Interview with Zero Not Out author Vamshi

Only after getting into the prestigious IIT, Vamshi first heard about Chetan Bhagat and got really inspired by him that he decided to write a book. Here are some excerpts from our interview with him:

The Bookoholics: How did you get the idea for ‘Zero Not Out’?

Vamshi: After finishing my engineering in 2014, the idea for my debut novel was always to start with my real-life incidents and add a few fiction elements to make the plot interesting. So, when I had decided in 2018 to start working on my debut novel, I first penned down my real-life elements which I felt were worth sharing.

Be it depression or exam failures or love failures, the suicide rate among college students has been alarming these days. As someone who had been through that phase of depression in the early 20s right after college, I thought to make the plot a bit message-oriented saying ‘Every journey has to end, for a new beginning’ and that’s how ‘Zero Not Out ‘ was conceived.

‘Every journey has to end, for a new beginning’ is the bottom line of the story. The protagonist in the story is Varun Krishna, a regular boy next door with big dreams in his life. Getting into an IIT was a major milestone in his journey. When he was cruising towards a successful life, fate hit him hard by the time his college life ended pushing him onto self-destruction mode.

How life takes him forward from such a miserable state to building a startup aimed at curbing suicides forms the rest of the story. Riding high on emotions while emphasizing the role of family during crisis time, the novel illustrates the theme of how a father is looked up to as a real hero by his son.

Though the plot is fictional in parts, I would say most of the characters in the novel are for real.

The Bookoholics: How long did it take you to write this book?

Vamshi: Writing took almost a year. As I have my regular job in the day time, I used to spend nights writing. And editing to printing took almost 5-6 months.

The Bookoholics: How did you deal with the self-doubts a writer goes through?

Vamshi: Believe in your plot, that’s the most critical thing. Having doubts about your writing style, vocabulary, screenplay, etc is fine but it’s your conviction about the core plot that can help you overcome any kind of self-doubts.

Be like a boss while you’re developing the plot. Once the plot is set, be its slave and let it lead you.

Also, I see myself as a coder by chance and a writer by choice. I spend my days as a software engineer and the nights as a struggling writer, with the hope to make it big someday. And, ‘hope’ is a drug, it can keep you going.

The Bookoholics: What was the most difficult part to write?

Vamshi: I would say penning down the make-out and romantic scenes without being obscene was relatively difficult to write.

Also, I believe that for any story or a comedy standup or a skit, the ending is very important. I was in dilemma for quite a while on how to end the story without leaving any loose ends. Hence, writing the last few scenes was challenging too.

The Bookoholics: What was the most common response you got from the readers?

Vamshi:Till now, the reviews have been good, if not great.

Simple language, engaging writing style, emotionally connecting, family values, good attention to detail, know about IITs’ lifestyle are the keywords from the reviews on Amazon.

There’s a bit criticism as well, but I respect and value that too, as I believe that criticism helps me in improving myself as a writer.

The Bookoholics: How was the journey from finishing the manuscript to publishing?

Vamshi: Once I was 80% through my manuscript and I knew what to write for the rest of 20%, I started pitching ‘Zero Not Out’ to publishers via email (most publishers take 4-6 weeks to revert). But then, I realized this was only one-third of the journey.

Editing process at the publisher end and pre-marketing is another one-third.

And once the book is launched, you need to market it as much as possible and this is the last part of the journey, which I am currently in. Publishing is equally important as marketing and promotions.

You won’t get any visibility if you are not investing time and money on marketing. Ask any bestselling author we have today, they will stress the importance of promotions.

The Bookoholics: What’s your favorite piece from ‘Zero Not Out’?

Vamshi: “But then, time heals everything Varun. Even if it does not,  you have to pretend like you are okay. Else, you cannot take a  step forward in life. Like a rubber band stretching till its limits and then all of a sudden, it snaps, the silence disappears and you start to see life turning around. You realize that there’s no way you can undo the past. You have to keep moving forward,  step by step.”

These are the words said by Mahi, a brotherly figure to Varun, the protagonist while he was struggling in his life.

This is my favorite scene.

The Bookoholics: What publishing advice would you give to new authors?

Vamshi: You won’t get any visibility if you are not investing time and money on marketing. Ask any bestselling author we have today, they will stress the importance of promotions.

Spend very little/ nothing to get published. Then set a budget for promotions via online and offline channels. Publishers do only a little for promoting your book; it’s your responsibility to market yourself and establish yourself as a brand. And, it will not happen overnight. It will consume a lot of time and energy.

The Bookoholics: How did you market your book?

Vamshi: Instagram worked well for me. I don’t have a good follower base on Instagram. So, I collaborated with a few pages that got authentic reader followers.

The Bookoholics: How did your book affect your personal and professional life?

Vamshi: Before Zero Not Out, only my close friends used to consider me as a wanna-be author. Now, anyone who knows me thinks of me as a passionate author.

Quite a few forgotten friends of mine from school, college, work got back in touch after ages to congratulate me/ drop feedback about my work.

The Bookoholics: Did you ever face the so-called writer’s block?

Vamshi: Of course, a lot number of times and that’s a very common occurrence for any writer. Taking small breaks, reading more novels in your genre would help during that phase.

The Bookoholics: Is there a second book on the way? If yes, what is it about?

Vamshi: Nothing concrete yet, but yes, I am working on a plot in the genre of mythology blended with contemporary storytelling. Not much progress made as I am still reading novels written in that genre.

The Bookoholics: How do you find time to write while also working?

Vamshi: Honestly speaking, I don’t have any other options. I have to stay at my job to build financial stability. And by the time I am done with my dinner every day, the wanna-be author bug starts itching in my head.

I believe in long-term investments. So, even if I spend one hour a day writing and using free time during weekends/ holidays, I can still write 2 novels in a year.

The Bookoholics: Your bio says you read a lot about cricket, women, and stories of failures. Any favorite book?

Vamshi: ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl.

But Chetan Bhagat is the one who’s inspired me to write. Coming from a backdrop of immersing myself behind Maths, Physics, Chemistry textbooks till my college, I never thought I would read anything beyond textbooks.

I heard about him after I entered IIT. Picked up his ‘Five Point Someone’ and once I finished reading it, I was in complete awe of the writer.

I believe he is the one who changed the mindset that reading novels is an elite group habit; he got the masses reading.

That’s when I decided I should try my hands at writing sometime in the future and I am glad it happened with ‘Zero Not Out’.

Buy the book on Amazon here

You may get in touch with Vamshi here: Facebook, Instagram, Email