The Literature Times: I would like to begin by congratulating you on the publication of “I Am Invincible.” How has the response to the book been so far?
Neelam Kumar: Thank you for your congratulations.
The response to “I am Invincible…” has been stunning. From congratulatory messages…to personal calls…to fantastic reviews, I have been inundated by readers’ love. I am beyond grateful that readers have loved my book and have felt hugely inspired by it. This kind of response is any writer’s dream! I have Fingerprint! Publishers to thank for creating this magic.
The Literature Times: What led to the idea of writing “I Am Invincible”? Were there any events that inspired the work?
Neelam Kumar: This book has been a “pandemic-special gift” to my readers.
As a sensitive writer who responds to readers’ needs, I realised that the pandemic was breaking people’s spirit. The air had become heavy with grief, loss and suffering, leading to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
I decided to raise people’s morale again by shining on them the light of courage and hope through my book. It gives me immense satisfaction that my brave little book has fulfilled the purpose of its birth.
The Literature Times: How easy or difficult was it for you to write on a subject that held relevance for all and also remain objective about them in “I Am Invincible”?
Neelam Kumar: My three close encounters with Death have changed my inner core.
I have decided that my mission is to give back to society through my words.
Nothing is difficult if you are thinking of a higher purpose and working towards it.
However, remaining objective posed a problem. I had to struggle not to get over- emotional when I heard stories of suffering such as that of gang rape, domestic abuse, the pain of auto-immune disorder etc. I had to remain focused on my goal of presenting the story to my readers and let them feel the emotions.
I think my Masters degree in Journalism from the US helped me in remaining an objective bystander.
The Literature Times: What are your views about present-day writing? Do you think it does complete justice in depicting human nature in the light of “I Am Invincible”?
Neelam Kumar: I cannot comment on the “complete justice” bit. It would not be right for me to hold my own book as a benchmark!
All I can say is that I feel delighted that so many new writers are coming up with such wonderful and diverse writing styles.
Here I wish to mention my literary agent Mr Suhail Mathur of India’s leading agency “The Book Bakers.” By presenting to the world so many new and talented writers in English, “The Book Bakers” is doing a great service to the country. They are very successfully expanding the readership base in English.
The Literature Times: “I Am Invincible” shows the uniqueness of your style of writing. Are there any authors that you enjoy reading or any books which are your favorites?
Neelam Kumar: Well, I love reading. So I read everything. But yes, I particarly enjoy books by Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull); Dasiaku Ikeda (Mysteries of Birth and Death and Everything in Between); Bernie Segal (Love, Medicine and Miracles); Dr Bryan L. Weiss (Many Masters, Many Lives).
I love reading books that uplift the human spirit.
I stay away from violence and dark themes which instill negativity.
The Literature Times: How would you categorize “I Am Invincible” as its appeal seems to be to a broad audience?
Neelam Kumar: I am a very “out of the box” person myself. I dislike being categorized by gender, age, caste, marital status etc. In my personal life, I feel I have broken all stereotypes.
This is what “I am Invincible” does. Readers from all age groups-young and old have been contacting me and saying how much they loved reading it.
It is a book about hope. Everyone needs Hope–regardless of age. And that’s the secret of its broad readership appeal!
The Literature Times: As you mention in “I Am Invincible” that you have published 10 books which include Manisha Koirala’s biography in her battle against cancer, how has the journey been so far as a writer? How did you experience the writer in you develop with every book published?
Neelam Kumar: Ofcourse, each book polishes you as a writer. So does your life experience.
I made a conscious decision to stop writing fiction after real life hit me with 3 near-death expriences. I decided to write non-fiction. I switched to writing “real, raw stuff” as that is what real life is about. But I also ensured that I attached a lot of joy, positivity and hope to all my writings. That is what made “To Cancer with Love—My Journey of Joy” India’s first joyous book on cancer a bestseller.
Writing actor Mansha Koirala’s book “Healed-how cancer gave me a new life” was a very immersive experience. Being a survivor myself, I had to battle with my inner demons of not sinking into negativity as I recounted her pains of going through chemotherapy. It was a challenge, but a wonderfully fulfilling experience when it became a bestseller.
The Literature Times: What is the story behind the title of your work, “I Am Invincible”?
Neelam Kumar: Everyone goes through despair, pains, emotional breakdowns when adversities strike. But adversities and illnesses will strike, for that is the nature of life. Since we cannot control that, we need to develop coping mechanisms to handle them.
The first coping skill is to strengthen our inner core– to believe that we are bigger than our problem and the human spirit is tougher than any toungh situation it confronts.
To re-awaken the reader’s belief in the power of the human spirit and their own inner strength to handle situations, this title seemed to be a perfect fit. When people read stories of these ordinary people facing extraordinary problems smilingly, they feel “If they can do it, so can I!”
I have strengthened my own inner core through the power of Nichiren Buddhsim which I have been following for 16 years. Becoming Invincible through faith in the Mystic Law is our continuous pursuit in this life. Hence the title.
The Literature Times: How easy or difficult was it for you to write through your experiences without hampering the readers’ perception in ““I Am Invincible”?
Neelam Kumar: I have been privileged to get 4 years of training in the secret of writing bestsellers from the legendary Mr Khuswant Singh. This was while I was co-authoring our bestseller with him-“Our Favourite Indian Stories by Khushwant Singh and Neelam Kumar” in the pre-Google days.
My life and writing experiences gave me the required depth and empathy. My training in Public Relations gave me the required “niceness”, my training in Journalism gave me the language and my Spiritual core gave me the expansiveness of spirit.
But it was not easy. I had to keep cleaning my life-lens to stop myself from diving in too deep into their world and end up sunk–beyond rescue.
I think it came out quite okay. I managed!… 😊
The Literature Times: In the present time, situations in “I Am Invincible” do not find much mention. What, according to you, could be the possible reason for that?
Neelam Kumar: People like to escape into a fantasy world and find comfort in make-belief situations that entertain.
But life is real. So are the problems that come with it.
The Literature Times: If you were to describe your book “I Am Invincible” in a few words without giving any spoilers, what would those words be?
Neelam Kumar: An anthology of hope, courage and joy in the face of life’s worst adversities.
Inspiring stories from real-life heroes handling real-life situations bravely and joyously.
The Literature Times: What advice would you give to budding writers who may be planning to write in the same genre as “I Am Invincible”?
Neelam Kumar: I feel writers of today are so lucky! They have Google and they have literary agents to ensure their work gets published.
When I started writing in 1992, people used to say, “ You know when you write a story in English with names such as Raghav and Sheela, it feels so weird. We are used to Ronnie and Stella!” But we pioneers kept writing doggedly, without getting demotivated. So here we have for you now. A boom in writing in English!
So budding writers, go ahead and add to the boom. The path is laid out for you. Make Indian Writing the best in the world!
As for writing books in the genre of “I am Invincible.” I wish to say—”You need to have lived the horrors of real life yourself before being able to empathise with those who have.”
But do go ahead and flood the world with hope and positivity. Be the light!
The Literature Times: Thank you very much for sparing your time. I look forward to reading more books from you in the future. All the best.
Neelam Kumar: Thank you so very much. Grateful!
Instagram handle- @lifecoachneelam