Now this is an interesting mix – an author who is an experiential happiness trainer. And she is an entrepreneur too – the founder of a coworking venture in Lucknow. Wait! She is an ex-corporate lawyer as well. Meet Runjhun Noopur whose short story, Braid of Honour, was adjudged as one of three winners of the prestigious DWL International Short Story Competition 2018. An avid blogger, Runjhun recently released Nirvana In A Corporate Suit (TreeShade Books/ Rs 350), a roller-coaster ride that will make you question everything you ever wanted to know about your own happiness. We had an email interaction with the author:
Why call it Nirvana In A Corporate Suit?
One of the two main protagonists in Nirvana In A Corporate Suit is a Baba, who is an ex-rockstar from the 80s and who happens to be a rabid Kurt Cobain/ Nirvana fan. The other protagonist is an average corporate guy who simply wants happiness and is unable to find it despite a fat pay cheque and perks of his corporate job. Together, this bizarre duo sets out on a journey to a magical land on a quest to find happiness. Nirvana In A Corporate Suit is essentially a wordplay on Baba’s love for Nirvana — the band, the idea of Nirvana in the sense of happiness and of course, the corporate suit is an allusion to the corporate guy as much as it is a metaphor for our material existence in a corporate world. Mostly, we called it Nirvana In A Corporate Suit because as a title it was funny, witty and profound, pretty much like the book.
You were a corporate lawyer who turned to writing and became an entrepreneur. When did you decide of introducing this change to your life and how did you go about it – from sharing it with the family to talking about it in the professional circuit?
I have always been a writer. I just didn’t know how to convert that state of being into a paid vocation. I became a corporate lawyer, and then an entrepreneur for the same reason. I have done anything and everything in life — to earn my freedom to write. The transformation so to speak was more from being a writer in the wilderness to a published author, and that has been a happy change that everyone in my family and friends has accepted with delight and relief.
How different are you from other authors?
Authors, by definition, are unique, bizarre, inexplicable creatures. Each one of us is blessed with our own distinct kind of madness. We are not alike, and yet every author is just like the other in several fundamental ways. I cannot be presumptuous enough to assume I am very different from other authors. I think being an author in itself is unique enough to not warrant any further differentiations. I can, however, say that my writings are a mixture of contemporary popular culture, spirituality, absurdism, genre fiction and humour in a distinct context of my own experiences. That approach may be considered a relatively unique take on how the ideas of spirituality and personal happiness are normally dealt with and written about in general.
What if your creative work doesn’t get good reviews (honest confession)?
Criticism is an intrinsic part of a writer’s life. It doesn’t mean it hurts any less. A book or an article or any creative work for that matter is like a baby for the creator. So, the criticism always pinches a lot. But at the end of the day, we as creators have to remember that we cannot please everyone, especially in today’s world where everyone on the Internet has an opinion and the freedom (and anonymity) to air it. Personally, I always go by what Neil Gaiman had to say about criticism – ‘When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
In your opinion, what is that one thing which is the most important part of a book?
An instant connect with the readers. A book is like a very dear friend for its reader, and that relationship has to be established for a book to really and truly work, be remembered and have an impact.
Is writing energising or exhausting?
Writing for me is like life, as essential as breathing. Just as the idea of exhaustion is incompatible with the act of breathing, the same holds true for writing in my case. Writing for me not just energising, it is my spiritual anchor that keeps me afloat and alive.
The word “creative” to you is…
A way of life
Are authors friends with other authors or are they competitors?
Authors are usually great friends. They are natural allies, the only ones who can really and truly understand the misery and the euphoria of a fellow author’s day-to-day existence. Writing is hard and being an author is harder. Most authors tend to be extremely considerate of each other’s struggles, always willing and ready to offer advice, support or simply a willing ear to a fellow author in need.
How much time do you write in a day?
I have an erratic writing schedule that depends on my ongoing projects. My writing hours tend to swing wildly between two and seven hours, depending on where I am on a project.
Do you believe in a writer’s block?
As a famous author (I can’t remember the name right now) had once pointed out, writer’s block is nothing worse than an engineer’s block or a manager’s block or any other professional having a bad day at work. We writers just have a fancy term for it. Because, we are writers.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I am an entrepreneur, founder of a coworking venture in Lucknow and an experiential happiness trainer. My coworking venture takes a lot of my non-writing time as do my trainings and workshops which I conduct for corporate organisations across the country. I am also a content strategy expert and consult with several brands on their online and offline content strategy. Beyond work, reading, flipping TV channels the old fashioned way, cooking, eating and spending time with family are my favourite pastimes.
Any book that inspired you to take up writing?
Paulo Coelho’s Brida was one of the first books that made me consider the idea of weaving spirituality in an emotionally resonant story. It was the kind of magical world building that really appealed to me and inspired me to consider writing. Authors like Ruskin Bond, O Henry, Guy de Maupassant have all been strong early influences who have inspired and impacted my writing.
What does it take to be good storyteller?
Empathy. Empathy is what makes an author live the lives of the characters, and delve deep into their emotions. Finding plot points and weaving a tale are important but what really lends narrative depth to a storyteller is their ability to stay true to the characters and their distinct voices. The ability to flesh out real, relatable, unique characters is what separates a good storyteller from a great one.
Did any of your creative works get rejected by a publisher?
Oh, lots! Rejection is a part and parcel of a writer’s life. I have been consistently rejected across board and formats. My short story was recently adjudged as the winner of the DWL International Short Story Contest, 2018, a contest where I had been submitting stories for around five years now so much so that even the organisers acknowledged recognising my name as a regular (and regularly rejected) contributor. Persistence and resilience are the only two things that can keep a writer afloat, and for me, being rejected is simply a validation of the fact that I am writing. And it is enough.
Do book covers matter as much as the content?
Book covers are the visual pitches of the books. I remember me and my publishers at Treeshade Books had spent weeks discussing, debating and agonising over what was the most perfect cover for Nirvana In A Corporate Suit, going through several options and ideas before we finally found the right fit. So covers matter. Maybe not as much as the content, but they have their own distinct importance in marketing the book, and creating an intrigue among the readers.
You are, at present, reading…
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Share something about your family…
I have had the distinct fortune of being blessed with an exceptionally supportive family. My mother, despite being a single parent, has been my rock and has stood by every bizarre career decision that I have ever made. Her courage, strength and confidence are forces that drive my dreams. My brother is an incredible creative himself, a Youtuber, an accomplished and popular musician and a digital artist whose volume of work, commitment to his art and willingness to learn have always been an unflinching source of inspiration for me. He is also the creative brain behind most of my ventures and an ever reliable partner in every crazy ride that I embark upon. My father is no more, but his presence is tangible influence in every aspect of my life. He was an incredibly inspiring man, and it is his stories, his words, his very essence that defines me as a writer and as a human being.