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Confessions with Author Ayan Pal

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Ayan thank you for agreeing to this interview, First of all congratulations, your debut novel is a best seller and gaining accolades from all over, how does this feel? Did you anticipate this success?

While I obviously wanted the book to be successful, I did not anticipate the level of positivity it has gained in just 7 months. With over 60 reviews on Amazon, 50 ratings on Goodreads, with an average rating of 4.9, ‘Confessions on an Island’ has already turned into a critically acclaimed bestseller. It is also the highest rated novel of its genre over the past few years. It has already been picked up by a major Hindi daily as the best book of 2016, across languages. I hope it can reach greater heights and become a national bestseller in the future!

Why did you chose to write your first book on such a theme? Authors always play safe with their debut, why did you decide to take this risk?

I believe in innovation and thinking out of the box, and wanted to simply be me when it came to my debut. I feel being safe is boring, hence I came forward with this rather unusual mix, which, based on the kind of books successful in India so far, was also a risk in many ways that might have brought an end to my fledgling career. But my instincts it seem were right, as was my faith in the readers. I would hence like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them, who has helped me reach where I am today. Thanks for accepting the story, and the unusual presentation, and through its success, Author Ayan Pal as well!

Okay now a fun question, if your book ever gets made into a movie, who would you like to play the characters?

While I have answered that question from a purely Bollywood perspective before, I feel this could also be an international project. If so, I would love to see Amitabh Bacchan, Irfan Khan, or Scarlet Johansson play the island. For the male lead, the abductor, Shahid Kapoor, Fawad Khan, or Dev Patel would be an excellent casting, provided they can get over their inhibitions to perform the bold scenes. For the feisty female lead, a bestselling author trapped on an Island, Radhika Apte, Alia Bhatt, or Priyanka Chopra would be perfect, I feel.

There are multiple short stories embedded into the main story, how did that idea evolve?

This ‘novel’ conceptualization of the novel arose from a need to tie up several co-incidental incidents of my life, as well as some short stories I had already written in the past. I had by then already contributed to India’s first composite novel, the ‘Limca Book of Records’ recipient ‘Crossed and Knotted’ and wanted to take things a step further. I hence decided to intersperse the main narrative (the odd chapters) with the short stories they tell each other (in the even chapters). The stories are a combination of fact and fiction, and is in the deciphering of which is which, and the way they are connected (if at all) that brings an unusual flavour to the novel, while also helping portions of it to exist by itself as a short story.

A book goes through multiple layers of editing, how easy or hard was that process?

I have often had issues with developmental editing and proofreading. But not this time! The presence of Indrani Ganguly as an Editor was the best thing that could have happened to either me or the book. Indrani’s belief in me as a storyteller helped me tremendously in telling it the way I wanted to. Her prowess as an Editor helped me turn the book into the best possible example it could have been. I am immensely grateful to Dipankar Mukherjee for assigning her to me for my debut. Having already signed up with Readomania before, but for a different novel, and having faced the brunt of a clash of ideologies with the Editor, this was a welcome relief indeed!

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Ayan with his editor Indrani Ganguly, at the Kolkata launch of Mock Stock and Quarrel. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers on marketing their book successfully?

I feel when it comes to marketing, less is more. Especially if it’s a thriller, like ‘Confessions on an Island’. Instead of sharing snippets that might give away the story unwittingly, it’s better to get the book reviewed and highlight reactions to the book instead.

What would you say makes your book unputdownable?

A combination of sex, sense, and shock with (mostly) pitch perfect pace, unusual storytelling, and emotional depth.

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Kolkata Launch of Confessions On An Island.

What was your childhood like? How would you say it reflects on your personality and writing?

My childhood was full of fun and learning, and the way I was raised – in a matriarchal joint family along with my grandmother and aunts, had a major role to play in me becoming the kind of person I am. Their influence on my life has gone a long way in the way women are portrayed in my stories, or for that matter, the way I react to women in general which includes my fiercely independent yet incredibly patient wife – Ankana. Even though I am naturally headstrong, I have come to easily accept her dominance and can safely vouch for the fact that she is the best partner I could have ever asked for (see what I just did?) I absolutely enjoy being guided by her in the areas where she is without a doubt way ahead of me, for example the way I handle my finances. I also do not mind being chided by her every time I make a mistake, to which there seems to be no end to! And now, with the birth of my darling daughter – Aadwrita, I guess my learning days are back again! Staying with four generations of strong, intelligent and highly opinionated women may seem daunting, but is actually a blessing in disguise. I am indeed lucky to have them rule my head, hearth, and heart!

One Liners….

  • Favourite food: Any well-made Indo Chinese dish
  • First Crush: Sushmita Sen (she remains one even now!)
  • One embarrassing moment: None since adulthood (the ones as a child cannot be shared). I am a bit too shameless to be embarrassed apparently!
  • One regret: Not being there by my mother when she passed away. I was caught up in a meeting at work, and by the time I reached home, it was already too late.
  • A truth about you that we don’t know: I have a natural flair for dancing and bake excellent Pizzas!
  • A rumour about you that you wish was true: That I make a LOT of money.

Taking cue from the one liners, let me ask you this one, you seem to have been very close to your mother, and losing her must have been devastating, would you like to tell us something about her and how she influenced you to become the amazing person that you are today.

My mother has always been an inspiration for me. Be it her education (she was a double MA, BEd and spoke and taught French and German), her choice of career (she ran her own NGO – Socio Aid, and an Exports and Imports Business), or the way she perfectly balanced her home, profession, and passions (reading, cooking, singing, and devouring movies or TV shows), I was always an admirer. Though at one point of time I absolutely loathed studying Engineering because of her, I gradually came to realize that everything she did for me and her family came from a sense of wanting what she felt was best for us. With time she came to understand the need for me to flourish as a writer and stood by me in my various attempts to finish my manuscripts and get published. I wish she was here today to see what I have done, and am doing. But then, probably my being where I am right now, is also because of her. Not just because of everything she taught me when she was alive, but also post her death, due to her continuous presence in my thoughts, and as a guardian angel in my life. I hope I can continue to write and inspire others in a way that makes her proud of me, irrespective of where she might be right now.

Finally, tell us about what is next for Confessions on an Island where is this journey taking you?

I am currently researching material to be used for the sequel to ‘Confessions on an Island’, Book 2 of the ‘Trapped’ trilogy. I know what the books will be called, and the outline of their stories. I hope to write them in a way that makes them unforgettable, and am currently preparing for the patience, perseverance, and passion that is essential to bring them successfully to life.

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At IIM Kashipur

Thank you so much for your wonderful and witty replies Ayan, I throughly enjoyed this round of conversation and confessions! Wishing your book a bigger success in the future.

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You can read my review of the book hereReview of Confessions On An Island

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Author Bio: Ayan Pal is an alumni of St Joseph’s College, Kolkata. He completed his Engineering in Electronics and Communication from Dr. AIT, Bangalore and obtained a degree in Education

Technology from SDSU, California. He has since accumulated over a decade of experience in the IT Industry across CISCO, Wipro, and IBM.

Ayan is an author known for his acclaimed short stories in the Amazon Bestsellers ‘Chronicles of Urban Nomads’, ‘21 Tales to Tell’, ‘When They Spoke’, and India’s first composite novel – ‘Crossed and Knotted’ – which garnered him an entry into the ‘Limca Book of Records’ under Literature. He has also contributed to ‘Upper Cut’, ‘Her Story’, ‘Rudraksha’, ‘Arranged To Love’, ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and ‘Long Story Short’ respectively. He is a columnist at Delhi-NCR based lifestyle magazine ‘ThnkMkt’ and blogger at South Asia’s leading literary magazine ‘Open Road Review’. He is passionate about public speaking & leadership and involved with Toasmasters International. He loves reading, listening to music, and binge watching his favorite TV Shows. ‘Confessions on an island’ is his debut novel.

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