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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! 

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