Writing Only Ends When You Give Up – Ashok Banker

‘It’s one thing to stand out in a certain situation where he has to use his intellect for some purpose, and quite another thing to simply show off just to get his own way.’

‘If he can’t use his great intelligence to get what he wants from life, then what good is it being so intelligent?’

Ashok Banker, Chanakya


Ashok Banker is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of over 63 books. A former journalist, he writes in multiple genres like fantasy, science fiction, horror, crime thrillers and mythology. The New York Times credited him with making mythology the most successful category in Indian publishing.

His latest book Chanakya is the first part of his new Itihasa Series.


George Orwell in his very popular essay – Why I write lists 4 main reasons to write, Sheer egoism, Aesthetic enthusiasm, Historical impulse and Political purpose.

Why does Mr. Ashok Banker Write?

He responds with two interesting writing quotes that sum up why he writes.

‘What I do is me: for that I came.’ – Gerald Manley Hopkins

‘We write as leaves breathe: to live.’  – Erica Jong

‘A book must have a reason to exist outside of the author’s desire to write it. There has to be a compelling reason why readers would want to read it at that particular point in time, and why publishers will feel inclined to publish it,’ he says.

Ashok is a successful writer who likes to experiment with the genres. So, what’s his idea of choosing a particular book and why does he feel he should be one to write that? ‘I want to represent marginalized, under-privileged voices and points of view, bring new angles to old genres and forms and contribute to the ongoing literary dialectic. I want to explore aesthetic, artistic forms in a new way. And, most importantly, I want to be able to pay my bills on time and support my family through my writing!’ he says quite frankly. ‘I will continue to write till I drop dead at my writing desk!’ He adds and you can sense his passion for writing.


 On Being a Multiple Genre Author

 It’s not difficult to understand that Mr. Banker is not just a successful but a versatile writer. Name a genre, and you will find a book under his name. Is it easy or difficult, switching the genres?

‘I’ve always been a genre cowboy, ranging from poetry to essays, science fiction to historical drama, plays to novels to short stories, even in my teens when I began writing and publishing my first works!’ He recalls.

‘Over time, I’ve gained tools, experience, maturity of craft, developed my technical skills, and frankly, it’s become both easier and harder,’ he says. ‘Easier because I now know how to do many, many things I couldn’t do ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Harder because I keep finding new ways to challenge myself.’

In Ashok’s life, there is no rest, there is no coasting along, there is only continual struggle, progress, development. ‘Either you grow or you go,’ he says.


A Multitasker!

‘I’m aided by a mind that naturally, continually multi-tasks. I have this strange need to work on multiple projects simultaneously, developing various stories, characters, ideas, worlds, in my mind over years, decades, until finally I’m ready to start writing it all down. The books I’m writing now have been developed over twenty, thirty years. As you sow, so shall you reap!’ he tells about hs writing process.


Why Chanakya?

Chanakya is a shrewd and powerful character. So, what inspired him to choose Chanakya as the main protagonist?

‘Chanakya was the ultimate egoist: That is why we remember him today and his chanakyaneeti. Chanakya was the first, original social justice warrior. He saw the people suffering under the oppression of the Nandas and their cruel, unjust, greed-driven abuse of power. He was committed to overthrowing them and changing the way the Magadha Empire was governed. And he did it.’ Ashok Banker informs.

‘All the books I’ve read about Chanakya, the awful TV serials, the movie caricatures, focus only on him as a manipulator and Machiavellian kingmaker. To me, Chanakya the Social Justice Champion was far more interesting. This is why I chose to focus my entire Chanakya Trilogy on his early years,’ he says.

The first book, CHANAKYA: The Legend Begins opens when he’s only seven years old, and shows how he is exposed to injustice and misuse of power. What can we expect in the upcoming sequels? ‘The next book show him growing into his teen years and developing the formidable skills and ideas that he would later implement so brilliantly,’ he says.


 On Writing Historical Fiction

 The book, Chanakya, talks about scriptures and interpretations of Vedas. What kind of research does a Historical fiction require? And most importantly, how to balance the elements of facts and fiction?

‘Scripture is for fanatics and fundamentalists; historical fiction is for rational, intellectually rigorous people who want to decide for themselves. Even the holiest of scripture is written by one person or a group of persons, usually of only one privileged caste, sex and religion. It is only that person’s belief that this is the absolute truth.’ Mr Banker enlightens.

He adds further. ‘If we want only facts, we read actual history books. Historical fiction is about the story that history cannot tell us, the lives, the relationships, the drama.’

Drama, indeed! We need that, as a reader no matter what the genre is. ‘A Historical fiction itself is an interpretation. The stories are based on the facts, but novelists don’t claim that they are writing absolute truth. Rather they ensure that stories will deliver some drama, entertainment, literary value,’ he says.


What Next?

Ashok Banker is widely known for his Itihasa Series, in which he deals with several Historical characters. ‘My first book in the Itihasa series was my book Ten Kings, which remains one of my best and biggest bestsellers. I’ve finished with my Ashoka, Chanakya, and Shivaji trilogies, which are all in the publication pipeline.’ He informs.

It is so pleasing to know {Especially for readers like me who enjoy reading about strong women characters} that Mr. Banker’s next books in Itihasa Series focuses on strong historical women characters! ‘My next in the Itihasa series is based on ten great women warriors of Indian history — known as ‘Warrior Queens Seriesthat portrays Rani of Jhansi, Noor Inayat Khan, Saraswati Rajamani, Hazrat Mahal, Padmavati, Rudrama Devi etc.


New/Aspiring Writers, Listen Up!

If you are a new/aspiring writer reading this feature, I’m sure you are waiting for some pearl of wisdom from an author who has been writing for 40 years now and has sold over 3.2 million copies worldwide. We won’t disappoint you. Here it goes!

Mr. Banker believes that each book is your first book because it’s the first time you’re writing that particular book. 

‘Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Figure out the rest as you go along.’ Advices Mr. Ashok Banker. ‘Never lose faith, never stop reading and writing, never give up. Constantly keep learning, improving, growing. It’s not a race or a competition, it’s a life choice. There is no finish line, no prize, no quest for glory,’ he says. ‘The writing itself is the only prize, the only achievement.  The rest–money, fame, popularity, success–are ephemeral, it all comes and goes, nothing lasts. The only thing that is real is the writing itself. Writing well, writing better, giving it your best is all that matters. It only ends when life ends or when you give up.’ Ashok Banker expresses so beautifully and thoughtfully.


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Tarang Sinha is a freelance writer & author of 'We Will Meet Again'. Her works have been published in magazines like Good Housekeeping India, Child India, New Woman, Woman's Era, Alive, and a best-selling anthology @ Uff Ye Emotions 2.

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