Interview with the eminent author of Hoodwinking Hope – By Aditya Shah

by Subhechcha Ganguly

Q1) Every author has a point in their life where they recognise their talent for writing. Tell us about your start in the writing profession.

I’ve always been a numbers guy—driven by logic and calculations—but I’ve always enjoyed writing and storytelling since I was in elementary school. I would enjoy reading stories and English literature. In school, we would read William Shakespeare, and those stories were so captivating that they were by far my favourite classes.
I used to spend hours writing poetry and articles in my formative years. Moreover, it helped to see pop culture shows like Castle or Californication about the glamorous lives of writers. Additionally, I witnessed the magical world of Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling, which inspired an entire generation. I was fortunate enough to keep the writing bug going throughout college, writing blogs and small articles for the web. So, eventually, it turned into a passion project, which resulted in this book.

How did you choose the genre of your book, and for how many days did the process of writing and editing continue?

I was always a good listener. So I heard from people in my personal and professional life who were dealing with mental health issues. Hence, I started researching this space. Everyone needs advice and guidance, and that’s when they rely on a therapist to help them deal with issues. Curiosity crept in, and I started wondering about the guy who is helping such people. I ended up building my story around therapists.I researched and identified concepts that I wanted to cover; I tried coming up with short stories and interesting characters at an individual level. I wanted to write something that was character-driven. I was hopeful that they would help me build the story rather than outline the plot before developing characters. The book is about therapists, which gave me access to a large and unique set of characters with whom they could interact in the close setting of a mental institute.Since the characters are the key element, the narrative is in first person, and every chapter is from a different point of view. The story is character-driven, and then it interweaves into each character’s perspective and life.The process of writing this story honestly took six months, as I had to feel every character out and determine whether the emotions and situation felt genuine.

Moreover, the sensitive nature of the content had to be put across delicately and honestly.I used to spend hours bottled up in a room, trying to come up with an honest reaction to the situation and convey a justifiable sentiment.The editing of the book took four months, but I had to cut out and rewrite a lot of my work to keep the narrative true and decently paced.I still feel I could have cut out more chapters to give the reader a quicker experience, but I still feel the slow pace at the start is to familiarise the reader with the world I had created.
Tell us something—a short summary—about your book.

The book is in first person, and I have tried a very different form of storytelling in the Indian context to provide first-hand reactions and emotions to the reader. By keeping it in a closed setting, you are drawn into that environment.The book is about hope, the human condition, and connection; it also deals with how hope can misguide and deceive us into taking actions that are counterintuitive for human beings. Hope is a driving force. It’s also about self-discovery and understanding who you are and your emotions. This is the philosophical element of the book.Mental Health and Pressure on Therapists: Who have their own lives and problems, and how do they deal with the trauma they hear about every day? Their constant struggle to provide empathy is another challenging aspect of the book. We all know the mental health conversation is difficult, but I’ve always wondered what happens to the ones behind it all—the therapists.
Have you noticed, particularly after the lockdown, a decline in interest in writing among younger generations? What do you have to say about that, and is there any advice you want to give them?

I honestly believe that, as a society, we are moving towards different forms of communication. I do believe the younger generation isn’t geared towards writing novels or books but is focused on writing digital content for stand-ups, web series, or films.The explosion of social media and the number of platforms for sharing your stories has resulted in an abundance of opportunities to pursue multiple short stories.It is extremely important in any form of writing to be honest and true to the story being created. Writing is a version of reporting and observing people to create relatable characters. It is easiest to write a version of the truth you see, and it could be about anything from a cab incident to an exciting relationship.
It is essential to keep an emotional connection with a character. As a writer, I have to pull the reader in with a relatable emotion or incident and then act as a tour guide throughout the journey of the story. It is critical to get buy-in, and that comes only with relatable characters and emotions. Stand-ups like Zakir Khan are exceptional at this skill on stage.
Everyone has a unique voice and has things they are passionate about, so it is essential to understand how well you craft your script and how detailed you can make it. It is also important to understand your medium—whether it’s a book, a stage, a short film, or a feature film—and build it with a hook.

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