INDIA: A Management graduate from Singapore, Zahir Chauhan has more than a decade of experience in the corporate sector in the domain of Learning & Development, strategizing and implementing HR Practices. But, he truly believes in the ‘Power Of Stories’ and hence listening to his inner calling, he decided to embark on his journey of connecting people through his stories.
As a creator of unusual stories, Zahir writes simple yet unique fictional stories which connect with the lives of common men. His debut novel ‘The Perfect Dilemmas’ was published in 2015. His Second Book ‘Love-Buddy’ was published in 2017. Other than writing novels he has also written screenplays of his published books. The screenplay based on his second book ‘Love-Buddy’ was an official selection at the Lifft India – Filmotsav-World Cine Fest 2018.
In this interview, Zahir talks about his third and latest novel ‘The Girl That I Met That Night,’ his writing process, the effect of COVID-19 pandemic, his influences and upcoming projects.
Q1. Tell us about your latest novel ‘The Girl That I Met That Night’. How did you conceive it?
A. ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ is a story of two strangers who meet on a fateful night. To spent the night, they narrate each other stories of their own lives but with a promise of never meeting again. Both Kabir and Anamika have extreme opposite stories to narrate. The night ends and they both goes back to own worlds, unaware of the fact that their destiny has another plan. ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ is an intense story of love, courage and destiny which unfolds in a very dramatic and unpredictable way.
The idea behind ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ was to write such a powerful story that not only has romance but also should have some important life lessons which we tend to forget in today’s world. On the other side, I also wanted to ensure that the story should keep the readers engaged till the end of story and hence if you read the book, you will realise that though it’s a romance novel, both the protagonist Kabir and Anamika meet each other only twice and that’s what make the entire story very gripping and engaging.
The novel will be released on October 8, 2021.
Q2. What’s your approach to writing a novel? How comfortable are you when required to break free of it?
A. My approach towards writing a novel is very simple, I first draw an outline of the plot in a paragraph or may be in a page. Once I have the plot, I write the sequences in bullet points that I wish to include in the book and then I get in to writing the actual story. I call it a three fold approach.
Q3. How would you compare ‘The Girl That I Met That Night’ to your first two novels?
A. Well, honestly speaking, I cannot compare ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ with my previous two novels at all for various reasons. The plot and story is on a very different level this time, the amount of research and travelling I have done while writing this book is something which I haven’t done for my previous books. The story of ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ was completed in 2018 but then somehow I wasn’t happy and hence I re wrote the book and you would be surprise to know that, just because I wanted to re-write the book and do complete justice with the story, I even took a break from my well settled corporate career in Mumbai.
In nutshell, I have given three precious years to write and complete this book and hence this one is really special. I even had travelled to all the locations mentioned in the book to give the readers a very connecting experience.
Q4. Your second novel ‘Love Buddy’ was a best seller and had undergone a reprint within 6 months. As a writer what kind of pressure does one face while trying to match or surpass the success of your previous offerings?
A. I don’t really take any such pressure and I think that’s what kept me going for three years while I was writing this book. My only objective was to come up such a story which the readers would be able to relate and enjoy till the end. I have enjoyed my journey of writing ‘The Girl I Met That Night’ and that’s what matters, rest the numbers may go up or go down which I will accept it as a part of my journey as a storyteller.
Q5. Other than writing novels you have also written screenplays. How does writing a novel differ from writing a screenplay?
A. The major difference is the change in the writing format and the length of the screenplay that we have to follow. Having said that I enjoy writing both because at the end of day it’s the art of storytelling.
Q6. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your writing process? As a creative person how do you look at the long term impact of the pandemic?
A. On the personal front, the pandemic has affected my writing process in a good way. Now because of the COVID-19 restrictions on various social and outdoor activities, I have more time to write and hence it allows me be in the perfect zone to write.
On the other side, due to pandemic there are very few opportunities for authors to go all out for book promotions, literary events, book launch events, meeting readers and other promotional activities that we all used to enjoy earlier. I think that is one of negative impact of the pandemic I see as a creative person, rest for us, nothing has changed.
Q7. Often young writers find it difficult to get their first novel published. What advice would you like to give to the aspiring writers so that they can get published?
A. I have three advices for the aspiring writers.
– Use proper channel of the communication and follow the publishing guidelines of every publishing house clearly.
– Have a lot of patience. When I say a lot, I truly mean it.
– Prepare yourself for facing rejections, learn from it, improvise and move forward. Don’t Give Up Ever!
Q8. Tell us about your influences and inspirations. Also tell us about your other upcoming projects.
A. I have been an avid reader since childhood and hence at the different stages of my life various authors have influenced me. The turning point in my life came when Mr. Chetan Bhagat started a trend of writing books which anybody can understand and relate with. Today he is one the most commercially successful Indian author. You see the way he connects with the readers, the way he promotes his books, his social media activities and presence, everything is audience oriented and that’s what inspires me.
In terms of my upcoming projects, I have already finished writing my fourth book which should be published in 2022. I have also written screenplay of my second book love buddy which is currently in discussion for screen adoption. Apart from that I am also planning to come up with a video song for which I have already written the lyrics. So these are couple of my upcoming projects.