Asad Ali Junaid is a design professional in Bangalore working in the area of Human-Machine Interaction. He is has been a resident of Bangalore most of his life except for brief stints in the US for higher education and work. He has seen Bangalore’s transformation from the sleepy town that it was, to an IT hub of today. He is a User Experience Designer with Oracle Corporation’s Retail Division. He designs software applications for his livelihood. He has done MS in Psychology.
Staying married and bringing up a kid while holding on to a full time job and writing a book would be by far my biggest achievement. 😉 😉
What inspired you to start writing?
My mom developed in me a habit to read and appreciate good English writing. She made sure that there was always something I could read at home. I won prizes in school for writing – and they were the only prizes that I won in school. My love for the English language and writing stuck with me through Engineering and Grad School and what you see in the book is the result of this illicit love affair (as defined by my wife) with English and writing.
What did you liked to read when you were a boy?
I started out with the Tinkles, Mandrakes, Supermans, Batmans and the Phantoms. Moved on to the Archies, Tintins and Asterix. Then came the Famous Fives, Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drews. Graduated to the Sidney Sheldons and Jeffrey Archers in undergrad.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
For writing a book, the writer will have to first find a story that he/she really wants to tell. That has to be the underlying motivation and the biggest challenge. That is the only thing which will enable the 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 much research do you do before writing the book?
More than research, I had to put in a lot of preparation for writing this book. I hadn’t written even a single short story before I decided to start writing ‘And We Remained’.
While writing this book, I had plenty of self-doubts on how I wrote. I wasn’t sure if it was grammatically correct and if how I wrote would make sense to a majority of the readers. Another challenge was getting the voices of these different characters in the book right.
Around this time, I attended a three week Just Write Fiction writing workshop with Anil Menon, Anjum Hassan and Rimi Chatterjee which helped enormously in honing my story telling skills, gave me lots of answers and dispelled my self-doubts to a large extent.
I also read and re-read Chethan Bhagat and RK Narayan multiple times to understand what it was that enabled them to connect to a large section of readers in India. I realized that they did not write in the English we read in an international bestseller of a Jeffrey Archer or a Dan Brown. Even other Indian novelists who had bestsellers under their belt, made me realize that I did not have to be someone who is Oxford educated and one who sticks to the rules formulated by a ‘Strunk and White’ to tell a story.
What motivated you to write the 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 and I believed that I could do a good job writing it up.
Can you tell us more about your book “And We Remained”?
The book starts in the 1990’s India when there are tremendous socio-economic changes taking place. The core idea of ‘And We Remained’– the “what if” of the story is: “What if a bunch of college going guys are thrown into prison and treated like rapists for asking some stupid questions to a couple of girls that too in a college library? What would eventually become of these guys and what of their original identities would they be left with in an era where tremendous cultural changes are underway? “
The book 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.
The narration style of the ‘And We Remained’ is very unique. The story is told through emails and first person accounts of events.
The novel captures a slice of time during the 1990’s India when there are tremendous socio-economic changes are taking place due to liberalization. There are plenty of western ideologies being brought in and bombarded into consciousness through media, directly influencing the thought process and behavior of a section of population who were at an impressionable age.
The story is original and entertaining. If it wasn’t then it wouldn’t have mattered how I told it or when and where it was set.
How did you come up with the idea of writing College Life genre book?
For me it was not like “Okay, let me write a college story or a murder mystery or a story on marital discord”. It was more like, at this point of my life this is the story which I want to tell – which happened to be a novel which starts in a college campus and moves on to life beyond it. Perhaps at a later point in my life, I will have a different story to tell.
Who are your favorite authors?
Jeffrey Archer has been my all-time favorite. Robert Pirsig for his ‘ZAMM’ and ‘Lila’; Makus Zusak for his ‘The Book Thief’; Neale Donald Walsh for his Conversation with God series and Vladimir Nabokov for his ‘Lolita’ are up there as well. I’ve grown up devouring the Sidney Sheldons, the John Grishams, the Irving Wallaces and the Erich Sehgals.
Recently I’ve also loved works of Khaled Hosseini and John Green.
Among Indian writers, I read Chetan Bhagat and R. K. Narayan multiple times to understand what made them connect as much as they did with the Indian audiences. Reading Ashwin Sanghi’s Rozabal Line was a very different experience. I’ve also enjoyed the work of Karan Bajaj and Paritosh Uttam’s short stories.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
I haven’t been writing as much these days. I am doing as much as I can to get ‘And We Remained’ out to as many people as possible.
I wrote most of the first draft of ‘And We Remained’ while I was away from Bangalore on work. I used to come back to my hotel after a long day at work and start typing away. I did not get up from my seat except for food or the occasional toilet break. I used to write at a stretch four to five hours at a time then.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Find a story which you really want to tell. Don’t worry about the language or formatting. You could take care of those at a later time after getting the story you want to tell on paper. There are a multitude of excuses one could make, but unless you start typing out that story you want to tell, your dream of telling a story will be just that.
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