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Neel Mullick

Dark Blossom came to my rescue at a time when I was struggling with empathy in my life. My imagination had run amok and created characters that were very different from me but were facing similar yet exaggerated ordeals in their lives. I finally took to the pen when I found myself consumed by the need to crawl under their skins, connect with them empathically, and describe the world the way they were seeing it. To be honest, it wasn’t until I had lost a couple of months and gained almost ten pounds that I realized I was writing a story!

Even though the book is not auto-biographical by any stretch of imagination, I did find myself turning to events, experiences, and people from my life for inspiration and it does have bits and pieces of me.

While my characters’ ordeals may be considered dark, my innateness drove me to narrate their stories in an entertaining way. Soon I discovered this to be the salve I needed in my life, because in order to achieve that, I needed a double dose of empathy – for my characters as well as for readers. And it was because of the role of the book in filling that personal void that I decided to donate half my royalties to charity.

I am only beginning to understand that writing and learning are synonymous but perhaps the most significant epiphany has been the realization that a good story takes place at the intersection of personal authenticity and people’s perception. A good story must be borne from a sincere place and telling it in a way that captivates audiences requires understanding how people perceive it viscerally. While the former allowed me to delineate the range of my characters’ expressions, the latter lets readers partake of such expression. While the former can get you to a first draft, it takes brutal honesty with respect to understanding the latter that gets you to a final version.

rsz_mullick_coffeeGiven that I had taken to writing in somewhat of a frenzy, I had to subsequently double back for research. This was all the more important because I was not only aspiring to deal with a lot of sensitive topics in a riveting way but also narrating from the perspective of a woman psychologist who was from a cultural background different from mine. I had to both push myself out of my comfort zone and dig very deep within. Other than reading works of fiction as well as non-fiction (including autobiographies) dealing with these sensitive topics, I also had to talk to a lot of psychologists. I needed to understand the subtleties of suffering and how specialists help the human psyche cope with and heal such fractures.

The first draft took me about three months but then came the more arduous process of editing. Even though it took more rounds of editing than I am embarrassed to admit, they were almost evenly paced out over one and a half years. In retrospect, this worked out better for me as well as for the story, because it took me that long to be honest and objective about it.

While readers seem to be enjoying Dark Blossom as a suspenseful psychological thriller, to me it remains a story of love in spite of loss and of empathy in the face of adversity. So it’s even more gratifying when I get an occasional note from a reader telling me not just how much they enjoyed it but also what they took away from the book on love, parenting, and on healing for that matter.

Now that I have crossed the bridge of publishing and am navigating the streets of marketing, I am convinced that, first and foremost, there is no substitute for a good story and great storytelling. And the process that helped me the most in getting there was support from a good and sincere editor – one who has ample experience and few prejudices. To anyone looking to get published, I would strongly recommend subjecting your work to the feedback of such an editor, honestly, before putting your work out there.

Once this critical ingredient is ready, come all the other aspects of publishing the book and then promoting it. Given the many distractions competing for people’s attention these days, it bodes well for authors to think through not only how their story will reach target readers but also how their band will resonate with their audience.

If you do all these things you make the publisher’s job easier. But perhaps more importantly, if success takes time, then being true to this process will give you the confidence and belief to persevere.

Neel Mullick is the author of Dark Blossom. The Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company, Mullick is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and INSEAD. He mentors female entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blaire Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially aware leaders with Nigeria’s Steering for Greatness Foundation, supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers through Peru’s Emprendedoras del Hogar, and works with IIMPACT in India to help break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities. Dark Blossom is his first novel.