An interview with a first-time author: Manu Dhawan chats about his book, The Unprodigal
"I am a private equity investor, banker, content producer, start-up entrepreneur and a recent out-of-closet writer," says Manu Dhawan, introducing himself.
"I am also a true Libran who bares an acute sense of fairness, a flashy dimple and sometimes, a heart of gold," he adds.
"I have donned many hats but words move me like nothing else. Here I am pouring my heart out to you, hoping you would stand with me for what I believe in - chasing the hell out of your passion until it looks up and says hello."
Manu's first general fiction novel, The Unprodigal, is a promise he made to himself in the uncomfortable quarters of uncertainty.
"I have since realised uncertainty is life’s second name and I wholly embrace it," he says. This novel is a celebration of that realisation, he asserts.
Here's an interview with the writer about his book, The Unprodigal.
Tell us about your book? What made you pen it?
The Unprodigal is a coming-of-age saga of a man put in a treacherous situation with only his determination and grandfather’s love to stand by him.
A story of redemption just when he is about to give up. A tale of standing up against the mightiest because it is who he is. Who he was always meant to be.
It is a combustible melting pot of three generations of powerful fathers and defiant sons. Exceptional father-son relationships, high on testosterone! But at the same time, human emotions and engagement are real and something which all can relate to.
I like telling stories which give people hope and positivity and the strength to stand by what is right.
The aim is to make my readers reflect, laugh, react, question, answer, think and express, one tiny emotion at a time. Or a giant opinion. A mediocre question. Or maybe, just maybe, a bright thought. After all, it is what we were born to do.
What is the biggest USP of the book?
I think the story brings out a unique dichotomy that exists in a father-son relationship – that of love & awe, pride & expectation, contempt & validation and strength & fragility.
This dichotomy makes this relationship special, yet sensitive. But more importantly, depending on which way the scales tilt, it defines the man you eventually become - holy books have delved into it, mythology has built legends around it and nature displays it with so many beautiful contradictions.
This story brings out this dichotomy in a modern urban setting with real characters and situations.
The other unique element about the book is the characters - they have been fleshed out intuitively without any pre-conceived designs in mind. They are drops from people I have come across or observed in life – fusing them to make complex, layered yet real beings!
Since you're a first-time author, what are the challenges you faced while writing?
Writing requires as much discipline as any other art or profession. However, the bigger challenge is in channelising your creativity to follow that discipline.
Once you recognise a pattern and are in the zone, it is easy to write. But the key is to find that zone every day of your writing life.
The other challenge is to stay true to your style no matter what people say. Everyone will have their valid views and opinions.
As long as you are aware of the basic structures of storytelling, you should follow your instinctive style and let the rules take care of themselves.
Lastly, it is also important to have a full-time/part-time career on the side so that you can sustain yourself and keep pursuing your dream.
Writing is not a one-time shot at stardom, it’s a consistent endeavour to express yourself for the betterment of the world and its people. You need to ensure you can sustain yourself on this journey.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your first book?
I never realised how cathartic writing this book will be for myself. This book, in so many ways, became a manifestation of my personal growth, changes and self-realisation.
From a hardened corporate junkie with wet dreams of louder hurrahs and fatter paychecks to someone who can sip a cup of tepid coffee and find the world in it, I now realise life has its own ways of getting you where you should be.
Sometimes, that way is long and winding. I am fortunate that mine was.
How was your literary journey? How long did you take to complete the book?
I wrote the book in about 6 months. The journey was exciting, soul searching and nerve-wracking at the same time!
Although I have been writing actively all my life - school magazines, songs, poems, social blogging, articles, etc, writing my first book was uniquely invigorating.
Almost like making a baby! When I started writing this book, I had no idea where it will go and where I will go along with it. I trusted the process, gave it my all and the process gave back to me!
In your opinion, what kind of emotions does this book will generate to your readers?
A sense of introspection and fulfilment. Each one of us finds ourselves in important situations in life and the choices we make decide who we become.
I also believe it should invoke a sense of closure. It sure did for me!
What is the message you would like to give to all young readers?
If this book moves my readers in any way, I’ll be the happiest. Writing and reading have to be symbiotic, else they can’t exist.
Reading is the most self-enriching yet patient exercise that one can indulge in. The fact that there are young readers still in love with words and ink is a matter of great respect and full of hope.
I wish they carry on because the future of the world depends on it.
What are your future plans?
To stay true to my passion and to keep writing! I have just begun and I have finally found what makes me happy. I intend to stay happy!
I am working on a trilogy which should be totally different from what we have seen so far.
I also want to spend time with students and youngsters wanting to know more about the process and profession of writing.
The Unprodigal is published by Rupa Publications and is out in stores and online, INR 295.