Thursday, April 24, 2014

The making of OSTSTL...

Love? I think ‘Love’ is the most misconstrued and abused word of all time. Most people don’t quite understand what love is all about. I don’t have any qualms in admitting that I too have failed to decode the mystery that’s love. And yet, I have managed to write a contemporary romantic novel titled ‘Once smitten, twice shy, thrice lucky’. I proudly unveil the cover design.

Many thanks to my current roomies Srinivas Drona and Siddharth Varshney for ideating and coming up with the cover concept that’s before you. It’s pretty simple – depicting the three emotions, the protagonist experiences. Heartbreak. Then, the rebound when the protagonist is unsure what to make of his friendship with a girl he likes. And then finally meeting his soul-mate.

Published by Notion Press, OSTSTL will be soon available in Flipkart, Amazon, Bookadda and other such leading portals. An e-book version will also be released along with the paperback.

My tryst with this book began about three years back. I started giving shape to the protagonists after Diwali 2011. By then, I had written many short stories that I kept to myself. Most of them were wildly imaginative and some were outlandish. But with OSTSTL, I literally let my imagination run amok. There were days when I would skip office and come back home early, for I knew what the protagonists were about to do next. I feared that if I don’t pen down my thoughts soon enough, I would lose them. And that wouldn’t be fair to the protagonists and the story in general. OSTSTL has been my baby. And I have nurtured it for so long that I sometimes find it hard to let go.

I have never been a morning person, so to speak. So my nocturnal habits that I inculcated at IIMA, came in handy. I would spend the evenings visualising how the protagonists would think and hence act, taking the storyline forward. After dinner, my fingers would start rolling on the keyboard. In between, I would listen to music that would more often than not suit the mood the story would be set in. I have come to realise that I can’t be a good writer if I let my personal life tamper with the engine (my brain) pumping the creative juices. So, in that sense, writing was therapeutic.

Meanwhile, I had to endure a debilitating mental condition, known to afflict even the best of writers called ‘Writer’s Block’. A well lubricated knee allows you to walk normally. An inflammation of the knee joint is debilitating. A writer’s block is the inflammation of your creative thought process. It’s debilitating for it jams that part of the brain that churns out ideas. And yet, writer’s block is an intrinsic process, a result of your own undoing. Why? I think part of it has got to do with the process of writing itself. Writing is a confusing profession to be in. While developing the story, most writers often keep to themselves and seldom share what they write for fear of getting influenced. I was no different. As a result, when I reach the so called ‘saturation point’, I am no longer able to think rationally. I am not happy with what I try to write. Ask my ‘backspace’ button on the keyboard and it will tell you the extent to which I sometimes subjected it to insurmountable levels of cruelty. I will not mince my words. I was depressed as hell, when I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to write. Of course back then, I wasn’t aware that I was experiencing writer’s block.  And that further made matters worse. Luckily, I knew that I needed to take a break, which I did. But a writer has to stay afresh and inspired for you never know when you experience a brainwave. And you got to be ready for that moment to arrive, like a flash, like a thunderbolt that jolts you into writing again. I guess I was ready. So, this is how I ended up completing what I thought was OSTSTL.

But then by the end of January 2013, I felt that my draft needed a little refining. The vocabulary was far from impressive. The narrative lacked the depth, finesse and dimension. And the grammar was horrible. That’s when destiny brought me and my editor Divya Lavanya together for a collaboration that was to last for the next 9 months or so. I can’t thank her enough. Of course, this collaboration wouldn’t have been fruitful without the unflinching support of her husband Sarat. And how can I forget Divya and Sarat’s cute little daughter Baby Satvika. I hope that she picks up my book when she starts reading fiction! Divya, Sarat and I share the same alma mater – JNTU Hyderabad. So, it didn’t take us much time to connect in a big way.

Anyway, so what my editor brought to the table did wonders to the book. The draft underwent further revisions. Dots that didn’t connect were done away with. Some tracks were removed. Ruthless editing was done. In the process, Divya pushed me to the limits. She was critical which a good editor should always be. And yet, she sometimes sang paeans, telling me how dramatically I had improved under her tutelage. Looking back, I think Divya was the best person to edit my book. Why? She understands what it is to love and be loved. I am pretty sure that we have many more such projects to work on together. The final draft was ready by January 2014. Now, it’s time for some more acknowledgments.

Writing is a lonely process. And yet requires that your support system be strong. My unassuming little sister has always been a source of inspiration and rock solid support for me. Thanks Sindu. You rock! Many thanks Dipika, Srinivas, Divya for the constant stream of morale boosters that helped me clear all shreds of a lack of confidence in my abilities.

Manoj Motiani, Abhilash Gudla, Aditya Shekhar, Abhinav Pathi, Avinash Singh, Soumya Poddar, Vikas Nigam, Prasad Dhake, Rachit Kumar, Charu Lata Sharma, Arulin Jajorea and Anirban Samajpati – Special mention to all of you for sharing your life experiences and insights on love, money and women. Thanks a ton for making my living life at IIMA a memorable experience. Did I mention that a small part of the story in OSTSTL is set in IIMA? Don’t worry. I have tried my best to paint a very realistic imagery of IIMA!

Surya Chandrika Bondada – Now you know why I constantly kept on bombarding you with queries. Thanks a lot. Your medical insights have contributed immensely in shaping an important protagonist of this book. I am sure you will rock as a great surgeon some day.

Kiran & Divya Gone – To be an integral part of your tryst with unbridled love has been both an honour and something I take great pride in. I have taken the liberty to sketch characters based on you both and I hope you connect to them. Many thanks to you both. Keep rocking!

Lakshmi Yadavalli and Sonali Korada – I have immensely enjoyed listening to your version of how men fail to understand women. Or rather should I say your version of a dummies guide to understanding women? Can’t thank you both enough though. For making me a better person and labelling me with the proverbial ‘nice guy’ tag. It sure does feel good, listening to you both.

Special mention to PVR, Sandeep Yerra, Abhinav Agarwal, Shekhar Raj for bearing a silent ‘me’. All of you have been very supportive of my creative endeavour. We shall raise a toast some day!

And of course mom and dad. I have inherited many traits. But the one thing I will cherish the most is the power to remain silent for long periods of time. This has sure helped me. Silence is golden? Naah. I say, Silence is Platinum! And of course, all of life is a chance...

signing off,
Sandeep Kothapalli