Author Interview: Shashi

Songs of the Mist is a tale of self-discovery which chronicles the journeys of several individuals from varied backgrounds as they labor to find peace within themselves. I am pleased to announce that its author, Shashi, joins us today.

cw-ii1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Shashi from India, born in the land of Buddha – Kushinagar in North India and currently staying in Chennai. – South India. I am an Interior Design professional, run office interior firm ICUBE Projects with HQ in Chennai and branch office in Delhi. I studied Civil Engineering from Delhi. Before starting my own firm, I was national head for a Multi National firm with one of the world’s top Office Furniture manufacturer.

I love reading and writing ancient Japanese poetry form Haiku. I am an amateur but passionate photographer, which drives me to travel India / Abroad on spiritual journeys and document these places for my blog Shadow Dancing With Mind. It has been awarded India’s # 1 Spiritual blog for the last three years by respected aggregators.

I write about Spirituality, Literature and share my thoughts on life an living along with Poetry – mainly Haiku

I speak on Writing Fiction, Haiku and Marketing / Publishing books. I conduct workshop on Creative Writing, Spirituality and Haiku – Poetry.

I have written “Songs of the Mist” the first part of three parts Spiritual Fiction series “The Monk Key”. The book has been received well, specially in Europe and USA.  In April 2016, it reached  double digit ranking at Amazon.in The book is currently being published in Hindi Translation by Story Mirror Publisher.

2. When did you start writing?
I have been writing since early age, but only got recognition as one of my poetry got selected for an award in Delhi University. The Monk Key series has been in my head for decades but due to professional occupation I was not able to put it on paper till 2010

3. Why did you start writing?
In the beginning there was no purpose to write and publish, apart from my own ego satisfaction that I am an author. This changed after I realised that the young generation is not connecting with ancient culture and heritage, which has lots to share in terms of the depth and beauty of thoughts and language. So I published my first book – a story of heartbreak, pain and suffering with underlying current of our ancient thoughts of Karma Yoga as my little effort to guide young generation to go back and look at the ancient heritage / literature / books whether it is Bible, Koran or Gita. They contain wisdom in such a beautiful language that the language alone can make a difference and change them for better.

Songs of the Mist_cover 1_rev6.indd4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
Yes, in 1987, I was travelling with my college mates on survey camp in Rishikesh – Himalayas, which is considered by some as spiritual capital of the world. As I was sitting on the banks of Holy River Ganges, I heard a voice within, urging me to share my experiences and thoughts on divinity. That was the time I decided that I needed to write my story. The Monk Key series is the result.

My book has gone through almost 20 revisions and editing. The structure never changed but the thoughts ripened and achieved certain depth. The first draft of Songs of the Mist – The first part of The Monk Key series consisted of 125K words, which was edited down to 76K words as final manuscript. Over last 5 years, I have already written 500K words, which is all the three parts of The Monk Key Series.

5. How did you arrive at your book’s title?
As I was sitting on the banks of the river Ganges, which was flowing with a kind of eternal song that merged with the mist that was enveloping all around. It looked like the river was telling me her story – the journey from the birth to final merging in the eternal sea. “Songs of the Mist” looked perfect at the time, even now it is.

6. Were there other titles which you were considering?
Yes, I started sharing the excerpts of my story at the blog in 2010 with the name “Yogi Baba – An Untold Story.”

7. Does your story have a moral?
The moral of my story is that bad things happen in living but that’s not the end. The heartbreak, pain and frustration pave the way of life but that should not stop one from living. Because the life is not made of past memories or future worries. It is the present ‘now’ which we need to live with our whole awareness and do what is required of us on our path with 100% sincerity and dedication. Once we have performed that duty, we should move on without wondering about fruits of our action. It is pointless, if you have done your duty, performed your task with 100% sincerity and dedication.  There is no way one could have done better than that so what’s the point of worrying. That is the way of Karma Yogi.

8. What major themes are present in your book?
Karma Yoga is underlying and yet major theme of my book, sugar coated in love story and mystical journey of the protagonist with mysterious Himalayan Monk.

At the surface level, it is a story about Ashutosh, who runs away from his native place to Himalayas as his heart is broken due to a tragedy in the family as well as his long time childhood friend who leaves him too. Without any emotional support, he plunges into the depths of darkness and finally disconnects with everything he has and embarks on a journey with a group of wandering monks to Himalaya, never to return. There he meets a mysterious wandering Monk, who saves him from destruction and he takes him along on a journey to hidden monasteries, temples and tribal village across Himalayan valleys and peaks. During this journey, Ashutosh comes to terms with his life as the Monk makes him to confront his demons and guides him in the way of Karma Yogi.

At another level, it is story about science versus spirituality. A young Scientist, Ayan, on his own journey to search for the answers to his conflicting scientific reasons with spiritual understanding, meets Ashutosh in Himalaya and requests him to find the mysterious Monk of his childhood dreams, who probably has the answers to Ayan’s internal conflict.

Then there are female characters of the book, Vashudha – Pop Singer, Calliope from Vienna, Yogini Anishka and Kyaka – The mysterious tribal girl, each in their own search of answers.

But at the deeper level Songs of the Mist is a story about a way of life, in perfect harmony of Man with the Nature.

9. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
Kyaka is my favorite, as I find her intriguing. In fact when I began to write the book, she had a minor role in the story but slowly she took a life of her own and forced me to follow her with my words. She is also a major influence in the flow of story. The second in terms of character, I like Calliope, who is subdued and has a minor appearance in the book but I believe she is the reason, the book exists. Though “Songs of the Mist” is mainly Ashutosh’s story and his flashbacks, which is the main body of the book, but the female characters are the soul of the book and add the required interest and intrigue in the book.

10. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Songs of the Mist.
Searching for the divinity within.

11. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
Every morning, after a deep session of meditations at around 4.30AM, I settle down on my desk to write for three to four hours. Watching as the sun rise light up the world and shine on the park and the trees, visible from my writing table window, fills me up with wonder that life and nature is. Late in the evening I relook what I have written and read a lot.

  • Do you listen to music as you write?

No, I listen to music to think, enjoy and dwell upon the story.

  • What is your preferred writing time? Morning? Afternoon? Late at night?

Very early Morning

  • Do you have a specific location that you go to when you want to write?

I love writing in nature. Most of my book is written in Rishikesh, Himalayas where it was conceived.

  • Do you prefer writing outside or indoors?

Indoors, looking out to the nature.

  • Do you like to write in public places, or do you seek out isolation?

Isolation. Public places gives me material to write so I travel a lot and observe.

  • Do you set daily goals for yourself (in terms of word count)?

No. I don’t. But the last 10K words of the book “Songs of the Mist” was written in one sitting and it did not change much in all the 20 plus editing sessions. It was the most powerful and enlightening time for me.

12. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
For every book, there has to be an outline, the story within, whether you have written it down or not. But as the book progresses, the characters take a life of their own and then one should not restrict them with structure. Let them grow as they want to as long as they are within the limits of the over all story. The character Kyaka was just a minor character in the beginning of my book and then she becomes alive within the pages and took me by hand where ever she wanted to go. It was an amazing transformation.

13. What is your favorite book genre?
Spiritual Fiction, Literature, Psychology, Science and History.

14. What is currently on your to-be-read shelf?
Homo Deus by Yval Noah Harari – the author of ‘Sapiens’, which I have read already

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Kundalini: An Untold Story by Om Swami

15. What is your favorite book?
The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham

I loved the way he developed the story around few characters and gave a meaning of life lived through his characters. The style is simple and the ideas within the book simpler but with had a profound underlying depth. I was able to relate with the main character as he was in his own journey like my character Ashutosh in ‘Songs of the Mist.’ This is the only book, where Somerset Maugham, is a character in his own book as himself that I was able to relate with very well. I identify myself with both the male characters in my book – Ashutosh and Ayan.

16. Any project in the works?
Yes, the Hindi Translation of “Songs of the Mist” is getting published as ‘Kuhaase Ke Geet’ in Jauary 2017.  Currently I am writing a book about Haiku and how it helps to find happiness, which will be published by Jan, 2017. The second part of The Monk Key Series is in editing phase which will be published by March 2017. The third part of the series is also in editing phase, which will be published in 2017 end.

17. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
The first book almost two decades to publish, from the thought to paper. But then in the year 2010, I finished writing all the three parts. Now it takes any where between 9 months to a year to publish.

In the meantime, the coffee table book on Haiku took 3 months to complete. (10K words)

18. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
It has to have a purpose of its existence, and then only it will stand the test of time. It has to leave the reader with better understanding about something or the other. It has to elevate the reader from one level of thinking to the next, one level of happiness to the next. The book has to give something to the reader in return otherwise it will die its own death of obscurity,

19. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read, read a lot. Edit, edit a lot. Find the purpose of your book other than your own ego satisfaction.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books

2. Dogs or cats?
Dogs

3. Living in the city or living in the country?
Country

4. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telepathy

5. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
Future

6. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Pictures

7. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Rap Lyrics

8. Bungee jumping or going on the slingshot ride?
Bungee Jumping

9. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Animal

10. Being drawn into a tornado or being drawn into a whirlpool?
Whirlpool

11. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
Being abandoned in the middle of nowhere

12. Misunderstanding everything that is told to you or being misunderstood every time that you speak?
Misunderstand every thing told to me

13. Drinking a glass of expired, curdled milk or eating a bowl of cold, slimy worms? (Note: the worms would be dead, though not cooked.)
Milk

14. Spending half a day locked in a coffin (there would be a hole for air, of course) or spending two days trapped at the bottom of a well?
Well

15. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Two stories tall

Thank you for joining us, Shashi!
Readers: want to connect with Shashi? You can find him on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and YouTube. Also, be sure to check out his author website and blog

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