Geek turned Storyteller!
With degrees in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon, USA, Business Administration from INSEAD, France, Neel is the Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company.
He mentors women entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially-aware leaders with the Steering for Greatness Foundation (Nigeria), supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers at Emprendedoras del Hogar (Peru), and is helping IIMPACT (India) break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities.
He lives on three continents, spending his time between New York, Brussels, and New Delhi, has survived ten days (and nights!) at an airport, and a free fall five-hundred metres from the sky.
Concerned with the inverse correlation that seems to exist between society’s progress and the empathy with which it interacts with the universe around it, he firmly believes the solution to a rapidly fracturing world lies in peeling enough layers to discover the similarities, rather than judging on mere superficialities. It is this epiphany that led him to writing, and it is with this newfound raison d’être that he seeks not only to entertain and move, but also to give back to society.
In Conversation with the Author
1. To what do you attribute your success?
I think I have to attribute my success to the trinity of sincerity, research, and empathy. First, I have to not only be authentic but honest and brutal to the quality of my work. Research is essential to ensure that the work us authentic in the world of the story. Last but not the least, I have to have oodles of empathy for my characters as well as for my readers in order to affect them.
2. Do you read much and if so, who are your favourite authors?
I read a lot of non-fiction to learn about the world around me, as well as the one not so close! My reading preference is eclectic and I do quite a bit of research before picking up a book. My favourite fiction authors however are Ayn Rand for her ability to immerse her readers and Murakami for how he can slow down time.
3. If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Ha! Ha! That’s a great question. I would have started writing fiction much, much sooner.
4. Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up?
Another insightful question. My opinion is that writers will often put bits of either themselves or, in the very least, their experiences into their characters. Not into all of the characters but into some of them for parts that might be version personal.
5. Have you incorporated a real life situation from your own experience into the book?
There are snippets of real life here and there but there is one incident that is depicted without any exaggeration whatsoever. Unfortunately, it’s really too personal to share.
6. What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book “Dark Blossom”?
There were a couple of things actually. First, how gratifying I found the journey into my characters to be. But I had that hypothesis to begin with. What was even more serendipitous was how well this process filled a void of empathy in my own life.
7. Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?
There are so many bits and pieces of me in all of my characters that it’s difficult to say which one might be my favourite. That being said, I did enjoy writing Lily’s character. Her rebellious side in spite of being a sensitive soul, and her openness to the world while bring grounded are aspects of her personality that really resonate with me.
8. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
I think my primary goal was to be able to crawl under the skins of my characters and see if I could describe the world the way they were seeing it. I felt if I stayed honest to that, I would not only enjoy the journey but also be able to make it fulfilling for my readers. It’s still early days but I have a feeling I got pretty close. There’s still a long way to go for me as a writer to be able to make that claim.
9. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
I think good writing comes from a place of personal authenticity but it also must resonate with a universal perception. Because writing, like all creative expression, must be able to point somewhere. And this can only happen when these two elements unite harmoniously. A writer’s style and voice, if used correctly, can then become the icing on a very sumptuous cake!
10. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
I have realized that writing is hard. Excruciatingly hard. But it’s also very enjoyable. I think the thing that I find to be hardest however is to find a voice that is unique and then finding a reader base that the voice resonates with. But before you can get there, you have to really market yourself in order to be seen. And this to me has become the hardest part because of the sheer number of talented writers that are out there.
11. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do try and keep on top of the reviews I get because they’re an important source of both inspiration and learning. I try and thank everyone I can in person and understand where they’re coming from. I think all feedback is very helpful, especially in the early stages of one’s career but it is also important neither to get complacent nor dejected because of the feedback.
12. What were your greatest failures and what did they teach you?
One of my mentors used to say “if you succeed and don’t know why you have failed, but if you fail and know why you have succeeded.” Of course, this was in an academic context but there is an important lesson here. That failure is an important teacher, if you’re willing and able to learn from it. I’ve had my fair share of personal and professional failures and they’re all helping me in my journey as a writer. I think however, that my personal failures are helping me become a more sincere writer, while the professional failures are helping me cope and overcome the meandering path of publishing as a profession and a business.
13. What advice would you like to pass on to young writers of today that is unconventional but true?
Stay unique, stay authentic, and don’t be afraid to experiment. That being said always be mindful about the kind of impact you want to have on your target reader. Find at least one person that is your target reader and is able to give you sincere advice without too many prejudices. Subject your work to the feedback of such a person, honestly, before putting your work out there.
14. How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Readers and others who may be interested can stay connected with me in many ways on my website at www.neelmullick.com. Besides my work, I publish news and other events that I might be at. There are also exciting contests at www.WinTrip2NY.com and I have also stared publishing some of my poetry and a blog on my website.