Monday 23 February 2015

Interview with Sapan Saxena Author of “Finders, Keepers”

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself ,your blog(s)/website(s),and your aspirations and your hobbies!!

My name is Sapan Saxena and I am a Software Engineer who graduated from MNNIT Allahabad in 2008. I took up to writing blogs on behest of my father, who felt I should share whatever I learn with others. I write blogs on Ancient Indian history and mythology, and some of them got published in leading news websites like Times of India and Hindustan Times. When some of my blog followers prompted me to write a book, I took up writing one and the product is now available for all to read.
My blog:
Book website:
My other hobbies include reading and dancing. I would like to share with others whatever I learn about Indology, be it through books or blogs

2. How you first got involved in with blogging/writing, are you an imaginative person?
In my art classes, I would always draw the best possible idea as the worst possible outcome. And a similar case for my handwriting. So, yeah, I think I am a creative and imaginative person. An idea initially stuck me and then I started building a story around it, and that’s how I started writing “Finders, Keepers”

3. What do you find most challenging about blogging/writing about your topic?
The biggest challenge I faced was that in the topic of Indology, there is a very thin line between an interesting revelation and becoming preachy. History is not what many people easily get interested in. People are interested in mythology, but then the moment it gets boring, people switch off your blog. So, the challenge comes in keeping it crisp when doing blogs.
When doing novels, the story has to be powerful; otherwise it will all fall apart for you

4. Tell me about some of the people you have met while working on your blog?
A lot of my research was online as well as offline. And as it mostly concerned Hindu mythology and ancient Indian history, I often visited online portal Hindu Dharma Forums. In there, you find guys who have spent years learning and practicing about various sects of Hinduism. It’s always a great learning experience to interact with them.
Offline I mostly visited heritage sites and mostly interacted with guides to squeeze out as much as I could. They pretty much speak some recorded stuff, but the information they gave was really helpful as they do incorporate local tales and stories related to some legend

5. How would (someone) describe your blogging/writing style?
People say my writing style is descriptive. Though they claim I am able to hold the attention of the reader till the very end. Though I aim to trust the intelligence of the reader, there are pieces which need detailed description.

6. What do you do when you are not working on your novel?
Well, I am a Software Engineer by profession, so when I am not busy creating a fictional world out of my imagination, I am usually creating a JAVA program to run on a virtual environment on my laptop

7 .Where do you see yourself blogging/writing wise in the next 6 months, and 5 years down the road?
After 3 years of blogging and months into publication of first novel “Finders, Keepers”, I can now safely assume that writing is an addiction. And even a single appreciation coming your way gives you a high no drug can emulate. So, in the next 6 months, I think I will be writing more blogs and working on future ideas for novel. 5 years down the road, I would want to explore more of Hinduism and Indian history touching subjects which others have either missed or dared not to ponder, as I think before writing such subjects, I would need to have more acceptances among readers.

8. What networking do you do that you feel helps your writing business?
I think that’s one area where I have had a huge unplanned investment, and that of course, has helped me a lot. I was a lot into social media even when I had not penned my first blog. This helped me discover friends from other cities and colleges and companies. Eventually as we shared and joined similar pages suggested mutually, the friend circle grew even further.  I also made it a point to keep in touch with wherever I worked. During last elections, I also joined a non-political group to spread awareness about benefits of voting. So, this online and offline networking has helped me maintain a huge plethora of friends from diverse backgrounds, locations, regions and interests. They help me in spreading my content, and that eventually helps a lot

9. How do you keep coming up with material/content for your blog? Many people struggle with coming up with different articles/posts and they only have one blog.
I think in my case Indology is a vast subject. We are one of the oldest civilizations and there is a lot to uncover, discover and analyze.
Let’s take an example, say Ramayana. How many articles have been written around Urmila(Lakshman’s wife), or Shatrughan? These are mighty interesting topics which most of the people want to read about.
 So, I have rarely found it tough to search for a topic on which I would write my next blog, but yes, to generate interest and buzz around it, that’s always a challenge a writer has to accept and succeed eventually

10. Whats your strategy with your novel in general?
I would first think of an idea, that people may be interested in. I may even think of more than one idea, and combine them, or analyze them independently. Once I am confident about the idea, I start building a story around the same. The themes which I am comfortable in do not have much scope for romance or drama, and I consider myself good at building puzzles, suspense/thriller is the theme I choose for building the story. Only when I am convinced about the story, do I start penning it down

11. Any specific tips you have for newbie bloggers who want to make it in the blogosphere?
Of course! Anyone who is reading this and is planning to start a blog, please do it now! Keep it private, if you are not too comfortable with it, but do keep on penning your thoughts. Tomorrow you may have to search for these thoughts and there would be a place where you can always find it.
For newbie bloggers, I think networking is very important. There is a huge audience who is waiting for good content to be told and written about and if none of your friends form a subset of that audience, networking with other bloggers, visiting blogging sites, forums like Indiblogger, Facebook pages could be a good way to start. Eventually, you have to identify and reach out to that community, and mark your presence there with good content and networking

12. What would you prioritize? Content? SEO? Traffic? Readers?
I think that’s a very good question and thanks for asking the same. For me, the aim was to increase reader base/subscribers. So, of course, I needed to strike out a balance among all the parameters. I started out with prioritizing Traffic and SEO much more and focused solely on page views. Because, I knew if 1000 people would visit the blog, only 2 may stay back, and to build a base of 2000, I had to reach out to 1000000 different people. But, as eventually the dust settled down, and I had a regular audience, I started prioritizing the content and readers more and now don’t focus much on SEO tools and page views. The tools brought them here, but what made them stay is the content and the feedback of readers helps me build my content better

13. Whats the best thing a blogger can give to his readers?
A good quality post! I mean readers are the real motivation behind a blogger, right? Unless, of course, he wants to manage it as a private diary. So, definitely, the blogger shouldn’t compromise on the content and try not to please the readers. Your content was the reason they came in first place

14. A lot of people are interested in writing for the money earning potential. What are some tips for people interesting in making money from writing? What are some realistic expectations in regards to what can be made?
If you are trying to take up writing as a full time job, go ahead! You are trying to attempt one of the most respect jobs of all times. However, the core reality of Indian literary circle is that no matter how much Chetan Bhagat or Shobha De get offered for writing columns in national newspapers or the rights for their next novels, these are merely a handful of names. Writing industry is still not a huge money raker jobs for Indian authors. In fact, for a new writer, to get his first novel published, he may have to wait for as much as 2-3 years(and I am not exaggerating), or would have to turn towards self- publishing which involves a lot of extra baggage in the form of marketing, etc.
So, I would suggest, you keep writing and trying to earn no matter where you get the opportunity from. Be it some sports magazine, or local newspaper, or e-magazines, etc. You may also choose to write on subjects on which people may be highly interesting in, like stock market etc. which can help you earn through ads, but again, the content should be unique and original, the images unused.

15. What motivates you most in life?
My family is the biggest motivation in my life. My parents never did force me into any stream or any choice of career, and I made all the decisions myself. That kind of helped a lot. My wife is now the biggest motivation of my life. The amount of effort she puts in to help me create content, spread information about my blogs and novel through her network, and her continuous motivation when things don’t seem to work, is really splendid. My brother and brother-in-law have also helped a lot in getting a substantial audience for my book Finders, Keepers and that kind of always motivates me to keep moving.

16. What has been your strategy for creating visibility to yourself and your blog?
My social media network has by far been my biggest strength. But apart from the people, I make sure I make good use of all possible tools like Youtube, Quora, Pintrest, Reddit, StumbleIpon, Speaking Tree, Indiblogger, etc.
Not only these tools help me create and share content of varying conventions and attributes, they help me share some good original content as well. The content you create should be engaging enough and that’s one key feature to visibility

17 What was the most challenging moment in your novel content development process and why?
Well, by all measures, I have written “Finders, Keepers” on a pretty controversial topic, haven’t I? I mean writing on religion is like walking on a razor’s edge. A slip on either side and you would not even know which side did you offense.
I have tried to keep the tone of the novel positive throughout. However, as I said, no one knows which side this could end up offending

18. Everyone has a favorite/least favorite post. Name yours and why?
Ah Yes! My favorite one was “The Krishna Advantage” from my blog. Can you believe it, I have written some 30 odd posts, and 15% of all the views on my blogs have been on Krishna Advantage. In fact, this was published on Times of India website as well. I had tried to explain how Krishna would be a perfect manager in modern times.

19. Name some of the bloggers whom you look up to and why?
Well, Nimi Vashi, certainly. The way she has revolutionized book promotion/review circle is amazing, and people now know where to find the good books. And of course you, Rahul! I mean here you are doing a fine act of promoting authors, managing and maintaining your blog, your wonderful site and are doing a great job of balancing! I definitely got to learn a trick or two from you.
My friend Dev Ashish is another such blogger who creates very unique and distinct content.
Among Indian writers, I look up to Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi a lot as they touched a subject when it was almost a no-go, and converted the theme into solid gold

20. What is the story behind the name of the novel?
Well, The title is basically an adage, “Finders, Keepers”. It means if anybody finds something, he can keep it. It’s also a famous game played by children. The story of my novel also kind of follows a similar path, where people are on lookout for hidden things. Further, “Keeper” is a term in my book.

21. Your connection with any Blogger Network like Indi blogger or Writeupcafe or any other and the experience?
Yeah, I am a regular with Indiblogger, though not much familiar with Writeupcafe.
I think Indiblogger is a great platform to bring bloggers together on a common portal. There are regular discussions and threads which help you improve your blog and streamline your thoughts. There are topics under which you can place your blog, which again helps you identify what content you may be interested in. The regular events and competitions also help people improve visibility among others. Overall, it’s been a great experience

22. Which genre do you feel gets the raw deal?
Poetic genres, in my humble opinion. I mean, I always find a diminishing market of good poetry, atleast in India. This is one of the toughest genres to write and never gets the due credit.

23. Which one plug-in would you suggest all bloggers to have?
Twitter, Google Plus and FB share plugins. These are handy and should be located at the right place. I mean a reader may not always copy the URL from his browser and then copy at FB or Google Plus and then care to limit it to 140 characters for Twitter. He may just close your blog and move ahead, and you may lose precious potential readers.
FB/Twitter/Google Plus plugins customize it for you. In fact, try to add all social media plugins available on your blog.

24. Five adjectives that describe you.
Well, humorous, resolute, persuaded, creative and hardworking

25. What book would you say has made the biggest impact good or bad on you?
Well, now that I have read most of the major Hindu scriptures to research for “Finders, Keepers”, Ram Charit Manas and Shiva Purana did make the biggest impact on me. Not only because they kind of form a subplot for my novel, but also because for the first time I looked into what was in the mind of the writer. If Ram Charit Manas was simply a re-telling of Ramayana, Tulsidas would have simply done it that way. Why are there differences between the two, what did Tulsidas want to tell us? Why does it start with the marriage of Shiva?

26. Do you get easily provoked by positive/negative comments??
Positive comments always get you high, and I see no wrong in it. Just that we should not lose our head and scream. Also, we should be ready to gracefully accept negative comments and work upon the weak areas. Initially I got affected by negative comments as well, but now I see them as suggestions people are trying to make to help me better my work and book.

27. Do you plan to write a book, as every bloggers dream it is?
I think this question doesn’t fit in here, as I have already written a book. I chose to start writing only when a lot of my readers asked me to do it

28. Are you a judgmental person, do you prefer to take sides instead of standing neutral?
It’s very tough to be always neutral. So, I do take sides instead of standing neutral, but that mostly depends on the situation and the topic. Like, I go out and vote for a party, so no point being neutral there. But, if someone is in a conflict of whether Greek mythology is as diverse as Hindu mythology, I prefer to stay neutral.

29. Your collaboration with other bloggers, are you much into social networking, tell us everything about it?
So, as I said earlier, there is a huge audience out there for every genre that wants to read your work. It’s just the matter of connecting with them and telling them your work has all the ingredients they were searching for. So, of course collaboration is important and networking is very important.
As far as books are concerned, the authors from your network will help you get your work promoted. I mean they are people with certain number of followers and fans. Their word for your book will always be counted as a huge plus and that’s the best way you can promote your book.
I have spent a lot of years in a good deal of social networking, and believe me, there are friends who I have never met or spoken to, but they have helped me out like anything to get my work published. I think that counts a lot.

30. What genre attracts you the most and which genre you avoid?
I am generally more inclined towards fictional writing than any other genre of writing. Among fictional works, I prefer suspense/ humor/satire over more “mainstream” genres like romance or love stories.

31. Your Views on Contests and increasing plagiarism?
I think contests are important. They help you increase visibility about the book. See, this is not the age and time when a writer writes something good and once a publisher picks it up, he sits back and relaxes that marketing and promotion is publisher’s job. No, you have to do a major part of the job, and contests, reviews are a major part of it.
Plagiarism in any form is harmful as it not only kills the hard-work done by someone; it also kills the spirit of creativity. I mean someone has put in a lot of effort to create some content, and you think you can have it for easy, that’s simply wrong. We should have stricter laws and rules as creative writing is one field where the lines of plagiarism blur down and it’s not easy to prove plagiarism. We should also have much stricter author- reader community which may help us identify such people and cases.

32. Words for me and my blogs Desire v/s Destiny and Blogger Interviews and my Website
As I said earlier as well, I think you are doing a great job with Desire v/s Destiny and  You are doing a great act of promoting authors, managing and maintaining your blog, your wonderful site and are doing an awesome job of balancing all of it. The tips and tricks you put up on MyMagicJobs is really helpful to those who are struggling to find the right platform to know about these things, and of course to know about current job openings is really important. And you do so much for free! Hats off to you and your efforts, Rahul! And I have not yet mentioned your photography skills! You are really an all-rounder.

33. On winning the Award/s , Are they Really necessary.
Awards are good for your health, though they necessary are your life support. Which means, while its good to win awards, they are not everything. I mean, the jury consists of people only, and they may err. So, they are not a final word in any case.

34. So whats Next in your list?
Right now I am enjoying the great reviews my book “Finders, Keepers” is getting and how slowly but steadily its being liked by reader circle and fellow authors. I am also trying to work on the idea for my next book. If I am not convinced, I may not even start my next book. So, unless the idea is super strong in my own views, I will probably keep on working on the same. I would also like to continue blogging regularly as it gave me the reader base which is helping me now.

35.Words for your readers and why they should follow you?

My theme is not very widely chosen and my readers say I am able to hold their interest inspite of my descriptive style of writing, so there must be something good in the content that I create, and that should be a good reason for others to follow me as well.  You can visit my blog to know more about my work.

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