Vivek Balachandran is a computer science graduate from Coimbatore. He has had a few stints in IT, working for firms in Bangalore, Gurgaon, and Mumbai. Inspired by the works of Kovai Kulangal, which has restored the lost channels of the River Noyyal, he became very interested in the subject of water management and started researching the state of water and the way it is managed across India. What started as a research study soon took shape into fiction. He quit his IT career and moved to his hometown to embark on this journey of writing. Against the Flow is his first novel.
Where are you from?
I am Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.
Why do you write?
This form of expression is detailed and it helps me a paint a picture onto a reader’s mind. So I write for those most valuable one to one’s with the reader
What do you write about?
I write about the issues that surround us and the injustices that have happened in the past. I guess I wouldn’t just stop there but widen my horizon.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Haha, I think I kind of do. I would term my writing as a Notional Faction. Because it combines fact and fiction that are based on true events. My work is mostly research oriented so that the reader gets to learn something new. Also, I try my best to wrap the facts inside a compelling plot.
What are obstacles that come in the way of writing?
Among the many obstacles, the most difficult obstacle is oneself. We are our own boon and bane. During the process we would have to battle so many doubts and inhibitions. At the end of the day, we got to cheer ourselves up, be our own mentor and stay focused.
How long have you been writing?
I used to blog for a while in college but then I dropped it. I guess after 9 years since college I picked it up again.
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I still don’t exactly remember when I was struck with the realization, but my friends constantly appreciated my writing and it reinforced me with the confidence to write. So, all thanks to my friends, who read my work, appreciated it and encouraged me to write more.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
Like I said, my work involves both research and fiction. When I am researching, I am inside the library the moment it opens and I would be the last person to leave. As for writing goes, I would not go more than 600-700 words per day.
How long does it take to write a book?
Well, it took me roughly 1.5 years to research, write and get the book published. But aspiring writers can get it done faster, because I bet you all aren’t a slowpoke like me. But even if it does take time, please be patient because the rewards are something worth treasuring.
Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer?
This is an art form that has no set rules or protocols. You set the rules and you define the boundaries. But once you do set those, please ensure you stick to them. Often times the temptation and eagerness to write more will get drag you into a loop. So clearly define what you want to write and be consistent.
What challenges do you come across when writing/creating your story?
Apart from doubting ourselves and getting impatient, I think one of the challenges I faced was not knowing how much details I had to reveal to the reader. It was very hard for me to omit most of the research I had done, from the book. But I had to keep it simple, so that the reader doesn’t get bored by too much facts.
What do you think makes a good story?
A good story would be one, that stirs our emotions up pretty intensely. Also, it has got to have an engaging plot that is moderately paced.
Do you see writing as a career?
No, I still do it for my passion. And since this is my first book, I haven’t kept my hopes up high.
Do you have anything specific you’d like to tell the readers?
Please support this form of fiction. Because, it is relevant, real and if it has truly pricked your curiosity, continue to study about these subjects. Because I believe one day, you will make a difference.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
Having a clear schedule helps. Because it gives you a sense of direction and when you’re facing a writer’s block, take some time off, travel or do something out of your comfort zone.
What writing are you most proud of?
There are writers who still firmly believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. I am proud of all those writers, who have conveyed a strong and bitter message, despite the fact that it would invite trouble.
What books did you love growing up?
Fantasy novels mostly. It gives us a free ticket into the realm of writer’s imagination.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
I was born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. I have worked in Bangalore and Delhi. So all the things I have seen and experienced there have indeed played a major role.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
Each has its own share of difficulty. But when you think about publishing, you would have forgotten the difficulties you endured during writing and while marketing you don’t factor the other two. One way to go about it is to not see them as difficulties but a small break to your long journey.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
Family and friends aside. There is this one person whom I really want to mention at this moment. This person has been the revolutionary when it comes to water management in India. Her contributions and research have brought so many changes /advancements. I had referred to most of her work for my research. In return, the gift some anti-social elements have given is to try and murder her.
Sunita Narain is that person who youngsters should take up as an inspiration. If you ask me, I would say, it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to read my book. But please do read ‘Excreta Matters’, where she has written in depth about the problems with water management in India.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
I value appreciation and it is the biggest reward I can get.
It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
I haven’t started on a marketing campaign as such. But my target audience are of the age 18-30. Because it would definitely make them want to learn more about Cyber security and water management. I hope my book acts a gateway to broaden their curiosity into these fields.
Tell us about your new book? Why did you write it?
Few incidents really disturbed me. Injustices were caused, lives were lost, yet nobody cared. I wanted to write about such incidents and the impending problems. The book covers Cyber security issues, water. Management issues and a particular incident that occurred in Tamil Nadu where 13 people lost their lives for raising their voice against environmental hazards.