Interview with Author Rishi Vohra

  1. What’s your latest book, ‘Diary of an Angry Young Man’ about?

Hello Aishwariya. Diary of an Angry Young Man is inspired by true events and the protagonist is based on a real person. The book is set in Bombay in 1992 and Mumbai in 2012, the latter around the time of the Nirbhaya incident, which had moved the nation to anger. Among these angry people is one ordinary angry young man whose anger and actions bring him under the radar of both the police and the beggar mafia. In addition, he has unemployment and a volatile home environment to contend with. Through his journey, we see how a disturbed childhood can lead to an unfocused and unstable adulthood. And how hope and clarity can come from the most unexpected of people and places. The genre of the book is Coming-of-Age/Crime/Drama.

2. What prompted you to write ‘Diary of an Angry Young Man’?

When I was a kid, there was one particular young man in the area close to where I lived, who had become a figure of childhood folklore of sorts and we knew him only by his nickname. He had achieved a high level of recognition, given the issues he stood up for and the scraps he got embroiled in. He seemed destined to go nowhere in life.

I visited the area years later as an adult, and was surprised to learn about how life had completely turned around for him and his current vocation. His unique journey revealed him to be an unreasonable and fearless man, and I admired his resilience and goodness of heart despite the cards that life had dealt him. I felt compelled to tell the surreal story of this angry young man.

3. When did you start working on this novel? How long did it take for you to finish writing it?

I started writing this novel in 2013, right after the Nirbhaya incident had shaken the country to its core. It started off as a short story and I finished it in a month or so. Yet, it felt incomplete as there was much more to this man’s journey and a short story wasn’t doing justice to it. I rewrote it as a full-length novel and kept working on it off and on and over the years to its final draft in 2021. So, to answer your question Aishwariya, it was written over eight years but the first full-length manuscript took around six months.

4. Could you tell us about your writing journey and the books you’ve written?

I started writing my first novel when I was pursuing my MBA in Sustainability at San Francisco State University. In my free time, I sat down to pen a screenplay (since I was a recent Bollywood export) but wrote a book instead. I had no intention or even knowledge of publishing but thoroughly enjoyed the process. A friend read my draft and encouraged me to publish it. The book was Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai and was awarded a special mention at the Hollywood Book Festival and longlisted for the 2013 Crossword Book Awards, which encouraged me to write further. Two novels followed – HiFi in Bollywood and I am M-M-Mumbai. Diary of an Angry Young Man is my fourth novel.

In addition, my short story, The Mysterious Couple, was featured in Sudha Murty’s anthology – Something Happened on the Way to Heaven and another short story, Kaala Baba, in Neil D’Silva’s urban horror anthology – City of Screams. My other short stories include The Saas-Bahu Conflict which was published in the HBB Horror Microfiction Anthology and In Your Eyes in Tell me Your Story’s LGBTQ anthology Pride, Not Prejudice : Decriminalising Love.

5.Your earlier books were Mumbai-centric. How have they been received?

Even though the books were Mumbai-centric, they were well-received my readers all over. The books are set in Mumbai because that’s the place where the stories come from, since I grew up there, but the emotions and conflicts in the books are universal. I try to make Mumbai a character my books so that the setting doesn’t seem alien to readers who don’t know much about the city.

6. Do you have lessons to share from your own writing journey?

Writing is a very solitary and challenging journey that can alienate one from the things and people that matter. One has to learn to switch off and on from one’s book.

Also, it helps to keep making notes and have some clarity before commencing the writing journey rather than putting pen to paper and seeing where it goes. The stories somehow come out better.

7. You’ve written short stories and novels. What different techniques do you apply for both?

Both are enjoyable experiences and require courage before I commit myself to writing them. But for short stories, I need to have full clarity on every part of the story and character as the length is short and any new addition while writing could throw me off course. With novels, there is room to move things around, bring in new characters, twists etc. as I have enough length to do justice to them. So, with novels, I have more freedom to be spontaneous with some aspects as long as the beginning, end and certain essential elements are in place.

8. What do you think are the qualities essential for a good writer?

Passion, diligence, patience and discipline. Above all, reading helps make one a better writer.

9. Could you name some of your favorite books?

I have favorite authors rather than favorite books. My genre of choice is crime fiction and my favorite authors are mostly from Europe who write crime fiction series in their own languages which are translated into English. I can’t think of any book that I have read more than once.

10. Which books on writing would you recommend to aspiring writers?

For fiction, Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk. Of course, there are many more. For aspiring writers, the best way to develop your writing style and instincts is by reading EVERYTHING, with a focus on the genre in which you want to write in.

Published by Aishwariya Laxmi

I'm Aishwariya. I'm passionate about writing, marketing communications, books, blogging and editing. I've donned several hats, such as copywriter, blogger, copy-editor, journalist, and editor.

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