Anuj Tiwari, a TEDx speaker, and marketing consultant, settled in Mumbai, brought up on Bareilly’s bustling streets. He studied in a Hindi-Sanskrit medium school where there were no English books.
Seeing the kids of his neighbourhood reading colourful storybooks, he started building dreams of reading in English who is now the bestselling author of six books, Give Your Heart a Break, Journey of Two Hearts, etc. inspired by real-life incidents. He has also been listed as one of the top ten most influential authors in India in 2016 and stands at number seven amongst the top 15 influential Indian authors on social media.
Interview times had a great time interacting with the author and get into sight of his remarkable journey.
Yogita: Can you talk us through your experience as the best selling author? How did you go down this route?
My journey began when I was in college. I had started writing in my third year. I took three years to complete my first book. However, in my fourth year of Engineering, I got placed in one of the most renowned companies and shifted to Mumbai. I also had some gone through mental and emotional turmoil in my life, was on antidepressant medication for nine months.
In 2012, the online publication platforms were not rampant. Around 20 percent was online only. Hard to believe, I used to visit every book store in Mumbai after my job to ask them for a share-out; if they are unable to take my books, I will take them back, I even put it on the discount of 60 percent. This idea worked well for me. In September, the book was released, and by the end of October, it hit the best-seller chart, counted as one of the five best-seller authors on Flipkart and Homeshop.
I believe this was a jumping-off point of my life; colleagues started calling me and became part of TedX. On the whole, everybody began recognizing me, but I used to have mingled emotions. Moreover, I would say some things are pleasing to look from the surface, but nobody grasps the gloomy reality behind it. Amid all this, nevertheless, I was well pleased with my book’s apparent success, but the previous phases of my life had brutally held me into its clutches, and it took time for me to overcome it.
Tushant: We can say, Your books are a reflection of your life. Ever had a second thought of bringing your personal life in front of the real world?
It’s imperative to realize this aspect of life, which I learned very early in my career. That is, if you ask a loser, a mediocre, and a winner to take risks, the loser will be the first one to step forward because he has nothing to lose. When you lose everything, you are not afraid of anything.
I came from a background where being an author is not even in the dreams. My career is a hit & trial thing. Once, the situations made me believe, my life is over now, and I wrote with nothing to lose attitude. My first book’s first draft has initially been darker than you can imagine; it could have censored. There are mistakes I have made, but I never regret them now. I believe I never regret your judgments because it was a correct call once.
Yogita: Besides being an author, you are a co-founder of a Mumbai based digital agency called TheAllDigital, and also work as a marketing consultant? How do you manage everything all together? What is your schedule like when you are writing?
There is no schedule. When I want to write, I wake up early in the morning around five and write till 9. After that, I step into the bustling world for the day. Though, it’s not a fixed schedule. I keep managing my time for my business, job and writing every day.
Tushant: Since you are well versed in Sanskrit and Hindi, have you ever thought of writing in these languages? How did you overcome your obstacles with the English Language during your first book journey?
That’s embarrassing but true. (On not completing a single English novel before releasing my first book). For Sanskrit, I have no clue how to write a book, but for Hindi, I have written a few poems. Moreover, I have done a few audiobooks with Storytel; one is releasing soon on September 1.
The sole reason for writing in English was to reach wider audiences. And writing in English was easy for me because even a Hindi Medium student could better command over grammar. For me, the writing was more comfortable than standing in front of a large crowd and delivering a speech. I never struggled with English apart from addressing a large group, but speaking in school days has helped me cope with public speaking fear.
Yogita: You are the first Indian author to write a book Give Your Heart a Break on sibling relationships. What made you write that?
I had no plans to write on this particular topic, but I firmly say this is based on my sister’s strained married life. Moreover, I did not intend to gain any sympathy, empathy, or publicity, and when I was writing, I used to receive threat calls, and the lawsuit is still not closed. Though I have added some fictional elements in the book, I aimed to portray the true story of an Indian girl wrestling with her marital relationship, which is quite common in Northern India. Still, nobody wants to raise their voice against it.
For safety reasons, I got all the paperwork done before releasing the book. No doubt, I was a little scared because the image might get besmirched, but as I already discussed earlier, I believe we should accept whatever happens, and yes, I have no regrets about it. Interestingly, I had no clue that I would be known as the first author to write on sibling’s relationships. I only wanted to represent the truth.
Tushant: You have recently launched your first Audiobook titled Ms. Understanding (2020) on Storytel. How was your experience?
My first Audiobook was released in March 2020. And after getting a good response, we are releasing it in Hindi on 1st September. The Audiobook is slightly different in delivering dialogues, describing background, etc. compared to traditional books. Audiobooks are more like having conversations than depicting the scenes. And to be honest, it’s easier than writing a book and less time-consuming.
Yogita: Do you suffer from writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
My books are usually get launched every year. I do not think I suffer from writer’s block because I would be lost for 2-3 years to write one book. I believe I have enough time to think and draft my plot. However, sometimes it happens when I feel I can not grasp my writing’s real essence like a scene or characters, but it does not last long, perhaps maximum only for 24 hours.
Tushant: What message do you want to convey through your TEDx?
I focus on many concentrated points, including if you have an awful past, know your life is not over yet. Your past cannot define your future; my entire third book is based on it. If you work hard, you can easily bend the things in your favor. Situations were different in my life five years ago, but it got changed in my favor. Let not the current unfortunate events rob you of a beautiful future. Thrive and survive.
Tushant: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in authoring your books?
Every coin has two sides. There is another side of publishing. Merely publishing a book will not make you sell copies in lakhs overnight. Things are very complicated than that. Writing is an easier task than publishing, and marketing is more challenging than writing and publishing combined. I used to put continuous effort, plan things, to take it to larger masses. Hard work has no alternative.
I would suggest work in phases. First, the primary focus should be on writing a book without targeting it to get it published and marketing because once you have put your heart and soul in it, you can work hard for other processes.
Yogita: Your writing style is quite simple and easy, it has won you thousands of readers, but at the same time, it has also brought much criticism. How do you deal with it?
When the first few 24,000 copies of my first book got released in the market, they had some major grammatical errors that even I am not proud of. I would not deny it has received much criticism, but things are in the past now. More importantly, I believe the story should have a deeper connection with the readers than the Grammar. The midnight emails are an example of the beautiful bond I have with my readers.
Tushant: The publishing agencies do not easily publish new writers’ works. What are your thoughts on self-publishing? Any advice for young writers?
Amish Tripathi self-published his first book, but not everyone can be him, right? I will never suggest going with self-publishing because you would be missing out on the vital aspect of the filtration process. The actual cost of publishing a book is only 20-30 rupees, and the self-publishing agencies ask you for 80-100 INR per book. They are already in profit; they won’t suggest the necessary changes, you won’t be getting the editors’ group to edit and advise you. Rupa publishing owner once told me while releasing my second book, “chappal toh ghisna padega Anuj,” you can never escape hard work. And it hit me hard. Self-publishing can be very tempting, but traditional publishing has no alternative.
Rapid Fire Round:
The best compliment you have ever received? Getting heartfelt emails from my readers midnight
Your favorite novel? The Godfather
Your favorite book among your published ones? Give your heart a break
Your strength? Being truthful
Your weakness? Emotions
Interviewed by Tushant Baranwal and Yogita Malhotra