Author Interview : Shatrujeet Nath

If I find a story or a premise fascinating, I will explore it, chase it, hunt it down, or collapse trying.” – says Shatrujeet Nath, the author of ‘Karachi Deception‘ and ‘The Guardians of the Halahala‘. 
Q. Tell us about your background in journalism and the turn that led to book writing.
I was a business journalist for nearly 11 years. I got into the profession almost by accident – well, accident is probably not the right word, but the fact is that I had never wanted to be a journalist. I had no formal training to be one, and all through college, the profession had never been in my consideration set. It is just that back in 1998, when I was looking for a job and not finding one, I sent my resume to a Delhi-based magazine with no real hopes of being hired. To my surprise, they asked me to take a test, which, I was later told, I had passed with flying colours. I will never know whether I had been as good as they said I was, or whether they had just been desperate to find someone to fill a vacant chair. Anyway, I started out the way most journalists do – as a sub-editor – and worked my way up to become an Assistant Editor at The Economic Times and Editor of Brand Equity. 

By the time I had finished a decade in the profession, I was feeling a little jaded. I had stopped learning anything new at work, and more importantly, I had ceased having fun. I began considering my options, one of which was getting into writing fiction. At that time writing a book was not in the picture – the idea of writing fiction meant writing TV or film scripts. The prospect of writing a book occurred only when I was 20,000 words into my first attempt at a film script – I looked at what I had written and realized that what I had before me wasn’t a movie script. It was the beginnings of a novel. So I simply continued writing, and that eventually became by first book, The Karachi Deception.
Q. When did you begin plotting your first book (The Karachi Deception) and why did you choose Hindu mythology for the second one?
The core, two-line idea for The Karachi Deception had been nesting in my head since 2002, maybe 2003. Of course, back then it wasn’t a story idea – it was more a hypothesis. But the more I thought about it, the stronger the idea grew till I was certain it could be turned into a story. As I have already said, when I decided to quit journalism and write movie scripts, developing this particular idea into a story was the most obvious thing to do.
While I have always liked thrillers – and spy thrillers in particular – the decision to write The Karachi Deception came out of my fascination for the story. I did not set out to write a thriller and start looking for ideas to fit the thriller mould. Rather, it was the other way around. I found an idea that lent itself to the thriller format, so I developed it as a thriller. For me, genre is never the starting point. The story has to appeal to me. Which is why, despite so many readers asking me to write a sequel to The Karachi Deception, I have instead chosen to write an epic fantasy based on Hindu mythology. The truth is that while I do have some decent ideas for another spy thriller, those ideas haven’t started exciting me enough. The Vikramaditya Trilogy, of the other hand, began consuming me the moment the idea popped into my head. It wouldn’t let me rest, so I just had to put it all down on paper.
Q. What is the Vikramaditya Trilogy about and how do you want the readers to relate to the book?
Put very briefly, the Vikramaditya Trilogy is about the legendary king Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine, whom Shiva entrusts with the task of protecting the Halahala, the devastating poison that emerged from the Ocean of Milk during the samudramanthan episode. The Halahala is the most potent weapon in the universe and can make whoever possesses it invincible, so both devas and asuras, who are sworn enemies, want to take control of it so they can force one another into submission. But knowing that a cosmic imbalance will occur if either side gets hold of the dagger, Shiva places the Halahala in the protection on man – the neutral force between the devas and the asuras – making Vikramaditya promise to keep the poison safe from the greed of the asuras and devas. So the story is essentially an epic, three-cornered struggle for the Halahala between the devas, the asuras and mankind.
The books are full-blown commercial fiction, with packed-to-the-rafters action, intrigue and suspense. It is a tale of greed, jealousy, hatred and betrayal. It is also a tale of love, loyalty, faith and conviction. It is a story where the devas and asuras are both bad, out to destroy everything in their paths to get their hands on the Halahala. And all that stands between them and the object of their desire is Samrat Vikramaditya and his promise to Shiva.
Q. Tell us how has been the experience of writing about Indian heroes.
I cannot tell you how much fun it is writing about true-born Indian heroes! One of the things that struck me most when the idea of telling this story first crossed my mind was that our telling of epic fantasies is still dominated by tales of Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Arjuna and Abhimanyu. We have so many fascinating characters in Indian mythology and legend, but we still keep going back to retelling familiar narratives from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. From the very beginning, I was clear that I did not want to retell any story from our myths. I wanted to create a story that was original and entirely of my own, with a hero who has often been overlooked by our storytellers. That was one of the reasons why Vikramaditya appealed to me so much. Y
es, my trilogy is also borrows from various existing myths and legends, but the overarching story and characterizations is uniquely mine. The idea was to create a “new mythology”, so to speak.
Q. Give us one favorite quote about ‘Reading’, and what books have you grown up on?
My all-time favourite on reading is from the irrepressible Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Incredibly funny, but if you subtract the humour, what you have left is deeply profound. A book, like a dog, is unconditional in what it gives to its reader. A book withholds nothing and is generous to a fault. A book is non-judgemental, it loves you for who you are.
My childhood was full of books. In fact, as my dad had a transferable government job that took him from one corner of India to another every two-three year, I never made any lasting friendships. My books, however, always travelled with me. So my childhood companions were really Jim Hawkins, Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, Dirk Rogers, Biggles and the Hardy Boys. As I grew older, my tastes did change, of course. The authors who have had a lasting impact on me would be John Steinbeck, John le Carre, Frederick Forsyth, Graham Greene, Stephen King and Jules Verne. Of late, I have come to like the works of China Mieville, Jack Vance, Mario Vargas Llosa and Keigo Higashino a lot.
Q. What inspires you to write and what would you say to motivate the newbies?
When it comes to novels, the only thing that inspires me to write is the story. If I find a story or a premise fascinating, I will explore it, chase it, hunt it down, or collapse trying. But if the premise doesn’t work, I just can’t get myself to write anything about it. Of course, characters are also very critical – The Guardians of the Halahala was partly born out of my fascination for king Vikramaditya and his navratnas. But if there’s no story to back the characters, it won’t work for me. I am not the kind of writer who says, “Here I have an interesting character, so let me start writing about him and see where it takes me.” Maybe when I mature as a writer, things will change.
About motivation… what can I say. Motivation can only come from within. No matter who says what words of encouragement or support, the will to get something done cannot come from outside. So all I can tell authors who’re striking out for the first time is that the difference between wanting to write and having written is one year of hard, relentless labour. It is a bridge you have to build all by yourself, all alone, all through the night, while the world goes about its business without giving a damn. The only way of making this perilous passage is by looking at it as a pilgrimage.
Interviewed by:
M – Also blogs actively at Pendown: Her breathing space for creative expression, and a wonderful collection of book reviews, product reviews and travelogues. A full time author in the making and a proud iMelonite !
You can leave your comments on what you expect from The Guardians of the Halahala and any questions for the author. You can connect with the author : On Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

The book is available at : Amazon and Flipkart .


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