Interview: Harish Rijhwani, Author of ‘9 to 5 Cubicle Tales – A Race Against Time – Book 2’

Delving into the intricate evolution of Hridaan Rajdev, the protagonist of the compelling series ‘9 To 5 Cubicle Tales’, readers are invited to explore the depths of his emotional journey and transformation in the latest installment, ‘A Race Against Time’. In an exclusive interview with Stoizen Magazine, the author reflects on the sequel’s development, shedding light on the challenges faced and the creative process behind crafting a narrative that seamlessly balances familiarity with novelty. As we reconnect with Hridaan, we witness a seasoned individual, drawing from past experiences in the United States, while simultaneously shouldering the responsibility of guiding new acquaintances. The sequel not only unveils a more vocal and confident Hridaan but also introduces fresh challenges, testing his patience and resolve in unfamiliar terrain. With the backdrop of a dynamic corporate world, the narrative unfolds with nuanced twists and turns, promising a riveting exploration of personal growth amidst professional trials.

9 to 5 Cubicle Tales – Book 2 by Harish Rijhwani Book Cover

1. In your sequel,’ 9 To 5 Cubicle Tales – A Race Against Time’, readers meet Hridaan Rajdev who they have already met and travelled in the intricate journey of balancing family obligations with personal dreams. Reflecting on his evolution from the first book,’ 9 to 5 Cubicle Tales: Explore The Journey Of A Young IT Professional’ to the sequel, how do you perceive the depth of his emotional journey and transformation amidst the new challenges and experiences he encounters?

In the sequel, the protagonist has experience on his side as he has been in the US earlier. On the other hand, a couple of his roommates are new and look up to him for guidance. Additionally, Hridaan has opened up to a certain extent and is more vocal and confident than in the last part. The current has new twists and turns, which will test Hridaan’s patience as he navigates through a slightly known land compared to before.

2. What were your biggest challenges when crafting the sequel to your previous book, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was to add new elements and obstacles in the book for the protagonist and his friends. In a way, it helps having been in the IT space for 20+ years. Last year, during a casual interaction with one of my colleagues who was briefly visiting India, he shared a funny incident he had dealt with. We pondered over the similar humorous characters we have met and interacted with over the years. Such interactions/discussions also help identify nuances that can be fictionalized in the book.

3. In what ways did you strive to deepen or expand upon the themes and characters introduced in the first book while still making the sequel feel fresh and original?

I focused on the natural progression and growth of different characters, especially those in the first part. Additionally, I have shown an inevitable progression of the organization where the protagonist works. The story takes an unexpected twist at a critical point that adds to its complexity. New characters are introduced into the mix, bringing about additional roadblocks that need to be resolved.

'9 to 5 Cubicle Tales – Book 2'

4. What inspired the creation of the diverse cast of characters in your book, ranging from the supportive boss to the funny roommates, and how did you ensure their authenticity and reliability?

The corporate world of IT is highly relatable to many people because whichever company you join, you will undergo initial training, where you will make new friends. Many IT companies send members onsite to work at client locations. I have stayed in the US and UK for some time, which helps bring in a rich source of inspiration as personal/colleague experiences give a realistic feel. During my creative writing training, we were shown an interview with a renowned Indian author, who explained how he conceptualizes characters based on people he meets/interacts with regularly. This process helps bring about a certain relatability in the story and the characters.

5. Your book’s descriptions of locations and places are incredibly detailed and accurate, immersing readers fully into the protagonist’s journey. Could you share your process for researching and depicting these settings so vividly?

Let’s assume we have to write about the Nashville Zoo and highlight the travel to the location. In my mind, I have the start location and the destination, so I go to Google Maps on my laptop and enter the starting point and the destination. On the map, if you click on any point on the navigation path, Google will show you the option for street view. I will use this option to navigate from the starting point to Nashville Zoo and describe the surroundings, be it the greenery, an eatery, or the signboards on the road (for example Pets not allowed is signboard one sees when one nears the Nashville Zoo). Additionally, I will search for videos/photos on YouTube about Nashville Zoo, uploaded mainly by the public who have visited. In these videos, I look at the location, the food one gets, and if anyone describes the taste. How is the weather? Is it windy or sunny? Where do people buy tickets? Primarily, I try to highlight the five senses; other than these points, I use many different elements to make the experience vivid.

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6. Your book truly makes readers feel they are experiencing the events alongside the protagonist. How do you approach balancing the emotional depth of the journey with maintaining a captivating narrative pace?

I try to maintain the balance by using dialogue to showcase the depth of relationships between the characters. Adding conflicts and challenging/tense situations helps get the reader back to the point of discussion. Across the book, the reader is subtly reminded of the big picture and the protagonist’s short and long-term goals in different chapters.

7. Reflecting on the success of your first book, what aspects of your writing process or storytelling style do you believe contributed most to its impact on readers?

A few points that help me in my writing process are setting a goal as to what I want to cover in the series. Next, I list two to three-pointers about each chapter and what can be covered in that chapter. I research every chapter, search for relevant images to detail a specific location, use Google Maps, and speak with my friends/colleagues/anyone who can share any unique experience. Finally, I set myself a deadline to complete my writing goal. Overall, inspiration to write/incorporate one simple dialogue can come from a billboard sign, so keep your eyes and ears open and be as observant as possible.


8. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I prefer to build connectivity between each book, but each part could still be read individually. Like a seven-part magical book (which many admire), showcasing a student’s journey, I want to showcase the various aspects of the corporate journey over multiple years.

9. How do you perceive your personal growth and transformations as an author from the time of writing the first book to now, as you embark on the journey of creating its sequel?

Initially, I thought I would write only one novel, but when I did my creative writing course and started writing, I realized that there are so many stories that one can cover from different perspectives. Though there is much more to learn and apply as an author, I started expanding my thought process by thinking deeper about a specific plot/theme. The biggest fear to overcome as an author is to read your script repeatedly, try to critique it, and work towards improving the thought process.

10. What is your favorite motivational phrase?

I love the phrase from Rocky, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

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