Meet the author and a prominent blogger of India, Mr Vikram Karve. He served his country and is now a retired Navy Officer. He got his education from the very affluent IIT, Delhi and IIT Varansi. He has two books to his credit Cocktail, a collection of short stories (2011) andAPPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008). He has also taught in a university for a good 15 years which makes him a pro at giving advices. He is fun to chat with and I haven’t seen a man more lively who loved life and food, as he does.
His Blog: http://www.karvediat.blogspot.com
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From my schooldays, I always loved reading books.
I started writing only after I joined the Navy.
In the 1970s, as young Naval Officers, during our training days, we were encouraged to write professional articles for various in-house and military journals.
Those days – being erudite, well-read and well-informed was considered a positive “Officer Like Quality” (OLQ).
In the Navy – we had access to excellent well-stocked libraries – even ships had libraries with a wide variety of books ranging from military literature to fiction.
I continued my reading and writing – and later – after completing my M. Tech. from IIT Delhi – I started writing academic articles and publishing papers in research journals.
Noticing my flair for writing – my senior officers involved me in editing/publication activities of Navy in-house journals and writing articles for supplements.
For around 10 years – I did a lot of “non-creative” writing comprising professional, managerial, academic and research articles/papers.
I always loved observing the world and the people around me. As I grew up, my observations of the world around me, and my life experiences, created feelings and emotions inside me, and I wanted to unburden myself and express these feelings – in short, I was filled with an urge to “say something”.
On most occasions I could express my feelings my talking to people, but there were occasions when I could not do so, for a variety of reasons (sometimes I wanted to “say something” but no one had the time or inclination to hear me out) – so I started writing short stories to fulfill my urge to “say something” and to express my inner feelings.
I wrote my first short story “Rendezvous at Sunrise” after my customary weekly visit to the “Sunday Morning Market” in Vizag (Visakhapatnam) in the 1980’s.
Thereafter – though I continued my “non-creative” writing – I enjoyed creative writing much more and I regularly wrote fiction short stories.
With the advent of internet, I found the medium of blogging the best way to unburden myself of my inner feelings and unleash my creative urge, and hence I started blogging.
Tell us about your book COCKTAIL and how did you come to publish it?
It is said that “the happiest persons are those who think the most interesting thoughts”.
Creative Writing made me happy, because at all times, I was thinking interesting thoughts, observing people and events, thinking about them, making up stories in my mind – there was never a dull moment ever since I started writing and I have forgotten the meaning of boredom.
The happiest moment in my life when I saw my first story published in a magazine.
During my early creative writing days, in the 1980’s and1990’s, before the advent of the internet, writing was a laborious and painstaking activity.
First – I wrote the story in longhand.
Then – my wife typed in double-space on our portable typewriter (if she was busy, then I had to undergo the agony of typing, draft after draft).
After getting the manuscript ready in the prescribed format – I sent the story by post (with Self Addressed Envelope enclosed) to a suitable magazine which published short fiction.
After that – my creative work was at the mercy of editors and it was a frustrating wait.
Also – most of the magazines that published short fiction were women’s magazines – and I noticed a “reverse gender bias” against male writers.
Internet changed things for the better.
Now there were Literary E- Magazines and Websites where you could publish your work.
One such portal was Sulekha where I published a large number of my stories.
However, even here your work was subject to a bit of editorial scrutiny, though approval was almost universal and prompt, and all my work was published without delay.
It was in the year 2004 that I discovered the world of Blogging.
Blogging was the most fascinating thing that happened in my life.
Now there was no barrier between the writer and the reader.
I could post my creative writing instantly on my blog and showcase it to the whole world.
I stopped submitting my short stories to magazines and stared posting them on my creative writing blog. I wrote on many topics like food, philosophy, self help, education and travel and started niche blogs for these topics.
You also have a widely successful blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal, what motivated you to start one?
I had a creative writing blog on a portal called Sulekha where I posted my fiction stories.
In 2008, I started work as a Professor at a University, and I decided to start a blog for my Academic Writings.
I had also opened some niche blogs on other topics like food, self-help, book-reviews, management-technology etc.
Since managing a multiplicity of blogs was becoming unwieldy, I decided to amalgamate all my writing into my Academic Writing Blog which I renamed as “Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve”.
This is my main blog now – and it has recently crossed 16,00,000 (16 Lakh) Page Views.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Since I was reasonably “tech-savvy” and I had plenty of original content in my mind’s eye – I did not face any major challenges – I have a passion for writing and blogging and keep learning the nuances by hit-and-trial.
I observe interesting relationships, situations and people around me, and let my observations perambulate in my mind and soon I start thinking interesting thoughts and a story is born.
When I sit down to write the story, I bear in mind two things:
Every person lives two lives – a life in time and a life by values.
So while my story moves in time, it must also impart value to the reader, and there must be a subtle “moral of the story”.
Tell us about your publishing journey
My Blogs started gaining popularity and soon some publishers were reading my blogs.
This resulted in two books:
APPETITE FOR A STROLL – a compilation of my food adventure blog posts.
COCKTAIL – an anthology of my short stories about relationships.
I had written around 100 short stories on a variety of themes and plots, including thrillers, murder mysteries, espionage and detective stories, stories of children, teaching and inspirational stories, adventure, romance and love stories.
We selected 27 short stories which explore fascinating facets of relationships for COCKTAIL. The title is apt, since, after all, every relationship is a unique labyrinthine mélange of emotions, shaken and stirred, like a cocktail.
To be frank, I was quite disillusioned with the experience I had publishing books, where a creative writer is expected to devote more effort to marketing the book rather than writing it.
That is why I have decided to focus on blogging which is a more rewarding experience and gives you “instant gratification”.
What is the best part of being a writer?
The best part of being a writer is that your brain remains so busy thinking interesting thoughts that you do not have time to worry and you never get bored.
I read somewhere that: “creative writing is 99% thinking and 1% actual writing”.
I enjoy the entire process of writing and I experience a sense of timelessness and a unique ecstasy when I am writing.
I believe that your vocational life is defined by four stages: Job – Career – Calling – Métier.
I have found my true métier in writing.
I love writing.
When I am writing I know that I am doing the thing I was born to do.
For me – writing has great therapeutic value and keeps me youthful and happy.
Writing immediately puts me in a “good mood”.
On the flip side – I experience frustration when I am “obstructed” from writing.
Do you think, seeing the trends today, the writer needs to promote their own book, or leave it for the readers to pick it up?
I feel that a writer’s job is to write – and writers should not be asked to promote their books.
Sadly – this seems to be increasingly the norm nowadays – where you see writers desperately trying to sell their books by indulging in all sorts of gimmicks including PR Blitzkriegs.
Promoting and marketing books should be the publisher’s task.
Of course – a writer can inform friends about the book via social media – and then leave it for the readers to pick it up.
Who influenced your writing style?
I read all kinds of books.
However – I love reading fiction the most.
I have learned more about life from fiction than from philosophy and spiritualism.
My all time favorite book is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat, The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, The Guide by RK Narayan, Distant Drum by Manohar Malgonkar and My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk are among by favorite novels.
Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemingway, Alberto Moravia, Somerset Maugham, Khushwant Singh and the inimitable Bengali Writer Banaphool are my favorite short story writers.
I love reading plays too – and one of my favorite plays is “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams.
The one author who has influenced my writing style the most is “Ernest Hemingway”.
What are your current projects?
My aim is to write at least one blog post every day – because I believe that “a blog a day keeps the doctor away” – since this ensures I write regularly, my mind is busy thinking interesting thoughts and I remain stress-free, happy and healthy.
Of course – most of my blog posts are short stories.
I am also writing a “memoir” – a biographical novel on my navy life – and I hope I will find a good publisher for my book.
How does your family feel about you being a writer?
Though they do not say it bluntly to my face – I can sense that they resent my spending so much time on writing.
Writing is a solitary activity which requires plenty of solitude – and – therefore I have to cut down on my “social” and “family” time.
However – I have made it clear that writing is my passion.
Luckily – I am “much married” for over 33 years – and I have an “arranged marriage” – so my wife understands my need for solitude to do my writing.
My wife knows that writing makes me happy – and she prefers me to be in a good mood – rather than become grumpy and angry, which happens when my writing is “obstructed” due to some reason.
Is there a particular writing corner that makes you sit down and write?
Yes – I have my own room for writing – an airy, spacious room with a breathtaking view.
My exclusive den is stocked with books, has a radio, a bed to lie down when I want to close my eyes and thinking thoughts, and, of course, a desk with my Laptop with a Dictionary and Thesaurus in easy reach.
Earlier – the only person allowed into this room was my pet dog Sherry (who was my muse) – but sadly – she passed away to her heavenly abode last year.
Tell us what’s your favorite comfort food?
Though I am a “foodie” – I do not eat while writing – since – when I am in full flow – I experience a sense of timelessness and selflessness – and I lose all sense of hunger etc.
What is your favorite city that influences your writing?
The “maximum city” Mumbai has influenced my writing the most.
Life in Mumbai is so multifarious, people are so multifaceted, something is always happening, and there is so much to observe for a writer.
Luckily – being in the Navy gave me an opportunity to spend many years in Mumbai.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
It is heartening to see so many “Faujans” (Military Wives) writing novels about “Fauji” life – which I find very interesting.
I love reading their “military romance” books – and their engrossing blogs too.
Nowadays – there is plenty of excellent writing of blogs on a variety of topics and genres.
Any tips for writers out there?
1. Write daily – yes – you must write every day.
Start a Creative Writing Blog and do not go to sleep without writing a post on your blog.
This will inculcate writing discipline.
Whatever the challenges – do not stop writing.
Make writing your lifelong passion.
As I said earlier – writing has great therapeutic value because you will always keep thinking interesting thoughts which will keep you youthful and happy.
2. Make sure that you are financially secure.
In today’s world it is difficult to be a full time writer.
So unless you are wealthy, or you can depend on your spouse or parents for support, you will have to work to earn money.
A Creative Writer has to lead a double life.
The famous writer Anton Chekhov, who was a doctor by profession, had once said that his career (medicine) was like his wife and writing was like his lover.
If your work (“wife”) and passion (“lover”) happen to be the same, then you are very fortunate indeed.
Otherwise – you will have to work by day and write in your spare time.
3. Make friends in the “Writing World”.
It is very satisfying and beneficial to interact with fellow creative writers and exchange ideas.
You can do this online and offline.
Online – in cyberspace – you can connect via Blogging and Social Networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, WhatsApp etc.
Offline – in the real world – you can connect by joining writers’ circles, attending blogger meets and by participating in literary events like book launches/readings and literary festivals.
Remember – a Writer’s life is a solitary one – so it is good to have like-minded creative writers with whom you can bond, share your feelings and interact socially.