Ask The Author: Mukul Ranjan, author of Cold Cock.
Q. Do you choose character names before, during or after the writing process?
A: There is no set formula for me. Usually, it is like I finalise names before writing. While writing, if a new character arrives in the manuscript, I need to name her/him. So, Ashwin Sharma, Dakshina Shetty, Swapan Sen, Imran Sheikh were pre-decided before I started working on the manuscript. Mynah Khan’s surname was retained but her earlier name was changed. Another character’s name and surname was changed to Lolup Dilhara, just before going into the print. If ever, I write a sequel to Cold Cock, the female protagonist’s name in that sequel is settled.
Little Secret : Ravi Kant Tripathi is reading Cold Cock, right now and probably this interview too!
Q. What was your favorite book when you were a child?
A: Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography. It was the first book that I remember to have read. It left a deep impact on me. The book has stayed in my system, till date. In fact, I stayed in Porbandar for some time and visited Bapu’s birthplace too. The overall impact was surreal.
Q. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
A: Tremendously. It helped me in several ways. I could get the real time response from my readers and book critics. I understood what they were hinting at. Which were the places where they laughed, where did they cry and what got their blood boiling, everything. Trust me, it’ll prepare me well for my second outing. The whole process of a novel being published almost felt like making a full length feature movie!
Q. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
A: None. See, I’m a systematic and organised person. I don’t believe in leaving half-finished books. When I start my second book, I’ll finish it. And then only, I’ll move to work on my third one.
Q. Give us an interesting fun fact about your book.
A: Two. I finished this manuscript in a year and a couple of months more. It had a title which I was pretty excited about. But, I started looking for another title. Another superb title came and I thought, I’d retain this title. Alas, I was mistaken. I needed another title. Look, I believe the title of the book goes a long way. Take more time, weeks and months but never compromise on your title. Now, I had a manuscript with no title. Weeks turned into months but I could not find a title. One full year had passed. I’d forgotten about both, the manuscript and the search for title. I was having dinner at around 3.30 am after a hectic shoot. I switched on the TV. A boxing match was going on in some tournament. Both the boxers were heavyset, hungry to win and had murderous look in their eyes. The final round started and I stopped eating, glued as I was to the screen. Punches were flying but there was no result in sight. Suddenly, the boxer punched above the right ear of his opponent. The other boxer fell. The commentator got excited. The final countdown had begun. The commentator was speaking loudly, ‘oh dear, oh dear, my, my, what have we got here. Gregory has coldcocked him.’ Gregory got the gold and my manuscript its title - COLD COCK!
Perminder, a reviewer was amused to find herself as a character in Cold Cock. If she is reading this interview, I promise that in Cold Cock’s sequel, I will give her character several interesting shades!
Q. what's the most surprising thing you learned writing this book?
A: Brevity. I will explain. Writing part was fun for me. After I finished my manuscript, it had more than 100,000 words. I sat down for months, to cut it down. Several technical, explanatory, verbose and staid paragraphs, pages and chapters were thrown out of the window. I take my responsibility towards my publisher and my readers, quite seriously. My years of working as writer put brevity in motion. And my director self wore surgical wear, to cut down the flab, ruthlessly. Finally the manuscript stood thin, lean and happy at 178 pages.
Q. Most writers have some other thing they're passionate about, what's yours?
Ans: Working towards sustainable living. Look, I get alarmed when I see individuals, societies and sometimes nations degrading our planet. The belief is that just because this source is natural, we got to overuse it and wrongly use it. Go to our countryside plains in the north. Diesel or electric pump sets are irrigating paddy fields for hours, in turn, wasting so much of water and electricity. Rain deficient states in our western areas are producing sugarcane, bananas and grapes, all three cash crops guzzle water. I want us to be responsible to the mother earth. I write about these issues in my blogs and also speak at concerned forums regularly.
Q. Do you use a pen and paper or a laptop for writing your drafts?
A: In the beginning of my career, I used a pen and paper, later typewriters then personal computers and finally, laptops. Cold Cock was written on a laptop. I write songs on paper, though.
Q. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
A: Once, I purchased a big bundle of books for INR 10,000 and that day I felt like emperor Shahjahaan, finally!
Q. Most of the authors have either a dog or a cat as their pet. Do you have a Dog at your feet or a Cat on your desk?
A: (Laughs loudly) Ha, ha, ha, no, my wife is scared of both, a Dog and a Cat. And, no prizes for guessing, I’m scared of my wife!
Q. Which character you’d want to have a beer with?
A: Sartaj Singh Sekhon, because he is a teetotaller and a non-smoker, exactly like me! I would ask him, man, how do you chill, seriously?
Mukul Ranjan wished to tell stories since his school days. He was a good student during his school and college days. He took his Master’s degree in journalism from Mumbai University. He didn’t want to be a journalist. He studied journalism only because he had given his word to his Dad. He joined Mumbai’s Hindi movie industry to work as a screenwriter.
Cold Cock is Mukul’s debut novel.