He wrote his first poem when he was four. He wrote his debut bestselling novel, ‘As I Turn Twenty’, before actually turning twenty. He grew up reading and admiring Harry Potter. He adores classics by Maugham, Hemingway, Joyce, Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tolstoy and others from the league of great authors.
Reekrit Serai, an India author, entrepreneur, columnist and educationist, has now come up with his second book, Impulse. A collection of some intense and light-hearted short stories, Impulse is receiving rave reviews from critics and readers across the nation.
Reekrit Serai, in a candid interview with me, talks about his latest book Impulse, his thoughts about publishing industry, his plans as the co-founder of Rumour Books and his upcoming books.
L&C: You are just into your early twenties; a time when all that authors can think of is ‘Romance’. How did you come up with something so intense in the form of Impulse, your latest book?
Reekrit: The idea actually came to me by Impulse, hence the name of the book. I was tired of reading the same type of young Indian writing that we see nowadays—mushy, light reads, and sometimes bordering on shallow. Most of it was provocative, and some of it was outright sleazy. I thought, why not write something that seems and feels real? Something not very lovey-dovey, but yes, something which not only teens, but people in general relate to.
L&C: Did you always want to be an author or is it some fate or destiny or upar vale ki marzi kinda twist that brought you into the world of storytelling?
Reekrit: I wrote my first poem when I was four. I started writing fantasy in my early teens. Kept up with poetry till around the age of 18, and then came up with As I Turn Twenty when I was 19. I guess writing stemmed from the need to vent out when I was younger and as I grew it became an inseparable part of my persona.
Now writing has become a means to reach out to people in a manner that would leave a positive impact on their lives. While growing up I always wanted to make a difference to the world and yes writing is my bit, there is so much violence, animosity, vengeance, competition that we succumb to. My writing is a way to free my readers of these negative emotions and be in a space where it’s just them and their thoughts.
L&C: Even the love stories were treated and presented differently. How wise is it to go against the tide?
Reekrit: I think we’re all looking for something different every time. Now, even romance can be different. It doesn’t need to be always mushy. Sometimes, things don’t work out. And that’s something we have to accept. It might not be the lovers’ fault. It might be circumstances.
I have a keen eye for what’s lurking beneath the surface. When people are happy, there’s always a glimmer in their eyes. But, why doesn’t that glimmer stay on forever? Something changes, subsequently. Something makes them pensive, sad, anguished, and then happy again, and the circle repeats itself over and over again. I think circumstances reflect greatly in my stories and by going against the tide I am enjoying the waves twice as much I believe.
L&C: Many of your short stories (Impulse) are open-ended. Is it because you were confused with the climax or you want to leave it to the readers’ imagination?
Reekrit: They’re definitely open-ended. I don’t want to force my thinking on anyone. It’s totally up to the reader what s/he wants to take back home. My job as a writer, just like a painter, is to paint a picture. What perception is formed is something I cannot push. Like, a young boy may be inspired by one of my stories, such as a short, sad love story, whereas a teenager may be shocked into doing something like the protagonist does.
Yes, most of my work does reflect existentialism as I’ve read a lot of Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Chekov, and more recently, Julian Barnes, who borders on absurdum sometimes.
L&C: Personal experiences have, in most cases, been the brick and mortar in the making of an author. Your debut novel, As I Turn Twenty, was released when you were actually about to turn 20. So how many shades-of-the-facts does your fiction feature?
Reekrit: You can only write what you either know or have experienced. Yes, there are personal instances. But, not always. Like I said, I have a keen eye and a sharp ear. Everything that goes on around me gets registered somewhere back there, and then when I write, it sort of finds its way out. Most of my writing is set in my surroundings like London, Delhi, and Punjab.
L&C: You are the co-founder of a publishing house, Rumour Books India. What class of readers you would be catering to – the serious, strict but scarce literary lovers or youngrom-com, fast-food literature lovers who make the real difference when it comes to ‘copies sold’ figure?’
Reekrit: Me and my partner, Radhika, were very clear about our goal when we started Rumour Books India. We’re from different industries—I’m from a marketing background, an educationist and a literary writer. She’s worked as an administrator, in one of the biggest banks in the world, and is a journalist.
Our common thread was and is—writing. We saw what was happening to the Indian writing scene. With no offense to anyone, till a few months ago, and even now, a lot of pointless writing was appearing. Writing that was shallow, and meant for a young audience.
Something that was demeaning, and even derogatory, but considered “in” with youngsters. Sadly, that’s not the case. Yes, you can get numbers when you target the youth because nearly half the population is below the age of 30 in India, but what happens when they grow up? Will they still read what you’ve written? Will they imbibe it? Will they grow with it? Or will they hide it beneath their pillows and eventually discard it as trash?
At Rumour Books India, we’re bringing exciting, page-turning fiction at a price range that doesn’t pinch pockets. Yes, we target young readers, but don’t want to expose them to something half-baked. And, yes, we’re in it for the literary lovers as well, which our titles will reflect in the coming few months.
L&C: What would you like to read personally?
Reekrit: I read a lot of western literature, such as Julian Barnes, who I consider my all-time favorite. Still can’t get over A Sense of An Ending, which totally changed my views on writing. Maugham, Hemingway, Joyce, Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez—adore the classics as well as classical contemporaries. I love fast-paced thrillers. I have read most of the Grisham’s and all of Dan Brown’s work.
I was a Harry Potter fanatic while growing up. I read a lot of Russian classics, such as those of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekov. Recently, I’ve been drawn into philosophy, such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Nietzsche. I have studied psychology, especially Erikson and Freud. Most of my writing stems from certain ideologies, ranging from Hinduism to Islam, and even Buddhism.
Can’t get enough of short stories, though, which can I read and write at leisure, especially Indian short stories of Khushwant Singh and Manto.
You won’t find me reading cheesy stuff. Perhaps, that’s why I don’t write about it. There has to be something deeper in what we feel and write. Most of my writing is inspired by real life.
L&C: What can we expect next from Reekrit’s platter? Would it be ever-working ‘Romantic’ or an out-of-the-league, risky but self-satisfying, work like Impulse?
Reekrit: I want to be experimental as a writer so you’re going to be surprised with every new plot that I pen down. My next work is something totally different from Impulse, and is set in Paris and New Delhi.
L&C: Your favorite authors whom you admire growing up.
Reekrit: If I had to sum it up, there are just three—Khushwant Singh, JK Rowling and Dan Brown. Khushwant Singh showed me the realities of life. Rowling, opened my eyes to a world of fantasy and Brown, the mysterious. When I grew up, author writers simply came and filled in the void.
L&C: What do you want to advice to the budding and aspiring authors who wish to send their manuscript to you?
Reekrit: Don’t follow the herd. Write something that you feel for, and not just because you think it’ll do well. Write from the heart. And write something that will leave an impact, not only on your readers, but yourself. Remember, you have to live with your writing, so it should make you happy first. The rest just follows.