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Author of Seven Shades of Grey,Vivek Mehra, in an exclusive interview with Mark Ulyseas
There is a Latin saying –“ Poeta nascitur, non fit” which means “A poet is born, not made.” Do you agree with this statement? Does one need to possess the gift to be a writer?
I am not sure how good a poet one can be trained to become. The variables are too many. I am sure there could be aspects of poetry that are “teachable” or “learnable”. With creative writing I can state with all honesty, it can be taught and it can be learnt. I don’t know if the training will produce brilliant writers I do believe it will surely be a step in the right direction.
Why did you want to be a writer? And are you still a writer?
I wanted to be a writer for the right reasons; I love to write. I wrote the book for the wrong reasons; I wanted it to be my ticket to glory and money. I continue to write but haven’t sought a commercial publisher. I write a blog (www.vivekmehra.in), I post my presentations (www.slideshare.net/vivekmehra03). I write today because I want to disseminate information and learn from the world that reads.
Why do you define yourself as a failed writer? Rejection slips from publishers don’t necessarily reflect the quality of one’s work. Or does it?
I called myself a failed author because the work didn’t meet the acceptable standards of “published author”. The rejection slips are a reminder of an era when publishers held sway. Today, for better or for worse, my book is published. It isn’t my ticket to money and glory but it’s the satisfaction of seeing my work disseminated that makes it worth the while. I am also using this route to develop a firsthand understanding of this (new) mechanism of publishing. It is fascinating and exciting.
Could you give us a detailed overview of the book?
The basis of the book is around failure and the route the protagonist takes to ride the tide. The Internet was still emerging in the late 90s. This was the era of Chat Rooms long before social media came along. The protagonist ventures into these chat rooms and befriends people. He interacts with a few women at a level he isn’t ready for. Some affect him more than others. He hallucinates or has visions; he can’t tell very well. His spiritual side shows him worlds he hasn’t seen before. His relationship with his wife deepens but he has torn between the love for her and the attachment he has for these women. There is a particular one who seems to read him like a book. He becomes emotionally attached to her and his dependence on her deepens. Then as suddenly as she appears in his life, she disappears. He wants to know who she was and why she came into his life. The last chapter reveals the true identity of this mysterious lady.
Is Seven Shades of Grey autobiographical? Or is it faction – fact + fiction?
Any good writing has realism in it. Seven Shades of Grey has many shades of my own life. The failed son surely resonates with me. The facts in the book have some basis in my own experiences but most of it is just a plain story. The psychological aspect of my story is the one that resonates with a lot of readers. I have received letters from strangers saying that they could relate to characters in the book. That to me is a good story, fact or fiction.
Why did you go digital instead of publishing a hard copy?
I decided to publish the book digitally as this was the easiest way to publish it. Platforms such as Amazon provide simple tools to publish a manuscript. I also searched for a Print On Demand platform to get the hard copy version out. For India I am happy to have chosen Notion Press to help me with this. Readers can now buy either the digital or the hard copy version of the book.
What do you hope to achieve with this book?
As I mentioned earlier, I want to learn the process of self publishing first hand. This is my primary objective. Another more personal one is to see my book published. I received a lot of brickbats when I wrote this. I spent a lot of money sending manuscripts to publishers and literary agents. To see the work published is kind of vindicating the writing of the book.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a series of occult fiction where the protagonist is a practitioner of the Dark Arts but uses them for the good of humanity. It spans many generations and is set in modern day Mumbai. I hope to make this into a series.
Kindly give us a glimpse of your life and works.
My life has been a series of roller coaster rides. I was lucky to reach the USA for my studies but I hit a wall when I couldn’t fund my studies. There was a time when I didn’t have enough to eat. My teacher found me a job that helped me pay for my tuition. I had to work a second job in a bar to survive. My day job landed me a few modelling assignments. I came back to India because of Rajiv Gandhi’s speech at the UN (shortly after Indira Gandhi’s assassination) and because my family wanted me to return. For 13 years after returning I struggled to find a stable career. I tried my hand at food processing, ink manufacturing, technical writing, training and finally in publishing. I won accolades but never really succeeded in any single venture other than publishing. I cherish my success because I have never forgotten of my failures. My greatest driver is to see the smile on the faces of people I work with. I still love to write and my job gets me to exotic places. There is a writer in me that is waiting to take centre stage. Perhaps I will allow him to take baby steps in the real world.
Vivek Mehra comes from a family of textile manufacturers who pioneered silk screen printing in India. His business education began in family owned textile mills long before formally beginning in New York. On his return to India in 1987 he spent four years working closely with the Central Food Technology Research Institute of India, Mysore and helped setup India’s first commercial fruit dehydration and preservation unit. The Government of India acknowledged his efforts and thanks to him thousands of farmers across the grape growing belt of Central India today reap the benefits. In 1990 he was awarded the ‘Vijayshree’ by the Government of Maharashtra for simplifying complex dehydrating technology thus ensuring a brighter future for even small farmers. His work on minimizing the use of Sulphur based preservatives in dehydrated food has been acknowledged as a first in India. In 1999 he left the field of food processing to spend time on researching chemical formulations that had thus far remained the preserve of large corporations in the developed world. His work on ultraviolet detectable inks and gel based stamping systems laid the foundation for these product lines in India.
He pursued his passion for writing by joining hands with IDC Technologies, an Australian company and a market leader in providing workshop based training to engineers and technicians. He set up an India based unit to support the growing need of producing courseware for the company. In 2003 he became a trainer and exclusively handled workshops in New Zealand, Canada and UK.
He joined SAGE India as Deputy Managing Director in September 2005. On 1 December 2006, he officially became Managing Director and CEO of SAGE India. In his tenure, SAGE India has grown 5 times in topline revenue and operating profit (as of March 2014). Today the company has close to 300 employees across 6 offices in India.
In July 2013, he self-published his maiden novel, ‘Seven Shades of Grey’ a fictional story of lives intertwined and reality blurred, written in 1999, which no publisher wanted to publish.
He is visiting faculty at the Ambedkar University Delhi and teaches courses at the Post Graduate level. Vivek is also the Vice President of Association of Publishers in India and is on the committee for CII and FICCI.
He has an MBA in Marketing from Columbia University, New York and a B.Sc. in Textile Technology from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
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