Hey ya! Readers! So, I’m here with my next Author Interview on my Blog with Kochery C. Shibu, author of Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar.
About the Author
Kochery C. Shibu graduated from the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, in 1981. He has served in the Indian Navy and commanded two warships. Post his retirement he has executed hydroelectric projects in the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka, Beas river basin in Himachal and lately Teesta river basin in Sikkim.
He holds postgraduate degree in Defence Studies from Chennai University, and MA in English literature from Pune University.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is his debut novel. Kochery C. Shibu was born in Kochi and lives in Bangalore with his wife and daughter.
Tell something about the author in you?
The author in me has been in being since my school days. Many novels have died its own death after a few pages in the many decades before publishing this novel. Whist in the Indian Navy, I have written many technical and tactical documents, which are classified and would remain so for right reasons. The career as soldier in the Navy dedicates time to professional writings. It was only after I took VRS form the Navy on 2005 that I could think of dedicating time to writing fiction, my long cherished dream. I have been a voracious reader and have read across the genres. There was point in time in the 80s when I used to read a novel a day. It was to further my passion for writing that I did PG in English Literature from Pune University in 1989. From the period from 2005 to 2009, also many novels have died its own death after a few pages. It was in 2009 that I decided to stop reading fiction and start writing the novel dedicated.
What are the challenges you faced while writing this book?
The effort was to write something different. The book has been written in three genres. The life of the project workers and that of the villagers have been written in the classic style, slow and detailed. The life and times of the main protagonists Nanda, Khusru, Rekha and Indumati etc is written in the thriller style, fast paced and unraveling of mystery as one reads. The construction of the dam and its details are given as technical fiction. All three genres are about one third each. In addition, many other characters who make an appearance as part of the narration is following the story within the story concept. The putting together of so many characters and linking their actions to the story build was a huge challenge. I used to have a white board with the characters’ names and dates written with events and activities and as I progressed with writing, orienting oneself to the story itself used to take a fair amount of time. Those who play cricket would be able to relate to this when I say that in the initial stages the batsman sees only the pace baller and not the ball itself is not seen nor are the fielders. In due course he starts seeing the ball and one fine day all the players. In writing this novel that stage came in the third year one fine day when all the characters suddenly became visible to me in my mind and I knew who was where and doing what. Possibly, the challenge in this novel was because of the vast setting both in terms of time and space as well as the number of characters who were linked to the plot. Another big challenge was about researching the numerous places where the characters have been. Like the life of Khusru in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The correct correlation to time, space and events and available technology as the novel moves back and forth in time is also a big challenge. Most challenging of all is to develop that style of narration where in you feel equally at ease in classic style for writing, thriller and technical fiction.
Why did you decide to write about this plot? Did you have any other plot in mind to write for?
I had a change in career of sort after leaving the Navy, when I joined the Hydroelectric project sector. Whilst it called for learning the technology that went with it, the exposure to the project life and the extreme conditions of the Hydro project workers did strike a chord. It is a life about which very few authors have written and as far as I know, this would be the debut for Indian English writings. It was with deliberate effort bring this facet of life to the readers that I chose the background life of the project workers in this novel. As far as I know, this is the only novel in Indian English writing which has delved into the depths of the life of project works in a hydroelectric project site.
Where writers don’t able to write about one or two characters in detail, you have written extensive account of characters’ past history in your book. How did you managed to do that?
I Guess, that’s right. Typically, most novels would develop three or four characters. The Hydro project sites by nature would have a large number of people and hence the number of characters also would be more. More than a fair amount of research has gone in to each of the characters to develop the details. It has been one of the big challenges in the novel and by design. The novel has taken 3600 Man hours in the making because of the same reason.
Does characters of Nanda, Khusru and Rekha are inspired from the real people or they are fully fictional?
They are all fictional characters.
Who read the first draft of your book? What were their observations and suggestions? And did you incorporate those suggestions in your book?
The first draft of the book was read by my wife. She is a Fashion Designer from National Institute of Design Ahmedabad and runs an Eco fashion store by name MINC Eco fashion. She is also known as the queen of Khadi and has successfully revived the 19th century quality Khadi and infused it with 21st century fashion. The initial directions for the novel came from her. She is also a widely read person and her views gave me confidence to continue with the breaking new ground novel based on the back ground of the workers in a hydro project site. At the next stage, Keerti Ramachandra edited the novel. She is a reputed independent editor based out of Bangalore. The editing process went on for a year, which was a kind of baptism by fire for the debutant author. The novel has been discussed threadbare and all discussed between us a number of times before the final shape came. Of course, we have agreed to dis agree on many issues in the novel.
As a debut author, you have written an impressive novel. Are you planning to write your next? If yes, tell us something about it?
There are many novels doing rounds in my mind. Though it will probably be towards the end of the year when I would start writing. At this stage, it is still in a fluid state.
Have you been rejected by any publisher to publish this book?
Almost all the leading publishers in the country have had a look at the manuscript and all of them were in various stages of processing (or the book being in the long queue) when Niyogi books offered to Publish and I went with them.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
I have stopped reading fiction since 2009 when I started writing to ensure that my writing is uninfluenced (even if by a wee bit). Amongst the last of the fiction books that I read were Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.
What message you wish to give to the aspiring writers?
Read Observe, write and repeat the cycle.
Tell us one reason why the reader must pick up your book.
The novel is first and possibly the only one to have written a research based novel about the life of project workers in a hydro project site. It is also possibly first and only one of its kind to have written about culture, life style and traditions of the Bakarwals and the Gujjar community in a Novel. It is the first and only one of its kind to have three genres of classic, thriller and technical fiction in one novel. It is arguably the most well written research based fiction novel by any Indian author. It is possibly the best Indian fiction novel which thrives on character development. It is truly a novel with a difference in Contemporary fiction. The book has been liked by the readers community and the readers should see the reviews on Amazon and Good reads and Instagram and decide for themselves.
Thank You so much for agreeing to this Interview.
I hope you enjoyed the Interview. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.