Abhaidev is the pen name of Mayank Chandna, an MDI Gurgaon alumnus. After working for a while in an investment bank, he took the plunge and quit that boring job of his to venture into the exciting world of writing, something he always wanted to do.
His penchant for continental philosophy and craze for progressive house music has nettled his simple parents. He is an avid reader and devours classics and science books.
He loves challenging his limits and believes that there is nothing nobler in this world than possessing an intense desire to learn and utilizing the gift of curiosity to its full potential. He seeks transcendence in the practice of art and hopes to pen down stories which are not run-of-the-mill.
TBE: Tell us a little about your story and the story world you’ve created.
Abhaidev: That Thing About You is not just another campus romance novel. It is an uncommon story of a common man rejected in love. It is a story of an immature man who is walking on the path of self-discovery. The story centers around Subodh, a regular IT employee, who is crestfallen and dejected after he gets rejected by a woman, he has feelings for. His life takes an unexpected turn when he befriends a mysterious girl, who seems to know everything about him but refuses to divulge her real identity.
The story is primarily an interplay between plot and these two major characters, which infused with a bit of mystery, keeps the readers at the edge. One of the major themes of the novel is Destiny vs Free-will, and about how the two play a significant role in shaping our lives. The book has already received a lot of positive feedback and rave reviews. It seems that readers are finding my book different and fresh.
TBE: How this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
Abhaidev: It would be a lie to say that all characters in That Thing About You are entirely fictional and have nothing to do with real life. Yes, the book is semi-autobiographical. I was a lot like Subodh a decade back. And it was when I found my own Kalpana. That Thing About You is, therefore, an old story which I conceived a long time back. Only I wrote it down a bit later. The idea started as a voice, indeed. And I waited and stalled until it became too heavy a burden and somewhat crippling. Writing it down was thus a relief.
There are many books out there about mature people, but a few about a person who just refuses to grow up, despite overwhelming peer pressure. I wanted to write a story about one such man. I wanted to write a story about the Subodh in all of us. Thus, my book began taking shape into what it is now.
TBE: What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
Abhaidev: That Thing About You has two major themes. First – “Maturity is not about knowledge or lofty thoughts but about one’s deeds and conduct.” Second – “We are the products of our destiny as well as our free will.” I think I have succeeded in conveying these two messages through this book.
TBE: Who are your main characters? Tell us a little about what makes them tick.
Abhaidev: As I told earlier, the story is primarily centred around Subodh and his mysterious friend Kalpana. It is mostly the conversations between these two characters, which moves the story forward. But there are a few other characters who have significant roles too. Ishaan, for example, who is Subodh’s flatmate as well as his colleague. Not everything is fine between the two men. They live together and somehow tolerate the existence of each other as a result of a compromise.
Then there is Anu, who is Subodh’s frenemy. She leaves no stones unturned to mock and deride him. But at the same time, she is concerned about him too. Almost like a prying aunt who lives next door. Last but the not least – Sneha. Subodh’s love interest. It is only when she rejects him, the journey of Subodh begins.
I have tried my best to make the characters sound realistic. That Thing About You is not a random musing of a single man. It is a story about everyone. We all have been a Subodh, Ishaan, Anu or Sneha at some point in our lives.
TBE: Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Abhaidev: As I told before, the book is semi-autobiographical. So, yes, a few of the characters are based on real people, but a few of them are entirely fictional. That Thing About You is a blend of reality as well as fanciful imagination.
TBE: Who’s your favourite character from the book, and why?
Abhaidev: It would definitely be Kalpana. We all have a Kalpana hidden deep in our psyche. And it is only when there is a life-changing event (a trigger point) when she reveals herself to us. No matter how messed up one’s life is, the Kalpana in each of us is always sorted out. And she can become our guiding light if we are ready to listen.
TBE: What was your writing process for this book? And How long did it take you to write this book?
Abhaidev: I try to make sure that I write at least 100 words a day. I want to raise this number to 1000 at least. But I am not there yet. Perhaps with enough discipline, it would be possible. There are days when I manage to write more than 2000, but then there are days when I struggle to write even 200!
The same was the case with That Thing About You. It took me six months to write the first draft. Rest of the time was spent in editing and re-writing what I had already written. The purpose of the first draft is to make the story exist. It is only after editing and re-writing that a story takes its final shape. And this, I think, is true for every writer.
TBE: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Abhaidev: I think the key takeaway is that we should not neglect or ignore our inner voice. We must find our own Kalpana. And we must listen carefully to what she says. Kalpana is the only real guide that we all can have.
TBE: Do you read much, and if so, who are your favorite authors?
Abhaidev: Yes, a writer can’t write if he or she doesn’t read. For us, reading is the fuel and writing is the output. I believe that only voracious readers turn into writers. So, like every other writer, I read a lot. I devour mostly classics. As a result, there are a lot of authors who are my favourites. To give you an idea – Huxley, Dostoyevsky, Salinger, Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, Kafka, Hesse, H.G. Wells, etc. Bradbury and Keyes are the newest addition to the list. I just finished ‘Flowers for Algernon’ and enjoyed it a lot. I hope to complete all of Daniel Keyes’ novels in the coming three months.
TBE: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Abhaidev: I spend most of my time reading. But when I am not, I prefer to listen to some nice music, such as Progressive House. I also enjoy works of science-fiction, be it in any form. I like to watch Independent, drama movies too. I also wish to learn the art of making electronic music. And one day I want to produce a track of my own. So, I play and dabble with music-making software at times.
TBE: Do you believe in the concept of a muse? What is yours like?
Abhaidev: I think the concept of a muse is quite cliched. Not every writer has one. I write without thinking about anyone. And I write for the sake of writing. It is an itch actually. Writing brings me relief. It gives me a different kind of pleasure altogether. And I feel horrible the day I don’t write. Perhaps, I would do better if I find my muse. I don’t know!
TBE: Have you ever learned anything thing from a negative review and incorporated it in your writing?
Abhaidev: So far, I have received mostly positive reviews. However, I have received few words of constructive criticism too. I hope that I will improve in the areas that a few readers have pointed out, and would evolve for good with each passing day. True, for an artist, be it of any kind, feedback is absolutely necessary, for, without feedback, an artist wouldn’t even know if he is headed wrong. I hope to incorporate many of the suggestions, that people have made, in my upcoming books, and I would certainly keep an open mind to criticisms and negative feedback.
TBE: In your opinion, what is the most important thing about any book?
Abhaidev: The ability to entertain the readers but at the same time insightful. I think that a book must have a takeaway. These days there a lot of ways through which people can be entertained. But a book must always be poetic, at times.
TBE: What was one of the most surprising things you learned during creation of your book?
Abhaidev: Writing That Thing About You didn’t change me as a person. It did bring me a sense of closure, though. As the book is partly biographical, I felt relieved when I finished it. I can now move on and write stories that have nothing to do with my life, howsoever. Writing That Thing About You also taught me a few tricks of the trade. Since it was the first attempt of mine at writing long fiction, it helped me evolve as a writer. I think I have begun my journey as a writer on an extremely positive note.
TBE: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Abhaidev: I was sixteen when I came across “Smriti: Ek Prem Ki” by Krishna Khatvani. The ending was so intense that I almost cried. It was then that I realized that language has immense power. Reading that book was a turning point in my life. It turned me into a voracious bookworm, a serious reader, as people say. And it was then when I realized that I should start writing too. It took me some time, yes, but finally, I was able to make my dream come true. I am what I am, all because of one intense reading experience in my adolescence.
TBE: What would you advise young writers trying to build a publishing history or an author platform?
Abhaidev: I am not in a position to advise young writers. But since you insist, I would indeed give my cents to those who are yet to begin. Create your own style. Don’t try to copy others. The world does not need duplicates. It demands fresh ideas and stories. And if everything falls in place, you’ll achieve what you wish to.
TBE: A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, and they are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
Abhaidev: Well, I am indeed an introvert. It is my default nature. I can’t speak about others. However, I do get extrovert at will. Especially when it is needed. My educational background demands me to deal with people all the time. Yes, MBA degree comes with a few perks. It makes even the lifelong loners into ambiverts. It makes us behave according to the circumstances. But whenever I am writing, I seek solitude. You can’t think about writing or actually write if you are with people all the time. So, yeah, I do have loner tendencies. But for good.
TBE: What are some must-read titles in your genre?
Abhaidev: Actually, I haven’t read many books that belong entirely to my genre. However, there are a few books that I would like to suggest, anyway. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, and Steppenwolf (again by Hermann Hesse). Well, these are some of the books that are dear to my heart.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Abhaidev: Yes, I am simultaneously working on two novels. One is a science-fiction thriller, and the other is a paranormal/fantasy/philosophical book. These two books are a complete departure from my first. And the way the two of them are going and taking shape, I hope the readers will enjoy reading them a lot.
Talking more about these upcoming books would be too premature. But I assure the readers that they would be pleasantly surprised. I have evolved a lot in these past three years, and you will notice the positive changes in these upcoming books too. Besides these, a few of my short stories are available on Juggernaut platform for free. I have received some rave reviews for those too. I hope that people will find them different, but at the same time entertaining as well.
Buy Now: That Thing About You by Abhaidev
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