Tete-a-Tete With Jas Kohli
The Wise Owl has a friendly chat with Jas Kohli, a talented upcoming writer who is slowly and steadily making a mark in the romance-comedy genre popular with the millennials and Gen Z. He also happens to be a renowned practicing cosmetic surgeon and is currently based in Ludhiana (India). Jas Kohli has authored three novels viz. ‘Anything to Look Hot’ (2015), ‘Lights! Scalpel! Romance!’ (2019) and ‘Lights! Wedding! Ludhiana!’ (2021) which have been well received by book lovers.
Thank you, Dr Jas Kohli, for talking to The Wise Owl.
Q. You are a highly qualified doctor and practicing cosmetic surgeon and one would naturally assume you have an extremely well-honed scientific temper. So, what attracted you to a diametrically opposite, creative and imaginative craft like writing (all your fans would of course be blessing the day you made that switch). Was their anyone in your circle of family or friends who influenced you to pursue writing?
A. Ever since I was a kid, general books have been my constant companion. To be an avid reader equals living many lives in one’s lifetime. However, the decision to be an author was a conscious one- as the best solution to my midlife crisis! Neither did I have the urgent need for catharsis nor did the inspiration drop down from the sky. In Ludhiana, my hometown, I had to plough a lonely furrow since there were hardly any fiction writers in English language to guide me. So, I had to make an extra effort to write and then to get published- but the grind was the best teacher.
Q. In your novels ‘Anything to look Hot’ and ‘Lights! Scalpel! Romance’, the main protagonist is a doctor. In fact, in your first novel the doctor is a plastic surgeon. Our readers would be curious to know whether these characters are a reflection of you, your personality and your experiences or are just created from your own astute imagination.
A. Like many other debut novelists, I decided to test the waters with a semi-autobiographical novel. The second one is also on a subject which I am very familiar with- this facilitates the creation of scenes, characters and even dialogues. However, imaginative elements are the salt and spice of a fiction book- without an engaging plot and deviant characters, a novel would be too bland. So, I incorporate a mix of both. I am of the view that most fiction writers knowingly or unknowingly leave an imprint of their personality, beliefs and experiences in their books.
Q. In your novels you seem to be taking a tongue-in-cheek jibe at a lot of things- the obsession with looking beautiful, the flourishing cosmetology industry, the rich and beautiful, the great Indian wedding et al. How did you gravitate towards this form of writing which seems to be a mix of dry humour and satire? Does this form of writing come naturally to you, or did you hone this skill?
A. Just after I had written two pages of my first novel, an English teacher suggested that I keep it light. I followed the advice since I have always had a witty streak and felt I could do justice to the humour genre. Later, I read books on ‘How to Write Humour’ and learnt that there are quite a few techniques of writing humour and satire which supplement one’s sense of humour. Satire is a wonderful technique- it enables me to make the writing purposeful by highlighting social and personal issues.
Q. In your recent novel ‘Lights! Wedding! Ludhiana!’, your characters are the nouveau rich of the industrial town of Ludhiana. What prompted the switch from characters of your profession to the rich and wealthy milieu? Did you pick out characters like Reeti Raheja, Vanya, Tripta from real life or are they the result of an active imagination? More importantly how do you relate to such characters?
A. Having stayed in Ludhiana for most of my life, I have an insider’s view of the mindset of the nouveau rich in the city. One can get an idea of the orientation of its residents by the fact that there is hardly any bookstore in the city for general books, whereas garment stores are ubiquitous. In fact, some residents of Ludhiana, who have read the book, have told me that a lot more happens than is depicted in the book! Traits of the characters like Reeti, Vanya and Tripta have been picked up from real persons and there is only a bit of fictional element in them.
Q. Our readers would love to know whether there is another book on the anvil. When do we expect to see it in the bookshops?
A. Along with the advances in science and technology, the social mores are also changing- though all of them can’t be termed as advances! I am writing another humour fiction book which is based on the attitude of the younger generation towards the institution of marriage. Being a laid-back individual, I usually avoid writing according to deadlines! So, it will be a while before the book will be published.
Q. There would be a lot of aspiring authors reading this chat. What advice would you offer them? Please also tell them a bit about how you go about writing a novel.
A. I would like to compliment those who have got down to writing- it is an addiction which commands respect and is an enriching journey too. My advice would be to start with a bang! Don’t be in a hurry- hone your craft by reading books on writing and also taking feedback of other authors. Multiple revisions are the rule rather than the exception. Initially I was a pantser, which means I used to start the novel and the story would form by itself. But now I work out the plot first.
Q. Before I wind up one last quick question. Writing and publishing have become an extremely competitive and commercial business, where sale numbers matter more than quality and creativity. Any thoughts on that?
A. I feel a good publisher has to balance the creativity and commercial aspects. The publishing industry is surely feeling the heat because of the closure of many book-stores and the assault on book reading from formidable forces like social media, OTT platforms and gaming. Presently Non-fiction books are a better bet for the publishers and the space for fiction is shrinking. Change is the need of the hour- to have more people read them, in addition to full-length books, the writers should also write blogs and send posts on social media.
Thank you so much Dr Jas Kohli for talking to The Wise Owl. We wish you the best and hope you keep writing books that tickle the funny bone and also gently mock societal whims and eccentricities.