Know your Author

Growing up in a village in Cochin with more temples than was necessary, it was no wonder that the Ramayana fascinated him. Ironically, he was drawn to the anti-hero of the epic – Ravana, and to his people, the Asuras, and that became the title of his first book. He did not stop at this; his second book Ajaya has Kauravas of Mahabharata as his heroes. Meet Anand Neelakantan in conversation with Varsha Verma. Anand Neelakantan is known for his debut novel Asura Tale of the Vanquished & AJAYA: Epic of the Kaurava Clan - Roll Of The Dice. Anand’s debut work Asura: Tale of the Vanquished was a surprise bestseller of 2012, breaking into the top seller charts within a week of its launch. And so is Ajaya.

So what is Ajaya all about? “If Jaya is the Mahabharata of Pandavas, Ajaya is the Mahabharata of Kauravas. Ajaya is Suyodhana’s (Duryodhana is more popular parlance) Mahabharata where Kauravas are heroes rather than the despicable villains they are usually made out to be. The first part of the book- Ajaya epic of Kaurava clan, Roll of the dice has been published on December 1, 2013 and the second and last part, Rise of Kali (note: Kali as in Kaliyuga) is slated for release by mid August this year,” tells Anand Neelakantan.

The book has featured in the top position in booksellers lists like Crossword, Landmark, Oxford, etc. “The response and reviews of the book has been fabulous so far. What is icing on the cake is that my first book Asura: Tale of the Vanquished is still in the charts,” he shares. The book has recently been launched in Tamil language and is receiving rave reviews.

And this is just the beginning, Anand is working on a few more books, all related to mythology. On asking why, he replies, “An author writes what he or she is most fascinated about. For me, it is mythology. I am working on Mudrarakshasa from Rakshasa’s view point. Traditional tellings say Chanakya’s story with Rakshasa as the villain. My novel will take the story from Rakshasa’s view point, at the eve of Alexander’s invasion of India.”

Since all such books make interesting trilogies, we asked Anand if he’s planning one. “Yes, I am planning a trilogy soon. Though, I prefer to work on single books as it gives a sense of completion to both author and readers. However, certain stories need a bigger canvas and I may have to write a trilogy for something I have in mind, as the story requires it,” he shares.

So, what’s the most satisfying and difficult part of writing? “When I write my first draft, I write for myself. That is the most satisfying part of writing. Nothing can beat its satisfaction. The hardest part is editing the first draft. Every word has been put with a lot of passion, but when I read it after a few days, I start doubting my sanity and www.beracom.de writing ability. Editing out chunks of what I have poured my heart on is painful, but necessary,” tells Anand.

Anand feels that his journey so far as an author has been wonderful. “Three years before, I used to wonder whether anyone would ever read my books. Today, when my books are topping bestseller charts, it gives me a lot of satisfaction. I hope to write more and more books and perhaps try my hands in television or films,” he adds.

Cartooning remains his first love and he likes reading comics and children’s books. “The best thing to happen in the world is Tom and Jerry series, which I enjoy watching with my children. Other than that, I love to do oil painting,” laughs Anand.

As an advice to aspiring writers, Anand says, “Keep writing. The craft improves as you keep practicing. A musician practices for many years before he dares to perform in public, a sportsman spends most of his childhood practicing, yet many people who want to write expect that their first attempt to write would get published and they will earn universal fame. Writing is no different from any other profession. Practise makes a writer perfect.” 

“Read my books just as another fiction. They are not research papers and www.nasza-wiara.pl I am not a scholar by any stretch of imagination,” concludes Anand.



What else is poetry but the effusions of the innermost core of the human mind? From classical texts to the ultra postmodern practising poets and theoreticians have accepted as such. A poet today doesn’t live in an ivory tower and dream of the fantastic; he/she draws material succinctly from life, says Dr Nandini Sahu (NS) in conversation with Vipan Kumar.Dr Nandini Sahu is a major voice in contemporary Indian English literature, widely published in India, USA, UK, Africa and Pakistan. She is a double gold medalist in English literature and also the award winner of All India Poetry Contest, the Shiksha Ratna Puraskar and Bouddha Creative Writers’ Award. She is the author/editor of nine books entitled The Other Voice (a poetry collection), Recollection as Redemption, Post-Modernist Delegation to English Language Teaching, The Silence (a poetry collection), The Post Colonial Space: Writing the Self and the Nation, Silver Poems on My Lips (a poetry collection), Folklore and purchasing cialis wow it's great the Alternative Modernities (Vol I), Folklore and the Alternative Modernities (Vol II) and Sukamaa and Other Poems, (a poetry collection). She has one poetry collection under publication, Sita (A Poem). Presently, she is an associate professor of English in Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. Dr Sahu has designed academic programmes/courses on Folklore and Cultural Studies, Children’s Literature and American Literature for IGNOU.

In an exclusive interview with Dr Sahu; Vipan Kumar, lecturer in English, CASS, Adi Keih, Asmara, Eritrea, NE Africa, asks about her idea of marginal studies.

VK: Tell us something about your journey in the literary world?

NS: I have consciously never done anything for the sake of fame. Looking back today to where I started from, there is a degree of satisfaction at what life has given me as a person of literature. Born and brought up in a traditional Odishan village, educated in what many would call ‘white tile’ institutions but with a very strong family educational backgrounds, I have always found my moorings in my medium of thought and expression, the most nondescript of things in my surroundings, and most importantly, in the varied and vivid experiences in the journey of life. To tell you the truth, I am happy to have become what I always wanted to be….a passionate student of English Literature, an academic and poet in my own right and http://chapter.ursulines-ur.org/buy-levitra-where on my own terms.

VK: Do you think that 'poetry' has a good demand in this era of science and technology?

Dr Nandini SahuNS: I am both surprised and amused that the issue still exists! See, every age of civilization has had its own eras of scientific thought as befitted the levels of knowledge and advancement of the age; and literary pursuits in general and poetry in particular have always coexisted with that. In fact, some of the best minds of bygone eras have inculcated both facets in their work. From Aristotle through Omar Khayyam to Jayanta Mahapatra nearer home, I could give you instances galore of luminaries who were men of science in their academic capabilities and excelled either as poets or as connoisseurs of poetry. In our own times, I might mention Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, formally a student of Physics and Aerospace Engineering, and one of the most erudite Presidents our country has had. I refer to Dr Kalam as an answer to the veritable bridges between poetry and science and technology that you talk of; a man of science with a soul and spirit that is as ‘poetic’ as can be! What else is poetry but the effusions of the innermost core of the human mind? From classical texts to the ultra post modern of them, practising poets and theoreticians have accepted as such. A poet today doesn’t live in an ivory tower and dream of the fantastic; he/she draws material succinctly from life. Poetry (as an inclusive term), which to my mind, is basically the panacea for the myriad stresses of life, is most often a corollary to what you mean as the era of science and technology. The busy corporate might not be accepting the proposition overtly in so many words, but I see no conflict between the two! To put these thoughts in verse, I’d quote from my own musings that are of course now in print:

The gentle art of looking through,
A concrete experience of the abstract,
the union of life and peace,
the vision and the visionless
taken together,
the song and silence,
the corners where all the rivers flow
amid the heart’s dark floor,
a rapport with mortality,
a formula of sight,
a clarity of light,
a sign of the heart,
a look into the night,
a day that’s bright,...
what else is poetry
but a clear insight?


VK: Your main sources of inspiration are your land, people, place and social and political inequalities you see everywhere. But now as you reside in New Delhi, do you find any different social and political scenario here?

NS: Yes, my land with its topography and uniqueness, my people whom I’ve known intensely, the culture that has reared me and the socio-political milieu that I’ve seen evolve around me, though not necessarily in that order, have indeed been both my moorings in life and the inspiration behind my creativity. As far as residing in Delhi goes, well life in a big city has myriad hues, but the perspectives and insights acquired through felt experiences over the years have never really changed. It’s true that life today is comfortable, but the scenarios that differential power equations bring about are fundamentally the same. I have never been able to turn my eyes away from the obverse side of life; wherever I may be spatially located. The dream of reaching out to the disenfranchised (that is in several senses) that has been a nascent one only gets stronger by the day. As a poet and a human being, I would consider myself successful if ever my thoughts of a better tomorrow can be translated into action, in my own small ways.

VK: You have penned Folklore and the Alternative Modernities. Do you think folklore is full-fledged literature in itself?

NS: A literature, the product of and is a representation of mass culture, is definitely authentic and full fledged. Since there is this aspect of faithful representation of the ways of life of communities at the core of folk literature, I consider it as literature that is autonomous. The two books on folklore experiment with a flexible view of folk, removing notions of folk as part of marginal literature. My strong belief is, folk is not something out there in a museum, it is a part and parcel of our lives, and thus, fit enough to be our mainstream literature. The modern literary texts that have made explicit use of the folk traditions to make it available to the readers today are also treated at par with the folk texts that have only the oral tradition, called the pure folk. The books examine the nature, concept and function of folk in modern Indian literature. These volumes are of immense value for the literature teachers, researchers, folklorists, anthropologists, and experts of social psychology marginal studies, dalit studies, developmental studies, culture critics, linguists and policy planners. In the same vein, I have designed courses for my own University and have also been on similar assignments abroad on folklore and culture studies. My ideas of folk are appreciated and accepted all over, because roots are ultimately important for all.

VK: Your fourth poetry collection, Sukamma and Other Poems, is a tribute to the marginal, the subaltern. What do you understand by 'subaltern'?

NS: Sukamaa and Other Poems is, I would say, a subconscious recreation from a vantage point my tryst with deeply felt notions of subalternity that I now realize were always there like a nagging thought at the back of my mind, even when I wasn’t old enough to know any of these technical terminologies. The title figure Sukamaa was a rural, poor tribal Kondh woman, my childhood domestic help who was in no way related to me by ties of blood and was yet a vital support system for the family. In my poetic thoughts on the subaltern, I see her as an archetypal figure and my discourse is from the ‘other’ side, that is to say, an assay in unearthing the voices of the millions of Sukamaas who, true to the Wordsworthian conception of the rustic, are capable of showering elemental love and care on us, the more fortunate, without ever stopping to wonder at the unequal relationships of power that determine their interactions with their masters/employers. Somewhat in terms of a Marxist exaltation of the proletariat, I could as well say that they shine in their work and dedication that go beyond any reasoned analysis of rewards and returns; till they become inadvertent signposts never erasable from our repositories of memory. In that sense, my fourth collection is a long standing debt I owed to my past.

VK: Don't you think that classical literature is dying?

NS: No... I don’t think it’s dying. Classics or classicus means belonging to the highest, thus it has the position of its own. Classical literature denotes to the great masterpieces of the Greek, Roman, and other ancient civilizations, like Homer's Iliad, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Virgil's Aeneid, or Oedipus the King by Sophocles, or works by other ancient writers in epic, lyric, tragedy, comedy or pastoral. In Indian literature, it can be the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Vedic texts and many such. Classical literature builds up the base for all other literatures, so how can it die? Starting from our universities’ syllabi to our coffee tables, classical literature always asserts its position. In my writings, I do not intend to give teleological account of history, but tradition shapes me to what I am today.

VK: As you are very much active, industrious and energetic, what would you like to suggest the budding writers?

NS: I would suggest the budding writers to be honest to their writings, belong to a tradition, have the soul to call a spade a spade, and of course to take appreciation and criticism in the same disposition.

(The interviewer Vipan Kumar is lecturer in English, CASS, Adi Keih, Asmara, Eritrea, NE Africa. His areas of research interest are African American Literature, Post-Colonial Literature and Language Studies. The interview was taken on the occasion of the launch of Nandini Sahu’s fourth poetry collection, Sukamaa and Other Poems in New Delhi in August 2013.)



Crazy Desi Book series is special- witty, satirical, mind-blowing ‘man-animal’ characters that simply mirror real life situations that we can’t help finding ourselves in. In a chat with its authors Ananth Shankar and Nidhi Jaipuria, Janani Rajeswari S discovers more about cartooning, satire and a whole new experience. We can’t miss ‘Rat’appa, hailing from the middle-class who’s constantly vying to be on the top of the corporate world or the fussy Durga ‘Murga’ or ‘Yo’ bra, the youth with his i-pod plugged into his ears who slithers away into a world of his own. Or our very own ‘Goat’ee, the ‘lost’ foreigner who’s taken for a ride. “Crazy for the limitless thoughts and ‘Desi’ for the Indian touch, that’s Crazy Desi Book,” says Ananth. They call the four-book series ‘a mirror to the society’ through satire. “It’s a mission to make a comment on the bad and worst that exists and also to change it,” is how Ananth Shankar simply puts it.

Cartooning and self-publishing…

A brand designer who was part of both National Institute of Design and National Institute of Fashion Technology, Ananth was initially into cartooning part-time for The Times of India. His specialty is ‘Animalisation’ that reflects his love for them. “However, it’s true that cartoonists are not taken seriously and thus, have a desperate need to take up other jobs to remain afloat,” he admits.

However, a pastime became a serious passion. “I felt that the real society should be ridiculed. Moreover, I felt that it was important for my family to relate with my cartoons,” explains Ananth, who adds that cartooning is a very powerful medium that is otherwise treated as a childish experience.

His first book came in the form of ‘Bisi Busy Bangalore’ in 2004 which was narrated through the eyes of a street dog. “Back then, bookstores were happy to stock my book. However, I realised that the cost between the producer and the end of the product was far more. Thus, I decided to opt for self-publishing,” he adds. He dedicated his publishing house ‘Wags in the bags’ to his dog Bhagheera.

The idea to do his second book came years later. He has joined hands with Nidhi Jaipuria, who has been associated with the field of education for more than a decade now. Her work entails mainly helping kids play with words. She has a few short stories for children to her credit. “I usually don’t illustrate for others. But I did so for Nidhi’s collection of 24 one-page stories,” Ananth adds. Nidhi adds that the love for banter and fun actually brought the two together. “The book has grown on Ananth’s idea,” says Nidhi, who has co-authored the book series.

Humour and ‘Man’animals…

Crazy Desi Book can well be termed as India’s only animal satire comic book. “Today, when it comes to humour, it’s mostly slapstick that we get to see in the media. However, we felt the need for giving readers some intelligent humour,” she adds. What could be a better choice than depictions through animals that mean no harm to anyone? Welcome to the ‘Farm’ily. “It celebrates wildlife and depicts how life is lived by them,” says Nidhi.

The making of Crazy Desi Book…

So, how does one describe the book series in a line? “A slice of life. It comprises of the annoying situations we all face presented in the cartoon format with humour. It is an interesting mélange of 80 percent of illustrations and the rest is text,” says Ananth. Also, a compilation of experiences that Ananth and Nidhi have themselves gone through.

“We wanted the books to be about middle-class India, a re-invented 'common man' taking a dig at day-to-day happenings relevant to most city-dwellers. Food, travel, shopping and health pretty much sum up any homo sapiens’ daily priorities!” quips Ananth.

The first volume was on ‘Travel’ that was out in June last year. Remember the jam-packed share autos and how people reserve seats in overcrowded buses by putting their handkerchiefs on the seat. The next books were released after a span of three months each. When it comes to ‘Shopping’, one cannot ignore the obsession with ‘credit cards or how poor husbands wait endlessly outside shops while their better-halves take their own time to make their selections. If this does not suffice, check out the third and fourth editions of the book on ‘Food’ and on ‘Health’ respectively. “In each book, a page contains a word pertaining to the subject dealt with. This is given in order of A to Z,” explains Nidhi.

“A common thread that runs through all the four books is the use of vocabulary,” says Nidhi. She feels that Ananth has a unique style of writing. For instance, adding quirky and witty rhyming puns to each page. So, each page includes illustrations, a word and a rhyme.

Reaching out to the readers, personally…

It was yet again a conscious decision to uniquely sell the book series. “I must admit that bookstores just loved the idea of ‘Crazy Desi Book’. However, they were not sure who was going to read it,” says Nidhi. She adds that the distributor did offer to stock the book across various stores. “However, we chose to make the books available only on the website and spreading the word through word of mouth” explains Nidhi. This ensures us to remain in personal contact with each reader. “Each reader gets a customized version of the book. We also stay in touch with them through e-mails and on social networking sites such as Facebook,” she adds. This move has definitely helped bring readers closer to the Crazy Desi Book Farm’ily.

Nidhi recalls the words of a 20-year-old who read the book out aloud to his ailing grandparent. “He said that it made his Grand dad smile. It indeed feels wonderful to be personally in touch with the readers,” says Ananth.

In the future

Both Nidhi and Ananth are happy about response the first three editions have garnered. “The experience has left me as fresh as a 'desi' - battered from the physical strain of drawing and putting my foot in the mouth. But mentally it feels good to have persevered and completed four 'epic' volumes, not exactly capabilities of a lazy cartoonist,” jokes Ananth.

The team is now working on the last edition in the Crazy Desi Book series, which will hit the stands soon. The book is sponsored by Fortis hospitals to reach a pan India audience.

As for the next line-up of books, Ananth says: “To create a better tomorrow by mercilessly stabbing at civic, social and ethical conduct of Indians today. The anchors of all my books will be an animal protagonist, be about day-to-day life in India and use puns to pun-ish!”



Joygopal Podder has published 13 books in 32 months including 12 crime fiction novels and was featured in the Limca Book of Records for two consecutive years (2012 and 2013)…and the year 2014 would be his hat-trick as he is already qualified. Here, Smita Dwivedi discovers more about his passion for writing!

His books include: Deceivers, (Pustak Mahal/Cedar Books), The Inheritance (Atlantic), The Landlord’s Secret and Other Stories (Atlantic), Millennium City (Prakash Books), High Alert (Atlantic), Superstar (Prakash Books), Mumbai Dreams (V&S Publishers), Beware of the Night (Vitasta Publishing), A Million Seconds Too Late (Vitasta Publishing) and Merchants of Dreams (Vitasta Publishing).

SD: Tell us something about yourself?

Joygopal: I came to writing at the age of seven in London, where I was born and spent my childhood. My first published story was at the age of 12 in a children’s magazine in Delhi, after our family returned to India. I was a freelance writer during my school and college days.

Heaving earned a gold medal in law from the University of Delhi, I was busy with my career and family life and writing took a backseat. I came to the NGO sector at the age of 40.

When I was 48 years old, my wife nearly died of blood poisoning and I went through a financial crisis. My wife survived – but lost her kidneys. I saved my house – but with great difficulty. The unpredictability of life made me to fight back – and leave a legacy of some sort. I decided to go back to my first great passion - writing. I floated a few blogs, and began the journey to write a book.

I love reading thrillers and crime fiction, so that’s the genre I chose to start off with. What emerged was a thriller featuring a social sector activist. I called my first book Deceivers.

My next novel The Inheritance delved into my earlier experiences in the corporate sector. While, my fourth book involved a serial killer. I let my imagination run riot, but grounded my story in familiar geographical territory, namely Gurgaon, where I have my home. That’s why the novel is titled Millennium City. It’s one of my most popular crime thrillers.

SD: Gurgaon is featured in most of your books. Why?

Joygopal: Most of my books do feature Gurgaon. My plots travel all over India and the world but the protagonists are usually grounded in Gurgaon. They live here, or work here, or both. The locales of Gurgaon are liberally sprinkled all over my books. The malls of Gurgaon feature in my books, as do the flyovers of NH8 and the parks and condominiums. The metro stations have sometimes hosted dramatic situations in my books.

SD: Tell us something about your books?

Joygopal: I have authored fourteen novels and one non-fiction book in three years. The plots span a wide terrain. Bollywood and its stars and directors and producers provide interesting characters and plotlines for many of my books. Some of my novels are police procedural; others are devoted to human drama.

My latest book is Dynasty, a novel about a hotel tycoon’s family and how the family members are stalked, threatened and attacked, but nobody knows why and by whom. I have just completed a light-hearted romance novel called 3 Mixed Up Men and have started writing another light-hearted humorous romantic book called Desperately Seeking Love. I will explore historical drama also at a later date.

SD: How did you feature as a record holder in Limca Book of Records?

Joygopal: I hold the record for the most number of crime fiction novels published in the fastest time (11 books in 21 months). This record is featured in the 2013 edition of the Limca Book of Records. Earlier, in the 2012 edition, my record was 5 books in 9 months. I will be appearing in the 2014 edition also with 13 crime fiction books in 29 months. So, even my continuous appearance in the Limca Book of Records is becoming something of a record! I’m really blessed!

However, I would like to point out that, in writing, quality comes first. An author should not write to break records; I do not. The records have just happened because of the fast pace of my writing, which is not a deliberate strategy. I love writing and storytelling; I have a passion for it. So the output is fast.

SD: Where do you see yourself five years down the line?

Joygopal: What next? More books and more records. I would like to try my hand at historical fiction and also humour (which I have started). What drives me is the positive feedback I get from my readers. As long as they love what I write, I will keep on giving them my books!

I hope, of course, to become better known as an author, as the years go by, and perhaps see some of my books come alive on the silver screen.

SD: Any message you want to give to first-time authors?

Joygopal: Read and read and read. Then write and write and write. There are no short-cuts to writing success. And write so that you are remembered for generations – not forgotten in six months!



says Ashok K Banker, an Anglo-Indian from a Christian family, who has been instrumental in reviving the readers’ interest in Hindu mythology and Vedic literature. What drives this talented author to these legends...how he adds the zing to all these texts...finds out Varsha Verma. Ashok K Banker is an internationally acclaimed author of mixed-race based in Mumbai. His Epic India Library is a lifetime writing plan that aims to retell all the major myths, legends and history of the Indian sub-continent in an interlinked cycle of over 100 volumes. This includes The Ramayana series, Krishna Coriolis, The Mahabharata series, the contemporary Kali Rising thriller series and other works. His books have sold over 1.85 million copies in 13 languages and 58 countries worldwide. No wonder he is credited with the resurgence of mythology in Indian publishing.

On mythology as his muse...

Ashok K Banker“As a non-Hindu, I had no knowledge or experience of these stories or mythology. Though there were Amar Chitra Comics and TV serials, they could not amuse me. When I chanced upon the puranic texts as a young boy, I was amazed at the depth and detail and beauty of the original stories. It amazed me that those original tales were almost unknown to even Hindus today. For instance, I have met not even a handful of people in my lifetime who have read the original Valmiki Ramayana (even in translation) or the original Vyasa Mahabharata. Everyone believes they know these epics because they’ve watched Bollywood films or read comics or watched those TV serials, but that’s just a tip of the iceberg. The original epics are great works of world literature. Whether they were mythology or history or something else is for others to decide. To me, these were great stories that deserved to be known by the whole world. I waited almost thirty five years for someone to retell them or even just tell them in all their glorious detail but Indian English writers seemed to be only interested in writing about themselves, their love lives, their marriages...they still are, I guess. So I took the plunge, an Anglo-Indian from a Christian family, and did my best attempt to reclaim these great stories. If I succeeded in any small way, it’s not because I’m talented or a good writer, because I’m neither. It’s because these stories are great stories,” says the mythological writer Ashok.

Quoting an example of his eight-volume Ramayana series...

Everyone says they know the Ramayana. Few do. “When I began reading and gathering insights into the various Ramayana versions, I found that Muslims in Malaysia have their own version, so do people across Asia, even the rest of the world. There are probably more Sanskrit Ramayana scholars in Scandinavia than in Delhi! And more scholars and historians interested in Vedic culture in Russia and Middle Eastern Europe than in Benaras! But in India, people dismiss it as a simple tale of Good versus Evil. Or they use it as a whipping post to project their own insecurities and prejudices. The truth is, that was another age, another era. Were men chauvinistic then? Yes, of course they were. These stories were all written only by celibate men living alone in deep forests – they had no inkling of a woman’s mind or point of view. So definitely these tales are chauvinistic, brahmanically biased, North Indian. As someone of mixed race, mixed culture, with Sri Lankan British parentage, I was fascinated by how worked up people got even today when arguing the merits and demerits of what Rama or Sita or Ravana did or didn’t do in that distant past. Like, get real, people. They did what they did. They lived, they loved, they fought, they died. Deal with it. Move on with your lives! People take it so personally. Why? I think it’s guilt. Brahmanical Hindu guilt because they regard Rama as a God yet can’t accept the fact that he banished Sita. It’s a myth that Gods are perfect. Mythology tells us over and over again that even Gods were not perfect. Just because you consider someone a God, doesn’t mean he lived up to your expectations perfectly. My interest was in the core story, not in all this irrelevant claptrap. I just told the story, as someone with my mixed background and cultural upbringing would have, in my polyglot makapao Byculla Boy Anglo-desi style. The fact that someone actually saw fit to publish it, and well over a million readers (and counting) loved it so much, is amazing. It still remains my bestselling work, with the ebook editions now outselling the print editions ten to one, because new readers are discovering it every day,” tells Ashok proudly.

What more?

“I am more than halfway, almost two-thirds of the way through my retellings of the major myths, legends and itihasa of the Indian sub-continent. When complete they will all form the Epic India Library, a massive story cycle with interconnected volumes and series. I plan to finish this project in another two to three years and will then move on to writing more personal novels, mainly romances and serious contemporary fiction since those are my two personal interests,” he shares.

The newbie...

More recently, Ashok has released EPIC LOVE STORIES – of Shakuntala and Dushyanta- the love story that gave birth to a nation, Ganga and Shantanu - a love story written on water, Satyavati and Shantanu - a love story made possible by a son’s sacrifice, Amba And Bhishma - a love story that was never meant to be, Devayani, Sharmishtha And Yayati- a love triangle that changed a dynasty. On asking about the response so far, Ashok replied, “The response has been terrific. I believe in a direct line from reader to writer. Anyone can write to me anytime and I always reply. Almost 43,000 readers (out of about 2 million readers total) have written to me and I’ve answered immediately, even corresponding with several for decades. So I have this wonderful sample of readers who help me gauge if a book is being enjoyed or not. The Love Stories are a great concept, they feel. The lovely illustrations by Kunal Kundu and beautifully designed covers by Gunjan Ahlawat play a big role in that, I feel. It’s one of the few covers where I was invited to give input into the concept and I feel very happy with the results. In future titles in the series, I plan to include lesser known stories that readers are less familiar with and I think everyone of all ages can read and enjoy these books.”

What he wants to achieve by writing...

“I want to do justice to the story. The writer should disappear once the story begins: only his voice should remain. I alter my style, syntax, vocabulary, grammar, narrative devices, everything according to the story I’m telling. If you read my Krishna Coriolis, Ramayana Series, Mahabharata, Vertigo, Blood Red Sari, you’ll see they’re all in completely different narrative styles. The story decides how it should be told and the writer must serve the story. I’m irrelevant except to offer my voice, my mind, my very limited and poor skills, to work in the service of the story. I’m just the cobbler who works the leather, not the creator of the hide, nor the maker of the thread, nor the tools or implements...merely the cobbler,” says the humble Ashok.

Hardest part of writing...

“...the preparation, research, thinking, planning, ideating, gestating. It takes my anywhere from ten to thirty plus years to get ready to write a book. It involves a lifestyle change: If you don’t live, breathe, eat, sleep, drink writing everyday you’re only a businessman not a writer. Once it’s in your blood and you do it because you love, it’s like breathing. The actual act of writing is the easiest, most enjoyable part and barely takes any time. If it’s not, then you need to change your profession,” advises Ashok.

Advice to young author...

“Read, Read, Read. Write. In that proportion. Read at least a thousand books for every one you write. Don’t offer everything you write for publication. Be willing to throw away entire novels, even good ones, if you’re not totally happy with them. If you’re not writing better than other writers you read, you’re not ready to be published yet. Work at it. You never become a good author: your entire lifetime is a journey towards that goal. Even after 40 published books, I still feel like I’m learning how to do it all over again with each book. I still get a thrill out of it. I still love it madly. Forget the money, forget fame, forget the PR and the publicity game. It’s all about the writing and that only comes from the heart, the soul, the gut,” he advises.

Unwinding facts...

“Writing is my hobby. Being a husband, a father, a caregiver to my companion Willow, those are my real jobs. I unwind by writing, by reading...and by going to the gym which I really enjoy,” he says.

On a concluding note...

“Be well, read lots of good books (not just mine) and be kind to as many people as you can. Because good people make good readers and good writers,” concludes Ashok.



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