Vishwas Mudagal is an author and entrepreneur. Losing My Religion is his debut novel. Mudagal was born in Karnataka, India and received a Bachelor of Engineering from RV College of Engineering, Bangalore.
NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?
My literary journey truly began when I was 27 in the year 2009 when I started writing my debut novel Losing My Religion. To my surprise it turned out to be a book with around 100k words! However, I have been writing essays throughout my school life, and then started blogging pretty early. So you can say I have always loved writing.
NAW- Tell us about your debut work, “Losing My Religion.”What is it about? How did you get the idea for the book?
‘Losing My Religion’ is the story of a fallen entrepreneur Rishi Rai whose life takes an unexpected turn when he meets a crazy American hippie and sets out on an uncharted journey across India.
It’s a roller coaster ride that brings together adventure, travel, gaming, reality shows, and characters that are real, living, and breathing. Rishi, a fallen entrepreneur, is the epitome of today’s ambitious youth, and wants to change the world. Alex, a hippie, is the other end of the spectrum—the epitome of human evolution; this is where the human race will one day want to be—free from within. And Kyra, a mysterious gamer, who is the beauty, the passion, and the intellect; she is today’s woman.
LMR started in very interesting circumstances. It all started five years ago, in 2009, when my Internet start-up went through a rough phase. Although we had managed to get good user traction to our website, we couldn’t monetize it effectively and we had to wind it up. I didn’t know what I should do next…
One of those days, I happened to talk to an ex-colleague, who told me that he was taking a sabbatical and going on a year-long journey on his bike across India. I was left amazed listening to this, and instantly wanted to do that myself . . . go away, kill all the tension inside me, and look at everything else later on. But I couldn’t do that for a host of reasons. One of the reasons was that I had become the CEO of a Canadian MNC.
However, a bizarre idea struck me, that of writing a book on the situation I was in. But I decided to make the protagonist of my book go on a journey that I couldn’t in reality. That’s how Losing My Religion started and took a shape of its own later on.
NAW- How did you come up with the title? Did you face any difficulties in finding a publisher? How long did it take to finish the book?
Losing My Religion is not about religion. It’s about losing faith in your faith, losing belief in your beliefs. Everyone has a ‘Losing My Religion’ moment in their life and when you are pushed to the brink of a disaster, when you fall, when you question your values, when you lose faith in everything you ever believed in—you are reborn and you are reborn as a person who is stronger and wiser. That is called Losing My Religion.
Here’s a line from the book – “At times you have to lose your faith in something, be absolutely stone-cold broke in your belief in belief, so that you can take the jump. Leap out of the existence you have wrapped around yourself and take the plunge without thinking of the consequences. You’ll fall, no doubt. But sometime during that, you’ll witness a miracle taking shape around you. That’s called losing my religion.”
Another aspect to mention—the title is also inspired by REM’s cult song Losing My Religion, which is one of my favorite songs.
It took around five years to bring the book to the market (2009 to 2014). It was definitely not easy to find the right publisher. Several publishers rejected the novel for many reasons. Some said it was a fresh untested concept or because they thought it was a business book, and some because I was a debutante. But Fingerprint! (my current publisher) believed in the book, commissioned it and it went on to debut as a bestseller.
NAW- Tell us about your other work life? What do you do when you are not writing books? You have launched many start ups, right?
I am a serial entrepreneur and a CEO. I am currently the CEO of GoodWorkLabs, which helps global companies, startups and entrepreneurs build software products and succeed in the marketplace. Technology is an integral part of me and I have been passionate about it from childhood. I have launched several startups throughout my life. Startups give me the daily dose of adrenalin, they are my passion (just like storytelling). I was 18 when I started my first company Infovision, to educate rural children in computers. I’m fortunate that the entrepreneurial bug bit me very early in my life.
NAW- Tell us more about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing? What are you hobbies?
I watch a lot of movies, mainly Hollywood. I love to watch popular TV series as well. Game Of Thrones, Big Bang Theory, Sherlock, etc.
Travel is the food for my soul and I love to travel. You discover or re-discover yourself only through travel, and unplanned travel is the most exhilarating experience. I truly believe that not all those who wander are lost. But for the ones who are lost, wandering is the only way to find themselves.
NAW- How much of Rishi Rai is drawn from your own life? Did you take a trip to visit the places you wrote about?
The initial parts of the story are drawn from my life because I moulded Rishi’s character based on the same situation that I was in. But it ends once he decides to quit everything and goes with Alex on an uncharted journey across India. Rest of the story is pure imagination, but influenced by people I have met, places I have visited, incidents in my life or my known ones, or stories I have heard growing up. Plus combined with years of research. LMR involved a lot of research, from Malana to Om Beach to Kumbh to reality shows, and so on.
Rishi Rai took a lot from my life, at least initially but he became a character of his own later on. As they say, the first book of any author is autobiographical to a large extent, it holds good with LMR as well.
I have visited majority of the places mentioned in the book. I have been to Goa, Om Beach at Gokarna, Haridwar & New York, pretty much all the places mentioned in the book. The only place I haven’t been to is Malana, but I have travelled to the Himalayas extensively.
NAW- Did you carry out any research for the book? If yes, then how did you go about it?
It took 5 years to bring the book out. I rewrote it a number of times. I have 14 versions of the story, 150+ drafts. A novel like LMR is not only a pure act of passion but also one that requires tons of research. The book cuts across several genres and has diverse subplots, which have to held together through a powerful narrative and more importantly logic.
Also, I like to tell my story in such a way that the reader feels he is watching a movie, it has to be visual, fast, interesting and meaningful. Entertainment with meaning—is my style. When I wrote LMR, I was the writer and I was the audience. The writer in me had to entertain the audience in me. I don’t get entertained easily, so the writer in me had a herculean task.
I extensively researched everything I wrote about, starting from Malana (this hidden village in the Himalayas that is known to be inhabited by Emperor Alexander’s soldiers, grows the best hash in the world called Malana Cream and is notorious for weird rules in the village for outsiders). Next, I visited Haridwar to understand the life of people and how business is conducted. I could then come up with an interesting take on Kumbh Mela, one that has rarely been explored before—that of business in Kumbh. Also, I have visited Om beach several times and fell in love with the secluded lifestyle.
The book has several entrepreneurial/ business subplots and because I am an entrepreneur, coming up with business angle of the story was easy for me. That’s what I do for a living, so Rishi’s character came naturally to me.
NAW- Any plans for a sequel?
I haven’t started working on my next book yet. But there is so much anticipation of my next book already and I get a lot of mails/messages asking what my next book will be about and when will it be out in the market, etc. I really thank my readers for their love and encouragement. I hope to start soon.
Majority of the readers and the industry experts want me to bring back the characters of Rishi and Alex in a sequel or may be a series on them. I’m really tempted to do that, but my next book may not be a sequel to LMR. I need to experiment with something else, I have to challenge myself with a tougher problem. I love challenging myself, else I get bored.
NAW- What are you reading right now?
I just started reading ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson.
NAW- Please name your favourite authors.
Ayn Rand, Jeffery Archer, Michael Crichton, Sidney Sheldon and Dan Brown are few of my favorite authors.
NAW- What is your favourite quote?
‘Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.’ — Steve Jobs. Think Different TV Commercial.
‘Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.’ – Swami Vivekananda.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
Since 2011, I have been stuck with an idea of a man in the future. I can’t get it out of my head and I hope that will be my next.