhadeb Guha and Sunil Gangopadhyay. Buddhadeb Guha made me an adult out of a teen.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
It’s a free world and we have our freedom of speech. I take the negative reviews very positively (I know how tough it is) and feel good about the positive ones. All these days even I used to write red and blue reviews on the platforms and got a sadistic pleasure. Now, it seems I am on the receiving end.
What is your opinion about the standard of Indian writing in English?
There are good writes, there are bad writers and there are good readers and bad readers. It is completely on the taste and preference of the writers and the readers. For example, personally, I don’t like reading Chetan Bhagat as I find his writing to be completely unrealistic, but he has the highest reader base in India. There must be something which keeps him and a lot of writers like him going. And when it comes to writing, the current trend is writing easy and simple format of English. Every writer is trying to increase their readership, so they are just writing plain and simple to reach out to the target audience. It’s a style and I think it’s okay. At least people will read more and more and that’s important.
Must be a great Deja Vu moment when you touch the cover of the book for the first time…
Oh hell yes! When I look at the cover, I can recall every day I have spent with the manuscript in the last four years. You give me a date and I can tell you what exactly happened on that day around my book.
Tell the readers about your future writing project?
My next book is one of the most ambitious project I am working on currently. It is completely based on solid research work. I don’t want to talk a lot about the book right now because I don’t know what to talk and say but it’s going to be a thriller, a psycho thriller.
Are you open to write in some different genres too? Experts say there is some risk in changing genre as writers may lose their fans, so are you up for that challenge?
I don’t care what experts say. The experts weren’t there in my days of struggle. To answer your question, I am completely open with experiments and that’s something I am already doing every month in my “A short story every month project”. I am coming up with diverse genres, storyline, writing style and concept every month. And trust me, the feedback is amazing. I have generated a very strong reader base of the short stories which I upload on my Facebook page every month. People say, they can relate to my stories and they wait for the next. Some of my readers have also emailed me a part of their life incidents to build a story around it.
Do you have anything to tell your readers..
Nothing specific. My readers were readers even before I was an author. They have more perspective than what I have. Just that I have a very high expectation from them. I don’t mind if they are criticizing me for my stories or praising me, I want them to keep reading good content and pass on the habit of reading to their next generation because I hate it when people say, “Reading is a dying art”.
Thank you Rajarshi. That is an interesting conversation we have had. I hope to meet you again for a great conversation soon. Wishing you all the best for you future works.
[Interview taken by Susmita Bose]And then she said Yes author author interview Book New Book Rajarshi Motilal Rajarshi Motilal interview