Q&A with Sanjay Chopra, author of Talespin

Sanjay Chopra is the unlikeliest of authors. He is a commercial pilot and has been so for the past couple of decades. The opportunity to travel the world fed his interest in history and cultures and, drawing from his grandfather who he tells us was an amazing storyteller, Sanjay decided to explore the world of storytelling himself.
Interestingly, he took his passion for writing seriously enough to train at the London School of Journalism. Here’s more from the cover note about him, which is impressive by itself. “Some of his stories have won contests and been published in various anthologies. Turaché won the Invisible Ink and the Sunpenny publishing contest from the UK, A Fate Worse Than… was on the winners list of the Creative Writers competition and Southport writer’s circle, Men of the Horse was on the highly recommended list of The Millennium Writers and Fish publishing awards, The Contractor was awarded at the Blood Ink crime writing competition and the entire collection of short stories was chosen as the top five at the Alexander Patterson Cappon Prize for fiction by the University of Kansas.”

An addendum: “Interesting fact: Apart from Rob Stevens, a captain in British Airways, Sanjay Chopra may be the only other serving airline commander who is also an author.”

Here goes a very short q&a.
The short story is perhaps the most under rated and the most difficult form of fiction. Why did you choose to make your debut with a collection of short stories? Any short story writers who have
influenced/inspired you?

You’re right that the short story is the most under rated form. I think it may be an indication of the human condition though. We may think we like minimum involvement, minimum fuss, arrive fast …leave faster but actually we like long term commitments, we value deep entanglements, emotional investments.
I like the immediacy of a short story. It is like a bullet..fast and shocking. With no one to hold your hand before and after. I find Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver and of course Saki very enjoyable.

Your stories in Talespin stories span time frames and genres. Was this intentional? Was there not a temptation to keep them in the same

God knows that it is easier to classify a collection of stories by genre and if I had any control over it, I would have. But I had no design in choosing these stories. Like any other writer I feel they chose me. They are of various themes and genres like historical, crime, military fiction, etc. There are characters as diverse as Alexander and Timur to a mafia hitman from UP to a computer hacker to a Mughal damsel. In these pages you’ll find revenge, greed, betrayal, also courage and honour in the most unlikely places.
The thing that each story promises: a spin in the tale.

You are a commercial pilot and writing is your passion. What is
impressive is that you have taken the effort to train in writing too,
with a course at the London School of Journalism. Do you recommend
formal training for anyone who feels they have stories to tell?

I’m too new in the game to comment much on this but I think no one can teach anyone story telling but of course, the craft can be polished through training.

What is your writing process like? Are you an organic writer or do you plot first and then write?
I not only find it easier to plot first but I find that I cant put down anything on paper until I haven’t played out the entire story in my head and derived maximum joy from it. That said, the act of spilling it on paper sometimes makes it go in surprising new directions.

How much would you say research contributes to the writing process?
Are you a believer in extensive research?

I don’t do exhaustive research but i think a fiction writer should be adequately informed about the truth before distorting it.

Which books would you say have influenced you as a writer–any
styles/viewpoints/writing techniques that you’ve admired over the

We are probably a cumulative total of all that we’ve ever read or heard but I find Len Deighton’s Bomber, Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption, Kaye’s The Far Pavilions and Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity unputdownable.

Tell us a bit more about the novel you are working on, I believe it is set in Kashmir, what genre is it in and what stage is it at at the

The novel I’m working on is set in Kashmir against the backdrop of terrorism. Its the story of a person in conflict both internal and external and their quest. I’ve had to do pretty extensive research on this one since it is in our life and times. Should be ready with the first draft in about three months[hope..hope..hope!]

What would you tell anyone reading this, who might want to write
fiction. Tips, words of advice, etc.

The thing I can say to anyone who has ever thought of writing…..there is no thought or desire planted in your head without the corresponding ability to do it planted in your being.


About Kiran Manral

Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective in 2011. Since then, she has published nine books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush (2014), All Aboard (2015), Saving Maya (2017); horror with The Face at the Window (2016), psychological thriller with Missing, Presumed Dead (2018) and nonfiction with Karmic Kids (2015), A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up (2016) and True Love Stories (2017). Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey (2017) and Boo (2017). Her articles and columns have appeared in the Times of India, Tehelka, DNA, Yowoto, Shethepeople, New Woman, Femina, Verve, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Conde Nast Traveller, DB Post, The Telegraph, the Asian Age, iDiva, TheDailyO and more. She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. In 2018, she was awarded the International Women's Day award for literary excellence by ICUNR and Ministry of Women and Children, Government of India. She is a TEDx speaker and a mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017.
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