In Conversation with Author Karan Agrawal
A technology consultant-cum-explorer, Karan Agrawal has recently debuted with his bestselling book 7 Untold Secrets of Living Abroad. This book includes stories and secrets of real people, of 34 NRIs, in each of the twelve countries covered herewith. The book contains well-researched information covering different aspects of living in a foreign land.
It was an immense pleasure to indulge in a candid conversation with Karan who talked about his books, his journey, and his opinions on reading and writing. Excerpts:
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My quest is to live to my full potential without getting tied down by societal norms and expectations. I am a seeker. The Almighty told me: The more you explore yourself; the more will you know the depth of your true potential. Having chased corporate dreams, I am now following my dreams.
I am a storyteller. I am also a technology consultant currently working in Cognizant Technology Solutions, Hyderabad. I have traveled across continents for work and leisure and believe travel and experiences are best teachers. I am a big-time foodie, loves cult movies, tea lover. Loves to take a long shot on life.
Writing gives me a high. With ‘7 Untold Secrets of Living Abroad’, I am embarking on the journey of being an author! My home town is Nagpur.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I have been writing for 12 years on my personal blog and Medium. I always wanted to write a book; in fact, I have two half-written fiction novels. While I lived in Singapore, I became sure that these experiences and stories need to be told to benefit larger migrant professionals. In December 2018, I decided that it was time and I set out a timeline of six months to get published which eventually got published in nine months!
What inspires you to write books? What are the things which catch your attention?
Books are under-rated — they are a powerful medium of expressing emotions and imaginations. An impactful story can take you to another world. That thought fascinates me. Words have the power to change the reader’s thoughts and emotions.
Punch lines, good quotes, engaging conversational writings catch my attention!
Tell something in brief about your latest book. How did the idea of coming up with this book strike you? What amount of research you did for this one.
The ups and downs and the roller coaster ride away from home compelled me to tell my stories in a way that could benefit a larger audience.
The core idea of the book is what Indian working professions go through while living abroad… Work Culture, Meeting etiquettes, Job opportunities, Salaries, Lifestyle, Food culture, Education system, Dependent’s life, Medical care… Everything that impacts an immigrant! 34 NRIs joined me (lived in Singapore for six years) in narrating their real experiences, compelling stories and untold secrets from the 12 top countries around the world! The book has stories, drama, emotions; reality served with love!
It took a significant amount of research. Identifying individuals from twelve countries, discussing with them several personal topics was challenging. I had discussions several times at 3AM also to match the contributor’s time zone. I have struggled to connect to people staying in UAE and China; as usual, communication mediums did not work. I installed BOTIM app to get through contributors in the UAE and WeChat to discuss with NRIs in China. I had to research on topics like taxes in each country and some of the factual details to ensure an error is not made while telling contributor’s stories.
Do you see your book as a carrier of an important message or a medium of entertainment?
The book carries an essential message of fulfilling your dreams with dignity. It is not just about staying abroad or earning in dollars. It is about finding your purpose and thriving with respect. That is the underlying message of stories in the book.
In this book, I am attempting to present to you the realities around the world so that you can align your dreams to the dream destination, or you can change your dream destination, or at the very least, you are better prepared to adapt to your dream destination.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
As I mentioned, I have two novels that are half-written because I waited for inspiration to happen. And whenever I felt like writing, my storyline changed.
The only reason I could complete this book was that I followed a strict regime of getting up at 5 AM every day and put my thoughts. Weekends were entirely dedicated to writing or activities related to book creation, publishing, etc.
When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or a full-time profession?
No. I was never drawn towards writing. Nor towards poems or literature. I always thought scholarly people get into the books and never thought about taking it up.
If you could have been the original author of any classic book, what would it have been and why?
I love Dan Brown’s creations. If I ever had this option of becoming an original writer of any of his work, I would rate Angels & Demons or Deception Point at the top of the list! Why: His storytelling takes me to another world. I feel as if I am watching a drama with all the characters and plot right in front of me!
Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
It is true. At least for a new author like me or till you are 2-3 books old, it does apply. It also depends on the genre one is writing. But overall it requires alone time. A ‘me’time. An ‘uninterrupted’ time. I struggled initially to balance my office work, spending time with family, playing with my five-year-old son and also writing. When the weekend would come, I wanted to make the most of it by writing, and my family would expect me to take them out since I hardly got to spend time with them on weekdays. Their expectations were correct, but I needed more time to keep my focus and complete the book within the timeframe I had decided. That understanding was established over some time.
I would day-dream in the office while having lunch or a few times in meetings. I have stopped in the middle of the road to jot down some fleeting thoughts, many times. You need to balance social life and your presence on social media. Instead of talking to the real people you need loner time to talk to your characters in the book and give them life!
What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?
Even if there are few readers, who would say “His book changed our life” “Or he inspired us”; I will be happy from an author’s point of view. And I want to keep trying new things to know what I am capable of!
How would you describe the contemporary scenario of writing and reading in India?
Indians are always readers. But the current generation is a lot more hooked and reading on social media. I think that needs a severe balance. I like Amish Tripathi from the new set of writers. He attempted and brought a different perspective for Indian readers. We need more Amish bringing much more diverse topics and making the writing as well as reading space more vibrant. Reading needs to be promoted from a young age across the country to really bring an overhauling change.
How important is marketing a book in the present conditions when every day we see new titles coming up? Any tips to share?
If nobody sees your book, then nobody would believe you have written anything. A book needs to be marketed well. One needs to identify the book’s target audience and has to reach out to them. One should know how each social media works. I was averse to social media until I started writing. Then I consciously became active in the last eight months. Tip from my experience: I would say all social media works differently. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium are different, and you need to present the same content in a customized format for each of these mediums. I am no expert and my last six months have been only experimenting with different things to see what works. My wife has been of great help to teach me the nuances of many of them!
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tip to get rid of them?
You always have to remind yourself that every day will not be the same. I have experienced it especially after having some good writing sessions. My expectations from myself rose, and I tried to push myself to maintain the writing streak. That resulted in some kind of Writer’s block or frustration for not being able to put thoughts or generate one! But the best way to get rid of it is to talk to your body and talk to your characters. When you are not able to create them, speak to them, discuss with them and sooner than later the magic will happen!
You need to condition your mind and staying close to nature like a morning walk in a park with green grass and sky-touching trees can help!
Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors? What is your favorite genre?
I read a lot. Fiction as well as non-fiction. I like to read Dan Brown, Biographies, Business personalities, easy and humor. I haven’t confined myself to any genre, but I look for some value addition or some learnings from what I read.
What are your hobbies?
Writing gives me high; I love to travel to different countries, playing chess, badminton, swimming and acrylic painting.
Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?
I should have been more aware of my potential; I would have explored them a lot earlier.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Identify why you want to write a book. Then write. You should be proud of your book after accomplishing it, don’t write just to become an author. Write your story in a way that can help the readers.
Are we going to hear more from you in the future?
Yes, I have already started working on my second book with some rough framework in my mind.
*We wish Author Karan all the best for his future endeavors.*