About Harmanjeet Singh Punia:
Harman is an aspiring author who lives in the countryside of Punjab with his family. He loves the world of fiction and wishes to create some work that would create a mark that would create a mark on that world one day and make a worthy contribution to the literature. He has done Masters in Physics and loves teaching. He taught Physics before he switched to a job that left him with more time to devote to the world of writing and reading fiction. He loves the world and work of Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, J.K. Rowling, Jaswant Singh Kanwal, Gurdial Singh and Charles Dickens. He currently works as a trainer of English Language and has recently published a collection of nine heartbreaking stories in his first book as an author in Pashmina.
LiFT: Tell us about your book, the journey of writing it and its content.
Harmanjeet: Pashmina is a collection of nine heartfelt stories that take you on a journey of various characters that try to be at peace with their desires and guilts, love and loss, and their choices. The stories that have been compiled in the book were written over the period of five to six years. Actually, I used to write for myself and had never thought of getting published at that time. But things change and life takes a different course with time and here we are. All the stories in this book are reflection of my personal being and my thoughts that have shaped up my personality and my life. The depth in the book comes from the experience that I have had in my life. And I thought it was time to share it with the world. And the positive reception of this book has encouraged me to embark on a journey of becoming a successful author (one day, hopefully).
LiFT: When did you realize that you want to be a writer and what’s your inspiration behind it?
Harmanjeet: As I said, it wasn’t an overnight thing. It was gradual. I loved reading and was fascinated by the stories that I used to read. I wondered how people could create a world out of sheer imagination and make you believe that all of that was real. I have been reading novels and other literature for past 17 years. And before that I loved reading comics (I still do, by the way), history and the tales of our Sikh Gurus. I guess the love for reading started from there. Then the choice evolved with time and I was introduced, in my high school days, to the Novels. Punjabi Novels left a deep impact on me and then I started reading English literature simultaneously. And from then on, I never missed the chance of reading the quality literature. Waris Shah, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, J. K. Rowling, Kanwal ji became a better part of my world and life. And then I started exploring my own thoughts and started to pen those down. And the real inspiration came after reading Harry Potter. Reading that series changed my emotional self a lot.
LiFT: What do think about the literary world and what are your expectations from it?
Harmanjeet: Today’s literary world is quite different from what it was a decade or so ago. It has changed for both better and worse. There are more writers than readers. More critics than lovers. It’s good that everybody can dream of getting published today but it’s also disheartening to see much of the good work getting ignored due to this sudden influx of writers from all around. It was there earlier as well but it’s more out there now as every publisher is trying to target the rapidly declining share of the readers. But it’s also good as those , whose work couldn’t see the light of the day, can dream of being an author. Another thing is that hard hitting and meaningful stories or books aren’t welcomed as much (or is it only me who don’t see such novels in contemporary fiction much). Hardy’s Tess, Hugo’s Les Miserables, Dickens’ Tale of two cities and Eliot’s Adam Bede are classics for a reason. The situation is even more dire in Contemporary Punjabi Fiction. You don’t see the likes of Kanwal’s Pooranmashi or Gurdial Singh’s Marhi da Deeva getting published anymore. The reality from the fiction is seeping out slowly, I feel, and the rush to write an entertaining novel is increasing.
LiFT: How much do you think marketing or quality of a book is necessary to promote a particular book and increase its readers?
Harmanjeet: It’s important. More so nowadays because there is so much competition. Content is the king, for sure, but it must reach the right audience, right set of readers, only then it’ll be appreciated. Some books become bestsellers even if they don’t boast of a quality text. But some quality novels or stories stay underrated and under-appreciated and ,more worryingly misunderstood. Marketing helps the book and its author to reach the wide set of readers and spread the word, then kicks in the content. After that, it’s the word of mouth that can propel the book to limelight or break it under the weight of harsh criticism. If a book is good and the author is confident about its content then it doesn’t matter if the book hasn’t reached the best seller spot in a week or a month of its release. Once the word of mouth starts working in favour it’ll reach the mark one day. Some books become popular after another work of the author has been published and hit the bestseller mark. So Writing the quality content is much more important before marketing the book.
LiFT: What is the message you want to spread among folks with your writings?
Harmanjeet: That Life is what we make of it. Enjoy it as it comes. It’ll make you and it’ll break you; all in its own time. But never lose heart.
Life has inspired me a lot as it has been a persistent teacher to me. The love and blessings of my family made me endure the hardships that the life threw at me. And then with time I befriended it and learned that it’s much more easier if you just accept the things you don’t want to accept and let it roll. Do your best but don’t expect to reap rewards after that.
LiFT: What do you do apart from writing?
Harmanjeet: I have a full time job of a Language Trainer nowadays and teach Physics at home (occasionally). I also love to paint and draw as it’s my second hobby after reading. But the most that i do is Read. I spent most of my time reading classic works and some modern classics as well. And I keep myself updated in the fields of Physics as well. I keep going back to my roots every now and then. Fiction is my first love. Second is Physics.
LiFT: What are the activities you resort to when you face a writer’s block?
Harmanjeet: To be honest I haven’t experienced a writer’s block till date. And I hope I never do. I never force myself on any story. I just let the story roll and let the characters take me where they are willing to go. All the stories that I’ve written and am writing at the moment have come naturally to me and I let them take their course. That’s what I guess connected with the readers the most. I don’t rush things for the sake of it. Every story has its own time and process. I just go with it.
LiFT: What if your story will be adopted as a movie? Whom would you want to work as a director or actors in it?
Harmanjeet: I’ll cross that bridge when I’m there. But I really hope that these get adopted. As they are rich in emotions. And I just hope that whoever does adopt it understands the sensitivity that it demands and emotions that l have conveyed. I don’t want my stories to be moulded for the sake of entertainment only.
LiFT: What are your future plans?
Harmanjeet: I am currently working on two Novels – an English and a Punjab. And also keep writing short stories as they come to me. Hope to see my next book hit the shelves soon. For now, I am paying attention to Pashmina as it’s fresh in the market. I want it to reach as many people as possible because I know of the lasting impact that these stories can leave on readers. Along with that I’ll continue working full time on the job that I have for as long as it’s required. Along with that I am working to get my Punjabi Novel release, as soon as it’s completed.
LiFT: What are your suggestions to the budding writers so that they could improve their writing skills?
Harmanjeet: They should build their base in the language first and master the way of story telling of they want to write a compelling story. If you understand the sensitivity of the language then there won’t be the need of much editing. And that’s what every writer dreams of less editing, more of their original take. You should grasp the nuances of the language that you are trying to write your book in. And they should understand that Writing and Storytelling are two different things. Engaging the reader is the first step as an author. Making them feel as you want them to feel comes next.