An Interview with India’s Fastest Pen, Joygopal Podder
By Parul Rastogi
Interviewee: Mr. Joygopal Poddar, recipient of Limca Book of Records.
1. Sir, how did your interest in writing books come from?
I started writing stories as a child growing up in London. My parents actively encouraged it and shared my stories with friends and relatives. I continued writing after shifting to India and published my first story in the erstwhile popular magazine “Children’s World” at an age of 12. I earned my first payment at the age of 14 from the “Junior Statesman” magazine and then became a prolific freelancer during my school and college days, for the “Hindustan Times”, “Youth Times” and “Target”, among other publications.
The money I earned helped pay for my dates with girlfriends and so that was an added motivation! I got involved in a full-time career after I turned 23, but kept seeing my previously published stories re-produced in school textbooks and story book collections over the years. This inspired me to start blogging in my mid-forties. Then my wife fell desperately ill and I realized the impermanence of life and the need to realize one’s passions while one still had the time and ability. So I started writing my first novel at age 50, and I have written 15 books since then, in the last 4 years, and have managed to get featured in the Limca Book of Records as the fastest published Indian crime fiction author for three consecutive years. But this was not my aim; the records are only a by-product of my passion. Writing books is what I enjoy doing the most and reaching out to more and more readers is the primary goal in my life now.
2. What kind of challenges did you face while getting your first book published?
The struggle to become a published author was brief – but intense. Twenty publishers rejected my first two books before I found a taker. What kept me going was my family’s conviction that I had written bestsellers. So, even as my manuscripts kept getting rejected, I kept on writing more. Today I work with six publishers, and all have published two or more books of mine. I am grateful for their belief in me and I hope they will make good business from my books.
3. Where do you get your ideas for the stories?
Newspapers and television, and by reading books and more books. Some good films have also given me inspiration for plots or sub-plots or scenes for my books.
4. What does your family think about your writing?
They are proud, and a bit surprised at the speed, I think. Earlier they used to read my manuscripts as they developed and would offer suggestions and point out language and grammar corrections. Now, they simply can’t read all of them, though my wife makes it a point to still read my works in progress. They love to see my books in the shops and are proud when articles about me appear in newspapers and magazines.
5. Is there any special moment related to your books which still makes you feel elated?
I feel great when I write the first chapter of a new book, and usually go out to a restaurant to celebrate. I love interacting with readers at “Author’s Corner” events in the Book Fairs and receiving a compliment for a well-written book on Facebook or on e-mail.
6. Besides writing, what are the other things that get your attention most?
I work full-time in the social sector and raise fund for social causes. I have a passion for improving the quality of life of the poor and the marginalised, especially children and the very old and helpless. Other than that, my family gets my full and complete attention. I also run one hour every day on the treadmill and travel once in a while. I used to be a movie buff, but going to cinemas has been reduced quite drastically because of my daily writing and running routines, and this gives me a sense of loss sometimes. I read a lot of books, of course, especially during train and plane journeys.
7. How will you define yourself in one word?
Others define me as focused. I guess I agree with this. Similar words which have been used for me are determined and passionate – all related, I guess. But the better description would be “fun loving”.
8. If you had to choose any writer as your mentor, who would it be?There are many; some commercially successful and some with a great way with words. Many writers have influenced me and so I write several genres and in varied styles.
9. Are you planning to adapt any of your stories to screen?
This is not in my hands. I write action stories, thrillers and romances, so there is a possibility of this in the future, but filmmakers would need to discover me, and not the other way round!
10. For Aristotle, it was PLOT; for Shakespeare, it was CHARACTER. What is more important according to you- Plot or Character and why?
Both, of course. It depends on the story.
11. Where do you find yourself after five years?
Bestselling author, with perhaps a movie or two based on my books, and leading an INGO.
12. What time of the day suits you more for writing?
Right now, evenings, after I’m through with my day job. But if and when I turn full time author, it will be in the mornings.
13. What about your upcoming projects?
My 14th book is a crime thriller and family drama, and “3 Mixed up Men” is a romantic comedy. In June or July, I will release my 16th & 17th books: “Eyewitness” and “Dating Games” (this is a tentative title).
14. What is your suggestion for budding writers in India?
Writing is like playing a musical instrument; the more you do it the better you become. So keep writing – every day.
And do not analyse what is ‘marketable’ and write accordingly – if you do so, you will never complete projects. Write what your heart wants and on subjects and themes you are comfortable with and persevere.