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'My Interpretation Of The Emergency'

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Why this book? How did you get the idea of writing this book?
The Vicks Mango Tree is my interpretation of the Emergency. Though I was a schoolboy when the Emergency was proclaimed, it immediately captured my imagination. I remember people talking about it much the same way they talked about Sholay, which came out the same year. Some said it was good, some talked ill of it. And all I could gather from these conversations was it had a central character called Indira Gandhi.

Once the Emergency was lifted, newspapers started towrite about the excesses committed during this period of suspended civil rights and stern censorships. We read about political prisoners, about people who came out of hiding, and about those who never came back to tell their stories. And I wanted to write stories about these people, especially about the ones who had vanished without a trace.

How difficult was it to put the book together? What kind of research did you have to do it write this?
It was not very difficult. The book is set in a fictional princely state called Mangobaag, so I had the freedom to create it the way I pleased. And I picked streets, monuments, parks and bazaars from several Indian cities to sketch an old, rambling place called Mangobaag. On the research part, the Internet helped a lot. So did people who had vivid memories of the Emergency. 
The Vicks Mango Tree
Anees Salim
Pages: 386
Price: 399
Tell us about your writing habits...When and where do you write?
I am a restless writer. When I work on a manuscript, I can’t stay away from it for long. I keep reading and rewriting it, and try to see the story through the eyes of a reader. Iusually write at late night or early morning.

Where all did this book take you?
Geographically, it took me to cities that have a distinct past and crumbling old buildings. Places like Hyderabad and Delhi, for instance. Cities that are much unlike the little town I grew up in. Every time I revisit my hometown I look at this book as the pill that killed the pain of growing up in a sleepy little town with almost no friends. 

Several admen are coming out with published works. Creativity in the ad industry perhaps gives way to writing a manuscript... your comments.
Everyone I meet makes me feel that this world is full of people forced to do wrong jobs. And every second person I talk to is an aspiring actor or author. I don’t think being in advertising makes writing a book any easier, unless you want to write a book on advertising. But advertising could be one of the best day jobs for a writer. The act of writing good things about products you may never use in real life can inspire you to write passionately about things you actually believe in. 

What’s your energy drink?
Tea. Any form of it.

How did you find a publisher for your book? Tell us your journey of writing a manuscript to a published format...
It was a long and excruciating journey. It is a wonder I survived it.  I began my serious search for a publisher a few years ago, writing query letters to all publishing majors around the world. I was rejected more than 25 times. The pain of rejection was immense every time. But rejections made me write more, and I ended up looking for publishers for three of my novels at the same time. But when things started to happen, they happened too fast. I got an agent in 10 minutes, a publisher in a fortnight, and three book deals inside a month.

Do you think an author's role goes beyond writing;  how important is his/her role in marketing the book?
I am told that a writer plays a critical role in promoting his/her book. But I stay away from all promotional activities. I don’t attend book launches, lit fests and author-reader interactions. I am an extremely private person.

What makes a book a really good read or a bestseller?
I think it’s the craft that makes all the difference.

Are you into writing full time now? What's the hardest thing about being a writer?
I divide my time between writing advertisements and writing books. In that sense, I am not a full time writer, though writing is what I do for about 15 hours a day. The hardest part for me is waiting for the reviews and reader responses.

What are you reading now?
I am currently reading The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah.

E-books or paper format?
Paper format. I love turning pages the good old way.

So, what’s next?
I have three more titles coming out in 2013. Tales From A Vending Machine(HarperCollins), The Blind Lady’s Descendents (Amaryllis) and Vanity Bagh (Picador). 

(Compiled by Sanjitha Rao Chaini)

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