It’s the birthday of The Deviant writer, Shankar S Padmanaban and we have gotta admit that this one, was the best interview session so far, owing to the fact that the author had no idea that he was being interviewed.(He probably still doesn’t know about it). The conversation took place about a month ago and we saved it for this auspicious occasion.
Now that you are reading this, Happy Birthday, Shankar.
First things first, what made me go forward with this was the beautiful story of, The Deviant, that I had read about an year ago and I couldn’t be happier (sad actually, it put my lachrymal glands to some work). The book spoke of friendship and true love. When the Indian authors were busy with King Khan’s epic dialogue, “Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahi ban sakte“, (Translation- A guy and a girl can never be friends) Shankar S Padmanaban wrote about true friendship and deliberately made us fall for Dev.
The answers are long (thankfully) and it’s nothing less than a joyride to be reading them.
BP: So, Shankar, tell me a bit about yourself, things that I won’t know by stalking you on social media.
SSP: Well, to be frank, I always find it so weird to respond to ‘Tell me something about yourself’. After being bombarded by the same question at different places for different purposes, I have well-crafted responses for that, but then again they are crafted. What I really am or wanted to do, I’m still trying to figure them out. What I have been/done so far, I can tell you. Well, like most of the Indians, I ended up doing engineering, without really knowing what I wanted to do. However, engineering was more fun than I had expected and I really enjoyed it. I’m basically a Mechanical Engineer and was working with an Automotive MNC for a couple of years.
The abundance of time I had while doing engineering let me explore my interests. I had my hands on most of the things that came my way. I took time to streamline what I’d always loved to do and put them to best use. I was a philatelist since school and during college I made time to organize my collection and presented them at various philatelic exhibitions. I’ve a collection of Indian stamps that date way back to 1960’s. I love to travel and have never missed any opportunity to take an expedition. I have a journal where I pen down interesting events of everyday. That taken ahead, when life gave me an interesting story to tell, I started writing my first book and got it published last year. And like most clueless engineers, I’m planning to do an MBA. I hope, I get an admit this year. Furthermore, I’m a die-hard Biriyani lover and a terrible bathroom thinker. (It’s not that I think about shower, I think a lot while having a shower.) That’s pretty much about me.
BP: You keep a journal? Tell me more about it, please.
SSP: I am not a regular writer of journal as such. I observe a lot of things and if something interesting comes up or something touches me or moves my heart, I pen them down. It can be as trivial as an ant collecting supplies for its swarm.
BP: I have read your book, anyone who reads the book would not fail to notice the remarkable title that corresponds with the plot. So what came first, the name Dev or The Deviant?
SSP: Without doubt, it was Dev. Dev was the character’s name from the beginning. I was not able to decide on a title for the book even months after I completed my first draft. Despite intense brainstorming, I ended up coming up with titles that sucked to the core. In the meanwhile, I asked a few of my friends who had read my draft for suggestions. They couldn’t come up with anything nice as well. And finally one day, while having a causal chat with a friend, this title came out. The moment she suggested ‘Deviant’, I decided, “Yeah, this is going to be the title of my book”. She was a bit uncertain whether the title would do well, but I had no second thoughts. Inside my head, “The DEViant by Shankar S Padmanaban” so cool isn’t it?” .
BP: Is The DEViant a true story?
SSP: I’m not gonna give you a binary Yes or No. Life is full of experiences and, every day we encounter new people, move to new places and do a lot of different things. The DEViant is a story weaved from my early adulthood experiences. A story doesn’t come out of thin air, I strongly believe that each one of us have got a story in our lives. The DEViant is mine. If one really thinks he doesn’t have a story in his life, then probably he’s wrong. Even the most monotonous of the sapiens who just work, eat, grow and die, come across or do something unique that makes their stories beautiful in their own way. Sometimes, the humblest of stories are the ones that touch a million hearts.
BP: As an author, What’s more important, sales or satisfaction?
SSP: Forget me, ask anyone who writes a book.They write because, they want to.
Writing a book, I wouldn’t say is difficult, but is a demanding task. It demands a lot of things. First and most importantly, your time! If you are really sincere at writing your book, you will hardly have time to do other things. Your senses keep revolving around your plot. You will have to make a lot of sacrifices. Like choosing between hanging out with friends and writing your book. Easier it may seem, but it requires a lot of determination to give up on other things you love. No binge watching your favorite TV show, no secret eyeing of porn, nothing whatsoever. All this, if you are sincere at writing and serious about completing what you have started. That’s why a lot of people end giving up halfway. Sometimes, more important priorities creep in and other times, the plot reaches a blind alley and we are not sure about how to take it forward and connect the dots. And like a tradition, we procrastinate! In the end, it’s all about patience and perseverance.Adding to that, everything aside, there are good chances that you don’t complete what you started and even if you do, finding a publisher isn’t a cake walk. You might have put years into writing and still, you may fail. But ask any writer, they are well aware of all these uncertainties while they write. Yet they write, not expecting sales. Just because they are happy doing what they do. And we don’t know if people will like our story, our book. There’s a big difference between the one who write for sales and satisfaction. One who writes for sales and volumes will have to write a story that the majority of people like to read. While other, can just write the truth. They can write what they feel is correct and what they wanted to, without any other factors influencing their writing. They don’t need to fake things and create a superficial work. People have different perspectives in life. People who write for themselves and not for anything else, can be honest about what they think and stick to their perspective. I feel that is more important.
BP: You just said that finding a publisher isn’t cake walk. So how did you find your publisher?
SSP: It’s very difficult for a debutant to convince a publisher. A lot publishers do not even revert to debutants. I reached out to more than 50 publishers in India. Persistence pays here. Some publishers rejected the manuscript right away, some took months to revert and reject it, and some didn’t reply at all. As I kept reaching out, I got responses from 4 publishers who were ready to publish my book. Among them I chose the one whom I felt was more appropriate for my book and went ahead with them. But, this shouldn’t discourage people who are writing. What’s the fun in getting everything done very easily? While approaching the publishers directly is one way, after the advent of ecommerce, there are other ways by which one can publish their work. Say, Self -publishing, Amazon Kindle Publishing or even approaching an agent to pitch in your draft to the publishers. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way!
BP: If your story would have had a different ending, how would it have been?
SSP: I don’t see a different ending for my story. I had never thought about a different one. This was what I had planned right from the beginning.
BP: What has been the biggest decision of your life so far ? Why did you take it?
SSP: Life is all about decisions. Important, immature, correct, wrong, silly, foolish, trust me, I have had my lot. What I have learnt is that no matter how trivial it may seem, no choice you make is unimportant. It has a cascading effect on your life events, like the butterfly effect may be. The ultimate point being, every single decision one takes has a significant consequence on the imminent. That doesn’t mean one should always be serious and cautious. Just make sure you enjoy your decisions and their outcomes. I have no regrets on what I am or what I have done so far!
BP: Do you have any future plans in regards to writing, another book maybe?
SSP: Definitely! No doubt about it. I have conceived a plot. Just taking sometime to structure it properly and avoid the mistakes that I committed in the first book. In the meantime, I’m bit busy with my MBA admissions. Beyond doubt, there’s going to be another book, but when, I’m not sure.
BP: What are these mistakes that you think you have committed in the first book and wish to
avoid in the second?
SSP: I didn’t have any full-scale writing experience before I wrote my first book except for my journal and a few articles and short stories that I had contributed for my school and college magazines. In the process of writing, I had learnt a lot. There’s a common feedback that I received from the readers of my first book, the pace of the first half was a bit draggy and the second half was rapid and intriguing. Balancing the pace is one area where I’ve decided to take extra caution while writing my next book.
All this while I hadn’t mentioned my editor, Prerna, who was generous enough to treat my manuscript as her own and invest quality time in mending it. Together, we transformed the draft to a much better shape. Time after time, she cautioned me about a few redundant pieces in the first half which caused quite some hiccups and disturbed the flow. We did work on making them as better as possible, but a few so-called redundant pieces made a lot of sense in the end and hence we let them be. I later realized that those pieces prevented readers from going further. Second thing I’ve decided to work upon is making even the smallest of details travel along with the plot. And thirdly, keeping the cast minimal. There are quite a few other learnings from my first book that I would like to avoid in the future.
And that’s a wrap!
All social handles of the book have been mentioned below, so don’t waste another moment,add it to your Goodreads TBR and place the order.
Thank you for reading till the end and a huge thanks to Shankar S Padmanaban for writing The Deviant, may you live long (this is the customary wish) and we will be definitely waiting for your next book, I hope you give us more characters as good as Dev to crush on.
Interviewed By- Banaja Prakashini
About Shankar S Padmanaban-
Shankar S Padmanaban was born in Tiruppur, ‘The Knitwear Capital of India’ and now currently resides in Ahmedabad.
Shankar S Padmanaban is an avid reader of Indian fiction novels. In college, apart from the hefty engineering assignments he wrote, he discovered his passion for writing and started writing short stories and articles. Shankar S Padmanaban is also a fond traveller and an adventure freak and loves exploring new places. Apart from writing and travelling, he collects stamps. Shankar S Padmanaban’s collection of stamps dates way back to 1960’s. He also plays chess and is a die-hard foodie.