Sunday, November 1, 2015

Breaking the cliché . In conversation with Bharat Menon, author of Agogos



Breaking the rules is tough. Breaking the cliché is tougher. Breaking the conventional writing style is toughest. Today I have with me the author who dared to break all the chains of conventional literature.
I welcome Bharat Menon to share a few words with the virtual world of literature

Hi Bharat,
Q       Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
    Bharat: I was born in a coastal town of Kozhikode in Kerala. Like many middle class families of the 90s, I followed suite with my parents job transfers. My early schooling and upbringing was in Delhi and Chennai.  In 2010 I graduated from Loyola College,Chennai with a degree in Commerce. Post my graduation I started working for a wall street investment bank out of Bangalore and then Singapore. When the gale of corporate ‘enlightenment’ and monetary freedom settled, I resigned from work and am currently living in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Q       When did the Investment Banker find interest in literature?
   Bharat: I was always passionate about reading. Like a true student of literature, my mother- I still remember- always gave a set of books for my birthday. With the passing of those days these habits in the stayed with me even during my time as an Investment Banker, I just continued to surround myself with books. I always believed that work should never interfere with ones true passions and a corporate life should just be a necessary veil to ones true following. With that philosophy held close I innately found time to read and write.

Q       Tell me about Agogos
   Bharat: Agogos follows a story of an everyday man's search for meaning. The protagonist through his lucid dreams questions and contemplates the nature of social order, himself and realms of his reality.
As an author I wanted to create an experience beyond the the true prose of the book. What I wanted the readers to visualize  through the protagonist was their own interpretations of the characters and situations, which I believed would be subtly different person to person based on his or her life experiences. The poetry, illustrations, philosophical themes conveyed was to provide the reader reasons to further examine the rationale behind it.

Q       Why this title?
   Bharat: Agogos entomologically  in greek means ‘leading to’. I found this to be apt on many fronts, one- the story in itself contained the protagonist Carl searching to understand the situation of his being, two- the reader moving towards in interpreting this protagonist and three- a personal project, as a first time author of my experiment with writing, it was written with a hope of me leading to finding myself.

Q       Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
   Bharat: Carl is the main character. As a person, there is nothing special about him at first. He, like many of us goes to work, dreams and fits ever so quaintly to the monotony of life of today. Through his entire physical reality he suppresses the urges of his individualism and follows what society dictates. Even though he doesn’t realise it himself Carl is subtly special, for his genius lies in trait which sometime eludes many of us due to fear or misconceptions - the idea of challenging conformity. I think thats what makes him unique.

Q       What the reason for your special interest in philosophy?
   Bharat: Philosophy is a subject to question myself. Eastern philosophy, like the ideas dealt in the writings of Yoga Vasistha, Nagurjunas Mulamadyamakakarika or the Mandukya Upanishad have dwelled deeper into the conscious inward self whilst the writings by western philosophers have for me always been more outward themed. But all these writings has always made me question, reason and learn, hence my affiliation to the subject.

Q       You designed the book cover and the illustrations. Tell me more about it.
   Bharat: Like I mentioned before I wanted the reader to go beyond the prose, for this i wanted to employ visual medium for them to reminiscence further in-depth. The front book cover is a window through which the reader is introduced to peer into his or her and the protagonists mind. The illustrations in chapter eight originally black charcoal on canvas was to provide the reader a glimpse into the protagonist’s thoughts.

Q       Who is Bharat Menon primarily? An Artist, Writer or Investment Banker.
   Bharat: I am more of a student than any of the above, a student still in the process of learning the concepts of art and writing. The circumstances leading up to this book game me the opportunity to balance the elements or art and writing during the period as an Investment Banker. So you could say I was all of the above during this project and a student as the same time.

Q       Why didn’t you write another book?
   Bharat: After Agogos I had taken sometime to reorganize my professional life therefore could not devote the same time and attention to work towards my second book. In the past year I have been researching, building up characters and outlining my draft for my second book. Though still in its infancy I was happy with the progress.

Q       Where did your ideas come from?
   Bharat: Just like my main character some of my ideas are from my own dreams. To record all of one’s dream is tough and sometimes near impossible. But to make do best I have always kept a pen and book by my side during the night in the hope of recording my dream state by making a sketch or writing down its essence. Rest of it comes from ones own life experiences, people you meet, places you go to or even sometimes when your listening to a great piece of music. Being an avid traveler some of my characters and ideas have been shaped through many of my travels.

Q       Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
   Bharat: I read a lot and always try to set goals on the books to read. Being a traditional reader I need to hold that book to find its true purpose. Favorite authors is tough question as I am usually surrounded by books I get hold of.  Right now at this moment I have by my side writings of Tolstoy, Kafka, Chaucer, Tagore, Proust and Nietzche.
  
Q       How did you market your book?
   Bharat: Being a first time author marketing was a tough. Cyberwit did its bit to introduce me through various online sources and press releases. Most of the marketing was through word of mouth to the general public.

Q       How was the publishing experience?
  Bharat: Finding a publisher was harder than writing a book in my case, but the experience lead me to realize many unknown quandaries to the industry. Agogos being my first book led me to find from scratch a publisher for a very unique genre. One major hurdle was the marketability and the consumer appetite for such a genre; only few readers of today welcome such a genre and prefer more mainstream material, hence many publishers turned down my manuscript. Though it was a long and sometimes disheartening experience I am extreme grateful to have met Cyberwit and Karunesh who agreed to publish an unknown first time author.

Q       What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
  Bharat: On reviews, for me personally Agogos was a book that truly spoke through my mind but even after publishing I was still unhappy with it. Being a first time writer, it is only after the entire experience do you reminiscence over the process and feel there was so much more that could have made this book better. Therefore when bad reviews in come, it reaffirms some of my own critique and on good reviews, it gives me hope that genres like mine are yet still received with interest.

Q       What’s your views on social media for marketing?
   Bharat: It is by far the most powerful tool out there to reach the masses. Though my marketing wasn't extensive, the reach I had in conveying my book release was governed my posts through social media.

Q       If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
   Bharat: Wow this is a real tough one, I've admired works of Proust, Dante and influenced by works of Tagore, Kafka, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. But if there was one book I had to choose it might as well be ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. It is one of those semi poetic books which has stood the test of time through its profound thoughts on simple human subjects. It  transcends across human cultures with its philosophical and inspirational views; this is one book I have always kept close to my heart.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
   Bharat: Keep reading, explore ones consciousness ! Remember ideas may come constantly and sometimes even at inopportune moments. The method I followed as I said before was to always have around a pen and a book to jot down ideas and experiences that happens through ones day. The entire life cycle of writer is tough, even more so if your a first time writer but the results at the end of the tunnel is something you would forever cherish.

Q       How can readers discover more about you and you work?
   Bharat: Below are few of the links where you can find my work:
  Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18484410-agogos
  Publisher site [India]: http://www.cyberwit.net/publications/564

Q       Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
  Bharat: Thank you for this interview and an opportunity for me to to put words my experiences as an writer.