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Monday, November 18, 2013

Author Interview: Anand Neelakantan, Author of 'Asura, Tale of the Vanquished' (Part II)

This is the continuing part of author, Anand Neelakantan’s interview. He remains a storyteller and an indiscriminate reader. If you want to read the first part then try this, http://srutis.blogspot.in/2013/11/interview-with-anand-neelakantan-author.html

This part deals with some of his favourite books, authors and a little on how well ‘Asura’ is doing nowadays. 

It also gives us writers, some advice on how we can be published today. So read on…

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

I am agnostic as far as my religious beliefs go. However, when I started doing my research, my elder sister Chandrika, who is a renowned astrologer, told me that the book would be a super hit and I will earn my living from writing. This was about 8 years ago, when no one was sure whether any publisher would accept a
book on mythology. Amish’s Shiva Trilogy had not happened and Chetan Bhagat’s books were the rage of the youth (they still are).

When I heard the prediction, I had laughed it off, saying that who will be interested in reading about Ramayana, except for a niche set of readers.  Now, looking back, the prediction looks amazing. Not only did ‘Asura’ become number 1 in 2012, it is one of the shortlisted books for IDBI Crossword Award 2013 along with ‘Oath ofVayuputras’ and ‘Krishna Key’. The final winner is selected by vote.

This book is coming out in 10 Indian languages. The book is still in best seller charts after 18 months of its release. As a debut author who had learned English with a dictionary in one hand and a finger pondering laboriously over ‘The Hindu’ newspaper in the library of a very ordinary school two decades ago, I could not have asked for more.

How would you relate the life of Ravana’s life to the lives today? Any similarities?

Ravana in ‘Asura’ is modelled on many megalomaniacs of history. Men, who start with good intentions, but lose their way when power goes to their heads and try to redeem their ideals, when their time nears the end. There is a Ravana inside every one of us.

What book is coming from your next besides, ‘Ajaya’? When do you see ‘Ajaya’ released?

‘Ajaya’ is expected to hit the stands on December 1st 2013, it is available on pre-order. It is a two part book, part 1 being ‘Ajaya, epic of the Kaurava clan, Roll of the Dice’ and part 2 being ‘Ajaya, epic of the Kaurva clan, Rise of Kali’ to be released in August ‘14. I am yet to decide on my next book, though I am toying with various ideas.

Any advice to writers that would like to be published today? How tough is it to be published in India?

Publishing is not as difficult as it used to be. Getting noticed and getting the book to sell is more difficult. Indian publishing industry is on the threshold of a boom and India is the only growing market for books.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

Valmiki, Bhasa, Vyasa etc. need no explanation.

W. Somerset Maugham for his treatment of plot and deep characters, Leo Tolstoy for everything, Joseph Heller for his dark humour, P G Wodehouse for making me
laugh anytime and every time, Agatha Christie for never allowing me to second guess, Ken Follett for keeping me riveted, Crichton for his research and imagination, Rushdie for his language, O Henry for his twists and Dostoevsky for his deep psychoanalysis of characters, and Khaled Hosseini for the sheer humanity of his stories. 

Also, writers in Malayalam such as 
M T for his thoughts and lyrical beauty, Basheer for his lucidity and SK Pottekkatt, for evoking nostalgia and making me feel fiction is more real than life.

Which book are you currently reading?

I am re-reading Jungle Book and loving it. I just finished the Great Gatsby. I will start Clifton Chronicles of Jeffery Archer soon. John Grisham’s latest one is also
waiting to be read. I may read it once I re-read the ‘Last Man in Tower’ of Adiga’s.

As I said, I am an indiscriminate reader who reads while eating, in the bathroom, while travelling and even during coffee breaks. I cannot remember a time when I am not reading; unless when I am writing or am busy with my days work to put rice, idli, dosa etc on the dining table (we rarely eat bread, nor do we fancy bacon, so this is a very Indian English expression).

What do you do on a day to day basis, besides writing stories?

I am a manager in Indian Oil Corporation. The job helps me put things on my dining table that would make an Udupi Hotel owner proud. Besides, I do oil painting, was a regular cartoonist in a few local magazines before Ravana conquered me. 

I used to write parody songs and short stories in Malayalam satire magazines, once upon a time. I still dabble in painting or cartoons, the latter especially during meetings, but writing remains my first love, if I take out reading from the reckoning.

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