Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR ARTISTIC PROCESS?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Committing to writing in between other obligations (professional and personal.)
Romelia: DOES YOUR FAMILY SUPPORT YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Very much so. My wife and my mother have seen how much work goes into writing and revision, and they’re my biggest supporters.
Romelia: IF YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY AS A CHILD OR TEENAGER TO BECOME A BETTER WRITER AS AN ADULT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: This may sound strange, but I would have tried to spend more time doing things that I’m not naturally good at, like dancing, painting, or playing the trumpet. I had opportunities to try those activities as a kid, but I tended to shelve activities that didn’t come easily to me. Now, as a writer, I wish that I had more diverse experience and expertise to incorporate into scenes and characters.
Romelia: HOW LONG ON AVERAGE DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: My first novel, Errors of Omission was written in spare moments over a span of eighteen years. My current work in progress has come together much more quickly: the first draft is almost done after only a year. Overall, though, I don’t care much about the pace of completion. It’s more important to me that I put out a book that is both thoughtful and entertaining, even if it takes a lot of time.
Romelia: DO YOU BELIEVE IN WRITER’S BLOCK?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Yes. But I also have come to recognize that it isn’t an independent entity; For me, I reach an impasse in writing either when I don’t know my characters well enough or when my motivation is outweighed by my impostor syndrome.
Romelia: AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK SOMEONE SHOULD CALL THEMSELVES A WRITER?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: When they’ve finished a piece. That could be a poem, a short story, or a piece for the local paper. Completion is worth something, regardless of what endeavor we’re talking about.
Romelia: WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU SEE BETWEEN A WRITER AND AN AUTHOR?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: I go by the definition that a writer becomes an author when they’ve had a book published. By my definition that includes self-publication.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU PROCESS AND DEAL WITH NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Thus far, I haven’t had many reviews. However I think about it much like reviews for my day job as a psychiatrist: everyone has a right to an opinion. The validity or motivations of the reviewer’s words may vary. But by no means should any author ever retaliate against a reviewer. It makes the author look like a thin-skinned bully.
Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: When I’m writing fiction, I know how I want to start and how I want too finish, but I’d say that formulating the third quarter of the story is a challenge for me. When I’m writing poetry, the words and ideas come more naturally, but I have to be mindful of making every poem speak in its own voice.
Romelia: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING OR WHEN DID YOU START?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: My first piece was a poem called “The Walker”, written at age 14. I submitted it on a whim twenty years later and it was published in an anthology.
Romelia: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WRITER WORKING ON THEIR FIRST BOOK?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Keep at it and don’t revise until the story has reached its conclusion. Your first draft is your worst draft.
Romelia: WHAT, TO YOU, ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF GOOD WRITING?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Good character development, a compelling motivation for the protagonist, and concise yet picturesque use of language.
Romelia: WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU – THE PLOT OR THE CHARACTERS – AND WHY?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: For me, a compelling story starts with a good conflict, and then the plot develops based on the character’s reaction to the initial conflict. If a story moves along independently of its protagonists’ actions, I get frustrated by the shallowness of the individuals that populate the page. And if a character’s reaction is strong, yet imperfect, this can help propel the plot into twists and turns that make the reader attach more to the story. If a character is too static, the story often fails to move, and it is hard for a reader to care.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PLOT AND CHARACTERS?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: I usually know how I want to start and how I want to end, and I can visualize the initial and final scenes and the characters’ positions in them. From there, it’s often an internal dialogue within my head: “What would be better here, A or B?” and each branch point leads to another one. I think about who the characters are and given that, how they would act in the face of a certain problem.
Romelia: WHEN DID YOU FIRST CALL YOURSELF A WRITER?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: I was a sports journalist in college, and some local sportswriters came up to me and complimented me on my articles, saying they followed what I wrote. That’s when I considered the possibility of being a writer. When my first poems were published in 2004, that conviction increased. But even today there’s a nagging question about whether or not I’m a legit author or a poser.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN AUTHOR?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: I post poems and updates about my book on Facebook and Twitter, and also try to engage with other writers. It hasn’t sold a ton of books yet.
Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE PART OF PUBLISHING?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: My favorite part is reading a good line and saying to myself, “I wrote that, and damned if it isn’t pretty good!” I enjoy unrolling the story and seeing how my characters struggle and grow. On the other side of the coin, I do not like marketing. As a new author, it feels disingenuous to tell people they should buy my book when there are so many great, established writers out there.
Romelia: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO AN AUTHOR WHO WANTED TO DESIGN THEIR OWN COVER?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: I’ve seen many self-designed covers in writers’ groups that I belong to, and they vary from atrocious to good. A lot comes down to the author’s familiarity with graphic design software, and their sense of how to implement visual branding. For most of us, that will mean it’s better off to hire someone else.
Romelia: HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Four. I’ve written two children’s books (as yet unpublished “early readers”), and a poetry collection (also unpublished) as well as my novel. They’re like two-dimensional children: I love them all equally, for their different distinguishing characteristics.
Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK DID YOU HAVE THE HARDEST TIME WRITING?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: The initial part, where my main character loses his parents, was emotional for me. I cried at the end of writing chapter three.
Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK WAS THE MOST FUN TO WRITE?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: The last quarter of the novel, which involves more action and suspense, was fun to figure out.
Romelia: WHICH OF THE CHARACTERS DO YOU RELATE TO THE MOST AND WHY?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: I put a little bit of myself into every character. (Write what you know, right?) But I’d have to say I relate most to the protagonist, Raj Patel. As a doctor of Indian descent who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I see a lot of myself in him.
Romelia: IF YOU’RE PLANNING A SEQUEL. CAN YOU SHARE A TINY BIT ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR IT?
Mukund Gnanadesikan: No sequel for this book. I have a second stand-alone novel in the works about the parallel lives of a boy and his mother after their separation at birth.
Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT YOUR ADULT LIFE.
Mukund Gnanadesikan: I once roomed with infamous murderer Lyle Menendez in college.
Romelia: describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.
Mukund Gnanadesikan: Like my father, I’m a cynical idealist. Though I tend to foresee the worst in the world’s future, I see it as my duty (and that of everyone else in a relatively privileged position) to persist and work to make some small positive change in the world.
I’ve dealt with diabetes, epilepsy, depression, and anxiety at various points in my fifty years, and according to a neurologist who saw me at age five, there was no way I was supposed to achieve what I’ve been fortunate to do in this life. What I hate about the world is the arbitrary and cruel injustice we humans inflict upon one another. One would think that intellect would enlighten our species, but too often it fails to do so.
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