1) You have chosen an unconventional setting for your book. Everyone knows that the situation in Kashmir is precarious, but there is little, or no, conversation surrounding it. What made you choose this setting?
I chose this precisely because there is no conversation surrounding it. I have seen that be it the Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Muslims, the Indian Army, or the Indian population living outside Kashmir, everyone has their own side of a story and their own opinions, which are all different from each other. Not everyone is right and not everyone is wrong, but when we only tell one side of the story we do injustice to what Kashmir actually is. This book talks about human sufferings rather than that of a particular religion or role or ranks of a person in the world. I wanted to strike the reader hard that could shake their misconceptions and remove the bias they may have so one can see Kashmir not just as a piece of land but what truly matters…its people.
2) Your characters grow up through the span of the book, how did you develop these characters?
A lot of inspiration has come from meeting common people from Kashmir- be it the civilians or the army officers. Two of my very good friends are Kashmiri Pandits, who helped immensely throughout the book and whose names I have mentioned in the acknowledgements as well.
3) What was your writing process like? Did you make a plot or did you just go with the flow?
Both. There are two types of authors- the gardeners, who go with the flow and architects, who have a clear blueprint before they write the first word. I am first an architect eventually become a gardener. Keeping the theme and the core premise in mind, I start with a clear beginning, middle and an end, and then the story takes shape where the characters take it. E.g. A little secret I would reveal- the character of Kamal was not there in the first blueprint, it took shape as the story moved forward with respect to the already defined milestones.
4) What about writer’s block? Did you face it, if so how did you overcome it?
Writer’s block is a fancy term for laziness.
5) What were the steps that you had to take when researching for the book?
As I said, meet the people in Kashmir for the pulse of the book, lots of discussion with my Kashmiri friends for the cultural nuances and dig through all the material available on the net, especially for the historical context.
6) Was there any hurdle that you faced while publishing the book?
Where can there be a journey without a hurdle? The most common response was that it’s a mid-grade fiction, which means its both commercial and literary, or in other words, neither completely commercial nor completely literary. Honestly, the hurdle I faced was also my intent, to begin with. I have seen a lot of good Indian fiction that does not have commercial appeal and lot of bad ones that has. I wanted to write quality literature that also has commercial appeal, and hence the final product. Eventually, the book found a good home in Niyogi Books who understood it and am happy about it.
7) Which are some of the books that inspired you?
Train to Pakistan, The Kite runner, Half of a Yellow Sun, Hundred years of solitude, Disgrace, and A Farewell to Arms, to name a few.
8) What next?
My next two manuscripts are ready. One is on quarter life crisis in a man’s constant struggle between passion and profession, while the other is a tale of magical realism in a fictional town. They shall hit the bookstores in due time, one by one.
Right now, I am working as a full-time screenwriter. My first film titled- ‘Behen Hogi Teri’ starring Rajkummar Rao and Shruti Hasan shall hit theatres on 2nd June while there are a few more projects in the pipeline.
Thank you, Sanchit Gupta for taking time to answer all the questions! You can buy The Tree With A Thousand Apples here.