Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Interview : Prateek Dubey Author of The Disobedient Darkness

 In Conversation with Prateek Dubey

The title of your book is very interesting. Would you like to throw some light on how you finally reached on this? Was it suggested by someone after beta-reading or was it your own idea?

The title of the book was a little different when I conceived the story, but it had ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ in it. After revising the first draft I concluded that anything more than ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ was unnecessary. How did the title occur to me? I don’t know or cannot explain… I believe these are strokes of imaginations which pop into the mind from nowhere inexplicably. The same goes for the name of the daemōn that guides the hero of the story. I don’t know what it means or why I chose it; coming to me one night after drinking four rum and cokes.

It’s always hard to start. How does it feel to finally see oneself at the top of the steps?

Yes, it is hard to start, even when you are won over by the idea. The story is about a man without a doubt, and so I imagined myself being without a doubt. This helped me a great deal spiritually. The story has many absurd moments in it, but I ploughed through regardless, believing in their relevance. Now, it is a satisfying feeling that I trusted myself and let the book happen without interfering or hesitating.

3. Hard is not to combine your thoughts, hard is to convince. What was your experience in this?

I would say that it wasn’t very hard, rather, I didn’t try too hard. The story is pretty crazy, and many times while writing it, I put my hands on my head thinking, ’Where did this come from?’. But I trusted the process in the belief that an unknown force is speaking through me vicariously.

Whether the reader is convinced of the story, I don’t know yet. Only when people who don’t know me personally read it and ask questions, will I get to know whether its voice has reached them successfully or not. I am still waiting for someone to ask me uncomfortable questions like, ‘Why do you say Death is a misunderstood blessing?’. The story has many such controversial ideas.

How you reached at the subject of your book? Any particular incident or is it inspired by something?

There was an incident, which sort of, revealed me to myself. It is described in the first paragraph of the chapter ‘The Journey’. I imagined myself reacting the way our protagonist did (in reality, I didn’t). That event has rankled me time and again, releasing endless chain of thoughts, consummating into all sorts of consequences. But the story is more than a cathartic outpouring. I think it is a mirror of man’s journey, his presence and purpose of existence. Mind you, while writing, I thought it would simply be an entertaining adventure, but as you know, things have turned out differently.

I saw your blog. It is really fascinating to see the vibrant hue. Do you think you can ever find stories from these pictures? Or have you already found something?

Thank you for finding my blog colorful. I am usually shy and don’t interact too much with people, but come a camera in my hand, my disposition changes. I think most of the characters in ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ have come about from  moments I have been through while taking pictures, talking to people, listening to their stories. In the blog too, are a few strange and strong personalities, which will perhaps lend themselves into my future stories.

What are your future plans in the field of writing?

At the moment, I am working on a sequel to ‘The Disobedient Darkness’. It will keep me occupied till the end of this year. I am inclined to write science-fiction fantasies, especially diverging from the idea of an alien being the villain (I really don’t believe in villains anyway). I will be writing children’s stories and poems later.

What inspires you the most? People in your pictures or the stories in their eyes?

I think both are inspiring. The stories in their eyes take me to a different world altogether. It’s a crazy feeling, standing in an instance and seeing so much beyond it. I don’t know whether you’ll believe it, but people find themselves in a particular moment to fulfill it (the moment itself) wittingly or unwittingly. And when every scratch, every texture, sound, colour, shadow comes together to make a unique symphony, you get a good picture. This is the essence of photography. ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ carries forward this theme particularly in the chapters of ‘Pipes’ and ‘Ganga’.

8. Do you feel reading is enough to understand the better part of words? Or there is a different mantra you followed?

Words are manifested thoughts. But sometimes they are not enough to describe a feeling. Fiction, especially fantasy fiction has to be lived, emoted, suspected, questioned to enjoy it fully. If the words do not take the reader into the unknown, then they are simply words and nothing more. So, my mantra in this story was to lead the reader into believing the fantasy, however absurdly it might be coming across, using ambiguous phrases that had words strung in an unusual manner. It was especially needed when our hero steps into the realm of death.

Your favorite authors, books, genres, literary period?

There are far too many. If I mention ten authors, I would miss ten others. But a few authors, by the force of their style have left a mark upon me. These are: Earnest Hemingway, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, J. M Coetzee, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Albert Camus and Edgar Ellen Poe.

My reading is wide and varied. From the writers, I have mentioned, you would have guessed that mostly a direct style of narrative appeals to me. I like to stay away from prose, though I’ve enjoyed reading Salman Rushdie. For me it is the conviction and honesty of an author that is enticing and not his/her clever use of language.

These days I am reading John Updike’s ‘Rabbit Run’ and David Mitchel’s ‘The Bone Clocks’. Both are unusual and brave in terms of their writing style.

It is always hard to keep on re-reading your work. You tend to find flaws after flaws. What strategy you adopted to avoid this scenario?

This is a problem. I am still working to improve the script of ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ and hope to incorporate the changes in further editions. One thing I’ve learnt from the experience is to make people (who you can trust) of various backgrounds read your script before its final presentation. There are a lot of grammar experts sitting out there who themselves have very little clarity about it, but their practical observations will set you thinking and improving. It was so funny in the case of ‘The Disobedient Darkness’, that the slowest passages had the most mistakes pointed and the gripping parts very few or none at all. It told me about the involvement of the reader and the grip of the story.

The only strategy I can think of now, is not giving up on learning and constantly seeking to improve. How and when to let go, is an elusive concept for me. The reader is my best guide, that is for sure.

Any part of the book which:
     You want to change.
- None that I can think of right now
     You find the best.
- I have always enjoyed reading the, ‘The Gate’, ‘Nanda Devi’, ‘Blood Flower’ and the ‘The Pocket’ the most. In my forty odd revisions, I’ve never found a dull moment in them.
     You can re-read till death.
- The chapters of ‘The Gate’ and ‘Nanda Devi’.
     You memorize by heart.
- I would say the whole book. Since, I don’t have a very good memory, it is a boon when I visit it after a few weeks and still enjoy reading it. But the poem of the Ganges is especially dear to me, considering, that till the very end, I had no idea what it meant or how it would play out in the story.

  The trend of writing is changing. Do you feel only exposure is the key to succeed?
Yes, the trend of writing is changing and so of everything else. People don’t have much time and want results quickly, but that shouldn’t be the greatest of influence. The most important quality of any author is his honesty.

Exposure is the life-blood of any creative person. It is timeless and independent of trend. So, exposure to literature, philosophy, art, music, movies, politics are absolutely essential to achieve anything worthwhile.

13.  Tell us about your journey after you completed your book? The journey from publishing to reader’s notice. Your experience with the publishing firm.

This is the most interesting phase in a first-time published author’s career. He does not have a reputation and still has to earn it.  For me, the world responded in an unexpected manner after the book became published. A lot many people who I considered friends, stopped talking to me. On the other hand, many with whom I was not in regular touch, connected by buying the book. Then came the concerned well-wisher; who cannot write a single grammatically correct Facebook post or a WhatsApp message, advising me on the nuance of language. The priciest are those members of family, who pucker their nose and say, ’I don’t read such kind of books’.

My wife, my father and my sister supported me at every step of the book’s construction. Without their participation, it would have been an uphill task. I am happy to say, that most who have read the book in entirety, enjoyed it. Hopefully there will be many more like them.

The publishing house has been very co-operative. I am lucky to have found them, for they are a patient bunch, accepting my suggestions without a fuss. I have made new friends on the way and that is what matters in life for me.

Did you focused on catchy phrases and high imageries in your book? They are really an important part of many classics. Or did you just focused on the story.

No, not consciously. I focused on honesty. There are instances in the story that needed a certain emotional flavour, so I put myself in the situation and described my feelings in the best possible manner. Epigrams, maxims, aphorisms and prose do make an interesting read, but that is not really my style.
The book, according to many who have read it, is by its nature high in imagery. A professor of comparative literature told me that it was like reading a comic-book. I took it as a compliment.

Would you like to pass on a message to your readers before they try your book?

The story challenges conventional ideas of life, existence, death, immortality, good and evil. If you already know everything, then this book will probably appall you. And if you are an explorer, a student, a ponderer who likes to scratch his head, then the book will entertain you and fill you with further questions.
Just to set you up for it, the first chapter is called ‘The Gift’. So I ask you,

“Is life a gift? If it is, what are you doing with it?”

Thank you author for your precious time...

About the book :

What is your plan for life? Do you know its dark side? A man trades his doubts for a unique gift from his daemon. This puts into motion his metamorphosis, ' a doubtless mind connecting him to other layers of existence and unravelling some extraordinary latent powers. Using his newfound abilities impetuously for the benefit of others, he inevitably runs into the dark side of goodness. Then, one day, a moment of violence, a call for justice hurls him into a maelstrom of an extraordinary adventure - a quest for a pitcher of ancient mythic water, hidden deep inside the Himalayas. It is the only weapon capable of countering a sinister force abducting humans from Earth. But an unexpected turn awaits him as he moves closer; the water is nurturing a secret intent that could challenge the destiny of mankind.

About the author :

"Prateek Dubey is a photographer, writer and an artist based in New Delhi, India. His work has featured in the Guardian U.K, the Deccan Chronicle, The Hindu and N-Photo magazine besides various photography sites around the world. Writing has been his favourite form of expression for a long time. He has written many pieces of entertaining short fiction using whiskey, Black Sabbath, beautiful aliens and other unconventional elements as his motifs. He blogs (Prateek's World), merging photography with storytelling, on his experiences of life in India. Some of these photo essays have been featured in the Pioneer and Mail Today. He has also had a solo show of oil paintings at the Lalit Kala Academy in 2005 besides participating in various group shows of painting and photography. Prateek is a graduate of chemistry from the Delhi University and also a trained fashion designer from India's premiere fashion institute, the National Institute of Fashion Technology."

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