Monday, February 19, 2018

Author Interview: Sunil Mishra, author of Transit Lounge

The book is a personal account of travels to places in Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and Mauritius), South America (Venezuela and Argentina), Asia (China, Iran, Kuwait, UAE, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand), Europe (UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Georgia, Turkey, Croatia and Romania), USA, Australia and New Zealand.
It was interesting to observe all these diverse cultures and people from an Indian perspective. The book is a compilation of small incidents and events during such travels; it includes losing an air ticket, dealing with difficult custom officials or getting mugged in a prime location in a foreign country."

Sunil is a software professional with over two decades of experience in the field of banking technology. Currently he is working with Infosys in India. He has earlier worked with McKinsey, Accenture and I-flex solutions. His work required extensive travelling to various parts of the world and this constituted the basis of his current book. He travelled to more than 30 countries across six continents and engaged with senior managements in different client organizations. He believes that there has been a remarkable change in perception about India over last 15 years.

Sunil is an MBA from IIM-Lucknow and holds a B.Tech from IIT(ISM), Dhanbad. He completed his schooling in Bokaro Steel City, a relatively small town in Jharkhand, India. Sunil has avid interest in writing and has actively blogged on various platforms in the area of banking technology, consulting, leadership and changing role of media in the digital world.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/a storyteller?

I used to write personal notes of individual travels, anything that I would find interesting. As I started blogging about some of these travels, I received positive reviews from my friends and well-wishers. It is then that the idea of collating this and publishing it as a book occurred to me. I am extremely thankful to my friends who helped me overcome the initial hesitation and inertia to write this book.

What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
Writing is a learning process in itself I think. It happens as part of creative reflection on events and incidents around us. There is a joy in writing that I believe most authors are inspired by. I wanted to capture the learnings that I had from these travels.

What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc...)
Being an Author has given me opportunity of sharing my experience through multiple events like Radio interviews, newspaper articles etc. I have been invited in some of the literary events as speaker. It has also given me opportunity to meet some of the eminent personalities like Sri Sri Ravishankar, Nandan Nilekani and Sudha Murthy. 

What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
My book is a travel memoir. Transit Lounge is a contemporary book consisting of short incidents, observations and reflections while travelling to 30 countries across six different continents during the last 15 years. The book has lot of interesting incidents as well learning about different cultures and countries.

What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
I think ideation for any book is a slow process, for me it was mostly recollection of the events and incidents during the travel. I used to write at times in the travel lounges or also in the flights.  It has been a great learning experience for me as well.

How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
The book has helped me reflect on my own experience and put them in as coherent learnings about people, places and cultures. It has helped me relive those beautiful experiences. I feel very happy when some of the reviewers share that the book has helped them understand the world better. Some of them have also said it could be a guide for Indian travelers.

Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
I do believe there is great value in the review. When you are writing a book, you get so absorbed in the same that a neutral perspective is lost. The reviews provide great commentary on how the things can be improved. I read each review with lot of interest and attention.

What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
When I started writing this book, I did not quite know the publishing process. As is true for many first time authors, I had numerous rejections. I did not quite succeed in 2009 when I tried publishing and almost dropped the idea. This time I was fortunate to get a good publisher. Like all authors, my fear is the same – rejection from publishers.

Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
The book being a memoir has lot of anecdotes. One incident I recall was our business presentations in Tehran. An English translator was hard to find. The best we could find was a local partner, who spoke good English but was a veterinary doctor by profession. He would translate every word after I spoke and he would take at least thrice as much time and a lot more sentences to explain. After sometime, I got suspicious if he was only translating what I was saying or adding his own story. It was tough for him to explain banking terms being a veterinary doctor. Every time he brought a book of English dictionary for our presentations and meetings. He would refer to them during meetings as well. He took some 15 minutes to explain "interest" and I was told he used some medical terms to explain that.

If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
"The world is a book, and those who don't travel only read one page." – St. Augustine
Another one on traveler versus tourist – "The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see." -  G.K. Chesterton
My attempt to write the book has been to capture the traveler’s account, I enjoyed writing it and I hope it is equally liked by the readers.

Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
I write mostly as a hobby with creative outlet and not as a career. Most of the authors would candidly admit that there is very little chance of making any money from it (not from your first book at least) - they write for the joy of writing and that itself is a great reward, though intangible.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
For the first time writer, getting over the initial hesitation is the most important thing.
My learning has been that write like no one will ever read and edit like everyone is going to read. Don’t edit when you are writing first few pages, just write and write regularly.

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Thank you, Sunil for this amazing interview! I wish you success for all your future works. Keep writing!

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