Q. Kalyug is your first book. How does it feel to be a published author?
It is still sinking in. Sometimes, I have to pick up my copy of the book to reassure myself that yes, it
has my name on it. I keep flipping the pages and alternating between agony and ecstasy – there are
things I am proud of writing, and there are things I would probably write differently next time around. There’s also the constant fear of a bad review just around the corner, even though the reception so far has been positive. But as someone who believes that all of us have at least one book in them, I think I would consider myself an ‘author’ only when I’ve met or exceeded Kalyug’s mark with my next book.
Q. Tell us about what you did before Kalyug and joining the Engineer-turned-MBA-turned-writer bandwagon.
I was working with Zee Learn as a Regional Manager for about a hundred Kidzee franchises in
Karnataka. It was an interesting job and I met a lot of interesting people. The other ‘love’ of my professional life is coding.
I am a self-taught programmer and am quite adept with IT concepts and designing. Some of the pre-Kalyug weeks were spent learning PHP, Ruby, Rails, etc. I am an avid gamer and have blown more than my fair share on consoles and games (thankfully, my wife has never asked for an accounting!). I also spend a lot of time online poring over news items and being a part of socio-political discussions, especially on Facebook: the last’s really helped me develop a better understanding of perspectives other than my own.
Q. Why did you choose the political thriller genre? And where did you gain so much insight about the Indian Army and its murky secrets?
I have always been interested in politics and history. My parents never shied away from discussions on politics and I’ve heard stories about the Emergency and Jan Sangh and other momentous occasions from others as well. It helps that I’m able to connect events, causes and effects, and when you start with the basic assumption that the history we are taught is at best a sanitised version (and quite possibly with ulterior motives), you start looking for points and counter-points that give you a clearer picture of the past. The information is out there – including the corruption that’s prevalent in defence contracts (and PWD and any other venture where the govt allows incompetent people to make compromised decisions). It just needed someone to connect the dots and fill in the blanks.
Q. Which books did you grow up reading? Who is your biggest critic and first reader of your drafts?
I am a huge fan of Frederick Forsyth and Robert Ludlum when it comes to complicated geo-political
plotting and attention to detail. Other authors I now follow are Jim Butcher (for the Dresden series), Lee Child, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett (RIP) and Samit Basu for his GameWorld trilogy.
My wife is my first – and biggest – critic. She is extremely demanding and finds ways to shore up my
language even when I think it’s perfect enough the way it is. And to be honest, because she’s right almost all the time, I do listen to her! She isn’t a fan of the genre, so I know that if I can hook her in
with what I have written, it should work on the general public too!
Q. Would you like to stick to the niche genre of political thrillers or like to experiment with others too? Are you a full-time writer now?
No, not just political thrillers. I am running a couple of murder-mysteries inside my head right now, and I have a feeling they might be books 3 and 4. I am not a full-time writer, though. I’m also launching my startup later this year and simultaneously working with some very interesting authors
as a literary consultant. A Writers’ Workshop series is also on the cards, although that’s probably the
lowest on my list right now.
Q. Tell us about your next project – a story, poem or a book.
I am presently working on Chakravyuh. It’s a political thriller again, albeit with a more complicated
plot than Kalyug. A lot has happened in India since the time I wrote Kalyug, and I’ve used some of
those incidents to develop a what-if world in Chakravyuh. I’ve done about 80% of the first draft; I’m
about to start the rework process, hammering out the kinks and plugging in whatever holes I catch.
Q. How do you react to negative reviews? Do you take them with a pinch of salt?
Negative reviews are always hard to digest and I have this instinctive urge to justify myself… which I
then swallow. If a reader has questions, it means I’ve either missed that perspective or, more likely,
failed to connect. An author has no excuse for either. For instance, a major criticism of Kalyug has
been the use of timelines that jump between the past and the present – people tend to miss the headings that show the timestamps. I can’t just dismiss it as the complaints of people who don’t pay
attention. I have to ensure that the next time I employ such a storytelling device, it doesn’t confuse
the reader. It’s the same thing I tell the authors I work with: don’t compromise your style, but remember that it’s also your obligation to make it easy for the reader who’s investing time and money on your book.
Q. Any message for budding writers?
I think the eight points posted a few days back cover most of it. But if I had to sum it up here,
I’d say only this: be true to what you want to say, how you want to say. And be prepared to put in
the hard work: write, rewrite, discard, retrieve, edit, rework, review, wait, wait, wait… Writing a
book’s not half as easy as reading it. Get into it because you want to write, not because you think
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