Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Interview with literary novelist Uday Mukerji

Today’s special guest is Uday Mukerji and we’re chatting about his new literary fiction Dead Man Dreaming.

Uday Mukerji was born in India and had worked as a creative director in advertising agencies in Singapore for nearly twenty years. However, in 2009, he left his job to pursue a career in writing.

His first literary fiction, a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner, Love, Life, and Logic was published by Harvard Square Editions (NY) in November 2016.

His next book, Dead Man Dreaming, published by Adelaide Books, New York, came out in September 2019.

Welcome, Uday. Please tell us about your current release.
Dead Man Dreaming is a literary fiction about one man's fight against hereditary genetic diseases—from losing his girlfriend to finding love again—and how he overcomes his fear and frustrations and comes to terms with his own Huntington's disease.

The confirmation of HD brings the senior resident physician, David’s life to a halt. His three-year-old relationship with his girlfriend, Chloe also comes to an end. Yet, he refuses to give up; he dreams of finding a solution to prevent all hereditary genetic diseases. With his high school friend, Jessie, he starts an awareness campaign for Carrier Screening Tests for all before becoming a parent. The movement brings an overwhelming response, but not without condemnations. And through all that, David finds new love and new hope in life again.

It’s the journey of a desperate young man with a death sentence hanging over his head that makes this book inspiring and riveting.

What inspired you to write this book?
In 2016, Shivani Nazareth, a genetic counselor in New York, published a piece in US News: ‘Genetic testing before pregnancy should be as common as taking folic acid’. She wrote, while medical societies agree that preconception is the ideal time to offer carrier screening, a recent study showed that only 1 in 6 family physicians or OB/GYN providers offered carrier screening in preconception care. She also wrote that many parents learned they were carriers of rare diseases only after their child was born. 

My whole life I had believed that parenting was the hardest job in the universe. Her writing got me thinking, then, why the would-be parents weren’t doing their part before giving birth? I fully realized the challenges and the risk in taking the test, but I couldn’t help wondering—would a positive verdict be really the end of the world? Why do we make the innocent kids suffer? Was it the lack of information or something else?

And the answers to those questions and more inspired me to write Dead Man Dreaming

Excerpt from Dead Man Dreaming:

From Chapter 12

Two days later, when I came home from New York City, I realized something: some people in our lives always stand by us like a lighthouse, silently guiding us to the shore. My mother was that lighthouse in my life. Since we had landed on a Sunday afternoon, I had missed a pre-arranged breakfast with my mother that morning. It wasn’t the first time I had missed an appointment with my mother, but from the voicemail, this time, she sounded upset.
When I called her to apologize, she flared up. “Do you know I had already called you three times since this morning?” And before I could say anything in my defense, she continued. “You better come down now and have dinner here. I won’t have time to see you until next Sunday. And we’re already late.”
“Late for what, Mom? What’s so important that it can’t wait until next Sunday? I promise I’ll be there.”
“No, it can’t wait. Let me put it this way—we should’ve done it yesterday.”
I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but it seemed important to her, and I couldn’t ignore that. I pulled out my jacket and decided to walk over.
When my mother opened the door, she looked baffled. Seeing my jacket covered in snowflakes, she removed the small door screen and peeped out. Not seeing my car in the driveway, she asked, “Why didn’t you drive?”
“I wanted to walk back after dinner; I need the exercise since I missed my gym today.”
“It’s minus five degrees out there. Are you crazy or what?”
“It didn’t quite feel that way,” I tried to explain.
“Never mind. Get yourself a drink. Dinner will be ready in ten.” And she went into the kitchen.
“Do you want one?” I shouted from the living room.
“You go ahead. I’ve got a glass of wine.”
I had never been a regular drinker. I hesitated a couple of minutes in front of my mom’s liquor cabinet—a small table with a few glasses and a couple of wine bottles. She also had a bottle of whiskey and a cognac. I deliberated for a minute, then poured myself a cognac and followed my mother into the kitchen. I was curious to know what all the fuss was about.
“Tell me now what is so important that it couldn’t wait another week.” I sat on the long end of the kitchen counter.
“I need you to sign some papers. Anyway, dinner is ready. Let’s eat first.”
Towards the end of the dinner, she suddenly asked, “How is your new girlfriend?”
“What do you mean by new girlfriend? Are you talking about Jessie?”
“Yes, your cheerleader friend,” she clarified.
Given the latest series of complications, I would have hesitated to call Jessie my girlfriend anymore. In my book, girlfriends didn’t have husbands. So, what was she? Recently, I had been asking myself that question every day.
“She isn’t really my girlfriend.”
“Why? What happened?” she asked.
“Let it go, Ma. It’s complicated.” I tried to put a stop to that conversation.
“Life is complicated, David. You have to press on,” she said as she started clearing the table.
I got up and helped her clear the rest. I said, “I’m trying, Ma. I’ll tell you everything as soon as I sort things out in my head. Let’s sign those papers now.”
She pulled out two thick piles of papers. I had seen those before. In fact, I had seen them all my life, and those piles used to be thicker. First, it was my dad’s medical insurance file, and after my dad had passed away, my mother had created one for each of us.
“After your positive test for HD, I had to make changes in your policy. I need your signature.” My mom pushed a thick, gray-colored file toward me.
“Why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve had it done.”
“Don’t worry, it’s already done. Just sign…” Her voice choked, so she got up and left the room in a hurry.

----- The end of excerpt ----

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have just started writing another novel exploring—a metaphysical view on life—how everything isn’t like what it seems to be.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Frankly, I never thought I would be a writer. I had always been more of a reader. Although I didn’t major in literature, I always loved reading classics. Some of my all-time favorite books are Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Castle, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and The Outsider. I worked all my life in Advertising. But all that had suddenly changed a couple of years ago when I was vacationing in New Zealand. Throughout my whole life, one question had always haunted me: Why am I here? And during those few days, the peace and serenity all around amplified that voice in my head. But instead of jumping on to Google for an answer, I decided to dig deep inside and explore. Soon I started writing, and that’s how it all started in 2009.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m not exactly a full-time writer, but I usually write about three/fours in the morning and again two to three hours after lunch.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Even when I am not using it, I still have to have the internet connection. Without it, I literally feel disconnected from everything, and my writing automatically comes to a grinding halt.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I always wanted to be a pilot. I thought flying alongside the birds and the clouds would be fun. Then, I guess, like everything else, I also changed.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
The Big Bang Theory is my most favorite TV show. I love comedies. I wish I could make people laugh like that.


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