Interview – Mainak Dhar – Author of Alice in Deadland, Zombiestan, Herogiri & others

I have read a couple of Mainak Dhar’s books and his books have always satisfied me as a reader. He knows what he is writing and his books have always been innovative in their own way. I thought of interviewing him when I read a self help book by him named “The Cubicle Manifesto” but never really got a chance. I recently read Alice In Deadland which is a young adult fiction and got in touch with him through twitter and that’s how this interview happened. Read on.

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Me – 12 Books, different genres and almost all of them have been received very well by readers and critics. How does it feel ?

Mainak – Ever since my childhood, I dreamt of being a writer, so it’s very gratifying to see my dream come alive. My first ‘publication’ was in Class 7 when I stapled together poems and Maths solutions and sold them to my classmates. That was perhaps when my dream of becoming a writer took concrete shape, and the thrill of seeing my work reach readers is as fresh and as exciting today as it was then.

Me – I personally loved The Cubicle Manifesto, what inspired you to write it? 

Mainak – I lead a dual life- of a corporate cubicle dweller by day and a writer by night. In all my years of working, I’ve seen some people deal well with the stresses of work and managing a balance in their life and others crumble under the pressure. The Cubicle Manifesto was my way of giving something back to my fellow cubicle dwellers in terms of taking all I’ve learnt over the years in managing that balance and wrapping it into an easy to read fable.

Me – How did Herogiri happen? Also, what was your reaction when Rhea Kapoor approached you for the movie?

Mainak – I was first contacted by an agent representing them for the book, and after a while, a formal declaration of interest was made to my publishers to turn Herogiri into a movie. It was tremendously exciting when the first contact was made, then as I learnt, contract details and negotiations took a pretty long while, but as they say all’s well that ends well.

Me – Your father was a prolific author, what was his reaction when you first told him that you are writing a book?

Mainak – Actually my father learnt I was writing a book when I showed him a copy of it! This was back in college, and I had written a book on Economic History. I tended to confide more in my Mother so she knew all about it and actually went with me to meet publishers, but my Father was oblivious till I showed up with a copy. He had been a student of Literature in college himself and started life as a journalist, but then lost that love of writing in his many years of working a government job. When he retired, we chatted about it and he expressed an interest to start writing again- as he said, “My son’s published, maybe I should give it a try”. And he did so in an amazing way, producing many bestsellers and really making a mark in the time he had.

Me – Alice in Deadland, we all have the blurb, anything else that you would like to tell people about the book?

Mainak – It’s a book set fifteen years after the world has been laid to waste by what has come to be known as The Rising. The few human survivors live in settlements in the desolate area outside Delhi now called the Deadland, in constant dread of undead Biters. Alice is a young girl who one day follows a bunny-eared Biter down a hole, triggering off an adventure that reveals to her the true nature of what destroyed the world. It is a tale of adventure but also a tale that mirrors what the true meaning of freedom is and how sometimes the greatest threats to our freedom can come from those whom we expect to guard it.

Me -One book every year, how do you manage to do that?

Mainak – There is a practical answer and a philosophical one. The practical answer is that, as with any other passion or profession, you have to make the time and be disciplined about it. So I create time around the other things in my life. I run for an hour every morning and that’s when I get my plotting done and I write for about 45 minutes each night. Doesn’t sound like much, but if you do it every day, you can get the first draft of a novel in less then six months. The philosophical answer is that I truly try and live life to the full each and every day because having lost both my parents within the last ten years, I know how fickle life can be. So I’ve stopped procrastinating- lots of people say they will follow their dreams ‘later on’ or when ‘they have more time’. I try and do it every single day since I know from personal experience that there may be no tomorrow.

Me -Who is Mainak Dhar? What does he do when he is not at his workstation and writing ?

Mainak – First and foremost, I am a husband and a father. My family is what matters the most, so when I’m not at work or writing, chances are that you’ll find me with my wife and son.

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Me – Was it a smooth transition from writing books on economics, brand management, self-help, fiction and now young adult fiction?

Mainak – There’s a quote by Toni Morrison which says, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”. That’s what I try and do- write what comes from the heart and what I have passion for. When you’re doing what you enjoy, everything’s smooth.

Me – How tough was it to get your first book published?

Mainak – Very tough. I went through the school of hard knocks with more than fifty rejections for my first novel, The Funda of Mix-ology. That it went on to become a national Bestseller taught me an important lesson- never get bogged down by others’ opinions and judgments. If you believe in yourself and keep at it, you will succeed.

Me – Any advice for budding authors and people who wish to write a book?

Mainak – Writing a book requires not just creativity, but the discipline to see it through. So if you want to write, be ready to commit to that discipline and hard work. Also, you need a very thick skin and doggedness to keep going because you will inevitably face rejection and setbacks. I don’t mean to dissuade you, but just go in with eyes wide open. Building a writing career is not just about having a cool idea and dreaming of writing a book. Converting that to reality is hard work, and you need to make a conscious effort to make writing an important part of your life and routine.

Me – What next after Alice in Deadland?

Mainak – The Alice in Deadland series is continuing. There are four books in it already ready, and after the release of Alice in Deadland in India this month, the others will follow in the months to come. Am going to start work on another book in the series soon, so Alice’s tale is far from being told.

So this was Mainak Dhar at his best. Read my reviews of his books that I have written here on this blog Herogiri , The Cubicle Manifesto , Alice in Deadland

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