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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Author Interview : Charu Singh, author of 'Path of the Swan : The Maitreya Chronicles'

Understanding mythology and that too something, which we only have a clue about, is tough. Charu Singh is one such person. She has successfully managed to like and explore a varied set of mythology.

Tibetan Buddhism, Shambala is something, which is similar to Hindu Mythology, but in this book, it has freshness and seems an unexplored territory.

You can catch the Review, right here. This is what Singh has done in the ‘Path of the Swan’. So, let us read on to understand how and  why this book came about…

This is your debut novel. It also comes after quite a few mythological novels. What according to you was different about it?

Well, I think that the theme was rather different, my book is based on Tibetan Buddhism, and I don’t think anything has come out in the mythology genre in this area.

Also, my book is not centered on a particular deity, I have used the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon and mythology but the story is my own mix. So as such, it is not the retelling of a story centered around a deity.

How did your ‘Path of the Swan’ happen? What kind of research did you put into it?

The ‘Path of the Swan’ was an after effect of my stay in Sikkim, I lived in Sikkim for a short period, a couple of years ago. Sikkim and Tibetan Buddhism had a lasting impact on me.

At this time, I explored Vajrayana Buddhism which held a fascination for me; I was surprised at the vast pantheon of Bodhisattvas, Buddhas, Taras and lesser deities that make a part of the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon.

At that time I studied Buddhist lore, the mysticism behind this form of Buddhism and felt I could base a book on this. However, I am not a Buddhist; spirituality for me is an interest.

How did you come up with the core idea and develop it?

I came across the central idea of the book during my travels across Sikkim and other parts of India’s north-east. The book developed as an idea through the years.

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

The story line was important, you can’t have a book without a plot.

I developed the plot in various stages as I wrote and the characters are equally important, I did not rest in my writing till I was satisfied with the character I drew.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?
I felt very close to both Tashi and Yeshe, I liked Tashi’s simplicity and the story really formed around him. It began as Tashi’s adventure and his realization.

Yeshe came into the book at a later stage, she was inspired by the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyal though their stories are not the same at all. Yeshe was a female character I could relate to her and yet I built her into something that grew from my vision of what a dakini would be like.

How much of the series is based on facts and how much is fiction?

Fact and fiction, the book is set against a Tibetan Buddhist mythology backdrop and the legends I have used in the book are really there as a part of Tibetan and Mahayana literature.

For instance, the legend of Shambhala is an important part of Tibetan Buddhist literature as also that of the Maitreya or the Buddha to be. I have also used certain deities that are worshipped such as the Goddess Tara and the Buddha’s mention in the court scene in Shambhala

But these again form a part of the fabric of the book but the central characters of the book are my own creation.

So yes, there is an element of imagination used in the book side by side the mythology.

The second part of the series is expected next. When do you see it released?

I am currently writing the second part, so it will take a year give and take before the publishing process takes off.

In your second part, what is being repeated and what are the new elements that are being introduced?

The second part is under work, I am introducing several new elements but let that be a surprise.

What was the most challenging part about writing a series, such as this?

Writing a series is challenging, right now I am only thinking of part 2, I’ll reach 3, as and when I come to it. I believe, I have  finished it when it is done.

What was the most challenging part about writing this book?

This was a challenging book to write, I have tried to combine fantasy with a subtle use of Tibetan Buddhist and Zen imagery in the book that conveys a different level to the book.

Hence, I call it a spiritual fantasy. Only the reader and critic can tell me whether this worked out.

Which book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading 'Thief’s Magic' by Trudi Canavan.

Which book are you currently reading?

My favorite authors are JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks and his Shannara Series, MM Kaye, of course and John Masters.

It is a mix of fantasy and colonial period literature.

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

I’m journalist and write freelance, I’m also an amateur classical dancer.

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

I’ll advise them to write slowly and enjoy the process.

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