Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
tgbc: What does it mean to be a writer?
Dilip : It means I work for myself, at my own pace, following (or not following) the stories I’m interested in. That’s a very big thing. It also means I am constantly fighting an odd battle: I write for myself, but I also know I want and need an audience, so I have to write for them as well. And it has taught me to keep my eyes open to a far greater extent than I think I used to: just in the things around that I notice.
tgbc: Who are your book mentors?
Dilip: John Krakauer, Ian Frazier, Pico Iyer, Katherine Boo, Bernard MacLaverty, Elmore Leonard, Steven Pressfield. Many more, but those are certainly folks whose writing I admire.
tgbc: What do you do when you are looking for inspiration, or facing a writer’s block?
Dilip: I don’t really face writers’ block, I don’t think. My motto is one word: write. The cure for writers’ block, or for a lack of inspiration, is to write. It’s the writing that defeats any blocks, it’s in the writing that inspiration strikes. These are lessons I learned for myself, but also in a wonderful little book by Steven Pressfield called “The War of Art”.
tgbc: Did you get to meet Sachin Tendulkar for ‘Final Test’?
Dilip: No, and that was a conscious decision. I really wanted the book to be a fan’s eye view of the game and the sport. Meaning, how does an ordinary fan of cricket, with no access to the big stars, see the game? I don’t think it’s the kind of book that needed, or would have benefited from, interviewing Sachin T.
tgbc: Your regular working/writing day?
Dilip: When I’m working toward a book, or a major deadline, I usually try to get up by 530 and get a couple of hours of writing in before the kids and breakfast and school stuff intervenes. If I manage that, then I actually get a lot accomplished in those two hours and feel like I’ve already got something under my belt for the day. I usually also work from about 10 to 1, a bit in the afternoon, and perhaps an hour or two after dinner. But again, the really productive time is that early morning, with no distractions.
tgbc: A quote you swear by
Dilip: I have a few favorites –
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
– Abraham Lincoln, 16th US president (1809-1865)
Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy
– George Bernard Shaw
(Also see poem below, after all the questions)
tgbc: Your comfort food?
Dilip: Pomelo (the fruit).
tgbc: .What ‘s your next writing project ?
Dilip: Not sure. I have a couple of longer essays I want to attempt, and 2-3 book ideas that I need to flesh out. There’s also a half-finished novel (doesn’t every writer make such a claim?) sitting on my hard disk that I really need to find the guts to return to and finish. It’s been nearly 4 years since I put it aside, so I’m not joking about the guts. In general though, I want to focus on the longer essays and books now. That’s what I feel like I can do best.
tgbc: What is your best marketing tip?
Dilip: I’m not sure I have any! I am really no good at marketing. Perhaps I’ll repeat what the writer Jerry Pinto once told me: be willing to go anywhere, do anything, to get folks to read your book.
tgbc: What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Dilip: The marketing! Because it really interests me so little. I mean, I recognize it is important, but I can’t get excited about doing it.
And finally: While I don’t read much poetry, this poem never fails to move me (especially the line about being turned to “my pain”). It was written by the Roman lyric poet, Catullus, to honor his dead brother, killed near Troy:
By strangers’ coasts and waters, many days at sea,
I came here for the rites of your unworlding,
Bringing for you, the dead, these last gifts of the living
And my words — vain sounds for the man of dust.
Alas, my brother,
You have been taken from me. You have been taken from me
And by cold hands turned to shadow and my pain.
Here are the foods of the old ceremony appointed
Long ago for the starvelings under the earth.
Take them. Your brother’s tears have made them wet. And take
Into eternity my hail and my farewell.