Saturday, August 8, 2020

Interview: Vickram E. Diwan

Author Introduction:

Vickram E. Diwan is a Delhi-based author, editor and freelance Journalist. 

His novels of the ‘Warlock’ (Paranormal/Horror) series have been published to great critical acclaim and commercial success in India and abroad. He has been featured on various newspapers and websites. His articles have also appeared on several websites and news portals. 

He is an avid follower and researcher on Paranormal, Occult, Magic, Tantra & Philosophy.

You can connect with the author on the following social media platforms:

Books by Vickram E. Diwan:
Warlock (Hindi | English)
Warlock: Valley of Death (Hindi | English
(You can purchase the book by clicking on the name of the book)


It's been quite a few months since we started Ek Book Journal's interview series. Up till now all the interviews that we have published were in Hindi. This is the first time that we're publishing an interview in English. Mr Vickram Diwan writes primarily in English so we thought that it would be better to do this exchange in a language in which he primarily weaves his worlds.

We have also translated the whole interview in Hindi. You can read the Hindi version in the link below:
(अपने हिन्दी पाठकों के लिए हमने इस साक्षात्कार को हिन्दी में भी अनूदित किया है। साक्षात्कार का हिन्दी अनुवाद आप निम्न लिंक पर जाकर पढ़ सकते हैं):

 


Que. Vikram ji, tell us about yourself? Where did you grow up? What did you study? Where are you working right now?
Ans. I was born and brought up in Delhi. During my childhood I lived in Krishna Nagar in Trans Yamuna, not knowing that I lived less than a kilometre away from famous novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak, else I would have shown up at his place. As regards education, I did my schooling from Green Fields Public School in Vivek Vihar and I hold a Masters degree in English from Delhi University. I work as an editor and content-creator besides writing books.

Que. How did you get involved with literature? What were the books that you liked to read in your childhood? 
Ans. My fondest memory from childhood is when my mother took me to a book rental shop during my summer holidays. I use to pick up Hindi Comics of my choice and devoured them for hours. While other kids were happy with 1 or 2 comics, I read no less than 8-10 comics per day. I use to read Chacha Chaudhary, Diamond Comics and everything and anything, I could lay my hands on. But my eternal favourites were Betaal or Phantom and Mandrake from Indrajaal Comics. Slowly this interest grew to Bal Upanyaas and then novels. When I read books, I was transported to another plane, travelling to amazing places. That love for books and this mental travel has stayed with me to this day. Reading was and still is my favourite past time. 

Que. When did you first think of writing? What inspired you to write your first story?
Ans. I did not desire or dreamed to become a writer. I was happy reading books. But there a came a time that I could not find the kind of books stories that I wanted to read and like a lightning, it flashed in my mind that why don’t I write the story which I will enjoy reading? That is how I started writing. Even today, my basic mantra is to write the stories that I will enjoy reading at a reader. I am always mindful of the reader and try to write an entertaining story, a page-turner. Because I am an avid reader myself, I can never cheat a reader with a half baked story, no matter how long it takes, I have to deliver the best possible and entertaining story.


Que. Before the novels you used to write short stories. What do you prefer writing: Novels or Stories?
Ans. I prefer novels on any given day. Although writing a novel is not easy and it takes an immense toll on a writer - both mentally and physically, but the sheer pleasure of it and Junoon keeps me going. To quote George Orwell: 

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” 

The characters of my novel give me a chance to be whatever I fantasize and do things that are not possible in real life; they are my escape route to a place which is far more interesting than the lacklustre life around me. Sometimes I drive my characters, but most of the times they are in the driver seat and I have to run with them to keep pace.

Que. Writing, especially fiction writing, is lonely, time consuming  and often a very underpaid job. It involves cutting out your social life.  How does your family react to this? How do  you maintain the balance?
Ans. My family has given up on me! But seriously, I am fortunate that they understand that this is my Junoon, my soul-feed or Manna that keeps me alive and sane. It helps that I am not a very social person. People consider me very quiet or even arrogant. They do not understand that my mind is always active and thinking and that I prefer writing to talking and I am ill-at-ease making small talk. Writing is something you do because of passion; it is a disease, an obsession that you cannot get rid of. Writing is not something you do to become rich or famous – if those are your motives you better choose another profession. No one except an Artist understands the heights of passion and depths of despair an artist goes through. Writing bleeds your mind and exhausts you, drains you. You cannot continue on this path until you are crazy or mad enough, or as I said - are obsessed.

Que. What inspires you to write? For example: Let's take your short story The cursed glass, the gateway to the unknown. This story is set in a Korean city Busan and is about characters that are very different from the characters that you regularly encounter in your daily life in Delhi. What's the story behind that story?
Ans. Inspiration comes from everywhere. The other day I was reading that Writing is Evil as imagination is the handiwork of Devil. But regardless, I get inspired by seeing other people or reading books and articles from around the world. I am a very good observer of people and places. Even simple things like the room of an unknown house, lighted in yellow light and visible from across the street on a cold night can fire my mind with thoughts and a story-plot. 

To answer your question more specifically; my imagination is not limited to India or Indian characters. It is only the current phase of my work that is focused on India. My future works are mostly set in foreign countries with non-Indian characters. There are two reasons – one is that I cannot restrict my mind to just India and secondly, I write about people as much as I write about places - and the basic emotions, desire and behaviour of people from around the world are the same irrespective of their race or country. And since fiction is an escape for me I cannot and will not limit myself to India. I have a much wider focus and lofty imagination. And the story ‘The cursed glass, the gateway to the unknown ‘ that you quoted is an example of that…it does not have the run-of-the-mill characters and is as far away from cliché situations as possible.

Que. Till now you have written three books and they are woven around the supernatural. Warlock series was around the occult and the recently released The First Vampire is a story of a Vampire. What attracts you towards this genre?
Ans. From my early childhood I have been attracted to Magic, Occult and Paranormal. I used to cut out news of such things from Navbharat Times newspaper and make a scrap book with it. May be part of the reason is also because making up stories and writing fiction is itself a magical process. You create something out of thin air, something out of nothing. That is how my first books have come out – they all have a Surreal and Gothic atmosphere about them; something that appeals to me. It’s a one-sided journey into the unknown, with no way back. It is like jumping from a cliff with fog obscuring what lies beneath.

Que. What is your process of writing. How do you do your research? For example:Your recent novel The First Vampire is set up when India was ruled by Britishers. How did you research for this novel?
Ans. I read and research a tremendous lot, for months and years in some case and that slows my writing. I would rather have a single good book than 8-10 sub-standard books out per year. Call it my weakness or honesty but I cannot cheat the readers and will only try to give them a good entertaining story. For research, I also talk to people, chat with them and learn from their experiences…be it a Tantrik or Saadhu baba sitting outside a temple in Kalkaji Temple, the watchman of a Christian grave-yard in Old Delhi or an Electic Witch living in North Carolina. That is what appeals to my readers, for example, the scene of a corpse coming back to life or the accurate tantrik rituals of Warlock or the nuances of life in Iran in ‘The First Vampire.’ Incidentally for this book I also I have researched so much that I will write a book in future as well with same characters that I will try to make 10 times more interesting. One of the best criticisms that I have ever received was that my Horror story was too scary – Beat that!

Que. What are you writing right now?  Would you like to tell the readers about your upcoming projects? Are they all around the Supernatural or the readers are going to get to read something different this time?
Ans.  Currently, I am working on the Hindi translation of ‘The First Vampire’. After that, I have to decide whether to work on another Horror book or a Science Fiction or an Historical Adventure.. I will decide as and when the inspiration comes or what my readers prefer.

Que. What do you like to read? Which are the genres that you prefer reading? Would you like to tell our readers about your favourite books?
Ans. I am even more obsessive as a reader then as a writer and read books by the kilos, if not tons. Be it paperback, hardcovers, kindle books or even articles, I am always reading - if not thinking or writing. I read Spy-thrillers, Autobiographies, History books, Conspiracy Theories, books about different cultures by writers across the world and through the ages. My reading time or preferences is divided between Fiction and Non-Fiction, I enjoy them equally. Some of my eternal favourites are spy thrillers of Fredrick Forsyth, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and George Orwell’s 1984. I mostly prefer the book rather than the author and hence have read or continue to read different titles. Among Indian authors, I read Ved Prakash Kamboj, Surender Mohan Pathak, Parshuram Sharma, Ved Prakash Sharma, Amit Khan, Anil Mohan, Vikas Swarup to name a few.


Que. Your warlock series was recently translated in Hindi. What do you think is the importance of translation in this multilingual world?
Ans. Ever since Warlock series came out in English I was flooded with requests and demand from readers to bring it in Hindi. My dear brother Aditya Vats encouraged me to go for a Hindi translation and Amit Khan very kindly agreed to publish the Hindi translation of Warlock. The world of Hindi readers is amazing. The kind of affection and support they give you cannot be compared or be found elsewhere. I agree that there is a need for translation and am hopeful that my books will be translated in other languages as well and I will be able to entertain readers across the country and then across the world.

Que.We are living in such a horrid time. What role do you think literature can play in these trying times?
Ans. Literature can provide both an escape and entertainment. It can also inspire and motivate people. Sometimes a person in the throes of depression and a suicidal human being needs nothing more than your sympathy or listening. And if a writer can help a few people escape the stress of life with an entrancing story or save even a single life than there is nothing better than this. The human brain is wired in such a way that we forget the facts, we ignore the preaching but we remember and get inspired with real or imaginary stories if they are told effectively.

Que. We have been locked down from past few months. People are reacting to this in different ways. How is this  lock-down affecting you? What are the changes that you have gone through and what changes would these times bring in your writing?
Ans. I have hovered between depression, mental breakdown and moments of self-belief and enthusiasm. I have used this time to focus more and more on my writing. I have been able to publish 3 books – two Hindi books of Warlock series and an English book ‘The First Vampire’. I also try to connect with my readers across the country through social media and keep a fairly busy day. For a person who is happiest reading or writing, staying at home is no big challenge for me in that way. As long as you give me a few books to read and a pen or paper, you can keep me anywhere and I will still survive.

Que. Now, we are at the end of our conversation. Would you like to give some message to your readers?
Ans. I just want to thank my readers for their immense love and support. I write to please myself and I enjoy writing my stories, that is the only way I know how to work. However when I publish a book it is always with the reader in mind. I try to give them their time and money’s worth and a little extra, if possible. And they repay me with such affection and kindness that it is beyond words. I will try to bring newer and exotic stories for them and hope that they will enjoy them as well. My only strength is my readers and what they feel or think about my books matter to me and nothing else? I may not be an extraordinarily gifted writer but I do consider myself as an honest, sincere and hard-working writer, who always tries to give his best and improve his craft with every book. I hope they will continue to support me. 

I also appeal to all of them to write a review of my books on Amazon and Social Media, so that other readers can also find about my stories. Every single review, even if it is a one line review, helps me understand how much I have succeeded or failed and will help me improve and become a better writer.

Vickram E Diwan's Books

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Other interviews in Ek Book Journal:


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4 comments:

  1. It was a pleasant meeting with Vikram ji at Book fair. He opened his heart in this interview. A good conversation. It is great to know, he is from Delhi. I am also Delhi born and by heart, a true Dilliwala.

    ReplyDelete

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