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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Author Interview : Krishna Udayasankar, author of ‘Govinda’ and ‘Kaurava’ Part II

This part is here a little early, mainly because I couldn't resist it. But, if you guys want to also read the first part too, here it is http://srutis.blogspot.in/2013/11/interview-krishna-udayasankar-author-of.html

As 'ACK' used to have the dialogue 'Lo and Behold'! this is the concluding part of this interview. Here, she talks about the travails of writing a 'trilogy'?, and of course, the fulfilling parts. 

The fact that she enjoys writing poetry, teaches at a university, are all just a part of this author's satisying and enjoyable life. And also, the fact that you might have read 'Govinda' in poetry fomat is also part of this mytho-fiction's writer's reality. 
So, read on for more surprises!!

What was the most challenging part about writing a trilogy?

Not wanting to ‘kill’ irritating characters. Seriously – I think its finding the resolve to go on, even though I look back and find things in previous books that I wish I had done differently. The ‘mistakes’ you make haunt you longer when you write a series – which, by the way, is the plan, not a trilogy. I have a prequel in the pipeline too!

What are the most fulfilling parts till now; now that you have managed to release two novels?

Getting to interact with readers and looking at the book-world from their point of view. That, and of course, the increased belief that I’m not mad for holding conversations in my head with imaginary people, I’m just a writer. :)

When would your third book be out?


Did you think that they would become as successful as they have become today?

Sadly, no. Else I might not have waited so long to write the first book :) In a market like this, first-mover advantages are huge! 

But, business regrets apart, when I began work on the Chronicles, which was before mytho-fiction took off in such a big way, I was writing it because I had to, because it was my way of making sense of the past, of the world around me. In fact, I didn’t even consider it ‘mytho-fiction’. It was just a book.

What else do you write, besides the novels? Could you tell us a little about the poetry you write?

I am mainly a prose-poet, though I do write free verse and rhyming verse. In fact, when I first began writing what subsequently became The Aryavarta Chronicles, it was as a satire poem! I used to happily call myself a failed poet, but now that I have a collection and am working on the second, I guess that’s not a good idea. 

My poetry follows the view that the personal is political, and so is often plotted along a small, micro-situation, like a conversation between two people, but is actually a doorway to a larger issue. But yes, I actually have to ‘storify’ and plot even for my poetry – otherwise it tends to what is called confessional poetry, and I totally suck at writing that!

I also write flash fiction, which has appeared in anthologies and collections – those tend to be aderenaline boost moments where I write the piece in half an hour, edit it over the next one day, and then never look at it till it is in print – then of course, I wonder what madness led me to write it…

Which book are you currently reading?

I just finished Neil Gaiman’s ‘Ocean at the End of the Lane’, and also ‘House of Hades’ in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series. Am trying not to pick up something new till I finish the pile of marking that needs to get done (I teach at a University in Singapore), but it’s a battle I shall lose - I am going through a collection of poems by Wislawa Szymborska and also reading some of Charles Bukowski’s work, online.
Who are your favourite authors and why?

Rudyard Kipling, Isaac Asimov, Bill Watterson, Kalki Krishnamurthy and many, many more. Why? Because they brought alternate universe to life.

What else do you do on a day to day basis?

I work! But other than that, my day is pretty routine and quiet. I enjoy gymming and yoga, and also the occassional run. I love being with my family, especially my fur-kids. It’s never a dull moment with them around. Oh, and they are howling at me right now, insisting I tell you how I steal all their ideas and turn them into books.                            

What advice do you have for the young writers of today?

Hmm... We best give the advice we need to hear, so here goes: Know why you write.There is no right or wrong reason to write, but knowing why you want to do so – is it fame, money, or just a compulsion – helps deal with the process and the outcomes. It will save you heartbreak.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Author Interview : Krishna Udayasankar, author of ‘Govinda’ and ‘Kaurava’

I have always enjoyed reading mythology and so, I just happened to pick up ‘Govinda’. I never thought that I would enjoy a book, quite so much. In fact, this author drove me to read up more of the ‘Mahabharata'. And so, now am all set to read not just about Krishna, but about Karna, Draupadi, Arjuna and even Ravana and various other characters in various books.

There is so much to read in the 'Mahabharata' itself. But ‘Govinda’, I remember gave me fresh and colourful dreams. And ‘Kaurava’ took them forward. And so, I wrote the review of ‘Govinda’ and ‘Kaurava’, and now am interviewing the author. 

So, here is Part I of this funny and interesting interview with Krishna Udayasankar.

Aryavarta Chronicles must have begun a long time ago. Could you describe the journey? How did it begin?

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who said: ‘I want to be a writer when I grow up. Or an astronaut.’ She ended up getting a law degree, and then went to Sydney to study management. And then came to Singapore to do a PhD. She met a charming prince and got married and they had two lovely fur-babies.

And then, one day, in early 2008, the little girl who was now all grown up got all stressed out about something, and so did something she had not done in a long, long time. She wrote a poem. And then another one. And another one. She showed them to a nice poet who told her ‘This sucks. Try writing prose.’

‘Can I do that?’ the little-grown-up-girl asked.

‘Of course you can, darling,’ her prince assured her. Her fur-kids also said, ‘Arwhooo.’

And so, she began writing The Aryavarta Chronicles, and everyone except her readers lived happily ever after. :)

‘Govinda’, your debut novel came out along with a number of mythological novels. What according to you was different about it?

‘Govinda’ and the rest of the books in The Aryavarta Chronicles series are not stories of gods and magic, but of people and political revolution. Understanding the history behind what has subsequently been aggrandized into mythology and used to legitimize or justify today’s social structures and norms was, to me, an essential way of understanding the world we live in.  

Consequently, I wanted to explore the epics as tales of humanity, not divinity; as something that could have been history. In fact, I call the Chronicles mytho-history – the label itself distinguishing it from other mytho-fiction.
How did your novels, ‘Govinda’ and ‘Kaurava’ happen? What kind of research did you put into them?

As I often say: I stand on the shoulders of giants – the amount of material that is out there – both popular and scholarly, which deals with the epic and the epic ages; both is simply astounding.

It did take many months of painstaking work trying to reconcile legend with logic and scholarly evidence and variations in popular narratives across India and other parts of Asia too.

The field already has a rich and long-standing legacy of both English and vernacular literature as well as international academic research, that deal not just with the historicity of the epic, but also the broader social and political landscape of the times, including many details – from clothes to culture and weapons and warfare.

As someone trained in social sciences research, I have tried my best to bring that strength to my books when coming to conclusions on why or how things happened in a particular way.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

Oh, this is a tough one to answer – I’m having a movie-style flashback moment now, complete with swirling colours, and scenes from childhood are flashing before my eyes. Okay, jokes apart, the number of people I owe for setting me on this road are many: my family - including mom Shobana and husband Jaishankar - is certainly on that list, as is my mentor, noted poet Alvin Pang. 

But the flashback scene goes all the way back to my English teacher at La Martiniere for Girls, Calcutta: Ms. Sumita Chattopadhyay. She told me I could write. Her words kept the dream alive for decades.

How would you relate the lives of Govinda and Panchali to the lives today? Any similarities?

Govinda Shauri is hope. He is the person we need to find inside ourselves, within
each of us.

Panchali, on the other hand, is reality – she is who we all are, as people, as individuals - someone who is strong yet weak, wise and silly both, brave and scared. Yes, they very much relate to our lives today, because they are you and I.

Authors have a way of telling their story, with elements that are most important. Between your storyline and your characters, which takes precedence?

Frankly, I don’t think one can have strength without the other. The storyline moves the way it does because characters are who they are. Converse, characters actions affect the progression of events.

I think both storyline and characters need to be given importance, and must stand the test of reason. I don’t like coincindences and serendipity in high doses, and I also try very hard to give my stories internal logical consistency – the world that is created must be plausible as an organic whole, because my aim is to transport the reader completely into Aryavarta. But for that logical consistency, both characters and storyline are important.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review : 'Karna's Wife-The Outcast's Wife' by Kavita Kane

The so called anti-heroes of the Ramayana and Mahabharata have always fascinated me. So, it was with relative pleasure that I chanced upon and picked up ‘Karna’s Wife, The Outcast Queen’.

The story began with, ‘That man, with his thick mane, brooding eyes and twinkling earrings, walked towards her, his golden armour glittering so fiercely under the blazing sun that it was blinding.’ What better way to tie one up to the book’s character. The fascination and love for the two lead personalities is obvious. 

The story begins with Karna arriving on the arena at Hastinapur and the seeds of enmity with Arjuna being sown. It is told from the eyes of Karna’s wife, Uruvi. Uruvi is a Kshatriya princess, the determined child of King Vahusha of Pukeya and Queen Shubra. She is also the goddaughter to Kunti. Uruvi lives a sheltered life, but has slightly tomboyish qualities when she is growing up with the Pandavas and Kauravas. 

She sees and falls in love with Karna, at first sight. Uruvi, who knows that Karna has already had to bear Draupadi’s rejection and insult at her swayamvar, is determined that she will marry only Karna. Karna, the foster son of charioteer, Adhiratha and Radha, was found on the banks of river Ganga. 

Thus begins the life of the sutaputra. His swayamvar with Uruvi happens and she comes to live with him. His brother, first wife, Vrushali and seven children and parents are all the major characters in his life. Uruvi is praised to the skies by the author, Kavita Kane. It was a little tough for the reader in me to separate Karna’s wife and the author. Did Kane want that? 

Karna’s life is explained in detail, his love and respect for his first wife and his affection for his parents and brother, too. The fact that he is a kind and generous man is a well-known factor, but his moodiness and aggressiveness are qualities which have never come up. Also, his qualities as a father, the entire Draupadi factor, his intense love for Duryodhana and Ashwatthama, and Bhishma’s so-called hate for him, are all explained in a new light.

Karna’s nature and also the various reasons given for certain actions and misdeeds in the book are very well-placed. Also, this was the first book I read, which did not seem to hurry. The fact that so much the time passed between two points is very well-expressed. The mistakes in this book are few. I counted only two. Full marks to the author and her editors.

A few points which, I felt were slightly out of place in the book were – a) the discussion on war with her father and Karna, b) the over justification of Karna’s qualities, which seemed like he was wallowing in self-pity c) a little too much of Uruvi’s good qualities. Overall, a good book with a lot of potential to do well.

Note on Cover :  Quite nice, though it could have done with Karna too.
Author: Kavita Kane
ISBN  978-81-291-2085-4
Cover Illustration: Devaki Neogi
Price: India -  Rs 295

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Author Interview: Hitesha Deshpande, Author of 'Horseshoe Garage'

This was interesting interview for me. Because, there is the fascination for Michael Schumacher, of course. And also, a few of the characters in her book, whom I thought were picked straight from my life. And the Dad element, that she mentions in her interview.

When I reviewed the book, ‘Horseshoe Garage’, I felt that abundant research has gone into it with so much precision and captivation. As an event manager, she sure knew how to get her stuff right. The how and why, she discusses in this interview...

How did the idea for Horseshoe Garage happen?

Honestly, in a garage! I had scraped the sides of my car against the pillar in our parking lot during my effort to learn driving. I was feeling so guilty about it that I decided to accompany our driver to the garage to supervise the repairs.

I was the only woman there standing with my hands folded across my chest frowning at the mechanics working on my car. That made me wonder, about the life of a female mechanic in the testosterone driven atmosphere of an Indian garage. As much as it is Sarvesh's story, it was created for Naaz.
Obviously, a lot of research has gone into it. How did you put it all together?

Dad! He has been leading the engine research and development division of various automobile companies for over forty years. Quite often evenings were about Dad and his colleagues discussing some technical detail and why it work or would not work. Surprisingly, instead of being bored to death with all that talk, it fascinated me!
Who are your real life heroes, racing wise?

That's a tough question. I really haven't grown out of my Schumacher fascination ever!
Who was it that told you that you could become the storyteller, you have become?

Nobody and everybody. I started writing for myself. I love writing! Blogs were a welcome release to all the words spilling from my fingertips. I always knew I could never write about a personal moment. Be it a life crisis or a celebration. My moods translated into tiny bites or snippets of stories, which went in my blog.
When these posts started being appreciated, I decided to try and something more consistent, longer, like a novella.
How would you relate the life of your characters to the lives around you? Any similarities?

Quite a few. I confess my characters have always been a mix and match of personality traits from people I have met, loved and despised in equal quantities.  
Of course, there is a certain amount of exaggeration always thrown in. But I won’t be surprised if someone I have met reads one of my books and wonders… is she talking about me?
Who is your inspiration? Also, is there an author you take inspiration from?

The inspiration for every book is different! Right from Wolverine in X-Men to my dogs, things, moods and people have tempted me to suddenly write, straight from the heart.
I don’t know if I consciously emulate any of the authors, but I love reading David Baldacci. I look forward to him putting a new book out on the stands.
What is the best and the worst part of being an author?

The love and the criticism. When people praise your writing, it makes you put yourself on a pedestal. It is a very heady feeling. But when the same writing is torn to shreds, it crumples the soul.

I remember being terribly upset the day I read the first book review not in favour of ‘Knots and No Crosses’ (my first book). I was shattered. 

It took me a couple more negative reviews and a lot of positive ones to learn to take criticism in stride. You learn eventually that you cannot keep every single reader happy.
Any advice to writers that would like to be published today?

If you are writing to get published, it is a very competitive world out there. There are a lot of story tellers with mind blowing stories making the rounds. You have a really tough job ahead of you. 

But if you are writing because you have a story to tell and it must be told, if you are writing because there is nothing else you can think of doing till you have put all the stories in words, your story will always find an audience.
How tough is it to be published in India?

Not tough as much as competitive. With English being one of the more popular languages in India the number of people, who are proficient story tellers are on a rise. It definitely puts a tempting array of books from Indian authors on the shelves to pick and choose from. 

It also makes it very difficult for the editors of many publishing houses to turn down one book in favour of the other.  I would hate to be an editor at this point and I have a deep respect for them for doing what they do. Rest assured, I think if you have a good story which is told well you will always find a publishing house willing to put it in print.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
Like I said earlier, I eagerly look forward to reading a David Baldacci. The sheer pace of the book and the finesse of the detailing keep you glued to his stories till the very last word.
Which book are you currently reading?

Which book is coming next from you? When do you see it released?

The next book is a fantasy fiction titled ‘Milaan’. It is so different from the two books on the shelves that I am eager to check the responses it earns. It should be on the shelves, early March 2014.
What do you like to do daily basis?
I run an event management firm which keeps me on my toes day and night.   

When I need to break free from the madness of the events I take to the words and get writing.