Shreyan Laha is currently amanagement trainee in Samunnati Financial Intermediation and Services. He has been an alumnus of Xavier School of Rural Management (XUB-XIMB). He hails from Jamshedpur has two novels, “The Adventures Beyond Existence” and “Never Again”, and half a dozen short stories to his credit. He has been the winner of Rajiv Gandhi Youth Literary Award, 2014 and apart from writing, Shreyan loves watching football and learning foreign languages.
Interviewer: Welcome to our site and congratulations for the huge success of your book. The book is great and we loved it. My first question is, to whom you dedicate this success?
Shreyan Laha: This is only my first step towards success. If I have to dedicate this success to someone, it has to be Lord Shani. Om sham shanescharay namah!
Interviewer: The book was with an entirely new concept and a great storyline. How did you manage to combine all the elements like love, thrill, suspense and fantasy in one novel?
Shreyan Laha: Difficult question. I had to scrap the plots fourteen times before I began my novel. It was then I came across one of the interviews of Dan Brown. He was interviewed by another literary stalwart, Ashwin Sanghi. Brown said that before we need to start, we need to ascertain what the ending of the plot would look like. So I took the suggestion and here it is.
Interviewer: Being a successful published author is a great achievement. What are the other achievements which we do not know till now about you? Please let us know.
Shreyan Laha: These are the kind of questions which can make me narcisstic. I do not like talking about my own achievements. I have the belief that my deeds should let others speak for me.
Interviewer: Please let your fans know about your daily life. Apart from writing and reading, what are the things you love to do most?
Shreyan Laha: Do I have fans? I do have a lot of readers and for them, I would like to say: I love to be a party animal at times. However, unlike my college days, I restrict myself to a once in two months when it comes to partying. My daily life, currently is a bit distorted due to personal reasons. However, it’s as normal as it gets. Work from 9-6 and then, back to writing. In between, I do like to listen to intellectual Youtube podcasts.
Interviewer: I liked the character of Alexander very much. How will you define his character to our readers?
Shreyan Laha: Alexander is a spy from Russia – SVR RF, to be precise. He is close to two metres (6’7”) tall, like a typical Russian alpha male. In the book, his impression is mostly mysterious, like any other spy should be. Writing about spies can be a sensitive topic because you have to dig deep into a lot of information. I didn’t have the patience to research beyond a point (I mean, I did read two books and five PDFs over the internet and on my Kindle app regarding their endeavours). Hence, I decided to position him as a person whom the protagonist, Shweta meets in a whole different planet of Isthenope.
Interviewer: These days the Indian way of novel writing has improved very much, how you see the novel writing in India these days? Do we still need some improvement over here?
Shreyan Laha: It has boomed more than ten times since I started writing in 2009. And I have lots of things to tell here. We do need some improvement with regards to writing workshops, which are only restricted to major cities. Second thing, we also need to stop encouraging mediocrity. The greatest drawback about reading and writing are that, it is a subjective affair. Anyone can like anything. Hence, everyone has a readership base. However, with the boom of vast number of authors, it has opened a lot of avenues – for reviewers, editors etc. Every now and then, I check fellow authors and newcomers get unwarranted praise for their unimpressive core product (or their book). Now, marketing can only help to showcase your book to an enlarged audience. This is what some authors don’t get. If you somehow showcase your book in front of 250,000 people, 50,000 will make you a bestseller but out of those, 4,000 will definitely vote one-star on the site from where they buy the book – or crib about it on social media. More people will dismiss and reject you if the core product isn’t good enough. Of course you’ll gradually sell more and even earn more but at the end of the day, you might be reduced to a joke. This is the reason, I try to lie low. One shouldn’t aim for the stars right from the start – and such basic things aren’t learnt by new authors who haven’t seen the publishing industry grow. They’re dazzled by the pop culture of readers meet and petty ‘inspiration’ from open mic platforms. In short, we are encouraging mass mediocrity through mass marketing and this needs to stop. I have a clear stand on this one. Go for organic outreach for your first few books, and then aim a thousand or more. I didn’t even put any effort behind Not Worth Living For and got 75 reviews within six months which is decent.
Interviewer: How is your writing journey so far. Please let the readers know about it. You have 3 books in your account. In starting have you ever felt that you should skip writing as many first-time writer thinks?
Shreyan Laha: Decent journey! I never felt I must skip writing. With each failures, I wanted to improve myself more and more – with regards to changing writing styles, narration, clarity before submitting the book to an editor, length. Currently, I have penned a 128,000 word novel – which might be around 650 pages. I have never written anything for such a long period of time and I am glad it worked out. However, the clarity aspect was missing which I want to improve in the fifth novel.
Interviewer: Novels has become the favourite genre of most of the readers. It would be great if you can guess any reason behind it. Being a successful author, you might be surely having an answer, Shreyan.
Shreyan Laha: It keeps us occupied during a transit. Most books are bought in railway stations, airports etc. Even during bus journeys, people read books. Also, during holidays – given that a holiday is a transit between two different things. Whereas, on the other hand, poems, short stories – they do not. They make you yearn for more and are over in a 100-120 pages or even less. The more we are busy with our stressed out schedule, the more such things are reduced. With the beginning of Instagram, instapoetry started getting popular and now we see the likes of Rupi Kaur and her likes shooting to fame. We prefer shorter poetries and longer novels these days. In around 2014-2015, Ayn Rand books got popular in India all of a sudden. Every voracious reader started reading Atlas Shrugged. This book, based on objectivism, became a cult like symbol for voracious readers – just like today everyone picks up Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of….” Whatever, I am really not into self help books.
Interviewer: Who is your favourite author? Or, please let our readers know who influenced you to write novels.
Shreyan Laha: Richard Heinlein, HG Wells, Isaac Asimov, Aldous Huxley, Eoin Colfer, Lee Child.
Interviewer: Thanks for your answers, Shreyan. Best wishes for your literature career. So if you would have to give a message to a new reader that ‘why they should read Not Worth Living For’, what will be that message?
Shreyan Laha: All I have to say is ‘Not Worth Living For’ is a book I’ve written keeping in mind the psychology of normal Indian readers. If you haven’t read science fiction in a long time since childhood or are into YA, romance or mythology and need a change of genres, this book can serve as your stepping stone towards science fiction and I can guarantee this. Why? This is because I have included elements of grave societal ills, friendship, love, thrill – everything a reader wants out of a novel which makes him glued to the pages. Excess of science dosage might lull you to sleep hence, I have created the book in a manner which makes science fiction interested for the Indian audience. It is tailormade for your choices. Also, thank you again for the interview. Best wishes for your career too!