Thursday, February 18, 2016

Decoding Amit Sharma, the man behind False Ceilings.

When you are part of the blogosphere, you discover a person through their blog. You end up associating them with emotions their words conjure. When I finally met Amit after years of following his blog, I had a stupid grin pasted on my face. Don’t blame me, blame him for writing a hilarious account of how a Gurgaonite enjoys monsoon amidst puddles and waterfalls while river-rafting in his car.

For those who do not know Amit, behind the easy humour lies a sensitive man with a dogged determination to bring his passion to fruition. In his case his first novel ‘False Ceilings’ that he wrote during his years in Manchester. If you are familiar with the functioning of the publishing world, you will be aware that the agony, heartburn, sleepless nights begins after you have submitted your manuscript. That’s when all the hard-work begins and only the fittest can survive the ‘agnipariksha’. I have yet to ask Amit if at any time he felt like Sita wanting the earth to open up and swallow him alive.

Good thing is, I have asked a few our friends to ask Amit a few cringe-worthy questions. I believe this exercise will help him trim down his list of Facebook friends.

Purba Ray: Once your book was out, you would have obviously asked blogger friends to review it. What were the weirdest reactions you got when you asked them?

Amit Sharma: To be honest, most of my Facebook and blogging friends were genuinely happy but there was an eccentric, unpredictable category. There was one guy who asked for a blurb so that he could decide whether he was interested or not. No congratulations, no hey-how-are-you? Just a cold reply. I sent him the blurb anyway. As expected, he refused as he didn’t fancy the genre. Then there were some who behaved as if I have asked them to kill the Queen of England. I was so amused by the airs and the noses pointed to the sky that I wanted to capture the moment somehow.

Besides my FB friends, I also approached a few bloggers unknown to me and book review websites. A majority of them never replied back, even after three follow-up mails. Piece of advice – If you are sending out your book to a reviewer you don’t know personally, read his previous reviews. A person who is physically incapable of moving his mouse pointer beyond a three star rating for any book on Goodreads (including the classics) will land your book in you-know-where. And some reviewers write such tacky reviews (and even have the audacity to ask for money) that you would be better off without them.

Kanchana Banerjee: Amit, you’ve dedicated your book to your demons. That’s quite a strange dedication, especially for the first book. Can you explain this? What are those demons and did writing the book exorcise them?

Amit Sharma: There is one character in the book that is based on my life experiences (clichéd, I know). But there is a point in the book where our paths fork out. He goes towards becoming someone that I always dreaded that I might turn into. And I go towards the real me who walked out of the abyss and refused the misery. It wasn’t easy to write him or any of the six main characters as the story is 60% true. Their relationship, their poison is true. I fought those demons to complete every page. And when I wrote the last page, it was like nailing a coffin shut. I always thought that I would never find enough courage to pull everything out of me. So, when I exorcised those demons, I laughed heartily and dedicated the book to them.

Ruchira Shukla: At a time when almost every newbie author is either writing love stories or stories about their college days what made you chose a Family Saga as your first novel?

Amit Sharma: The rose-tinted, red hearted, drenched with young love, overrated romance? Yes, why not? Because that is not how life is. There are so many layers to explore beyond that first kiss, the hugs and tears. Frankly speaking, I am a bit annoyed by the oversimplifications that are ubiquitous in the stories of the genre. What happens after the first kiss? What happens when the couple grows old, when their decisions clash, when their children grow up and the thread of romance has almost vanished, when relationships grow so mangled that not even death can resolve them, when children carry the malevolence to the next generation? And then, I answered a part of the question in Kanchana’s reply earlier. I had to get this story out of my system. It never appeared to me that I could write something else for my first book.

Alka Gurha: Which was a bigger challenge? Writing, Publishing or Marketing?

Amit Sharma: When I was writing, I thought nothing could be more challenging. Because of the span of the story, I had to do research for six months before I started writing. I wrote eleven drafts before I was satisfied enough to send it to friends to read.

After I had fifteen rejection letters in my hand, I thought nothing can be more heartbreaking and difficult than finding a publisher. I almost gave up hope. After a publisher accepted the book and the contract was signed, it was another two year long wait at the end of a queue. Deep breaths and patience carried me forward. Now that the book is out, I think nothing can be more difficult than marketing. A first time writer does not have a reader base. You have to constantly tell people about your book. Ask for reviews, ratings; find means to somehow let people know that your book exists, interact. Keep some money aside and hire a marketing agency. 

It’s a long journey and you might not even get what you deserve in the end. But you have to believe in your work. So, to answer your question Alka, all three activities come with their own set of challenges. The whole process is bittersweet but worth every second of it. 

Rickie Khosla : The character named S started a certain way and ended up being a remarkably different person as the book progressed. Apart from life and circumstances, I suspect TV serials may also have something to do with her slow decay. So, question – what were the TV serials she used to normally watch?

Amit Sharma : S was already on the path of decay by the time Hum Log, the first television serial hit Doordarshan. But yes, television serials did provide her the salt and pepper that was required to make her life interesting and turned into her best friends. How I wish she was alive today! The sheer number of mindless junk that appears on television would have made her scream with ecstasy. The stuff would have turned her into a super villian of Marvel proportions. S grew up in an era when the radio was the only source of entertainment, so its not hard to understand her transformations stemming from leaps in technology. Imagine how we would react to our new 3D realities ten year down the line when our real world and animated world will overlap; when the fire from the mouth of a dragon could induce a sensation of artificial burning!
False Ceilings is more than just a love story. Well, there is love in the book but it is mostly lost in the larger scheme of secrets and jealousies. A story based on true events, it spans 135 years. It begins in the pre-independence era and ends in 2065. There are six main characters in the book but Amit believes that Dalhousie and Delhi are also two characters in the book. You can see the hill-station and the city evolve over the decades as the story progresses. 

You can read more about the book and buy your copy from here –


  1. Nice stuff. Many bloggers are posting good reviews about the book.

    But what's with his Twitter handle? Having XX in it?

    P.S. Is it wrong for people to ask for money for writing reviews?

    1. Thanks Vishal.
      The Twitter handle was created a long time back and completely forgotten after that. I though I would appear sexy like Vin Diesel with a handle with multiple Xs in it. Don't ask. I am equally embarrassed and will change it.
      I think book reviews should definitely ask for money and I too have paid for a few reviews. But the quality of the review should compliment the charges. Many reviewers don't understand that.

    2. Thanks Amit. Appreciate your response. All the best for your future ventures.

  2. Amit has been courageous enough to bring this saga to life.. And this interview makes it interesting to understand how the book was brought together.... Great! I can't wait to get my hands on False Ceilings

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This is fun. Now I want to ask many more questions. Will wait for Amit's second book.

    1. Thanks Alka. It was fun answering all the questions.

  5. This was truly fun!
    "The rose-tinted, red hearted, drenched with young love, overrated romance? Yes, why not? Because that is not how life is. There are so many layers to explore beyond that first kiss, the hugs and tears."
    This is exactly what writers these days have forgotten. Nobody wants to show the reality. It's all painted. And that's exactly why I liked Amit's book. Every character was real. The places were real.
    If Rickie was to edit Amit's book, I am sure all those weird names of Saas-Bahu serials would have been included aptly. :-D

    1. Thanks Rekha. I am glad you liked the book.
      And I think its a great idea to let Rickie edit my next. :)

  6. Interesting answers, Amit. Wish you good luck with the book.

  7. Interesting questions and equally answers Amit. All the best for your book.!

  8. A lovely insight into the book penned by Amit! Would love to read this

    1. Thank you Rahul ji. I am glad you liked the Q&A session.

  9. The answers are really interesting and I believe the book should be as well.... Congratulations and Good luck....

  10. What caught my attention was you dedicating the book to the demons :)

    Wishing you luck, Amit!

  11. Purba Ray,
    !. I choose to read the blog since I thought it was about Amit Shah of the Modi kind.
    2.You are solely responsible for me breaking my won't buy books resolution
    3.The ledge that I wanted to jump off has to wait. :)

  12. His book dedication itself says a lot about him. I am currently reading his blog - the one about monsoon ! Thanks Purba, if not for you I wouldn't have known about this blog !

  13. Love the concept of many bloggers coming together to grill the author and it sure gives a very interesting perspective, from sketching characters to complexities. I love the last question about the decay on TV:)
    Great job.

  14. love the concept ....answers are quit interesting .

    Keep going !!

  15. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write.
    Thanks for sharing !
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