Ritesh Arora is an author and columnist (Speaking tree, The Times of India) and works as a management consultant with a global business consulting firm. He was born in Rishikesh and has travelled extensively around the globe.
He did his B.Tech from Punjab Technical University and is an IIM Calcutta alumnus. Being an avid reader, he has a large personal library at home. He loves singing and is ready for a game of table tennis any time.
Author interview Ritesh Arora
Sunday, 3 January 2016
1. Hearty congratulations for the great reviews which When the Heavens Smiled is receiving. How does it feel?
Firstly it feels honored, to be interviewed by a capable and honest reviewer & blogger like you. Yes, readers have been praising When the Heavens Smiled and it gives a sense of encouragement on being featured in Amazon best sellers and book events that were sold out. My AHA moment has been the fact that book is not only loved by young readers who believe in love, lots of readers and elderly readers have written to me that book hasn't only entertained them but also transformed and enlightened them. So it definitely feels good.
2. Tell us why the book is named When the Heavens Smiled?
I have a strong belief that human mind thinks very myopic, very rational and opportunistic too and it is by design. From my childhood, I have believed in the bigger one, that divine. Sometimes, there are certain topsy turvy times when all the "man made" doors seem closed but if your intent is good, you persevere with so much dedication that you dissolve yourself in the pursuit, and when that happens, the divinity starts appearing and the new doors/uncharted realms get opened up for us.
In the book, though the destiny of lady protagonist appears, however momentarily as if it is the time for curtains with no light at the end of tunnel, the male protagonist never gives up, despite being up against all odds. This is another message that I have tried conveying, that when goals are pursued with single mindedness & devotion, right people start appearing in your quest, who will take you closer to your goal, I am very certain and I make no mistake that appearing of such people is not a coincidence but divinity in motion, if you understand what I mean. Coming back to the question, since the protagonist manages to turn the winds in his favors and get the Heavens smiled, upon both of them, the book has been named so.
3. Please tell us how did the concept of this book come to you?
The book has very clear two genres coming out, First four (4) chapters talk about friendship, love, fun, bonding while the second parts talks about discovering and traversing spiritual path when all logical & scientific doors seem closed. This is where the element of transformation and enlightenment comes in to play. We all have seen umpteen examples of first part in our common lives and lives around us, Second part is the author's creativity that has come as I was lucky to be exposed to wide variety of books in my childhood. Also being born and brought up in a spiritual place like Rishikesh also had element added to it.
4. Three friends, love, illness isn’t all that cliched?
You can say that but the love stories need to be one which people can relate to, and that’s why almost every reader has said, book is such a simple yet extra ordinary love story. Most of such stories in the market if you look around, albeit have negative ending but my protagonist's character is strong. He doesn't give up, even when he is up against the oddest of the odds; He is not a sci-fi hero or someone belonging to very rich class but an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere in spite of obstacles. Such love stories are little unique and not very commonly found when protagonist takes on invisible script of destiny in the most pragmatic manner.
5. Tell us how did you come up with the character of the Guru?
Guru's character has been a blend of various personalities arising from my understanding and assimilation of various sacred texts. Additionally, I have been born and brought up in Rishikesh for some part of my life that has some good ashrams that give lots of enlightened preaching. I can only guess that both aforesaid had a deeper impression on my mind, or call it my soul and therefore coming up with Guru’s character was not difficult.
6. Please tell us something about your childhood.
I have been born and brought in Rishikesh, a spiritual yet tourist place up in the northern India. It is also known as gateway to Himalayas. I would say, I was quite fortunate to be born in Rishikesh. We had limited amenities of life and it was simple and peaceful.
In my childhood, I was quite a studious, bright and obedient. My parents used to tell me that my first word was ‘why’ and it was my favorite too. Rishikesh being a spiritual tourist place, I would buy such books from book stores and read it by the side of river Ganges. I guess that was when the seeds of creativity were sown in me. We belonged to a middle class family, my father (late) was employed with a pharmaceutical company and mother was a teacher. I have sister who is doctor. I did my school from KV IDPL Rishikesh, did my engineering from Punjab and then later on Management education from IIM Calcutta. I used to play table tennis well, was a local hero ? having played at District and university level.
7. What kind of books do you read? Who are your favourite authors?
I have a large library at home which is filled with all kinds of books ranging from management (Books by Zig Ziglar, Anthony Robbins, Malcolm Gladwell, Mathew Syed, Jack Cranfield, Jack Welch, Ram charan, Innovation principles of Steve jobs, Apple way, Sun Tzu etc.), Spiritual (Bhagvat Gita, Upanishad, Guru Granth Sahib, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Rumi, Khalil gibran etc.), Fiction (Multiple Indian Writings, Paulo Coelho, Richard Bach. Eric Segal etc.) and Health (The light of yoga by B.K.S Iyengar, Yoga by Bihar school of Yoga etc.)
8. How much time do you devote for writing? Give us some tips as to how working professionals should take out time for writing?
Since my job involves significant travelling, I mostly write either late in the night or weekends. Also you will find me hooked on airports either engrossed in reading on my kindle or writing on iPad.
9. What would be your advice to budding writers?
Think new, think different and think beyond plain jane love stories. If you want to shine out, you need to try something different than boy meets the girl story for sure. Also reading, reading a lot, to have your creative juices flowing is must before any one attempts writing.
10. How was your experience of finding a publisher?
It wasn't easy at all. No publisher wants to try with first time writers even if the script is good as first time writers are not yet "Brand". In that sense, Srishti publishers & Distributors have been extremely encouraging. It cannot be a mere co-incidence that most of the leading Indian writers have started their journey from Srishti. Jayantakumar bose and Arup bose have been great friends and guide, besides taking my manuscript for publishing and distributing effectively to every nook and corner of the country.
11. These are the days of aggressive book marketing. Books have to be promoted. Your take on this?
Book is like any other product. Unless customer is aware of the product nd the product has captured a mind share, he may not choose to even form an opinion about it, let alone buying. So Marketing and Marketing to the right set of readers, is important. Marketing however won't do anything to ensure a long running success. A compelling & unique plot and polished & captivating style of writing are absolute must.
12. Do book reviews help in selling books?
It does certainly. However, reviewer must perform their job with sincerity and honesty as based on their feedback, people will decide to buy/not buy. These days we have seen lots of reviews being rigged and it propounds an impression about their authored novels, which is different from reality.
13. Do you think printed books are going to disappear soon and it is all going to be about e-books?
I read from multiple reading devices like a Kindle and a Nook besides paperbacks. As they say, Warmth of a hug cannot be compared with a hug icon, Similarly, the charm of holding a paperback, its warmth cannot be equated with ebooks. In our life time, we have seen so many essential things disappearing like alarm clocks, typewriters, Walkman etc. If book were to be disappeared, they would have by now. They will stay till mankind has interest in reading.
14. Tell us about your future projects.
I am writing my second novel, A fiction love story on soul reunion/ reincarnation. Slated to come in April 2016, it is based on a belief that when a task or love to be more specific remain unfulfilled in the current incarnation, in the next birth we are reincarnated and that person is certain to cross our path. If we are awakened, we may sense those energies. when the paths are being crossed.
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