Tuesday 8 October 2013

Interview with Rafaa Dalvi aka The Indian Raconteur

1.                  Can you tell us a little about yourself your aspirations and your hobbies?
I’m Rafaa Dalvi aka The Indian Raconteur. http://rafaadalvi.blogspot.in/ I’m an Automobile Engineer and a typical Mumbaikar. Right from my childhood, I loved reading all kinds of novels and watching all kinds of movies. This flair for creativity has been there from a long time. Most of the people know me as the guy who won 5 ‘Get Published’ contests in 5 months and won the Indian Bloggers League 2.0 Booker Prize award. I’m a modest person and I don’t let success affect me. But yes, my hunger to be one among the best grows day by day.

2.                 How did you first get involved in writing? Are you an imaginative person?
I would give credit to my mummy who used to tell me bedtime stories every night without fail for many years. There was a time when the stories became repetitive but instead of getting bored I observed new aspects of the story that I had failed to observe before. I started imagining alternative endings to Aesop fables, Akbar-Birbal stories etc. Hell, I had even penned down different endings for movies like Sholay,  Andaz Apna Apna, Baazigar etc. So yes, I guess I’m an imaginative person.

3.                 Were you always interested in the romantic genre?
Well, to be honest, the trend among the Indian authors is to debut with a romance novel. So, I too started writing romantic short stories only to find out that I was too cheesy and my writing of romance resembled that of Mills n Boons. I’m not proud of it but it did help me win the affection of a lot of female readers. I don’t enjoy writing romantic stories but people tell me that I’m able to pen down decent stories in this genre.

4.                 How did Tere Hi Liye happen?
In the month of March, Indiblogger and Harper Collins had organized a ‘Get Published’ contest and my story failed to make it to the final 10.Here I was contemplating with my first failure when I saw a FB post about another PAN India contest. I edited the same story and mailed it. Imagine my surprise when three months later, I was the first person who they announced as one of the 27 contributing authors.

5.                 Tell us something about Kaleidoscope?
I joined Indiblogger in March and made many friends there. One of them suggested me to send my supernatural-erotica story “Karma is a Bitch” for a contest organized by Parlance Publishers with the judge being Ashwin Sanghi. I still remember that moment when a day before my birthday, I got a call from the editor congratulating me on being a part of the anthology. This was the moment my boyhood dreams came true. Though Kaleidoscope failed to create any ripples in the vast ocean of literature, I made many new friends and it was the dawn of a new era.

6.                 What about the other published works?
My supernatural-thriller story Reborn about a psychopath hunting for a new victim is being published in ‘I’. Also, ’25 Strokes of Kindness’ published by Grapevine India will contain my story Pentimento about an orphan girl who has to cope living with a person who considers her as his own daughter. My poem Loss of Innocence is also being published and I was surprised when it got selected because I’m an amateur poet. I want to be known as a versatile writer and hence I choose to participate in those contests only which are being judged by established writers and not those one-time hit “national bestsellers”.

7.                 Where do you see yourself blogging wise in the next 6 months and 5 years down the road?
I believe in quality over quantity. I’ve written only 60 posts in a span of five years but still people who’ve read my stories appreciate them. I don’t write just for the love of writing because that way I’ll never learn the fine techniques of writing. I set goals like attempting a humour story or a horror one and after completing them, I ask different people to review them. For example, if I’ve written a humour story, I ask bloggers like C. Suresh and Rickie Khosla to go through them or I ask authors like Coppola and Dr. Vivek Banerjee if I’ve written a horror story. Their reviews have helped me to become better. We are all students in the vast universe of literature and it is eventually upto us whom we select to be our mentors. So the span of 5 years is too far ahead as I concentrate on only one genre at a time.

8.                How did the ‘The Indian Raconteur’ get its innovation?
We, Indians, pride ourselves as being one of the most creative and intellectual people alive. Be it Mahabharata, Ramayana, Panchtantra or even Bollywood for that matter, we’ve always come up with brilliant stories and I wanted to do the same with my blog. I just wanted a medium to tell my stories and I thought a blog presented the perfect opportunity for it. People keep telling me that going through my blog isn’t time consuming and I believe a simple presentation is the reason for it. Having a decent legible font size with a light coloured background can do wonders.

9.                 Were you good in studies? What was the most interesting part?
I had a fast grasping power and I enjoyed English, History and even Science to an extent. But engineering was an entirely different ball and game altogether. Never had I felt so helpless like I felt these past 4 four years on several occasions. But engineering taught me to complete my work before deadlines and the most interesting part was doing ‘Jugaad’ whenever appicable. Doctors can save lives, bankers can manage finance but an engineer can find a solution for any problem.

10.            What is your favorite genre? What are your thoughts on that especially In the Indian scenario?
My favorite genre is crime. I’ve grown reading novels of Mario Puzo & Elmore Leonard and watching movies of Coppola & Scorsese. This is one genre I can’t get enough of and that’s why I’ve decided to write my debut novel on crime. You can read the prologue here: http://rafaadalvi.blogspot.in/2013/06/the-greatest-artist-that-ever-lived.html

11.              Any specific tips you have for newbie Authors who want to make it in the publishing Industry?
Don’t lose hope when your stories don’t make it to the final list. Keep trying hard and don’t ever lose hope. Edit your stories at least thrice in a month and read your story aloud. Try to complete your work a fortnight before the deadline as editing is the key to success. My story in Kaleidoscope got good reviews but it wasn’t edited well as I was just a newbie and it left me disappointed. From that moment onwards, I gave equal importance to editing too.

12.             What would you prioritize? Narration or Words?
Both. You won’t like a story if it isn’t written from the heart. Then again, you won’t like it if it isn’t crisp and doesn’t appeal to your intellect level. One without the other cannot survive and they both go hand in hand.

13.             What’s the best thing a writer can give to his readers?
Honesty. As long as a writer respects his readers, writes for his pleasure and not for commercial success, the output would be genuine and original. The moment a writer becomes a sellout and starts writing just for the heck of it or for making fast money, his readers lose faith in him. Harry Potter turned many people into writers who tried to make money writing below-par fantasy stories. In the same manner, Twilight resulted in many bad vampire love stories on Amazon and now 50 Shades of Grey is continuing the tradition by being the role model to thousands of erotic novels. This trend of reaping the benefits of others and trying to ride on their success is killing literature slowly. A writer shouldn’t waste paper by being a part of this travesty.

14.             A lot of people are interested in for the money earning potential of a writer. What are some tips for people interesting in making money from it? What are some realistic expectations in regards to what can be made?
You can’t make money in the current Indian market because people tend to buy pirated copies even if they need to pay only Rs 20 more for the original copy. Moreover, with the amount of novels and publishing houses coming in the market, a reader easily gets confused and ends up buying pirated copies. Online stores like Flipkart, Infibeam, Homeshop18 etc don’t make profits from books and only sell books in the hope that the buyers of discounted books will someday buy electronic and household items from them. Unless you’re an established name in the literary world, making money shouldn’t be a realistic expectation and you should concentrate more on writing quality honest stories.

15.             What motivates you most in life?
The will to excel always and be known for my quality work motivates me. I want to be remembered as a talented guy who knew what he was doing with his life. Finally, everyone tries to become the yardstick to which every other writer is measured and I’m no different.

16.             What has been your strategy for creating visibility to yourself and your work?
There’s no strategy as such. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have helped and also Indiblogger, Blog Adda, WriteUp Café etc have proved to be excellent platforms to showcase talent.  Moreover, participating in contest swas equally important as they showed where I stood with others and provided a huge scope for improvement.

17.              What was the most challenging moment in your content development process and why?
The start is always the most challenging part. Once you know how you’re going to go about the entire process, it becomes a bit easier. As long as you stick to the plan and don’t get distracted, things will gradually fall into place.       Writers block happens to everyone and I was no exception. I took this time to catch up with my reading and watch few movies. Before I knew, I had formed plots in my mind but I still wasn’t able to write. After a two month hiatus, I wrote stories for my team ‘Westerlies’ in IBL 2.0 and we ended up winning IBL. So be positive and don’t let anything or anyone slow you down. 

18.            Everyone has a favorite/least favorite writer. Name yours and why?
Michael Crichton. He’s the author of numerous brilliantly researched bestsellers like Jurassic Park, Lost World, Timeline, Prey, Congo, Next, Andromeda Strain, Great Bank Robbery, Disclosure among many others. Charles Dickens comes second.

19.             Name some of the writers whom you look up to and why?
O. Henry, Roald Dahl and Oscar Wilde are those versatile writers whose short stories I enjoy reading the most. The manner in which they can spin an extra ordinary tale with an ordinary background is a huge feat. Among the present lot, I like Khaled Hosseini, Dan Brown, Frederick Forsyth, Salil Desai and Vikas Swarup for their creativity and story-telling ability.

20.           What is the story behind your blogging journey? Was it by chance?
 I always imagined numerous plots and scenarios in my head as a kid and having a blog was the only logical choice. A blog presented the perfect opportunity for me to tell my stories. I started with articles on WWE and then moved to amateur poems and movie reviews. But now, I only write stories and a yearly review of the top 10 Bollywood & Hollywood movies on my blog. The traffic or no. of posts or no. of comments on my blog has never bothered me and never will.

21.             Your connection with any others writers and what your efforts on that?
I keep in touch with various bloggers and published authors.  I avoid only those who remember me only when their books are being launched and act ignorant otherwise. The best thing about being a part of numerous anthologies, Facebook groups or Indian Bloggers League is getting an opportunity to interact with various people who voice different opinions but have a common love for writing.

22.            Which genre do you feel gets the raw deal?
Erotica is a taboo in India and people esp. women writing it are considered to be immoral by the society which is actually quite stupid. Don’t we belong to the nation that is the birth place of Kamasutra?

Humor is another genre which gets the raw deal. Most of the Indian readers haven’t even heard of P. G. Wodehouse, so we can’t expect much from this genre in India.

23.            Five adjectives that describe you.

24.            What book would you say has made the biggest impact good or bad on you?
I read Wuthering Heights in my 5th std. and that was the first novel I read. It was an eye-opener and I realized relationships could be so devastating that fuck up your lives. I lost my innocence after reading Oliver Twist and To Kill A Mockingbird in my 7th std. The last book which had a big impact on me was A Thousand Splendid Suns. I doubt anyone can read that piece of literary gem without shedding tears.

25.            Do you get easily provoked by positive/negative comments?
Negative comments only fuel me to write better while the positive ones fail to affect me in any manner whatsoever. One must realize that people who criticize us can simply ignore our writings but instead they spend time and energy to do so only for our betterment.

26.            Do you plan to write novel in collaboration?
I don’t believe I can do justice if I write a novel in collaboration. Though I appreciate the effort undertaken by the authors of ’Ohh! Gods are Online’ as they penned down a surprisingly good novel.

27.            What genre attracts you the most and which genre you avoid?
Like I said earlier, crime attracts me the most. I love writing about death. It’s an enigma I would love to explore a lot without actually meeting it. Romance is the genre I want to avoid as it’s been done to death in India. Also, I’ve decided to stop writing on erotica after reading Himadri Shrivastava as I realized I can’t do justice to it and end up porn-writing.

28.           Everyone has a favourite/least favourite post. Name yours and why?
My IBL Booker Prize winning post: http://rafaadalvi.blogspot.in/2013/07/27.html

29.            Name some of the bloggers whom you look up to and why?
I love Suresh C ‘http://www.jambudweepam.blogspot.in/’ and Rickie Khosla ‘http://reekycoleslaw.com/’ for their sense of humor, Vikram Karve ‘http://karvediat.blogspot.in/’ for his dedication for writing, Stephan AK for his versatility ‘http://www.thesolitarywriter.com/’ and Sriram R. ‘http://www.gametheori.com/’ for his intellectual writing.

30.           Is winning award/s really necessary?
An award function is a place where people from all categories get awards and everybody is under one roof. Now, if I’m a Bengali writer who’s got an award for writing posts in Bengali, people who’re waiting for other awards get to know me. The word of mouth spreads. Lo and behold! You’re famous. Now that’s a good thing right? But then again there are many instances where jealousy seeps in and people resort to unprofessional and anti-social behavior like slandering which should be avoided. I’ve won the IBL Booker Prize along with two other bloggers and nothing has changed. At the end of the day, it’s an achievement irrespective of what people say and you can live without it too.

31.             Your views on contests and increasing plagiarism?
             Contests help you to interact with new people and they also help you to come out of your niche and try new genres. But if you’re one to sulk, then I sincerely request you to stop participating because you’re not winning anything and using your creative skills in the wrong place.
I don’t understand why few people copy-paste the work of others. Just a few pats on the shoulder? It just takes away the fun from it all. I wish there were strict laws for such an offence so that people thought twice before pressing Ctrl C + Ctrl V.

32.            Words for me and my blogs Desire v/s Destiny and Blogger Interviews.
I like your initiative and how you’re gradually working towards achieving it. Don’t hurry and avoid typos. Always edit your posts before posting them. You never know you may have good content but may lose readers who lack patience.

33.            Tell us the next thing we will hear from you. Maybe your Novel release.
The team of Westerlies is planning to launch a multi-genre anthology comprising of 20 stories of 4.5k-5k words each. We’ve made sure that all genres and various aspects of life are covered. I expect the book to be out by early 2014.
I’m simultaneously working on my novel. I’ve finalized the characters and I’m working on my plot right now.

Rahul, I’ve enjoyed giving this interview and I hope sky is the limit for you.

Note from the Interviewer Rahul Miglani :- I started as an erotic story teller and was highly misunderstood with in Indiblogger itself where some of the most famous bloggers did not even knew the difference between Erotica and Porn .So when I started doing homework on Rafaa I was more than Happy.Well It has been a pleasure knowing him and I am sure the people reading this would have loved this interview as well.Keep the good work going on Rafaa.Enjoy People.


  1. i knew this person as a friend and a writer. Now i see him as an artist and a devotee. Allah bless you Rafaa :-)

  2. Thanks Rafaa! That was a pleasant surprise to see me in your list of favorite bloggers.

    1. Sir, I'm sure there are loads of bloggers out there who consider you to be one of the best :)

  3. A Very mature interview, Rafaa! Had a great time reading your views. Thanks for mentioning me in this. :)

    1. Like I always say, if the topic on the floor is blogging, there has to be a mention of The Solitary Writer or else the discussion would just be a travesty.

  4. Lots of love and best wishes for future Rafa.

    1. Hey Himadri, thanks a lot. It's always nice to hear from you. Hoping to read more wonderful stories by you in the near future :)

  5. Each answer crisp, as it should be. I see you going a long way Rafaa :)
    Glad that I know you :)

  6. I have known you for a while now...but it was pleasure knowing you with all the nuances mentioned herein...gr8 knowing you all over again...more to come :)

    Thank you Rahul & Rafaa :)

  7. he moment a writer becomes a sellout and starts writing just for the heck of it or for making fast money, his readers lose faith in him. Powerful lines and the interview taught me a lot as a wanna be writer and there are lotsa valuable lessons.

  8. As a reader, we all tend to remember the positive quotes in an interview and try to inculcate in our lives thinking we'll taste the same success. Always remember, at the end of the day, you yourself are your biggest critic. So never stop writing and always learn from the criticisms.