Author Interview with Vishnu Kanchan

Ayushi A Nair

Vishnu Kanchan is the author of four novels- Smile (2013), Railroad Station No: 22 (2014), My Love Story (2016), Summer with Her (2017) and many other short stories and articles. My Love Story was his debut paperback, which was also the first best seller in his career, with a number of hundred and fifty thousand plus readers worldwide.

In 2017, The Deccan Chronicle called him ‘GOOGLED’ WRITER, a title which he earned out of his hard work for publishing his debut paperback.

Vishnu did his graduation at Kerala University, after he worked as a freelance photographer, later left to become a full-time writer. Currently, he also runs a publishing house named Dream Bookbindery, for supporting the emerging writers. He lives in Kollam, Kerala with his parents.

Let us start the interview:

We’re trying to go beyond the hoary old’where do you get your ideas? What inspires you? When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?

If you ask me when I realised that I wanted to write, I would say that it needs a bit of explanation, perhaps a story. It all happened during my eleventh grade at school. That year’s state youth festival was happening at our school and it was the second day of the competitions. On that particular day, story writing completion’s were to happen and unfortunately the student who was selected for participating in it representing our school was not found anywhere and our English teachers were frantically looking for a last minute replacement.

It was then my English teacher, Miss Nalini found me roaming through the campus. She called me and asked me to fill in. I was like, “What me? Mam, you know it very well that I had never ever read a book apart from my text books. And you want me to participate in a story writing competition and that too representing our school for a state level competition.  No way, Mam.” And to my totally freaked out response, she took my hand in hers and said, “Vishnu, I had been teaching you English for the past eleven years and I know your true potential. So don’t worry about anything. You just go in there, sit and write whatever you feel. No one is going blame you, even if our loose for this category. Trust me son, you can.” I went in there and somehow managed to write something. I was not even sure whether what I wrote is a story or not.

Finally the results came, to say it was least expected by my school and friends, I had won, that too first prize. I was shocked and I could see the same expression in the faces of everyone around me, except one. Nalini miss, stood there smiling, as if she already knew that this was going to happen. That evening, she came to me and said, “Vishnu, see what just happened. I told you, I know what’s there in you. One day I will see you, with a book that you have written.” And it was that day, that I realised that I have stories in and around me and that I wanted to be a story teller.

The other two questions, from where do I get ideas and what inspires me. I have just a single answer for these two questions. I get ideas and inspired by anything and everything that happens around me every day. This is about stories. And if you ask me what inspires me to write, it’s the love that my readers shower on me and our (I never say that it’s my book, because you are an integral part of it) books.

What is your opinion on the present generation’s love and relationships? All your books are related to love, emotions and relationships. Are you willing to change your genre?

Aahh… Tough question. Firstly I would like to tell you that, my answer is my own opinion and it’s not to hurt anyone’s feelings.  If I would say, in today’s world, it’s hard to find real love, at least from what I have seen and known. I have heard stories from many people around me on this topic and what I found is that at least fifty percent of this generation falls in love and relationships, just for a time pass or may be like a passing fancy. If we take 100 people, it’s sad to say that only 1% out of that 100 are in real love.

In this fast growing world, people find it real hard to move on with a successful relationship. People fall in love out of crush very easily, and after that the majority fails to take it up to the level of a successful relationship. I remember reading an article in the internet, there was a survey conducted and the results were shocking. A boy or girl tries really hard to make the other one fall for them and once when they are in a relationship, they put zero effort to make that relationship successful. It’s mainly because of selfishness, unnecessary ego and to an extent inferiority complex too.

Yeah, you are right; all our previous books were based on Love, Family and Relationships. It was never intentional, it just happened so. Right now I am working on our 5th book, named ‘AMY’. That too is based on these subjects, perhaps it’s a fictional autobiography.

I am seriously thinking about a genre change soon after this work. Since last one year, I am having a plot for a thriller in my mind, which I will soon start working on after â€˜AMY’.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? Tell us more about My Love Story and Summer with Her?

I always love to keep our books connected with one another, but not necessarily a sequel. ‘Summer with Her’ is the sequel of ‘My Love Story’. But it’s written in such a way that a person who hasn’t read ‘My Love Story’ can also read ‘Summer with Her’, without any difficulty in understanding the story line of ‘My Love Story’. And a person who has read ‘Summer with Her’ can later on read ‘My Love Story’. That’s why I would love to say that both books are stand alone ones.

Telling about ‘My Love Story’, The title suggests it to be a typical Indian romance where the guy meets girl and then they end up ‘happily ever after’. If that is what you are expecting in ‘My love story’, then this is not the book for you. The book not just tells the journey of Ishan from India to Russia but also his life journey. His journey through heartbreak, dream fulfillment and finding the ‘one’ who seems to be just out of reach. In a surprising turn of events, in the climax which gives nothing away, the reader will be left wanting for the next book.

And about ‘Summer with Her’, it’s the story of a husband and wife, a just married couples, who travel to London for their honey moon and later gets settled there. The books tell you the story of their after married life; our hero’s hidden past and of course a beautiful love story. The book also brings to you a wonderful travelogue on London and a thrilling episode from Amazon rainforest. The story progress with unpredictable twists and turns and ends up with a concept of world’s best wife.

What are your views on modern erotica? Have they completely dehumanized the idea, or is it better?

If I would say, art is an art, no matter what the genre is. These days erotica is a part of the majority of books that comes out in various genres. And I think it had turned out to be an unavoidable part.

I would recommend that the writers should filter their own work, based on the focused age group and cultural backgrounds.

If you’re writing about a city/country/culture you haven’t physically visited, how much research do you conduct before you start writing?

Well, that’s an interesting question. Writing about a place, that I haven’t physically visited is really a tedious task. Before writing a story that’s happening at a city/country, which I haven’t visited, I always do months of research and study. I talk to people who have visited that place or lives there. I refer articles and travelogues on the internet and so on.

Other than these, I find someone living at that particular place to get me photographs and videos of that place, where I want my characters to be in. For example, if it’s a street in London, I ask my friend there to go to that street and get me its photos or videos.

What’s a day in the life of Vishnu Kanchan like? If, that is, there is a typical day?

I was not a person who was organized at all. But since November 2016, things have changed. It was in November 2016, Dream Bookbindery, my publishing house was started.

Now a typical day is like, getting up at 5am in the morning, going for a morning walk or cycling, followed by other routines. I start from my house at 9am and heads directly to my office and will be there till 5pm. Evenings are always meant for hanging out with friends or lonely hours at a beach and of course, food is an integral part of my evening fun. Every night 9pm to 10pm is the hour kept aside for interacting with my readers, as they are now an integral part of my life. And most days the time after 11pm is dedicated for reading and writing and where sleep is out of the question.

Since few months, I have started a different plan for myself and I call it ‘Happy Sunday’. Sunday is the day, which I had kept aside for refreshing myself and my mind. I go out to places where I find happiness and a lot of positive energy.

This might sound a bit personal, but, would you mind if we ask you about your happiest moment in life?

There is more than one such moment in life; one was the moment when my first paperback novel was released. In fact it was the happiest of all, as I saw happiness in the face of Nalini Mam, my English teacher, who led me to the world of literature. The second one was when my book made a strong mark in the best seller lists around the globe. And the third one was when my Angel came to my life, just like a floating cloud.

It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?

Aahh, well there is an issue answering this question at this point of time. Because, if I answer this now, you won’t be getting the true emotions of our next book ‘AMY’. Yeah, ‘AMY’ is my story, it’s the story of my unborn baby girl.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Of course, yes. The childhood of ‘Ishan’ from ‘My Love Story’ is a complete portrayal of my childhood. I had included all the incidents from the story of my birth, my family and till my twelfth grade in the book. And the rest was fiction, though nothing in this world is a fiction.

Here is a small extract from the book, for those who haven’t read it yet:

On a September night in 1993. A long corridor in dim light.

A man was walking up and down the corridor and two women were sitting on a bench. The hands of the clock were moving so fast and it felt like the dim light in the corridor got slightly brightened.  Heavy rain was showering all over the building and both the entrances of the corridor were getting wet in the wind as the raindrops poured in. Angels were seen all around. And the dim light made them glow more.

It was all in a sudden the atmosphere changed. The rain got much worse and heavy wind was blowing just like the whole building could not stand steady. Everyone was running into the corridor for cover. And some staffs were busy keeping them quiet and keep the way cleared for emergency movements. The silence of the corridor got submerged. And the cool breeze of air was pushed out by the warm exhales of people.

But still that big door remained closed in the front for that man.

Even though the door opened and closed for a couple of times, it was not for that man.

The man nearly of thirty was a bit tensed and it was reflected in his movements. The man seemed really uncomfortable with the petrichor. Ignoring that he was waiting for the door to open in front of him. The women were sitting and murmuring without disturbing the silence.  Though it was reaching his ears, he kept silent.

The movement of the clock started to slow down. The door was slowly opened. An angel came out and walked away into the dark, maintaining silence.  All the three were starting to be impatient since there were no words from anyone.

They all were waiting for long nine months and today was the end of that. It was on last December that this waiting began. From that day, all around him were waiting for this day in September. The time between that day and this day did not pass easily. Each day was having its own wonders. But few days especially the last few days were really horrifying and at last this day came into his life.

A few minutes passed and the man suddenly stopped. He heard a cry somewhere.

You started your own publishing house. What prompted you take such a decision and how has the ride been thus far?

The hurdles and insults that I had to face while searching for a publisher was the only reason for starting ‘Dream Bookbindery’, that’s the name of my publishing house. Even that name has a reason and story behind it. Publishing a book is a dream for every writers and that’s from where the first part of the name, ‘Dream’ emerged. And I was creating a place where a writer’s dream book was made. ‘Bookbindery’ is a place where a book is made, and that was the second part of the name come from. And hence ‘Dream Bookbindery’ is a place where a writer’s Dream Book is made.

It’s been two years since Dream Bookbindery has started and till date we had published 21 books and more to come. And this ride was never easy. Being a new publisher, we had a hard time getting market for our books and especially retail displays in stores. But now after this journey of two years, Dream Bookbindery’s books has found a place in almost every major book store’s shelves, that too at all major cities in the country.

Debut authors come to us with their manuscripts, hearing our stories from different sources and we as a team tries to accept the maximum number of manuscripts so as to make their dream come true. Till date we have launched four imprints, on fiction, nonfiction, children’s books and regional languages.

What are your hopes for the future? Where do you see yourself as an author and as an individual in the next five years?

Hopes are the basis of our life. We all hope to do or achieve different things in the future. And if you ask me about my hopes for the future, there are a few things. I hope to keep everyone around me happy and I hope to leave a signature in this world before my life ends. And I definitely hope to help a lot of debut authors to make their dream come true. That’s it.

In the next five years, I hope to see myself as an author, who spreads happiness to my readers. Along with that I want to inspire, motivate and make people dream about life through stories that I write.

And as an individual, I hope to get settled with a peaceful family life, along with an understanding partner.

We have come to know that you are also a great motivational speaker. So, some motivating words for our readers?

I don’t think that I am a motivational speaker. What I do is share stories, which have good morals and messages. And by god’s grace, people could relate the stories with their own life and they get motivated. I am happy that my words motivate and inspire people. In fact everyone has positive energies within themselves and what I do is, just ignites it and makes them think. And when they get ignited, they start to think positively and gets motivated.

I will tell you something, â€œI have heard people telling that life is complicated. I would like to put it another way. Life is what we make it.” Just think. We all say that, I am tensed or I am in the middle of a lot of problems or I am heart broken or I am feeling lonely, etc… Now think, we say all these things because we think that all these are an issue and it’s bothering us. Instead, if we think that this is not an issue, these problems will never bother us. You know what, only those things, that we let them to bother us, will bother us.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Talking about it might be a quiet long list. In the last two years, there have been a lot of authors who came to my friends circle and that include debut authors to the bestselling authors. A debut author that my firm published, Gokul Mohandas is a great friend of mine. And at the very same time, Sudeep Nagarkar, the bestselling author is a very close friend and stands as my elder brother. This list includes, Ravinder SinghAnuj TiwariSavi SharmaKevin Missal and many more…

Everyone in this list has helped me in one way or other to make my story telling better. We discuss latest trends in different genres, new writing experiments etc and all these always made be a better writer each day.

How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?

I was a part-time writer for almost 5 years. It was the time of my graduation and my past days as a travel and street photographer. And it was in 2016, after the release of ‘My Love Story’, that I decided to be a full time writer.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

I too had heard that and even I know many writers with loner tendencies. But in no way I am like that. I always like to interact with people, tell them stories and hear stories from them. I travel a lot to find stories and characters and later create stories out of what I have seen around me.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks? Often, we are stuck in situations that we are not able to find a way out of. Have you ever incorporated a real-life situation from your own experience into the book and made the character find a way out of it the way you could not?

Yeah mostly my hero characters inherit my own quirks. And I always had included many real-life situations from my own experience into our books. But I never had written something like my characters finds a way out of some situations, because I had never let a situation in my life go without a solution.

How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book “My Love Story’’?

There were actually no many celebrations. I had contributed all the royalties that I received from ‘My Love Story’ to a children’s home in Kerala and still it continues even after two years of book’s release. I think, this is how I celebrated that dream come true of mine.

When can we expect your next book ‘’Amy” to hit the stores? Is there anything you can share about the upcoming book that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

I was actually planning to complete ‘Amy’ by the mid of 2018, but it didn’t happen due to various reasons. I am still writing it and I have completed 60% of it as I answer this question. I hope the book will reach you by the end of 2019. I am not sure though, as some prominent publishers are interested in the book. And if I decide not to publish ‘Amy’ via my publishing house, then it might take some more time.

About the book, it’s titled as ‘Amy’, with a subtitle of ‘my unborn baby girl’. I had already said that this book is a fictional autobiography. The book tells the story of an author who works hard to bring out his first book, then getting successful and turning out to be a nationally acclaimed author. And please don’t think that the book is gonna be an inspirational stuff alone. The book will definitely have an inspirational story and more than that there will be love, heartbreak, family life, mystery and much more.

Here is an extract, exclusively for you.

The temperature inside the air conditioned bus was forcing me to pull into my jacket. The bus stopped at a traffic light, by the road I saw few kids in school uniforms, in front of a bakery. They were counting coins that each of them contributed. Finally once when all the counting was done, the elder among them went to the shop and asked for something. Within no time the shopkeeper took a packet of ‘Kurkure’ from a roll of packets and gave it to the girl.

Soon the girl came out and the other children were looking at her and feelings on their faces showed many emotions. I was sure that they contributed all their savings for that single packet of snack which costs just ten rupees. Watching all these was a matter of minute, but the very next moment I felt ashamed of myself, remembering a stupid thing that I did few days back.

‘I was driving back from a friend’s house and it was late at night. So I stopped by a restaurant in the outer city and ordered for full size chicken fried rice, chilly chicken, butter chicken and some desserts. Finally out of these, what I ate was a small portion of fried rice and to the maximum a two or three spoons of curry from each one. Before leaving the restaurant, leaving behind such a quantity of food which at least two more could eat, without any hesitation I paid a bill for Six hundred and twenty eight rupees.’

It was not the first time I was wasting food in such a way, it was quite usual. On the other side those children were trying hard to buy a small packet of snacks. This is it what’s happening around in this world. Idiots like me keep on wasting food and thousands keeps starving for food.

(Please pardon me. The above extract is purely unedited version and I am not that good at grammatical.)

If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?

I never choose a book by an author’s name. What I look for is good stories and I will do that same pattern here too.

How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading?

E-books have definitely helped the world to read more. Because with the entry of e-books, now we don’t need to carry a lot of paperbacks in our hands, while travelling or else. We can now read millions of books in Kindle and other such platforms or devices. It’s the necessity of time, I would say.

And at the same time, still I am a paperback fan and I had never read an e-book, because it never gave a feeling of reading the book. Only a paperback can do that.

What are your suggestions for aspiring writers? Speaking for myself I’ve always wanted to write something that people would read. What are your suggestions for aspiring young writers?

Write what your heart says and only then you can portray the real emotions to your stories. Keep your stories simple. I mean anyone who reads it should easily understand your language and narration.

Trust yourself and work hard for your dreams and the rest will automatically happen.

Keep this in mind always, â€œFind yourself and be proud of who you are.” (This is a quote that I wrote for ‘Amy’)

Thank you, sir for giving your time and letting your readers know a bit more about you. It was really a privilege interviewing you. Hope you enjoyed the interview. 

Here are some of the links via you can contact Vishnu Kanchan

You can stalk him @ Facebook|Twitter|Instagram

Links to buy his books-  

My Love Story

Summer With Her

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