To begin with, I would like to know about your childhood – your family, hobbies and inspirations growing up?
Childhood for me was no little red riding hood kind of a run. It was difficult. Coming from a family with humble means to meet our ends, was always difficult. I am a Mallu by birth, a Keralite and my parents build their nest 2700 kilometres away from their city in Alappuzha and settled in Lucknow, the capital city of the largest state in India, Uttar Pradesh, the city where I have spent my childhood, teenage and few years as a grown up too.
I come from a family where my father and two of the three elder brothers have served the Indian Army. My father was a Sepoy of the Army Medical Core, in the Indian Army.
One of my brothers is currently serving the Indian Army as a JCO, Junior Commissioned Officer in AMC. The eldest one is now serving the Indian Railways and is settled in Kolkata, after having served the Indian Army for twenty years.
The third brother, the one elder and closest to me, we lost, about two years back because of an unfortunate untimely cardiac arrest.
I studied in Army Public School, Lucknow, right up to my twelfth standard. By the time I gave my twelfth board examinations in the year 1999, I had got selected to get trained to become a commissioned officer in the Indian Navy. But then life had other plans for me. After having spent two years at the Naval Academy, Goa, I got medically boarded out for some serious medical condition.
I went into depression but then life sends its own angels to help you come out of the various challenges you face in your life. While I was admitted in Command Hospital Pune, I happen to spend my days with a fellow patient, Major B. Singh. He was the man who was instrumental in making a nineteen-year-old young lad understand, that life creates problems for you so that you get an opportunity to better your situation and hence life. I vividly remember him telling me, “You have got that golden chance to go out and prove yourself in the other world, which would of course not be Army. Life does not end here. Maybe you were destined to prove yourself in the world outside and you were here only to learn something that you would have not otherwise.”
If I have to talk about Inspirations in growing up days I can actually write a full-length book on this single word, ‘Inspiration’. The word ‘Inspiration’ the way it is pronounced ɪnspɨˈɹeɪʃən/ itself inspires me. I have always been a powerhouse of energy but then I too get worn out and tired. Mostly when the opposing energy is negative and has come beating me to the ground by engulfing me in the mask of people usually known to me.
But answering this upright, I have had many influences in my life. There is a list of people, right from my Parents, Rama Krishna Panicker and OG Saraswathy Amma, to my siblings, my family, my teachers at school, my childhood friends, my Naval Academy course mates and instructors, my colleagues, my juniors and my seniors at the organizations I have worked with. Naming just a few would not be fair to the rest of them. So in a way, every soul that has come in contact with me has taught me or influenced me in some way or the other. The learning and whatever wisdom I have today is all because of all of those people.
Reading as a habit has been one big influence that I can shout out to the world has been my greatest pillar for whatever minuscule success I have achieved in my life so far.
Something that I have loved doing as a child and a teenage other than reading was swimming, running, talking and helping people in general. Be it helping classmates with their mathematics sums, helping them cheat and pass exams, or helping friends by staying beside them whenever they were in need.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Was there an incident or a moment that made you realize this dream?
I had always wished, desired and longed to be successful but never ever, not even in the wildest of my dreams had I thought or would have wanted to be a writer. It just happened. Happened only because I felt reading was not enough to vent out. So there was a period in my life, specifically one out of all the extended low period in my life that made me hold the pen and write my first sentence.
I had reached a point when I had failed to be a Naval Aviation Pilot, I had failed to be a top performing Sales Executive, I had failed to be the top Insurance Manager, I had failed to be a star performing Sales Manager and I had failed to be an Entrepreneur, but a failure who was not ready to give up. Although I was a good Naval Cadet, of the 64 NAC (Naval Academy Course), Marakkar Squadron, Indian Naval Academy, a good sales executive, an average insurance manager, an average sales manager and an entrepreneur with big dreams in his eyes.
So before making my next move to be something else, I spent two long years, introspecting what was it that I really wanted out my life? But even then I did not receive any answers. Then while trying to figure a way out of the mess I was undergoing, I wrote my first blog, which actually later became a book. Initially, it was a blog post series that I started on blogger. That same blog is now transported and has been integrated into my official website www.ajitkpanicker.com.
My first book, My School “My Father” was known as a blog called ‘Conversations between Mr. Nair and his son Prashantan, until it got published as a title.
So majorly the reason to write was not to become an Amazon Number One Best-Selling author but to vent out, the storm blowing up the ‘me’ inside me.
And when I got the kind of appreciation, review and feedback about my first book, I got inspired to accomplish myself as a serious author, and forayed into fiction and wrote my first romantic thriller-fiction novel, I think I know you…Karunya, Do I?. The second book took a leaping start and was among the top 20 books at the contest called Kindle Scout Contest August 2017, popularly also known as the American Idol for Book Lovers. It was a no mean achievement to be amongst the three New York time Best-Selling authors who were also part of that list of top 20 authors in the world.
Growing up, what were your favourite books and authors?
I was a big fan of Enid Blyton books, I remember vividly the fondness I had for her books especially for her famous five series, and few I remember are ‘The Famous Five, Five on a Treasure Island. Apart from this series, I have loved reading the classics of English Literature while growing up, like Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and A Tale of two cities, books by Mark Twain, especially his ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, The Life and adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and the likes. I was such a bookworm, that for three years at a stretch from 1992 to 1995, I was awarded ‘Exemplary use of Library’ Certificate of Appreciation in School.
But you would be surprised to know that the reason I began reading so voraciously was not that I was madly in love for this language but because it was the only subject I was poor in.
Though the kinds of books I have been reading in my later years have been more of mystery thrillers, by Agatha Christie, Jeffrey Archer, Dan Brown, and James Patterson. But let me confess, I am yet to read even one, by the most famous author of our times, J.K Rowling. The reason was that I was so overwhelmed watching the movie adaptations on her books that I could not dare to read the books, the famous fantasy Harry Potter Series. I hate comparing things in life.
What was the last book that you read? Did you like it?
The book I have recently finished reading is Dan Brown’s latest book Origin. Although I have taken almost five long months to read, it is pretty interesting. It’s pulpy but let me tell you it was entertaining, too.
The thing about Brown is that he’s an average-at-best writer with really captivating ideas. If you spend too much time analyzing individual scenes and sentences, then you’re going to start to see then loopholes, big and small. Big loopholes like world-famous scientists jumping to absurd conclusions, and small flaws like world-renowned scientists suddenly knowing nothing about it, and that Robert Langdon can inform them and the readers of some exciting bite.
And Langdon himself must be the silliest intellect ever written. He knows absolutely everything about everything until it’s convenient for him to not know something so someone can explain it to him.
But, for some reason, Brown’s plots and codes and puzzles are interesting enough to be called okay. At I find them interesting because I love thrillers and books or novels that have information about history, science and religion. I love how a reader can Google the organizations mentioned and find that they are actually real. It’s too much of a plot, but sometimes that can be exactly what you need. Senseless, page-turning engagement.
In Origin, famous scientist and billionaire Edmond Kirsch is about to make a world-changing announcement. His research and technology have led him to make a discovery about the origin of humankind, as well as their future destiny, that will shake the foundations of the world, tear apart religions, and change absolutely everything. He has essentially found answers to the two questions: Where do we come from? and Where are we heading to?
It’s hard not to be drawn in by these universal questions. Then when the announcement event goes horribly wrong and it seems his discovery might be buried forever, Robert Langdon and Ambra Vidal must go on a clue-solving, code-breaking spree across Spain to uncover Kirsch’s discovery. Throughout, all I could think was “what could his discovery be?” It would need to be something dramatic enough, something with impact. In spite of whatever little loopholes the book had, personally it was a theatrical thrill as everything gets revealed.
When did you start writing your first book and what was the inspiration behind it?
As I had disclosed earlier, I began writing a blog as a series titled, ‘Conversations between Mr Nair and his Son Prashantan, on Blogger, which I transformed into a manuscript and was later published as a book with required improvisation. The book was titled as My School “My Father”: everyday parenting.
The inspiration was the way; most of us have been leading our family life these days. In the times we are today, we hardly have any time to spare for our family members? Neither do the parents have time for their children nor do the children need any time with their parents. The reason is that most of us are engaged most of our time on the monstrous electronic gadgets in our life.
The family time that we actually enjoyed as children have got lost somewhere while trying to match up to the latest trends of the life, society and technology.
This has largely affected the relationships between parents and children. Therefore by weaving small anecdotes inspired from the real life incidents happening around us, I wrote each of the chapters as a conversation between a father and a son. The chapters end either with a question that the child has asked and is left unanswered or with a question that the father has put across to his son. These questions have to be answered by the readers. The reason was to make the readers reflect the life and family values that have gone missing and the need to take corrective self-righteous actions.
This book had become an Amazon Best-Selling book within ninety days of it getting published on Amazon. Later it became an Amazon Number One Best-Selling book in the family and relationships category in May’2018.
You are also a motivational speaker and trainer. What led you down that path?
Yes, I am a Motivational Speaker and a Behavioural trainer. The best thing that happened to me was when I finally decided to become a full-time trainer.
I have worked in five different industries so far, Tourism, Automobiles, Banking & Financial Services, Real Estate and Consumer Electronics. For the major part of my career I have been in one way or the other involved in customer relationships, be it as a Front Show Room Sales executive, as a Venue Manager, Sales and Relationship Manager or as an Entrepreneur. Training people on products, systems, processes, soft-skills and behaviours, had always been an important role in all of the profiles I just mentioned.
With the experience of working with people – internal and external customers, I have developed a knack of managing, understanding and analyzing the science behind behaviours. The behaviour of why and how people behave, the way they behave. So I turned into a trainer and ever since have been conducting workshops, managing training projects, conduct training program evaluation, training needs analysis at the tactical, business and organizational levels.
I am currently a behavioural trainer, one who conducts workshops on Communication, Leadership, Managerial Effectiveness, Time Management, Stress Management, Negotiation, Presentation, Change Management, Ownership, Team building and Managing Customer Service emotions.
Being a Motivational Speaker is more of an act of giving back to the society, for the people and from the people I have learned whatever I have. So these days, I often get invited to various Schools, Colleges, Universities, associations and non-profit organizations who run programs for various noble causes.
How and when did you decide to do the series “Life Stories by Ajit” and why did you choose The Vent Machine (www.theventmachine.com) as the platform?
The idea of doing something of this sort has been brewing up inside me, from very long. I had actually been following, reading, and meeting a lot of people only because of this idea in mind. Then one fine day, the thought of designing this series “Life Stories by Ajit” cropped inside my mind.
The next big question after the ideation stage was the presentation and the promotion part of it.
While one day, when I was browsing through one of the blog post links that one of my recent acquaintance had sent me across, passed before my eyes with a flash of burning light.
The post was by you, Ms Surabhi Pandey and the blog was THE VENT MACHINE. I had hardly known you personally till that time. It was only at the book launch event of my second book, I think I know you…Karunya, Do I?, held at the New Delhi World Book Fair in January 2018, had I come to know of you.
I am sure you must have been thinking all this while, how can an author who is launching his book at such a prestigious platform not be present. That was where you met my wife and in a real sense my life manager, one who takes care of not only my things, my kids, her job, my emotions and our relationship, but manages them superbly.
The first reason of choosing The Vent Machine was the word “VENT” the nomenclature used by you, which was also primarily my personal reason too of starting off on this journey of weaving words as a writer and then as a storyteller.
The second reason was the way, the founder and the curator of this blog, THE VENT MACHINE, which is you, Ms Surabhi Pandey, conducts herself online. Your mannerisms and the thought process which if I can correctly guess was to create a platform, a forum where you and the likes like you can vent out. The third reason was the presentation of your blog. The way you choose, the kind of people to write upon on your blog and the thought process behind doing what you are trying to go through your blog, quite naturally aligned with my internal wiring.
How do you feel about self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
I have written a lot on the forum called Quora.com, have spoken about it in a lot of literary events, and have coached people about this on the various writing workshops I conduct, Self-Publishing versus traditional publishing. It is one of the most trending comparisons in the world of literature and the publishing world today.
See, they are two different platforms, though; the objective of both of these platforms is to publish. The major difference between the two is that one, which is traditional publishing selects the submitted manuscripts and offers the author whose manuscript is selected by the traditional publisher a contract with an advance. Then takes care of all the responsibilities and leaves the author free to do what he can do best, which is writing. The maximum he has to involve in anything other than writing is when he is involved by the publisher for promotions.
Whereas, in self-publishing, the indie author who also has to act out as an independent publisher, has to take care of all the stages of writing, publishing and promoting the book, all on his own. That, of course, doesn’t mean that the author has to do all the tasks of writing, proofreading and editing, designing cover pages or blurb, formatting and making the book publish ready and promoting or marketing the book. For each of these tasks, there are professionals available in the industry whose help can be sought.
As far as it is about which one is better, I think both of these platforms have their own advantages and disadvantages.
For me, because I know and am pretty proficient in most of the tasks involved in taking the book from the writing stage to the publishing stage and then to the marketing and promotion stage of the book, it is though cumbersome, but a lot more fruitful.
The reason is that a self-published author, an indie author, has complete rights and transparency of managing his royalties for the book purchased on Amazon. Transparency of that level is usually not provided to the author by the traditional publisher.
There are a lot of recognized and prominently good self-publishing platforms, one of the most famous and worthy of being on is Amazon.
What advice or message would you give to aspirant writers out there?
Although I cannot proclaim that I am a National Best-Selling Author or a New York Times bestselling author, yes, I can proudly declare that I am an Amazon Number one best-selling author and my first very first book, My School “My Father”.
With that honour of being one, I can only suggest the aspirant authors to psyche themselves to make writing, their habit, like the one you have if you jog, read, swim or sing. Most of us know if really want to master any skill, the most important attribute an amateur should have is being persistently consistent.
Make a ritual for writing for a fixed duration every day, or a routine to write three or four days in a week, or on the weekends. I write for at least three hours every day; in the morning from 5:30 to 7:00 am and in the late evening from 8:30 to 10:00 pm. The only days I miss is on the alternate days in the morning, when I go for a five-kilometre run or in the evenings planned out for a dinner or socializing with family and friends.
Second advice that I can offer is to read like the world is about to end and you have the last one year to finish reading whatever you have always longed to read. I mean become a voracious reader if you are not one. I would recommend reading not only the books of the genre that you would like to write in but other different than your specific genre and category of books. Insights often come from the sources, instances and the places where you had least expected from.
Start telling, showing, writing and sharing your pieces of writing in whatever format or platform you can, to the world.
Look, request and accept reviews given by the readers who have started reading you, right from the first review of your first reader. People would usually be too nice and encouraging in the beginning, not to point out your mistakes. You should look beyond your family members and friends for feedback. Find out professional beta-readers, proofreaders and editors who can give you genuine subjective feedback on the structure, theme, plot, scenes, grammar and flow, which will help you, hone your craft of writing.
You have quite a huge fan following on social media with over 12.5 K followers on FB. Do you think of yourself as an influencer? Why do you think the millennials relate to you?
Thanks to the patrons I have on my Facebook author page. I actually don’t call them as my fans or followers but as patrons. It is only because of these social media patrons and subscribers that I have today, being able to slowly build my own reader base. The fact is that other than Facebook I have about 10,000 connections on LinkedIn as an International Master Trainer & Facilitator, more than 1500 patrons on the Instagram page and twitter handle and about 7000 subscribers on my Official Website www.ajitkpanicker.com
I don’t know if I can proclaim being an influencer or not, because online presence and followership these days can all be bought by paid advertising. I am happy that I did not spend a dime to make whatever readership base and subscribers I have. The fun is in doing it organically by using your own innovative and creative ideas of promotion and advertising. You have to differentiate yourself from all who are there in your trade, by doing things differently; through your own different ways.
Millennials relate to me, really. I don’t know that but yes from the insights that I can analyze from the social media marketing archives, the age group between 15 to 35 years of age form the biggest percentage. Maybe they see, some sort of promise and authenticity, in the way I present my online personality. That may be because the personality I am in real is what I present myself online. I need not shout out loud to vouch by that. Millennials are the most gifted and smartest generation of all the generations that have preceded it. They cannot be faked.
You are a doting father of two, and a great husband (I can say so coz I’ve met your wonderful wife who is so proud of you). How does having a happy family life help you with your writing?
Let me ask you, have you ever wondered what is a fulfilling life? I’ll explain. It is one where you get an opportunity to have small but happy portions of all parts of life. I understood this only when my ‘wonderful wife’ as you said you met, kind of made me understand, the importance of small happiness’s in life.
I was always running behind the big, bigger, biggest canvases of life until I met her in a fall almost fourteen years back. Though, this specific truth of life I happen to embrace much later in our relationship, after faltering countless times and burning my fingers. While I was trying to triumph over the world, without understanding the value of small, smaller and smallest joys of life, the time and again helped me cognize of their importance.
I was a slow learner because for a very long time I happened to learn only by experiencing it through self-attempt. I did not realize that one can also learn, and that too much easily through the learning of others, through their mistakes and the decisions that went precisely right for them. My brother, who is no more, always told me, ‘What an idiot you are? Why do you want to learn every time by burning your own fingers? Why can’t you learn without burning yours, learn from the slip-ups, others did?’
But I was like, what’s the fun in that? How would I know how does it feel without actually experiencing it?
Yes, sooner or later, I understood the other part of this basic truth in life too.
So what I want to say is that you have to learn to find happiness in the smaller joys of life. If you attempt, you would find plenty of them, within your own family, every day. Why go anywhere else?
Family, therefore, plays, a crucial role in your success. Without the support of a happy family that supports and understands your passion, likes, dislikes, tantrums and emotions, you can never succeed.
Yes, my family, that not includes my wife and the little twin munchkins, my son and the daughter, but my parents, brothers and their families, my in-laws and the extended family of both the sides, motivates me to do better in life. They give me that strength to follow my passion.
No doubt, that can only happen when you justifiably take ownership of the different relationships you have with your family members and play your required role without saying.
As a father, I can proudly say that I learned to change diapers when my kids were infants, I love helping them drink milk even today, enjoy giving them occasional bath, pick them up from their playschool and daycare on most of the evenings, but still only a handful of all the chores my ‘wonderful wife’ manages to accomplish every day, most of the times with a smiling face.
But that does not mean that we don’t enjoy our share of quarrels, fights and disagreements. We reflect back on them later, to make our averagely beautiful marriage going on.
Can you share your creative process with us? Recently, I read that you wrote 10,000 words in two days! That is not an easy target to achieve. How did you manage to do that?
By the time I finish writing all the answers to your questions, I would have finished writing more than 5000 words in a day’s time. The biggest reason I am able to do this is my undying ever increasing crazily multiplying passion and fire to write. So that’s important.
The recent feat I managed to accomplish was because it was one of those projects that were nearing the deadline to get published. Partly it was the first story of ‘Life Stories by Ajit’ which we are going to publish two days from now on Christmas, 25thDecember 2018 and partly it was another parallel project I have been working on from the past six months.
But yes, in spite of all the passion you could have for writing, you still need to psyche your mind every day to reach a level where your mind makes your body to act.
I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, I have two of my own signature training programs called ‘ Train your Mind by the Power of your Subconscious Mind’ and ‘Ignite Your Passion’, that have basically been designed by me out of my own experiences of training my own mind.
I write both fiction and non-fiction. The day I got on a serious writing spree, the first name that came to my mind while naming the Facebook Blog was @panickerwrites4all. Usually, the veterans in the publishing world say that an author should write specifically only in one genre so that his audience doesn’t get confused while picking up books at the stores, online or the brick-mortar stores. If a Crime, Mystery thriller writer starts writing romance, he may dishearten his mystery thriller readers. It is true when we talk about traditional publishers because they actually convince author not to write in any other genre. But there is no such hard and fast rule. There are readers of all kinds for your work. It is how you present your author personality to the world. Some authors write with different pen names when writing in a different genre, but even that is a thing of the past.
Do you know that even J.K Rowling wrote few titles with a pen name ‘Robert Galbraith’ when she chose to write in the crime fiction genre, a genre that she has always loved as a reader?
So if your passion is raring all the time and you have psyched your mind enough, your mind will tend to work for your stories, plot, scenes and characters of your fiction novel. You will start seeing a story, a character on the move. I see them in my life, while I train and coach people, while I travel in a flight, train or a metro, I see them while I attend a sports like F1 formula one racing championship, I see them when I attend parties, and so when you actually sit down to write, you need not think for house before you actually finish writing your first paragraph. The only work left would be to write them.
If you talk about the non-fiction books I have been writing, at least ten titles are on their way that would get published in the next five to ten years. The non-Fiction I am writing is of two types, biography or autobiography and the self-help books. The self-help titles that I am writing will come out as “How To” series.
Do you face the writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Do you still feel I would face the writer’s block, when I have an ever raring and fiery passion to write and the mind that is psyched and trained by me?
Jokes apart, I still face that block. But I don’t call that as a writer’s block. It is a mental block. So for that, I have found my own unique way. People feel I know and do a lot of things at the same time. Some people around me have started saying that you are gifted. But they don’t know that the reality is that all the other things that I do are to bring myself back into what I love doing the most.
All other activities like doing Voice Narration and telling short stories on YouTube in my voice, running or swimming are exercises to energize myself and avoid the burnout that may happen when you are so passionate about one single thing.
I am a trainer because I love being a trainer and a coach and also because I earn my bread for my family with that. Training does a lot for me, it also provides me with an opportunity every day to meet and observe at least fifteen to twenty new people for about fifteen days a month. I have in my career so far, coached and mentored approximately fifty thousand working executives, managers, leaders, students and entrepreneurs. Many times, a particular trainee gives me a sparking insight for a character that I can twist and tweak to create a fresh character for my fiction novels and short stories.
Basically, if someone experiences writer’s block or the mental block, as I refer it to as, the only suggestion I can make to them is to look for ways that can take you off from writing. Look for reviving your state of mind with some different activity, one that gives you a thrill and lulls your mind with calmness.
Where can people buy your books?
In the past three years, two of my books have got published both in paperback and Kindle e-book editions.
The first title which is School “My Father” was published in both the paperback and Kindle editions. Currently, because the paperback is out of stock and is in the process of being published with its second edition, is therefore available only as an eBook Kindle edition on Amazon. Currently, the Kindle edition of this title is available for free for all Amazon Prime Subscribers and Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.
The second title, I think I know you…Karunya, Do I? a romantic thriller novel is available both in its paperback and kindle edition. You can buy both the types of editions through Amazon online store. The Kindle edition is currently available for free for all Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.
Kindle edition of both the titles is available for purchase in more than seventy countries.
My School “My Father” is now available in the Hindi language also on Amazon as an eBook kindle edition. This Hindi edition is available for free for all Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.
The third book that is basically being written as a series under the name Bold Series, will soon be available as ten short story kindle reads, one every month starting April 2019.
The first book of the bold series is being written as a collection of ten short stories in the fiction, romance-adult genre. The theme is basically based on unconfessed stories of love, lust and treachery. The title of the anthology is Ajit Panicker’s L.S.D. Each of these short stories of this anthology title would also be published as short stories with their independent titles.
There are about three titles, other than these published ones, that I am writing currently. Two of them would be in the fiction genre and one in the non-fiction genre.