Monday, April 13, 2015

Himalayas: Through Heaven and Hell in the Hills by Author Praveen

Through Heaven and 
Hell in the Hills 

Author bio:
Praveen is a mechanical engineer by qualification, a software architect by profession and a sports-person, photographer and traveler at heart. He loves exploring his home country India and has also traveled to Europe and South East Asia.

He loves all types of sports, enjoys vegetarian food and lives in Thiruvananthapuram, India with his wife and three year old daughter.

His dream is to travel the world with his family someday. And, become a self-published author. 
Through Heaven and Hell in the Hills' is his first book.

This book is based on his experiences during a trip to Ladakh, a high altitude cold desert in the Himalayas.

Praveen can be reached at

Personal favs:
Drink – Lemonade, Lassi (a sweetened drink made from buttermilk)
Food – Anything vegetarian, especially Indian and Italian
Vacation – Switzerland, Ladakh
TV show – F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Highway On My Plate
Movie – Hatchi: A Dog’s Tale, The Green Mile
Animal – All animals
Sport – Basketball, Volleyball, Cricket, Tennis, Soccer
Book – I do not read fiction. So, most of my reading is limited to the internet, newspapers and current affairs magazines. I however liked ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’ and ‘The One Minute Manager’.

Book title:
Through Heaven and 
Hell in the Hills 

Brief synopsis of your book:
The book is a photolog (photographs and travelogue) of a trip along one of the most dangerous, but, also one of the most scenic highways in India, from Manali to Leh.
It recounts the various events that unfold during the 5 day trip from my perspective; the sights, sounds and challenges that I encountered as my friends and I embarked on an epic road trip in the Himalayas.
The book takes the readers through the various facets involved in planning and executing a trip to Ladakh. The narrative covers the sights along the Delhi – Manali highway and then along the Manali – Leh highway (Manali – Rohtang – Keylong – Jispa – Sarchu – Pang – Upshi – Karu – Leh). It also covers some of the tourist spots in and around Leh.
The challenges experienced during a trip at such high altitudes, including Acute Mountain Sickness and unpredictable road conditions, add to the storyline.

Current book or project you’re working on:
I am working on a book about my travels in Europe during my one year stint in the UK.

What was the inspiration for your novel?
My trip to Ladakh and my experiences during the trip inspired me to write the book. I probably would not have written a book if everything had gone as planned as most of my previous journeys. But, the fact that I had to return half-way through the trip and the fact that I had a life changing experience prompted me to write.

Please share three interesting facts about your book, which are not covered in the synopsis.
1) I designed the book cover myself – I would love feedback
2) The book is available on Kindle Unlimited
3) The first draft of the book was completed in 3 days!

Was there anything that frightened you on your journey?
Absolutely! The drive along the Gata Loops (21 hairpin bends or switchbacks) that took us from 4190m to 4630m with the views of the valley on our side was a hair-raising experience.

What was the most dangerous situation you encountered during your travels?
It was undoubtedly my encounter with Acute Mountain Sickness while being stuck on the Baralacha La due to a landslide. Had the landslide not been cleared in time, the situation could have quickly turned ugly and I am not sure I would have lived, to write about the experience.

What about bugs, were there any strange or different bugs you learned about during your adventure?
Ladakh being a high altitude cold desert, we did not encounter any bugs. We did come across Himalayan Griffon Vultures near Rohtang Pass.

What is the best advice you would give to someone who is thinking about writing about their travels?
While a place might have been visited by numerous people and written about a thousand times, your experience is unique, it is your own. So, focusing on the experience more than on the place itself might help to keep the readers engaged. I would also keep it simple and honest.

Which do you prefer traveling on your own or traveling with a group?
I prefer a group, because, each one in the group can watch the others’ back and you have someone to fall back on in case something goes wrong. It is also fun to travel with friends or like-minded individuals and you get to learn a lot of things from them.

What three steps would you recommend not to skip while planning a trip?
1) Coming up with Plan A, then a Plan B and Plan C if things go wrong
2) Preparing a checklist or packing list and finishing the packing 2 days before the trip.
3) Reading up on the place you are travelling to – the customs, the people, the food, the weather and so on.

Did you take all the pictures in your book and if so did you take any special photography training before your trip?  Did you encounter any difficulties in using pictures in your book?
Yes, I did take all the pictures myself. I am an amateur photographer and one of the things I was looking forward to, while planning the trip, was the opportunity to photograph Ladakh – the landscapes, the monasteries and the people. While I did not have problems including pictures in the book, I am not sure how the pictures would show up on different devices like a smartphone, tablet, Kindle or a desktop. Would they be too small? 
Would they be too big for the screen? I would like to hear from the readers!

If you could pick any well known person to review your book who would you pick and why?
I would like to know what Bear Grylls thinks about the book. He should be able to tell me what I could have done differently in the situation that I found myself in.

What one item do you wish you would have taken with you on you journey?
A portable oxygen cylinder.

What, who, or when, were you first inspired to write?
I was first inspired to write when I got the opportunity to travel across Europe while working in the UK. However, I never completed the book and it was not published. I have now started working on it again and hope to publish it by the end of this year.


What genre does your book fall into?
Non-Fiction - Travel - Memoir.

Which genres do you write?
I do not think I will write anything outside Non-Fiction - Travel - Memoir
But, you never know.

Could your book be turned into a movie and if so what actors might you picture starring in it?
It would make a very good movie! I would cast Bradley Cooper, Gerard Butler and Owen Wilson if it were a Hollywood movie. Closer to home, a movie named ‘3 Idiots’ has already come out in India and there were times during the trip when I was reminded of scenes from the movie.

If you could visit three places you have not visited before where would you choose to go and why?
1) Galapagos – for the unique wildlife.
2) New Zealand – for the breath-taking natural beauty.
3) Norway – to experience the fjords and Aurora Borealis (or the northern lights).

Have you ever read a book where the location descriptions inspired a desire for you to travel there and see the place for yourself?
Not a book, but, I was inspired to go to Ladakh after reading a blog by Tanveer Singh.

Do you see travel and writing plans in your future?
Yes, I love to travel and I do hope my travels will afford me experiences that are worth writing!

The process:

How many books have you written? Which book is your favourite and why?
“Himalayas: Through Heaven and Hell in the Hills” is my first book and obviously my favourite! I have also published a picture book with a collection of my photographs from Ladakh – “Ladakh in Pictures”.

Is there anything that helps get you in the mood to write?
Nothing in particular; I do not have set schedules to write. I only write when I feel like writing and I keep going with the flow.

What were three challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Keeping pace with my thoughts proved to be a challenge
2) Deciding the relevant bits and getting rid of distractions in the initial draft was tough because everything seemed relevant.
3) Picking the best photographs from a bunch. But, they still don’t do justice to the beauty of Ladakh.

What lessons about people have you learned from your travels?
I have learned that a vast majority of the people are still the kind who would go to great lengths to help a total stranger. There is still hope for humanity.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned, either in the 
self-publishing or traditional publisher, route?
I have learned that anyone, with no prior experience in publishing, can successfully self-publish a book and the book can become successful on its merit – without an advertising or marketing budget.

How can people connect with you?

Where can readers find your book?

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