BookView Interview with Author Avi Datta

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Avi Datta, a Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Illinois State University & director of the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and author of The Winding (Time Corrector Series Book 1), an intelligent, transporting time-travel tale (Read the review here.) He is an accomplished scholar in Radical Innovation, Management of Technology, Management of Innovation, Technology Strategy, and Strategic entrepreneurship.

Avi Datta is an Indian American educator and the author of The Winding, book one in his debut sci-fi series. He is a Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Illinois State University and director of the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. He is an accomplished scholar in Radical Innovation, Management of Technology, Management of Innovation, Technology Strategy, and Strategic entrepreneurship.

He is a writer, an avid painter, a watch collector, and a coffee enthusiast who enjoys classic rock, jazz,  and western classical music outside his day job. To learn more about Avi or subscribe to his newsletter, please visit https://avi-datta.com/

To learn more about his day job, hop on to https://about.illinoisstate.edu/adatta/profile/. (Warning—It’s a horse tranquilizer for the insomniacs)

How often do you base your characters on real people?

Quite often, more than I am willing to admit. Throughout my book and the entire series, I have shown that the protagonist is flawed and full of doubts, making him sound more believable.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I am a researcher in my day job. So unlike most, I don’t find this task exhausting at all. I went through catalogs of over 15 watch brands to select a socially aloof yet wealthiest man, a watchmaker, will wear. Even minute details like the ticking sound of a watch required thorough research. Vicent loves western classical music and is intrigued by Chopin and Liszt. I had to research their lives and select the pieces in the background when specific enticing incidents would occur. What music does Vincent associate with Akane and Emika?

I researched the corners of Lemans to make some of the driving experiences of Vicent more realistic. The thing about research is it’s quiet when done right but screams when it’s wrong. During my second year of my Ph.D., a professor once told me, “Don’t tell me everything you know, just tell me what I need to know. But bear in mind that before you tell me anything, you need to know everything.”

I research all the time.

Do you find writing therapeutic?

Absolutely! It’s a fantastic way to escape the drudgery and grind of life. Painting too. I have been painting since I was three.

How many hours a day do you write?

On days I don’t teach, I spend two hours storyboarding the scenes and then three to four hours writing. It’s a recursive process, where the writing might change the scene, and the scene transforms the writing. It’s rarely linear, like the construct of time in my series.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. I feel energized when I start, and I may feel highly exhausted by its end, depending on what my characters go through. At times I forget that I am the one making them go through all these troubles, and the world resides in my mind only.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Hurts everyone in the long run.

What does literary success look like to you?

I write what I want to read without regard for genre and subgenre. Success would be for my readers to connect with the characters while they read. I hope in the future the book gets translated into several languages.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I want them to stand out. Vincent is named after my favorite artist. The names like Philip Nardin, Oliver Journe, Victor Constantin, Ulysses Bovet are homages to some watch brands that have created breakthroughs in mechanical movements.

My book has four influential lawyers— Jerry Bernstein, Kenji Ozawa, Alberto Toscanini, and Dinesh Mehta. Those are the last names of some of the most famous music conductors across a hundred years.

Akane means deep red, which goes with her personality, which you will see in book 2. Emika means blessed, blossom, flowering herb, while her last name Amari means bountiful. Yes, she has a lot to offer, but she can’t, which becomes apparent in the final chapter of book 1.

Vincent’s AI assistant Ludwig is named after one of my favorite composers.

What are your favorite books?

Tale of two cities, Great Expectations, The LOTR trilogy, Art of War, Book of five Rings. These days it’s the Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titans).

What is your favorite childhood book?

They were two comic book series. Tintin from Belgium and Asterix from France.

Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer? And What inspired the premise of your book? Where do your ideas for this story come from?

Boredom.

In 1994, I dreamed of speaking with a girl fluently in Japanese. But this dream seemed like a past life but set in the future. I ignored it and dived into the world of Calculus, Statistics, Quantum Mechanics.  When I shut my eyes while listening to my favorite composers—from Chopin to Hans Zimmer, I can picture beautiful scenes of real places where I have never been and never seen on TV. They are almost always in Japan. (I don’t know what connection I have with that land). In 2020, the dream reappeared. And I began to write. That’s the best I can do to touch the fragments of an unlived life.

(the connection of Vincent with Japan becomes clearer in book 2)

What in particular attracted you to this genre?

We measure time through the earth’s rotation around its axis and its revolution around the sun. But the rest of the Universe doesn’t care. I once read that the future and the past are co-occurring in the Universe. Imagine if such a devise existed on earth, and what happens if there is a discord between that device and earth’s time. And who is responsible for such a discord? That attracted me to this genre, but the characters’ feelings and challenges are as real as it gets.

What’s more important: characters or plot?

Both: Characters drive the plot, and the plot transforms the characters.

Are you a feeler or a thinker?

I wanted to be an artist but, I ended up being a Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship. The result is I feel deeply about what I am thinking, and I constantly think about my feelings. It’s dangerous.

It doesn’t help that I have synesthesia.

How many rewrites did you do for this book?

According to MS word, about eighty.

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Emika. Her actions will remain elusive to the readers until the end of book 1. In fact, by the middle of book 2, we will get a clearer picture. An alternative title to the Time Corrector series will be “Emika’s Song.”

What’s next for you?

I don’t care much about the market—it’s beyond my control. But, I will continue to work on the series and hope to connect with a small fraction of people who read it.

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