Did you always want to be an author? How did the transition from the corporate world happen?
Circa 1998. I was emigrating to the US. Vikram Seth had made it big on the international writing scene with his novel A Suitable Boy. I bought a copy of the book at the Bombay airport. A routine activity you would think, but one that changed my life. Reading that epic novel, one of the longest published, my writing dreams, hitherto unarticulated, also took flight.
An avid reader since childhood, I had always been enamoured by the power of the written word and the intricacies of the English language. Several stories would always be swirling in my head. My first tryst with fiction had happened during the mid-80s. I had written some short stories and a novella and sent them off to popular magazines of the time. None of them had responded. Yet writing had continued to be my desultory rambling of choice. Yes, subconsciously, I always wanted to be a writer.
The transition began thereafter – it was an organic process rather than an event. I enrolled myself for the Certificate Program in Literary Fiction at the University of Washington. Over the next several years, I published two non-fiction anthologies and went on to complete my first novel, Colours in the Spectrum.
My career gigs as Program Manager, I consider happenstance. Management is my core competence and I appreciate these roles. Yet I believe that my true calling is writing, followed by teaching.
Your book is focused on family drama. How and when did you conceive the idea?
My debut novel Colours in the Spectrum was published in 2013. Around the same time, I took a Bangalore-Mysore day trip with family members. The genesis of Family Secrets can be traced to that trip, when I was made privy to family folklore – about a particular patriarch, who had, many-many decades ago, engaged in an extra-marital alliance. When the patriarch’s daughter found out about a half-sister to whom she had lost her father’s love, what did she feel? How did she deal with the sense of abandonment and betrayal that may have haunted her for the rest of her life? What was her frame of mind when the half-sister went on to become a renowned doctor while she herself was destined to be a homemaker despite her aspirations to become a lawyer? These questions troubled my sensitive soul for days after that.
I then started working on Family Secrets, a fictional drama of two half-brothers who face-off under totally different circumstances. The purpose was to delve deep into their mindsets, motivations and machinations. Family Secrets was released worldwide on October 26 2020. It is published by Vishwakarma Publications (Pune). My literary agency The Book Bakers have designed the cover and is spearheading the marketing campaign.
Any advice to budding writers?
You are the CEO of your own life. Exercise the power of individual choice. Whatever you do, give yourself to it fully, and do it with full conviction. My mother, a classical Carnatic singer, used to say: ‘Involve your soul, not just your body and mind. Experience the emotion within yourself. Let the song emanate from deep down. Throw your voice with full abandon.” Something similar is true for writing.
Be bold. Express yourself. Write, Organize, Revise, Write. Writing is a process. Laborious, iterative and reiterative. If you don’t enjoy writing, don’t become a writer.
Be authentic. Write for yourself, and your readers. Write only what you believe in. Write about what you know. If you don’t know – read, research, absorb – and write. Don’t write what you consider hurtful or harmful.
Be innovative. Play around with genres. Use words that resonate with you. Coin your own phrases and expressions. Experiment with book structure. Develop a signature style.
Your most difficult and successful moments as a writer?
My first novel was rejected over 200 times before it was published. In most cases, the rejection was not explicit. I just did not hear back. Except for a handful of instances when I received a politely worded regret. In retrospect, as an aspiring writer, those were difficult moments. I now have a literary agent representing me, and things on that front are smooth-sailing.
Nothing gives me as much joy as holding my newly published book in my hands. I get as much joy doing book launches and book readings, and interacting with an audience of potential readers. As a writer, I live for such moments. My most successful moments are yet to come – wider recognition as an accomplished author, Family Secrets being officially designated as a bestseller, my novel getting adapted for web series or a movie!
What skills have helped you over the years?
Patience, patience, patience. That is the biggest learning from my umpteen rejections. Not to take rejection personally and to continue doing what I believe in. It is an attitude rather than a skill.
When opportunity meets preparation, success will happen. Preparation and looking for opportunities are in my control. However, getting that break is a function of factors in my control AND factors that are beyond my control. The same applies to book marketing and sales. Marketing my book is in my control. While the marketing will influence sales, readers’ decisions to spend their money and buy my book are based on factors that are beyond my control as well!
Is there something you wish you knew earlier in life?
“If only. Should have. Would have. Could have. Words of a loser.” That is my belief. At any point in time, we make decisions that are appropriate under the circumstances. Are they right or wrong? Only time will tell. Going back and analyzing them in the light of subsequent events is an exercise in futility. Hindsight yields nothing but despair.
“No regrets.” Two words on my epitaph if I were to have one!
What are your goals now?
- To become a bestselling author
- To find serious takers for a full-fledged Bollywood style script I have written
- To get my novels adapted into web series for OTT platforms
What does happiness mean to you?
Happiness is soul-experience. Living every moment with a sense of vibrancy. Contentment. Inner harmony. Feeling fulfilled. Experiencing indescribable joy. In everything I do and in all my relationships.
Any message for your readers?
My motto: Write what I believe in AND what readers want, without hurting or harming sensibilities. I will not write something just because I am in love with it if it is not something readers would want. Conversely, I cannot write what goes against my values and beliefs, just because readers clamour for it. I strive to operate at a healthy intersection.
I write to express myself and share my perspectives with a larger audience. After all, it’s only a story. You may like it or you may hate it. You may or may not agree with what I have written. In fact, I wouldn’t want everybody to agree with everything I write. Sit back, relax, read and enjoy. Pen me a heartfelt review if you can. That will be precious.
About Jayant Swamy - Born and bred in Bangalore, Jayant lives in scenic Seattle. His latest novel Family Secrets, a corporate thriller set amidst dynastic drama and intrigue, has hit the stands recently. His debut novel Colours in the Spectrum garnered rave reviews when published in 2013. He has also authored two non-fiction publications – anthology series about a gifted humanitarian. Jayant has written the script for a feature film tentatively titled Apne Sapney and is scouting for serious takers.
Jayant holds an MBA from The Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore. Management Consultant. Published Author. Corporate Trainer. Program Manager. Business School Faculty. He has donned several professional hats over the years. In his free time, he dabbles in IMPROV, moderates for local film festivals and helps launch non-profit start-ups. Jayant is a member of the Board of Directors of IIM Americas — an alumni association of premier Business schools.
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