I thoroughly enjoyed reading the fiction Losing My Religion by Vishwas Mudagal and immediately started searching for more book written by the author just to know that it was his first book yet he writes like a mature writer. He is the new breed yet a promising author in him and I just hope to read more of his work. I was fortunate to get in touch with Vishwas who agreed to give an email interview for my blog. Though he responded very late to my call yet it is better late than never.
Here are the extracts of the email interview with Vishwas Mudagal
- What exactly Religion stands for in the title and why did you choose it?
Losing My Religion is not about religion people traditionally think it to be. It’s about a person who loses faith in himself, and in the ideals he thought were unbreakable. The book essentially traces the life of a failed entrepreneur who goes bankrupt and loses faith in himself and his vision of life, but accidentally meets a crazy American hippie with whom he goes on an uncharted journey across India. And how the journey helps him understand his true calling.
Religion, according to my perception, is your idea of leading life, the values you not only hold close to your heart but ones that you practice, the passions in your life, the faith in your ideals, the vision you have for your life and the society around you. All this and more. This is the ‘new’ definition of religion.
I chose this title because I wanted something heavy and meaningful, for apart from being an entertaining book, Losing My Religion has a solid message as well for everyone – which one needs to follow his /her passion and not be perturbed by success or failures.
Here’s the dialogue from the book to emphasize more on the title – “At times you have to lose your faith in something, be absolutely stone-cold broke in your belief in belief, so that you can take the jump. Leap out of the existence you have wrapped around yourself and take the plunge without thinking of the consequences. You’ll fall, no doubt. But sometime during that, you’ll witness a miracle taking shape around you. That’s called losing my religion.”
- How the idea of LMR germinated?
LMR took birth in very interesting circumstances. In 2009, my Internet start-up was going through a rough phase. Although we had managed to get good user traction to our website, we couldn’t monetize it effectively. To top it, the core team had almost dismantled and I was almost bankrupt. It had taken a heavy toll on me emotionally and I didn’t know what to do next. After spending two years working my ass off on this business, it wasn’t easy to just move on. And I didn’t have the energy and the money to start a new business.
One of those days, I spoke to an ex-colleague, who was taking a sabbatical and going on a year-long journey on his bike across India. I was amazed! I wanted to do that myself and kill all the tension inside me and then look at everything else later on. But I couldn’t do it for many reasons.
A bizarre idea struck me, that of writing a book on the situation I was in. I was so excited suddenly. I usually follow my heart and act on instinct. I decided to make the protagonist of the book go on a journey; I could live that life and that freedom through him. On May 22, 2009, I wrote the first chapter, and, I’d like to believe, my life changed.
- Being first time writer, you write like a seasoned writer, were you involved in writing in your school or college days?
My literary journey truly began when I was 27 in the year 2009 when I started writing my debut novel Losing My Religion. To my surprise it turned out to be a book with around 100k words! However, I have been writing essays throughout my school life, and then started blogging pretty early. So you can say I have always loved writing and have been involved in writing in some form since school days.
- All the three lead characters Rishi, Alex and Kyra are adorable. How much your essence are in those characters or are they inspired? Which of the three characters is closest to you?
I believe these three characters are elements of my mind. But I guess I am closer to Rishi because like him I am an entrepreneur who has big ambitions, perseverance and grit to follow my passion and vision but at the same time I am vulnerable enough to fail and suffer. Many of Rishi’s traits come from me. For instance, he takes way too much time to get over a breakup with Kyra, I used to take years to get over a relationship. In the book, Rishi has mild acrophobia and gets this feeling that something will pull him down. I get that too. So, in a way Rishi was a character that emerged from me, but one that liberated me too.
- How was your journey as an author? Was it difficult to get your first book published?
I had no formal training in writing or storytelling. I had to figure out my own method of writing a story. I knew the beginning of the story, the protagonists and the end somewhat, but everything else just came with the flow. Initially I tried to write on the laptop, but I didn’t get the flow. I decided to try using pen and paper, and I was amazed that the story just flowed. This put an additional burden on me, I had to type it back on my laptop and my first draft had 120k words. So, you can imagine the time I spent.
Next, my pattern of writing involved months and months of continuous writing and then a break of months together. When I used to come back and read the manuscript, I used be to be horrified with lots of stuff and I used to rewrite again. For example, the romance between Kyra and Rishi troubled me a lot. I rewrote that angle eight times. The story remained the same till the end; that was one thing that remained constant. So, my iterations involved changing sub plots, adding new layers to the characters, polishing the dialogues, and so on.
I took around five years to bring the book to the market (from 2009 to 2014). It was definitely not easy to find the right publisher. Several publishers rejected the novel for many reasons, some because it was a fresh untested concept, some because they thought it’s a business book, and some because I was a debutant. But Fingerprint! (My current publisher) believed in the book and commissioned it and the rest is something everyone knows. It went to debut as a bestseller.
- What was the most challenging part of writing a book? Have you experienced any Writer’s Block while writing the book?
I took 5 years to bring the book out, rewrote it n number of times. I have 14 versions of the story, 150+ drafts. A novel like LMR is not only a pure act of passion but also one that requires tons of research. The books cuts across several genre and has diverse subplots, which have to be held together through a powerful narrative and more importantly logic.
Also, I like to tell my story in such a way that the reader feels he is watching a movie, it has to be visual, fast, interesting and meaningful. Entertainment with meaning—is my style.
When I wrote LMR, I was the writer and I was the audience. The writer in me had to entertain the audience in me. I don’t get entertained easily, so the writer in me had a herculean task.
I extensively researched everything I wrote about, starting from Malana (this hidden village in the Himalayas that is known to be inhabited by Emperor Alexander’s soldiers, grows the best hash in the world called Malana Cream and is notorious for weird rules in the village for outsiders). Next, I visited Haridwar to understand the life of people and how business is conducted. I could then come up with an interesting take on Kumbh Mela, one that has rarely been explored before—that of business in Kumbh. Also, I have visited Om beach several times and fell in love with the secluded lifestyle.
The book has several entrepreneurial/ business subplots and because I am an entrepreneur, coming up with business angle of the story was easy for me. That’s what I do for a living, so Rishi’s character came naturally to me.
I seriously don’t know who coined this term – Writer’s block. A writer never really knows every scene, every dialogue and every twist beforehand. He/she has to stop, think, imagine and get inspired to write the next bit. Sometimes you just know what comes next, but other times you don’t. Sometimes you get stuck while moving to the next sub-plot, it happens often. You will eventually overcome it with one idea or another. If you don’t, then your book is toast. So answering the question, yes I get writer’s block on every page of the book, almost. But that’s the fun of writing. Isn’t it? The writer’s block is the writer’s share of enjoying the story.
- What’s next? Are you working on any other project?
I am currently writing my next novel, which is very different from Losing My Religion. I like to challenge myself constantly, so I gave myself a huge challenge. This idea has stuck with me since 2011 and refused to leave me. It’s a story about a man set in the future. I am very excited about this book.
After the success of LMR, most readers have asked me to write a sequel. I definitely want to write more books with Rishi Rai, Alex Long & Kyra Blake. But it won’t be my next.
- Tell us something more about yourself?
I am a serial entrepreneur and a CEO. I am currently the CEO of GoodWorkLabs, which is one of the fastest growing companies right now. It helps global companies, startups and entrepreneurs build path-breaking software products (including mobile apps & games) and succeed in the marketplace. Technology is an integral part of me and I have been passionate about it from childhood. I was 18 when I started my first company Infovision, to educate rural children in computers. I’m fortunate that the entrepreneurial bug bit me very early in my life.
- How do you spend your free time?
I spend time with my family and friends mainly. And I do watch a lot of movies, mainly Hollywood. I love to watch popular TV series as well. Game of Thrones, Big Bang Theory, Sherlock, Vikings, etc.
Travel is the food for my soul and I love to travel. You discover or re-discover yourself only through travel, and unplanned travel is the most exhilarating experience. I truly believe that not all those who wander are lost. But for the ones who are lost, wandering is the only way to find themselves.