Had a great conversation with author Rajesh Konsam this week. I would say it’s one of my favorite interviews lately. Rajesh is a software engineer by profession and the author of Bittersweet novel.
Read on as author Rajesh Konsam talks about his debut novel- Bittersweet, life as a writer, favorite writers, what inspired him to write, next books, and much more.
1. Let’s begin with a brief introduction of yours and an overview of your debut book— Bittersweet.
I’m a software engineer from Manipur who allocates time on the weekends for spinning novels. I’m the author of a novel and a couple of short stories. When I’m not writing codes or plotting mind-numbing stories, I love doing workouts, trying out graphic designing, or dabbling with poetry.
My debut novel ‘Bittersweet’ mainly deals with the existential crisis of a creative young man, Roshan, who’s a songwriter by day and a fashion store salesman by night. It deals with identity, questioning and self-image, which are issues faced by many millennials.
There are poetic interludes too in the book which talk about the internal conflicts of the characters. The icing on the cake is a subplot focusing on his love life. Roshan runs into his polar opposite, Shanaya, and they form a deep bond, thanks to their common flair for creativity.
One day, Roshan gets a strange email invitation from a stranger. Secrets are revealed, and this causes a major upheaval in his life. The rest of the story is about how he tackles his obstacles while trying his best to preserve his identity. There’s suspense, deception, and, at its core, a psychological aspect to the story.
2. From where did you get the idea behind your story? Do the characters come from real-life incidents or from your own imaginations?
My love for language and poetry combined with my inclination for writing suspense made me develop this novel. I was in a difficult phase of life when I was in college. There was this uncertainty with my career. The mental unrest at that time made me put my pen on paper. What initially started as a way to unburden myself turned into a full-fledged novel.
The characters in ‘Bittersweet’ are figments of my imagination, but I might have lent some of my personas. The strengths and flaws you find in the book are all amplified.
3. What sort of reviews are you receiving from the readers?
The best reviews have to be the one where readers email me about how ‘Bittersweet’ has changed their worldview or how it has supported them in their toughest moments.
Other readers feel the book has the capability to engross readers with the suspense and emotions packed in the story. There is also a niche reader base that appreciates the novel more because of its poetic interludes. As an experimental poet, this means the world to me.
4. How much time did you take to finish the book? Did you follow any writing routine?
It took me two years to complete the first draft, and it was followed by a year of reworks. I love writing on the weekends and on national holidays.
As for the routine, I focus on completing a scene every holiday. Then, I use an auto play tool like the one in Google Play Books or the ‘Read Aloud’ option in MS Word. Listening to the automatic reader gives me a chance to edit the book better. I also scribble plot points and dialogues in a note on my phone.
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5. How much research went into sculpting the manuscript?
The protagonist in ‘Bittersweet’, Roshan, is a singer-songwriter who pays attention to the ergonomics of music, but I’m not a singer or a producer, so I had to do deep research on the global music scene.
I remember visiting this website criticofmusic.com for detailed reviews on vocal performances and lyrics. I also read about the instruments used by Ed Sheeran in his music compositions.
6. When did you think of writing something? And what was your first piece of writing?
The writer in me had been dormant all along. What started as journal entries and bits of poetry took a serious turn when I was in college. I’d call myself a late bloomer, in comparison with other young authors. My first long story was a forgettable fiction about a werewolf hunter.
7. Your book is based on the struggles of youngsters in the entertainment industry. Would you shed some light on these struggles and ways to get over?
It’s common for creative young souls to get back-to-back rejections, fall into political traps, be underappreciated or get side-lined. Our works might be treasured by critics, but the road to commercial success is littered with heartbreaks and compromises.
Temptations will crop up now and then, but the only way to achieve greatness is to stay true to our identity and character.
As quoted in my novel, ‘Bittersweet’,
“Success delayed is not success denied, and the best is saved for last. Keep grinding. Who knows, we might surprise ourselves when we least expect it.“
8. Whom do you consider your icons when it comes to writing? Any favorite authors?
Gabriel García Márquez is someone I admire when it comes to combining good language with riveting storytelling. I’m glad I read his books when I started pursuing this field. Maya Angelou inspires me to convey powerful messages in my poetry.
As for science fiction, Philip K. Dick was a visionary, and I have a huge reverence for him.
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9. A quick-fire round:
– Things you love to do when you are not writing?
Zumba classes, learning dance from tutorials, exploring psychology or artificial intelligence.
– If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?
‘Still Waters Run Deep’
– One habit that you think makes you more productive?
Waking up early and setting my blood racing after a running session.
– Where is your favourite place to write?
In a dimly lit room, with a cup of green tea by my side.
10. What’s next in the roadmap for Rajesh Konsam?
My next manuscript is a survival story of a person living with a mental disorder. In the future, I will be writing a lot of speculative fiction: suspense, mystery, psychological thrillers, and more.
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