Junaid Asad is a design professional with Oracle working in the area of Human Machine Interaction. His first book, 'And We Remained' got published recently.
In the 1990’s, India was going through tremendous socio-economic changes. Set in this era, it is a coming of age story of five engineering friends—Sahir, Sandeep, Gopal, Anand and David—and the women in their lives, especially the beautiful Wardha. Their intertwined story is told by these friends through first person accounts of events in their engineering college contrasted in alternate chapters with their lives a few years later when they keep in touch, narrate events in their lives and share their experiences in India and abroad through emails.
And We Remained takes you on their entertaining journey through college, love, heartbreak, prison, politics, drunken binges, strip clubs, US and Europe as they hang on to sanity and their identities in a fast changing society and a nation in flux.
How did you pick the topic for your book - 'And We Remained'?
I was catching up on some of the bestsellers by Indian authors a few years back. I then realized that I had a story to tell which was much more interesting and entertaining than a lot of novels that were out there.
How has been the response to your book? Are you satisfied with it?
As a first time author, I am happy with the kind of response I am getting so far. People are appreciating the unique narration style and the story. People are also pointing out what did not work in the book and for them, I am all ears. All in all, I am happy with how the book has been received.
Are there any sections that you'd want to change in the book and why?
The book has been constantly evolving since the time I got my first draft done – which was almost four years ago. It is definitely in a much better state in terms of narration, structure and story than it was when I finished the first draft.
I have been open to feedback (ever since the first draft) and my readers and reviewers have been kind enough to provide me with some valuable insights to make it better.
I’ve tried to get the first print run to reach the maximum audience and I have got some awesome feedback. Though there will be no major changes to the story or the structure, there will be some minor tweaks in the second print run to make the narration and the eventual resolution of the story better.
How has been the journey of authoring a book while being actively involved in corporate world?
It’s been interesting so far. It does take a lot of discipline to not start thinking about the story during work and not to start thinking about work when one is trying to progress on the story. That way, writing fiction is a great way to take one’s mind off work and everything else that is going on. All in all, I admit that writing while holding on to a full time day job is a difficult process, but in the end, a hugely fulfilling one.
What are the biggest joys of being an author?
The joy of telling a story. The joy of reaching out to someone hundreds and thousands of miles away from you and to be able to make that connect with them. The joy of creation. The joy of holding the power to evoke an emotion out of another individual. If a writer can’t find happiness and satisfcation in these, then he is perhaps writing for the wrong reasons.
What is your dream story? Do you have any in the pipeline?
As a first time writer, I have written the story that I so desperately wanted to tell. It has given me immense satisfaction to see it in the form of a book.
Everytime I see script driven Indian movies like ‘Drohkaal’, ‘Deewar’ or a ‘Vicky Donor’ or even Hollywood movies like ‘The Departed’, ‘The Usual Suspects’ or ‘L.A. Confidential’,I turn to my wife and tell her, “I want to tell such a story….” Nothing on paper yet, but hoping that I at least make a decent attempt at it someday.
Which kind of books do you enjoy reading yourself? Who are your favorite authors - Indian and foreign?
I am a die-hard romantic. I feel that if romance dies within a person, then there is nothing to look forward to. I must have read Eric Segal’s Love Story close to two dozen times already, but I still pick it up and enjoy reading it.
I have also loved Nobokov’s Lolita, Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump, Puzo’sGodfather,Husseini’s Kite Runner, Douglas Adam’s H2G2, Pirsig’s ZAMM and Lila, and most of what Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon and John Grisham have written.
Among Indian writers, for my book, I read and re-read ChethanBhagat and RK Narayan multiple times to understand what it was that enabled them to connect to a large section of readers in India. I have enjoyed works of AshwinSanghi, SidinVadukut,Karan Bajaj, ParitoshUttam, Ravinder Singh and Anjum Hasan, among others.
Any tips that you'd want to pass on to the new authors?
A new writer will have to first find a story that he/she really wants to tell. That has to be the underlying motivation. That is the only thing which will enable the new writer to start and even complete a novel when all the glamour associated with writing goes away and he is staring at this sheet with white space which he has to fill with black letters.
How do you compare Indian literary scene with its foreign counterpart?
One thing noticeably different is the delivery mechanism. Kindle is very popular in the US where as in India, a majority still seem to prefer a physical copy of the book to snuggle up to.
The role that a book agent plays in India is very minimal compared to their counterparts abroad.
There is a huge boom in Indian writing. There are a lot of people writing books in India without finding the need to adhere to a ‘Strunk and White’ to tell a story. There is a huge audience they seem to be catering to. This audience just wants to read a good story without the need to carry a dictionary around to understand what the writer is intending to tell. The new writers in India are catering to this specific need and have a great chance of finding success.