Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Geetanjali Mukherjee. Her books range from self-help to poetry to history. She’s offering a giveaway of her book Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect. You can read more about the giveaway at the end of the post. Now, on to the interview!
If you could be an extra on a historical documentary or historical drama, what would it be and what would you be doing?
Definitely, I would like to be anything, anyone, to get on the set of Downton Abbey! Unfortunately, the show is over, but maybe since this is wishful thinking, it’s still possible! Failing that, I would want to be in War and Peace or something. But to be really honest, acting isn’t quite my forte; (even though once in college, I played Joan of Arc in a play!) I would much prefer to be behind the camera, maybe as a script writer or director.
It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?
I’m not really into book clubs, unless its one of those ones where you eat chocolate and drink wine and talk about anything but the book. In that case, I would invite the most scandalous and/or interesting people I can think of – Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Bennet, Hercule Poirot and Oprah (because who doesn’t love Oprah). And with such scintillating company, we wouldn’t need to limit ourselves only to books, but talk about a wide range of topics, which I imagine most book clubs do anyway.
The Harry Potter series. I came really late to them, holding out for ages and then finally succumbing and wondering why it took me so long. I would love to re-experience them again for the first time (I do read all the books every few years). In terms of TV series, I have a long list of series I would like to re-experience – some to have an excuse to watch them again, and some like Friends, because they are so familiar to me that I have forgotten what it was like to watch an episode where I didn’t know every single line of dialogue.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
I haven’t had enough jobs yet to say which might have been my worst one. I did have a few very tedious ones that I hated at the time, but now realize that boredom is probably not the worst quality in a job. I have also had ones where I worked with people I didn’t particularly like, or ones where I constantly felt like I didn’t know what I was doing or felt inadequate. In hindsight, those are the situations where I learnt the most, so in a way I am glad I had those experiences.
In some ways writing is the hardest job I have ever had, even though it’s one that I have chosen. I think the aspect that makes it the hardest is not having someone to show you the ropes, not having a blueprint or a pre-existing path that you can follow. This combined with the fact that you often don’t get feedback on your work for long stretches of time, makes writing for me much harder than anything else I have done, even other creative work. If you design a book cover or create a piece of choreography – within a few days, even a few hours, you can show your work to someone else and get feedback. As a writer, especially of books, I find that I am reluctant to show my work to anyone unless it is as polished as I can make it, which means for weeks and months I work in a vacuum, with no idea whether my work is good or not. On the other hand, one is just sitting at a laptop or scribbling in a notebook, so one really shouldn’t take it all that seriously, compared to the dozens of dangerous, grueling or plain difficult jobs that are out there.
I write mostly non-fiction at the moment, although I am experimenting with writing memoir and fiction as well. The number of nonfiction books that have influenced my work are too numerous to list here. I read extensively while researching each book, but additionally I am sure I was influenced by all the books I have read before. Writers assimilate everything, and no matter how we try to make something original, everything that has gone before has an impact on our work. In a bid to get better at writing nonfiction, I have been reading the best examples of each genre that I can find, which although is quite educational, can be an intimidating exercise, as I realize how far I still have to go in my skill and craft.
What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?
The aristocratic Russian society that is depicted in Anna Karenina or War and Peace – I would give anything to be a fly on the wall of those parlors and listen to those conversations. I would equally love to be a guest at Downton Abbey, or perhaps at Blandings Castle, in their heyday. The third time period would be Calcutta, India during the first few decades of the previous century – I have heard countless stories about that time, and the lives led by my great-grandparents.
Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?
Almost every book that appears on the 100 books to read in this lifetime sort of lists that I wasn’t forced to read in school, and therefore haven’t read yet – including most of Shakespeare’s plays, many of Dickens’ novels and classical works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey and the works of famous philosophers. I have read excerpts or abridged versions or seen adaptations of some of these works, but I have this recurring fantasy that one of these days I will read them all. Actually I recently read a book by Steven Pressfield where he describes going through a phase while writing his first few novels, when he was also reading the classics to become a better writer, and it made me realize that I will soon have to stop kicking myself and just dive in. The problem also is that along with the classics there are many contemporary books that I want to read, and end up prioritizing them instead.
I am not really a neat person, although I like the idea of being one, so I am forever making a mess, then neatening up, then reverting to that mess not much later. I have recently moved, so haven’t quite set up my writing space yet, but I have many potential writing nooks in my new place (which was one of its main attractions).
I used to have my writing table facing the sea, an ideal space for working, but somehow I found I couldn’t write first draft there. I tend to find writing easier in temporary writing spots – such as coffee shops, planes, and even the living room sofa. Where I can write depends to a large extent on the kind of book I am writing and how it’s going. I am always on the lookout for the perfect cafe or restaurant to turn into a writing space, mostly because it’s rare to find any coffee shops with comfortable seating and a guarantee of finding an empty table where I live. In the meantime, I write when and where I can, mostly on my bed, and spend far more time thinking about and preparing to write than actually doing it. Editing on the other hand, I can’t do anywhere other than in a quiet room, usually at my desk or sitting up in bed. I have tried editing at the library or in coffee shops, but usually I can’t concentrate or make the kind of progress I need to.
What is the first book you remember reading on your own?
My aunt had given me a large selection of children’s books that were basically abridged versions of fairy tales and other common children’s stories, beautifully illustrated, and each of them came with a recording so that you could follow along with the book. My parents used to read to me from those books, and I remember reading Peter Pan aloud by myself one day, and then eventually, all of the others. I still have those books, because I couldn’t bear to give them away.
Geetanjali Mukherjee is the author of 6 books, and her latest book Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades was written to help students of all ages improve their study habits and get better grades with techniques based on the latest scientific research. She has a law degree from the University of Warwick, UK and a Masters’ in Public Policy from Cornell University. Geetanjali also interviews authors and writes about creativity and productivity on her blog Creativity@Work.
Places to Connect with Geetanjali
Book Blurb for Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect
Over the years Albert Speer has been given several titles – ‘the good Nazi’, ‘Hitler’s architect’, ‘future Reichchancellor’, and even ‘the only penitent defendant at Nuremberg’. There is no doubt that there are many faces to Albert Speer: he was a man who had far greater power during the war than any other aside from Hitler, and was widely believed to succeed Hitler; his tremendous powers of organization raised German production to its peak at a time when resources were at an all-time low; and it was expected by all, including himself, that he would receive the death sentence like the other Nazi leaders, instead escaping the noose with only twenty years.
In light of his extended involvement in the Nazi party, both as Hitler’s architect and the Minister for Armaments, and his contributions to the illegal war waged by the regime, the question naturally arises: did Speer receive adequate punishment? Did the verdict reflect the perception that Speer was somehow ‘less culpable’ than the other defendants, or did he mastermind his defence in a way that reduced his sentence? The events leading up to the Nuremberg trial, and the trial itself, provides clues to answering these questions: what can we learn about the personality of Speer from the evidence available, and why does it matter?
Geetanjali is giving away 5 ebook copies of Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up?, in any format, worldwide. You can do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) What is a historical time period/location you would like to visit? 2) Leave a way for me to contact you. Giveaway ends January 16, 2017 midnight my time.