Author Krishna Udayasankar’s The Aryavarta Chronicles Series retells the Mahabharata in one of the most epic ways possible. Her crisp narrative catapulted Krishna Udayasankar into a league of her own, garnering widespread acclaim. The positivity keeps rolling in still. According to the author, the most inspiring feedback she receives is one that tells of a deep connection.
‘Any feedback that tells me I touched a chord, that I made a reader connect, to a world or a character, is always inspiring. Sometimes, I get these “lump in throat” kind of thank-yous, where I sense the reader wants to say so much, but the world of the books is too real for her to talk about them like they don’t exist. Those are the best. And all I can do in return is thank the reader back for opening their hearts up to the Aryavarta we share.’
Adapting ancient epics to modern times is somewhat of a speciality for Krishna Udayasankar. Her latest novel, Immortal centers around Professor Asvatthama Bharadvaj or Asva. According to ancient Indian myth, Asvatthama is a character cursed to immortality.
‘Immortal uses the seeds of old myths to create new ones. The story that is told is a gritty, contemporary one that takes place in the contradictory urban squalor that is India, with a plot that references a vast array of world myths. The story places Asva in the here and now, where he must solve an ancient mystery using clues hidden deep in history and myth. It has a fair share of thrilling action and adventure, and a good dose of snappy dialogue and Asva’s snide but irresistible mannerism.’
Every story gives us a lesson to learn. Thanks to its varied layers, as the author puts it concisely, Immortal is no exception.
‘Immortal is a layered book – just a fast-paced thriller to those who see it as such. But I’m sure many readers will catch and enjoy the nuances, particularly when it comes to contemplating the boundaries of science and mysticism, or even the meaning of life and existence. But the biggest lesson in kick-ass coolness.’
Every author finds inspiration within or around themselves. And Krishna Udayasankar is no exception. Most of the time her inspiration and the writing stems from her three “fur-children”, Boozo, Zana, and Maya. ‘They do all the hard work and I just take the credit,’ she says. While other times, she finds inspiration almost everywhere.
‘Just about anyone or anything can serve as an inspiration. One way of putting it is to say that most of my books start with a compelling character – the kind who won’t let me sleep at night till I write her story. Everyday events, little turns of phrases, things I see, an argument or conversation – anything can set off a story.’
Krishna Udayasankar specializes in weaving words around mythology. This can be seen in her Aryavarta Chronicles books, Govinda, Kaurava, and Kurukshetra and her latest, Immortal. But as with her reading preferences, she would love to write sci-fi and fantasy thrillers, too.
‘The idea of a dystopian world and its power structures is something that fascinates me. I’m sure I’ll write something on sci-fi someday. Probably more fantasy thrillers too. I believe in writing what one wants to read. It’s more fun that way!’
Maintaining readership and the growing knowledge bank with each modern retelling of mythological epics might seem like a difficult prospect. But Udayasankar has a simple solution for this.
‘Write good books. Then write better books. That’s the writer’s job.’
Indian readers grab everything that comes their way, including foreign mythologies. But foreign readers aren’t as into our epics as Indians are into theirs. Krishna Udayasankar has a theory as to why this might be happening.
‘Possibly because we are quite sensitive about our mythology, given especially its strong links to religion. We are also quite particular about what we consider the “true” version of mythology, and are not always willing to explore alternate versions or interpretations. The kind of work that might better sell overseas needs a certain willingness, not only to tell the story differently, but also explore different explanations for why things happened. The reluctance – on the part of writers and readers – to do so, coupled with a less-than adequate emphasis on language, makes it more difficult to build a market for Indian mythology as a whole, overseas.’
Krishna Udayasankar is both an author and a poet. Ask her which she prefers most and she acknowledges it as a tough choice.
I’m just going to say: ‘I love being a writer’ and leave it at that!
The writing market has been experiencing a boom, with new authors bursting onto the scene ever so often. These authors have risked leaving the confines of comfortable jobs to write these bestsellers and have met with considerable success. But Krishna Udayasankar believes that one cannot turn to ‘writing bestsellers’ as such.
‘One writes, and whether it becomes a bestseller or not is the result of many factors. If you’re turning to writing because you can sell books, that’s kind of like moving from one employment to another, which is not a bad thing in the least – we all do it. But there’s a part of me that wants to believe more people are giving up their day jobs, like I am, to become writers. Not because it’s more lucrative but because we love writing, and want nothing more to spend most of our waking moments doing it.’
Favourite books and authors
Krishna Udayasankar is an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy, with authors like Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, and J.R.R. Tolkien figuring among her top favourites. Rudyard Kipling’s works and classics by authors like Oscar Wilde, Herman Hesse, Kalki Krishnamurthy, William Blake, Subramaniya Bharati, and Bill Watterson also figure on her long list.
Advice for aspiring authors
If you write what you love, you will be happy. Mostly.
‘Except when you want to curl up in self-doubt and swear never to write another word. The rest of the time, it’s the best high ever. So remember why you write – that’s the one thing that will never really change, no matter what.’
Author: Krishna Udaysankar
Publisher: Hachette India
Release: October 2016
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
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