Master Mariner by profession, Mr. Shobhit Dabral is currently working as Captain of merchant ships, whilst dedicating his free time to write magnificent short stories, approaching new writing styles and genres with each of them, without loosing his key signatures: unpredictable plot-twists and heartbreaking, powerful messages.
Now, after having published many of his works on his blog, he has almost finished writing a novel, informations regarding which, are yet unknown to his fans… at least, until now. In this interview Mr. Dabral gives us some insights on both his greatest passion: his career across the seven seas and writing.
READ HIS SHORT STORIES FOR FREE
I’ve written two reviews about his stories. If you’d like to read them, these are the links:
1. Good morning, how are you?
Good morning to you too. I’m very well. Thank you for this opportunity, and thanks also for reviewing my blog and stories.
2. Oh, don’t thank me, it has been a true pleasure!!! What will you first book be about?
My first book is a work of fiction with mythical inferences and may be classed under the ‘fantasy’ genre. A story of a boy who finds his understanding of the world change on his twenty first birthday.
3. When will you publish it?
I have finished my draft and am currently editing it. Once the edits are complete, I will start approaching literary agents and publishing houses. The book is still a distant prize.
4. How do you feel about it being released?
It will be wonderful to hold my book in my hands and turn pages to read it. I have always been excited about books and to have made my own will definitely be a dream come true. Whether I get a publisher or publish it myself, only time will tell; but I’m certainly a romantic of traditional ways of doing things.
5. What’s the story (or “what are the stories?”) behind the story in your book?
There was a concept that I was always fascinated with, but had no idea how to deal with. Also, I wasn’t planning on writing a book at the time when this concept first came to me. When I decided I wanted to write, it was the first thing that came to mind, and I began; only to realise that I needed research to validate my ideas. Fiction is only believable if there is truth in it.
6. I’ve read on your Twitter profile you’re currently editing it. How long did it take you to write the first draft of this book?
I started writing just over a year back, but got stuck and couldn’t write for a few months owing to my time at sea. In all, I would say just the writing of the book (the first draft) took me a few days more than eight months.
7. In your site it’s written that you spent years making researches to write this book. What did you research exactly?
As I mentioned earlier, the story has mythical inferences. For that I needed to research mythology from different lands, religious beliefs and what science had to say about it all. There is a lot of modern day science involved in my story as well, and I wanted to be accurate with my own understanding of the concepts I was touching up on.
8. What is the weirdest thing you discovered through your researches?
I don’t really know if I can call it a discovery, but the most interesting derivation I personally had from my research was that science and religion have both been saying the same thing forever; and they are both clueless.
9. What are the things you like the most about short stories in general?
The most important would have to be that they do not require long term investments of time. Yet, however, you may engage the readers enough that they invest emotionally, so that the story remains with them. In effect, it asks for less from the readers but keeps giving long after they have read it. It is for this reason I try to tell a story in a manner such that the readers might weave the rest of it on their own. I try not to give names to characters or too much description of them as I wish the readers to do that for themselves. If they decide what the characters look like or are called, the characters will be in part, their creation, and thus stay with them longer. In other words, one way to make sure you keep thinking about my story is if I give you home work.
10. What is your source of inspiration? How do you get those ideas?
There is no one source of inspiration. I am a very observant person with a restless mind. I might see someone doing something peculiar, or read something in a magazine, or watch something on the news, and my mind starts thinking of possibilities leading to, or starting from that point onward. Most often it turns out not to be interesting; but sometimes, it starts me thinking about telling a story.
11. What made you decide to publish your stories for free on a blog?
I am a storyteller. It is not my profession; at least not yet. I’m hoping to be able to write a book that might do well financially, but I tell stories all the time regardless. Why I started the blog was to get people to interact with me in order to be able to find what interests them, and whether they are comfortable with the style of my writing.
12. Did you have any fear regarding whether or not your stories would’ve been liked by your readers when you’ve posted them?
Fear of loosing has never bothered me. I have failed before, and I can assure you I will fail again. In this I am no different from any other person in the world. It is perfectly fine to fail. What matters is what you do with your failure. My ideology in life has been to not leave any “what if” unanswered. The moment I start think of the possibility of something enough, I just go ahead and give it a try. At best I succeed, at worst I fail. If you live by this rule, you will realise like I have, that every failure is an opportunity to succeed.
What I feared though, when I started the blog was something else. I wondered whether people would bother at all to interact. I wondered whether they would find time to ridicule me or not. Being ridiculed was not the fear; the fear was not knowing if anyone liked the story or not, and if not, why? What I do not know, I can not improve upon.
13. In each of your stories you explore new genres and writing styles. What are the reasons you do this for?
Because he bakes a wonderful chocolate cake, must the baker bake chocolate cake alone? My skill is not expertise in a genre; it is the art of storytelling. I do not want to keep baking chocolate cakes everyday for the rest of my life. Give me a math problem and I’ll tell you a story about it too. Not everyone might find it fascinating, but I would get to tell a story.
14. Of all the genres and writing styles you tried so far, what is the one you liked the most?
I love reading mystery, science fiction, fantasy and crime most. I will, however, read anything. As far as telling a story is concerned, I just love that I get to tell the story so much, that it doesn’t matter what story it is I tell.
15. How much time does it usually take you to write a short story?
The germination of an idea into a story may take days, even months at times. But once I have the story in my head and if it is a short story, it takes anywhere between a couple of hours to a day just to write it.
16. When was your passion for writing born?
I think writing came as a result of the enjoyment I got out of narration. I remember as a kid in school, my friends used to ask me to tell them jokes; even ones they’d already heard. They said I told them differently and they liked that. I started telling jokes all the time. At one point I started narrating mundane incidents, trying to make them sound funny, and that caught on as well. Who doesn’t want to be popular in school? That was probably when I started getting creative with my essays and so on.
17. How did you start following it?
I started off by writing for myself when I participated in school debates, I think. Soon after that, I began enjoying it.
18. After how long did you start being satisfied with your writing?
I don’t think I will ever be completely satisfied with my writing. Whenever I read something I had written before, I realise how there is more than one way to skin a cat. If I were to tell the same story to you on three different days, I would probably tell it to you in three different ways. One day an emotion may appear stronger than others. Another day, the villain may appear less monstrous and so on. The satisfaction is not in what story I told; it is in telling the story.
19. Except being the author of great short stories, you’re also a Master Mariner and a Captain of merchant ships. What are the duties and tasks these job titles come with?
Being a mariner requires a taste for adventure, a love for the sea and a flair for new cultures. Everyone has different duties on a ship but the team primarily consists of Engineers, Navigating Officers, Crew and Catering Staff. Merchant ships ferry cargoes across the seas and the safety of the cargoes and the seas also rests on mariners. A Master or Captain is the overall in charge of the vessel whilst at sea. He is by extension, the owner of the vessel when the owners are not present (at sea). I have mostly served on oil tankers.
20. When did you decide you wanted to be a Master Mariner and a Captain?
I learnt about the profession after I finished school and wanted to travel and go out to the sea. A captain is the highest rank of a sailing officer and I wanted to be one the moment I stepped on my first ship.
21. How did you start following this/these passions?
I sat an exam and started training the day I learnt about the profession.
22. When did you have the chance you’ve been waiting for/when did your career start?
Once I started training, it was a matter of waiting for my turn to start sailing as a cadet. I went to sea for the first time at the turn of the millennium. That is also something memorable.
23. What does it take to do these jobs in your opinion?
Every voyage out to sea is still legally (in legal documents) called a ‘Maritime Adventure’. So, a taste for adventure is a must. You must find out if you have motion sickness and if you do, this might not be the most suited job for you. If you do not mingle with new people easily, it can be tough as crews keep changing frequently and you start over again when reassigned to another ship.
24. What are the pros and cons of these jobs?
The biggest boon of the job is that when you are home, you answer to no one. I have mostly sailed for periods of a few months with equal amount of vacation days. Your vacation is the best quality time you can get, doing any job in the world. The biggest drawback would be the fact that you have to go away from friends and family for a few months at a stretch as well.
25. What are the places you traveled the most to because of your job?
I have travelled around the world, but now that you mention it, probably Europe more than the rest of the world.
26. If I may ask, what is the highest annual income you’ve ever earned as a Captain? And what is the lowest?
Income is subjective to whether you sail on contracts or round the year arrangements, who the employers are, and many more factors. Hence a figure will not be reflective of the true nature of what money can be made. I would say this however – working at sea pays good money; the cost of this money though, may be different for different people.
27. What are your projects for the future?
If I am successful with my book, I would like to continue to write a couple of more books relating to the same story. Also, I have introduced characters in my story that can later have their own books. I don’t have a plan B. I never have one; if I fail, I make a new plan from scratch. Plan B, for me, translates to planning for the failure of plan A.
28. What are your dreams (both related and unrelated to your writing career)?
I just want to leave something behind after me. While I’m still alive, I want to be able to give back to the world, a bit of everything I have got from it. There is no ‘big dream’ as such. I hope I can tell stories as much as I want.
29. What are the things you consider the most important in your life?
Family. There is nothing more important than family. Let me clarify here, that I don’t necessarily mean the people related to you by blood. By family I mean also the people you choose to be with as a family of your design.
30. What advice would you give to people who’d like to follow the same career path you chose?
Go out to sea only if you have a passion for it, never stick to a job for money, and never be afraid to fail.
31. And what are the advices you’d give to people who’d like to become a writer?
Read a lot. There is no writing till you can appreciate language and what you can do with it. Reading will help you with that. Start talking to people and try and narrate incidents. There can be no better feedback than a bunch of people sitting to hear you tell a story. The feedback is instant, and so is your learning.
32. What are the best writing advices you’ve ever heard and/or read?
Someone once said to me, “nobody wants to know about the guy who got everything he wished for as soon as he wished for it”. It wasn’t related to writing, but it applies to it and every story that one writes.
33. Who are the people who have influenced you the most?
I think my grandfather. I was always in awe of him and he had a way of saying things in a manner such that you wanted to give him your full attention. He would make you want to do what he said. He was extremely well read, and could read, write and speak a few languages as well.
34. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the world?
There are many things I keep telling people and will say here as well. As a person who has been around the world, I just want to ask everyone reading this to be aware of the disparity in the world that we live in. Know that when you throw leftover food, millions of people around the world go through the day without eating a single morsel. There is a lot of hate in the world and very little compassion. Infect those you know, or come across, with compassion and let it spread. Take from society what is rightfully yours, but give back as well. The earth does not belong to man alone. Do not ruin it for the rest of the living. And of course, read my stories. 😉
35. And last but not least, I’m gonna ask you the most difficult question I could ever ask a writer… not “what’s the meaning of life?”, not “are we alone in the universe?” and not even “is there anything beyond death?”. No, they’re nothing compared to this question… what is your n1 favorite book? 😀
It is near impossible to say that a book is your favourite, but the best books I enjoyed reading of late were George R R Martin’s series called ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. I also enjoy watching Game of Thrones, though the books were leagues ahead.
I must mention here, the books that shaped my desire for reading. My grandfather introduced me to books by Erle Stanley Gardner when I was about thirteen. His books, and the books of P. G. Woodhouse (whose books he introduced me to soon after), were the first ones that I couldn’t put down till I finished them.