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Friday, May 29, 2015

Author Interview : R Sreeram, author of 'Kalyug' (Part 2)

R Sreeram
Satisfied your curiosity? If you haven't... here's more to the Interview with R Sreeram... 

If you want to catch up, then the First Part is here and you could also buy the book Right Here.

What was the most challenging part about writing ‘Kalyug’?

Choosing the right level of complexity, detail, pace. The subject is so full of possibilities; I could have written a manuscript that was five times as long – going into detail about what happens at each level of government, of deeper conspiracies and unholy political alliances gearing up to defeat the plot, of other national forces trying to wedge their way into our decision-making...

What I had in mind when I started ‘Kalyug’ is not the book you see now, but I don’t regret the direction it has taken.

How did the political background of India affect your writing?

Kalyug is heavily influenced by the political background (as it existed in 2012-13). As I said earlier, UPA 2 was running low on credibility; there was the threat of regional satraps asserting their dominance (as happened in 1996-98), setting us back even further; people were frustrated with their representatives and the lack of acceptable alternatives…
Could you tell the readers about your experiences and how it was related to what you wrote?
My own sense of the time was that it was a very frustrating period. There was this feeling of a Damocles sword hanging over India. 
Domestic output was low, but we were also moving away from a traditionally conservative spending culture to one where credit cards run rampant. Even on the professional front, as a Regional Manager for Kidzee (a preschool chain run by Zee Learn Ltd), I witnessed first-hand, the kind of policy paralysis and confusion that happens when the left hand of the government does not know what the right is doing. 

There was a distinct lack of leadership… a vacuum of hope. ‘Kalyug’ was my outlet in such a time: hope, frustration… :)

What is the most fulfilling part, now that you have written your book?

The team at Westland gave it a fantastic cover. I love looking at the book, smelling it, feeling it rustle. 

And then I pick a page at random and read it and marvel at my own talent. And somewhere in the back of my mind, there’s a nasty voice saying, “Ah! Fluke! Let’s see you do that again!” :)
Kanishka Gupta
Any advice to writers that would like to be published today? How tough is it to be published?
It is both easy and tough to get published today. I am fortunate to have an agent like Kanishka Gupta (Writer’s Side) who made it a rather painless process: all I had to do was write, and he’d take care of reaching out to publishers, negotiating, etc. If you ask me, it’s always better if the first book is snapped up by a well-known publisher. It establishes your street cred as an author, as someone who doesn’t need to go in for vanity publishing.

That said, ‘vanity’ publishing is giving way to self-publication, which makes things easier for a writer these days. You don’t have to send your submissions to God-knows-where, crossing your fingers and hoping that the next ching of your inbox is an acceptance. Self-made authors like Amish Tripathi are really the posterboys for how easy it is to get a book out if you believe in it (and yourself) badly enough.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?
My parents have always encouraged me to write. My mother is a prolific writer herself, and so is my wife. I owe a lot to the encouragement from teachers like Meera Ma’am, Anand Victor Sir, Rev Fr Mathew Thengumpally and others at my high school, Christ Nagar English High School. 

More than telling me, I should become an author, they never said I shouldn’t try to be one. 

What is the next book that you have planned?
Three in the pipeline, actually. A pseudo-sequel to Kalyug: I am calling it Chakravyuh. And a couple of murder mysteries, I have challenged myself to write. 

Which book are you currently reading?
James Rollins - From Wikipedia
I read James Rollins’ ‘Amazonia’ which, despite certain faults, is an amazing book. So right after I finish Christopher Reich, I am going to see if there are any more gems from the Rollins stable.

Who are your favourite authors and why?
Jim Butcher – his Dresden series is, pardon the pun, magical.

Samit Basu – amazing storyteller, amazingly underrated. His GameWorld trilogy is mind-blowing.

Robert LudlumBourne series #1, 2 and 3. (by far, one of the best thriller-writers)

Frederick Forsyth – the only writer IMO to give Ludlum a run for his money. Amazing detail and plotting.

What else do you do on a daily basis?
I am building a start up with a friend of mine. So, coding and other work on that take up a good part of the day. Plus, we have an adorable tyke who doesn’t know that he’s a dog (and we aren’t going to tell him) – playing with him, as well as keeping chewable household items (curtain, sofa, pillows, etc.) away from his mouth. Pretty much a full-time occupation!

What advice do you have for people who are trying to debut, as well?
Don’t try to follow a trend. Like, for instance, retelling of Indian classical works is in vogue today – but now there are a dozen books coming out on this subject, every week. It takes a long time for a book to hit the market, so be prepared to have it flooded by competitors by the time you get out.

Stay true to your voice. Avoid imitations and clichés, and your readers will appreciate it.

And the final piece of advice? No author ever made enough money writing to put food on the table for his family. :) So, don’t think of it as an easier career option. You will work harder, putting more of yourself into it, all for a beautifully-tuned phrase… and that’s probably the only reward that you can count on at the end of the day! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Author Interview : R Sreeram, author of 'Kalyug'

R Sreeram
I must say that this book was a surprising one. To expect a thriller such as this, in times when authors are all about mythology and all on a philosophical tune, it took quite a bit of ‘Balamurali Selvam’ to figure this out.
So, ‘Kalyug’ is quite the book. Not only does it have a lot of twists and turns, but it required all the patience to put it together. It was a well thought out book and to bring it out, quite so deftly was what makes this author, R Sreeram different from the rest. So, Read up this Interview (Part 1), Folks...

You could also buy the book Right Here.

How did ‘Kalyug’ happen? Could you describe the journey?
Kalyug actually happened over the course of a week! That’s how long it took me to cook up the prologue. :) I sat down one Saturday, told my wife I was writing ‘something’ and when the chapter was done, I showed it to her. And when she exclaimed that she liked it… that was when I knew I had started something special.

The rest of it took about a year, in two phases. The first phase was the first ten chapters, with me writing one every Saturday continuously. Then I didn’t write for a week, and that break just became longer and longer. The next phase started after it had been acquired by Westland and was completed in about 2 months or so.

It has been – if you’ll pardon the cliché – a roller-coaster ride so far. You get to thinking a book is all it takes to make you successful, especially if it’s as well-received as ‘Kalyug’ has been, and then you realize that’s only a small part. You have to promote the book, sell it, get it talked about… sometimes, you wonder if it’s all worth it. And sometimes, you catch sight of it at the bookstore and the thrill is indescribable.  

How did the main character, Balamurali Selvam come about? How much of you, was in there?
I wanted a character, who was relatable to the readers, and I also wanted to have an argumentative voice – a conscience, if you will – without making that character into a Dabangg-style hero. 

The result was Selvam. And when I was thinking of a suitable background for him, it struck me. A disgraced author isn’t usually a protagonist in novels. Why not have one?

What according to you is different about your book?

The book takes a seemingly outrageous premise – an overthrow of the democratic system – and tries to make it sound plausible. There aren’t many political thrillers and the few there are often formulaic (not all, but most). 
I aimed for a style that’s subtly satirical without losing the seriousness of the times we are (or were, at the time of writing) living in. And I wanted to bring in both sides of the argument, instead of merely using this book to spread, what I feel is right.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

Selvam, of course! :) He’s not a superstar. He’s had failures, he’s uncertain about how committed he wants to be to a certain cause and he’s an armchair critic – fits me to a T!
How did you come up with the core idea and develop it?
I have heard a lot of people speak of the Emergency of ‘76 as a blessing in disguise. You had excesses on one side – forced sterilization, arbitrary arrest, surrender of freedoms we take for granted these days – but you also had discipline. Trains ran on time. Government offices worked as they are supposed to.

And it’s been a common refrain that India needs a bout of benevolent dictatorship to knock off the complacency of the bureaucracy and get things in shape.

So I thought, how could this happen? The average Indian citizen isn’t going to participate in a movement like we’ve seen in Egypt; we speak and we get outraged, but it’s all short-lived. Besides, there are many levels of government. How do you replace each and every one of them?

That’s when I thought of an Emergency-like coup. And a situation like that needs a trigger. Granted, India in 2012 (when I started writing Kalyug) as a tinderbox, with so many scams, a disconnected government, a discontented populace, an unhappy military, etc. And thus, ‘Kalyug’ was born.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review : ‘The Sunlit Night ' by Rebecca Dinerstein

It starts off with a story of 21 year old Frances, who comes from an almost broken family. Her father and mother want to go their separate ways, and her younger sister who is looking to get married to her non-Jewish fiancé, also looks at moving away. 

Frances, who is back after breaking up with her boyfriend, due to the fact that she had a pregnancy scare, and also, because he does not care for what she does. He believes that her job has no purpose and will not help anyone whereas he is looking at a future in politics. She is back in New York from where she grabs a painting apprenticeship and moves to Norway.

The second part of this story is 17 year old, Yasha. In his final year at high school in Brooklyn after moving there from Russia almost 10 years ago, Yasha and his father run the local bakery. This they do, while they wait for his mother, Olyana to join them. But she never does all this time, but instead finally comes to his school, to find Yasha.

She tells Yasha that she has been in New York for three months and is looking for a divorce from her husband, so she can marry her boyfriend. She gives the divorce papers to Yasha, but he tries to delay it, telling her of his father’s weak heart.

In the meanwhile, Yasha’s father, Vassily buys tickets to Russia to look for Olyana. When they do arrive, Vassily is in for a rude shock, as the divorce papers are handed to him by his brother. His father then dies of a broken heart, and it falls upon Yasha to bury his father on top of the world. This was Vassily’s last wish.

The place where the two, Frances and Yasha are to meet and carry the story forward is Norway. This was where the beauty of the story begins. Frances is at the place of the stand-alone art installation, 'The Yellow Room', where she would begin the art work.

The beauty of 'The Sunlit Night' by author, Rebecca Dinerstein lie here. In the yellow room and the place where she begins to discover, true exquisiteness, thanks to its isolation from the rest of the world are two things, which are wonderfully described and would touch your heart. In this place, is where she meets Yasha.

Rebecca Dinerstein
The love story begins to unfold here, and it is here where you notice what the parents of both sides realty want. Even the four-year gap between them, seems significant when it funnily is at 17 and 21. 

One, in the swarming New York city and the other in the vast, almost empty spaces of Norway. One is struck by the contrast, which the author draws for us. Of the midnight sun and of the tastes of all that is baked in Yasha’s bakery are two points, which stayed on in my memory. Her descriptions of the Arctic are almost psychedelic and one wishes to travel far north too. Dream of the colour yellow too…

Friday, May 22, 2015

Author Interview : Aditi Bose, author of 'Hama-Guri goes to School'

Read up, Aditi Bose's  Author of  'Hama-Guri goes to School' Interview. In here you would find, the story behind the story, what the name 'Hama-Guri' means and her personal stories behind the story. How she came up with the stories and how they could turn out to be wonderful reads are all in here Folks... 

Read up the Review right here.
How did ‘Hama-Guri goes to school’ happen? Could you describe the journey? 

It began with me telling a story to my child every night. Soon, she didn't want fairytales, anymore. Instead, I was given any word or object and I had to weave a story around it. 

Since she was picking up Bengali words at that time, she heard the word 'hamaguri' from her uncle and wanted a story around it. Hamaguri, in Bengali means to crawl. 

That's when I decided that I would create a character called Hama-Guri. And stories around him started. While I have written a few others on my blog www.kiddiestory365.com, these 5 are special. They all deal with an aspect that most kids in the age group 5-10+ face, nowadays.

How did the story, especially Hama and his mother’s come about? Did you have a lot of personal/ school experiences to go with it?

Being a mother, I have always had to come up with ways to deal with situations. And to do this, it has always been a mixture of fun, logic, harsh truths and also ‎constant support.

That's the same kind of relationship that Hama shares with his mother. She's a mum and his best friend. 

What according to you is different about your book?

There are innumerable stories that come with a moral. Where Hama-Guri's stories differ is that the moral is depicted in an entertaining manner. 

It also brings out the relationship that a child shares with the
mother. When the kids read the book, they will like the light and breezy tone of stories and when the mothers read it they will get ideas of how one can solve tricky situations in a pleasurable manner.

How would you relate the lives of characters to the lives today? Any similarities ? 

I think that all the stories are very relevant in today's age. But the tales are not just about issues that children face. It is about how they can easily come and share it with their parent and about how the parent and how she deals with the situation.

While a father figure is very important in a child's life, somewhere I feel that the first seed of trust and faith is sown by the mother. So, if the mother can handle various delicate situations effectively and yet kindly, the child grows up to be a trusting and self-confident human being. 

What was the most challenging part about writing this book? 

I knew I wanted to depict the morals / learning in a way that was different. So, thinking of innovative ideas was the most challenging part of writing this book. 

For example, when it came to time management, I had to do a lot of reading to get an idea that would be new and yet something, that a child would understand. I even spoke to a teacher of mine with regard to this.

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

No one did. This is one of those things that you just know is correct. You don't need to be hand held for it. 

But yes, if you say who told me that I was a good story teller then I would say that it was my entire family - parents, brother, husband and the little one.

When will you next book be out?

Should be around August - September of 2015.
Which book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading 'The Last Wave' by Pankaj Sekhsaria.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

If it's children genre then Enid Blyton hands down any day. No one sees the world through the eyes of a child better than her. 

Otherwise I'm a great fan of Danielle Steel. The poignancy in her stories is incredible - she can make you laugh and cry at the same time.

What else do you do on a daily basis? 

I am a mother. (laughs). To de-stress, I swim and paint handmade cards.