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Interview with Dilip Mohapatra
author of 'Taming the Tides'
Today we’re very lucky to be interviewing Dilip Mohapatra, author of 'Taming the Tides'.
Hi Dilip, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Hi, first, let me thank you for taking some time off to talk to me. I belong to the state of Odisha in India but post my professional innings I decided to settle down in Pune in the state of Maharashtra and live there with my wife Nayantara.
I started my professional career in the Indian Navy as a commissioned officer in 1972 and hung my boots rather prematurely in 2000 in the rank of Commodore. Thereafter I joined the Indian industry in senior leadership positions in Tata Group and later in the Suzlon Group. In 2012 I bade farewell to the industry and currently freelance as an Executive Coach and also hold an honorary position of Chief Mentor and Strategic Advisor to KIIT University, Bhubaneswar.
I have three daughters, one a management professional and two performing artistes in the entertainment industry.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Interestingly I don't consider writing as a career for me and hence no ambition. My writings are fuelled purely by my passion and the only ambition that I may decipher is to reach out to my readers and touch some chords in them, urging them, challenging them, prodding them, teasing them and humouring them to think and perhaps act in the interest of the community and for themselves too.
Why do you write?
Partly I have answered that in response to the previous question. But if I reflect a little more then this is what I have to say.
For me, poetry acts as a purifier, a sanctifier and is born out of pure passion. It can't be easily put into a cause and effect framework. But looking at it algorithmically it is a cyclic process:
It perhaps starts with a trigger that could be within or outside but that is capable of starting an emotion.
Then emotion stimulates thoughts and thoughts stimulate expression that leads to word craft. When the poem is read the process reverses. The words stimulate thoughts and the thoughts stimulate emotions.
These emotions could be soothing, could be fiery but if touches the right chords could be intoxicating and evolutionary. The poet however has no end in mind. He allows it to flow with the natural rhythm and feels connected with the readers. It is this desire perhaps that is the prime mover.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
In the conventional sense, you may call it part time, mostly a leisurely activity post retirement that keeps me stimulated.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
My tryst with poetry goes back to my junior school days. The first ever poem that I wrote was for the school magazine when I was nine years old. It was a poem dedicated to the little pink flowers on the lawn grass and eulogised their humility contrasted with the pride of the flamboyant and flaming red Gulmohar flowers. Then was the phase of wordplay with rhyming words to express juvenile love to the girl next door like ’grass is green and sky is blue, you love me and I love you’ which later degenerated to mischievous lines like, ‘Marigolds are yellow, Roses are red, When will you come and adorn my bed?’
The real opportunity to hone my creativity came when I was a post graduate student in Physics and some friends from English department formed an informal literary club called Writers’ Workshop to which I was invited. We used to decide on a theme and churn out our individual version of poetry which we used to read to each other and ruthlessly sliced and diced them. Then of course reading other poets’ works and discussing their styles helped. We had also a mentor in Jayanta Mahapatra, who was my Physics teacher and also a renowned poet by then to guide us and encourage us. My first poem that appeared in a national magazine of repute called The Illustrated Weekly of India was a great booster for me to write more.
Then I joined the Navy and my professional commitments sent my poetic endeavours into hibernation though I continued to edit and contribute to some in-house magazines and journals. Only in 2012, when I took my final retirement, I exhumed my passion for poetry and started writing prolifically and contributing to literary journals worldwide. After the usual initial rejections the acceptance rate improved and so did my creativity fanned by the small successes. Then 2013 and 2014 editions of the World Poetry Yearbook carried some of my poems, and I was comfortable and confident to get my first poetry collections ‘A Pinch of Sun and other poems’ published. And then my other books followed.
Which writers inspire you?
In fact the list is long. If I may talk about modern contemporary poets, I would list my favourites as Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca, Quasimodo, Giuseppe Ungaretti.
And closer home Jayanta Mahapatra, Kamala Das, Nissim Ezekiel.
What inspired you to write Taming the Tides?
Poetry flows, ebbs and floods
like the Tides...
Poetry pulsates, reverberates
with a rhythm of its own
an identity of its own
and a discipline that's
and sometimes a discipline that is deliberately enforced...
That is all about Taming the Tides...
Quoting from the titular poem Taming the Tides from the book that carries the essence in good measure:
The tides swell
and your heart fills up
while waves of words
your mind's edge
and you collect
the shining shells
they leave behind
and pick the pearls within
to string them
into glittering chokers
and wait for the
tides to return
How did you select the poetry within the book?
The collection carries fifty new poems which I wrote mostly during this year and fifty selected poems which I picked up carefully from other published resources. The basic criteria of selection were the readability and coverage of a wide spectrum of themes and styles while conforming to the central theme of periodicity and perpetuity.
What was the hardest thing in writing this book?
Nothing really that I may recall. Except for the fact that, to restrict the desired total number to 100, I had to do a deep selection and in the bargain few good poems got left out.
Did you ever get Writer’s Block?
Fortunately not yet. May be because of my prolonged poetic hibernation, my ideas are still not exhausted. And again I feel that my sources of inspiration continue to be fertile. Further I am not enslaved by a particular style or theme. I try my hands at many experimentations within a fairly wide spectrum. I had been very prolific with five poetry collections in four years with about 400 poems during the period and still going strong.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded Writer’s Block?
To my mind, there is no cut and dry solution. The first and foremost that you could do is to reflect and introspectively identify the reasons that block your mind. It's all about your own limiting belief. Fear, anxiety, lack of stimuli and other distractions could be the reasons. After all, writing is a seamless integration of perception, perspectives, picturing, processing and production, passion and creativity being at the core.
Perhaps the best tip that I may offer is that come what may never stop writing. Keep writing. All writing may not be with the objective of being published or being appreciated.
Did you proofread this book or did somebody else do it?
I personally did the proofreading.
Can you tell us about the cover and how it came about?
There is a beautiful beach near Mumbai called Kashid beach and we had been on a family vacation there few months ago. I am fond of taking pictures and am a proud owner of a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera. This was a sunset photo on the beach with the silhouette of a pony cart skirting the waters on low tide that conforms to the taming connotation.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Yes. The theme of the book if captured on the cover gives a visual message and arouses the curiosity in the minds of the readers. Further the tonality and chromatic nature of the cover photo if in consonance with the character of the book, accentuate the overall aesthetic value and draws the attention of the buyer.
How did you publish this book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)
By default and not by design, it's a combination of both. What started as a traditional process with my first book with the publisher, the process has matured now between us as we complete the 5th project in a very collaborative way. The publisher has a fair knowledge of the market forces in the Poetry space and has his own distribution channels. On the other hand he gives me a free hand in promoting my books myself through my own efforts and networks including in social media. Since poetry has a niche and limited market, he is cautious in deciding on the number of books to be printed in the first instant and when the stocks get depleted he supplements the supply on on-demand basis. He has his own break-even strategy which he achieves in a specified timeframe.
How do you market your work?
As mentioned earlier, the publisher has his own distribution channels with the bookstores who cater to their select readership and with libraries across the country who like to add to their collections. In addition, the social media private groups and public platforms help. Reviews in journals and newspapers both in print and online media also help.
Why did you choose this route?
Once I had found the right publisher who is as enthusiastic as me for the success of the book, we stuck to each other and the processes evolved by default and not so much by deliberate design.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their works?
It has to be carefully orchestrated through seamless collaboration of the author with the publisher, through constant monitoring and working together to reach out to the potential readers and buyers. Retention of old customers and addition of new customers and channels are important. Both your personal brand and the publisher’s standing in the market matter and have to be synergistically harvested.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Generally once the book is out periodic reminders on social media, sharing of reviews, etc. continues and doesn’t really take much of your time. Creating your own brand ambassadors from your friends in social groups especially who are good influencers helps.
What do you do to acquire book reviews?
The publisher has some network of reviewers who contribute to newspapers and literary journals. For this book, I had requested some of the editors who are acquainted with my poems and made personal requests like I had approached Spillwords. I have found them very receptive. But again I would not like to have too many reviews flooding the scene. I would rather be happy with few incisive, balanced and insightful reviews than generic and wordy comments not in focus and not really giving the clear picture.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Very Good. One elaborate review is doing the rounds on social media. Spillwords review published on 30 April. One more lined up in Blazevox. And few to follow in national newspapers in India.
What are your views on social media for marketing?
Has tremendous potential.
Which social network worked best for you?
So far I am happy with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
Finding the right audience is the moot strategy. Personalised messages through WhatsApp and FB Messenger make the people feel special. But when you do it yourself the tone should be subtle and more consultative rather being pushy.
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch, or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
Press release and book launch events work to some extent. On the spot sale after the event also adds to the efforts. I promote my books on my own website too.
Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
Yes, by local press but not yet on visual media.
When you’re not writing how do you relax?
Mostly by reading books and trying my hands at photography and experimenting with cooking exotic dishes. I love to travel too.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“Tomorrow is a brighter day”
What is your favorite book and why?
I have quite a few. But what comes to my mind immediately is one titled ‘Even Eagles Need a Push’ by David McNally, in which he leads you on an extraordinary journey of discovery: an inspiring and practical treatise on discovering one’s strengths, letting go fear and soaring high while living one’s dreams with a sense of purpose. I find it very useful for my coaching sessions because of its anecdotal narrative and its practicality.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don't let your passion be buried for long, for you could have contributed more had you followed your passion without pauses and punctuations.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Sean Connery the original James Bond. My all time idol for his impeccable performance, his high style quotient and the charisma that he exudes even now in his ripe age.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write to follow your passion, not so much for name, fame, awards and money and read great works of great authors, as much as you can. When you hone your writing skills through hard work and perseverance, and you create your own readership base, everything that is due to you will automatically come.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Just to thank you once again for being supportive of my work.
Where can we buy or see Taming the Tides?
Currently the hard copies are available on Amazon.in and shortly the Kindle version will be available internationally.
Thank you once again for your amazing collaborative partnership!
For poetry of Dilip Mohapatra on Spillwords follow this link
Currently his latest, a Professional book titled Campus to Corporate which is a career navigation manual for the students aspiring for a successful corporate career and for newcomers to the industry to survive and succeed has become a best seller with more than 10000 copies sold.
He lives with his wife at Pune, India.