Thursday, 29 June 2017

Book Review: Rafflesia: The Banished Princess by Gautam

Book: Rafflesia: The Banished Princess

Author: Gautam

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Leadstart Publishing

Price: 395

Pages: 397


"Rafflesia: The Banished Princess"
The curtains draw up. Lights are dimmed. The musical is about to begin. As the beautiful princess descends on stage, the mythical creatures from her kingdom come alive. Flickers of brilliant colors
blaze across as mesmerizing music pulsates from one corner of the theatre to the other. A fairy tale is about to unfold…

As young children, we often come across things that stay in our hearts forever. For Appu, it is a fairy tale about a beautiful princess. He lives with her in a world filled with the magical creatures from her kingdom until the real world beckons. A reluctant Appu steps into it as a striking young man and struggles to find his place.

What follows is an evocative tale of love and loss, friendship and betrayal, as the story travels through the snow-peaked mountains of Arunachal to the golden deserts of Jaisalmer, the tulip gardens of
Holland to the lush greens of Kerala. Does Appu find what he had set out for? The answer lies in Rafflesia — The Banished Princess because in her story, lay his!"


The book Rafflesia is a very well knitted tale, surrounding a bunch of people who have a very different side, very peculiar way of behaving in the book, which makes the book a really enjoyable treat. From the very start the book travels in two dimensions.

Well, the trend of playing with flashbacks is so much in trend that it didn’t came as a surprise. The author managed both the scenarios with perfection and everything was complementing the larger picture in the long run.

I particularly enjoyed the flashback more than the present world because it had a lot of sincerity and pieces that were so innocent and emotional that it was so easy to connect with them. I always waited for the bigger Appu to vanish and smaller version of him to appear and tickle me everywhere with his little doings.

The characters in the book were of great range and I enjoyed them beyond any limits. I loved Appu, I adored Rahul, and I loved their mothers and their fathers. It was a great family saga written in a very simplistic manner which kept the pace moving with ease. Not at one point I felt bored but yes the book was extended without any specific need.

Also I felt that there was a need to decipher the meanings of the phrases used in a foreign language in brackets or at the end of the book because due to that the connectivity was broken and that is one reason why I sometimes wanted to skip the narration that dealt with the life of a grown up Appu.

Good part about the book is that it is relatable. It is easy to wear Appu’s shoes if you are an Indian kid. The appearance of such part is really enjoyable. The book tells you how Indian kids are so unique, they have a very different way to deal with things or rather they are brought up that way.

The hardship, the turmoil’s, the people accompanying the shy and reserved Appu is really delightful. If and only if some parts were trimmed while editing, some phrases were re-told so that they became understandable, the book could have reached the zenith.

Still it is a great read with right amounts of everything. The good thing is that it can attract any reader irrespective of her or his choices.

Image result for rafflesia the banished princess

About the author:

A B-School graduate, Gautam is a business analyst by profession. Considers the laptop as among his best friends and nurses a secret desire to turn an entrepreneur someday.

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Book Review: 37+ Grace Marks By Vishal Anand

Book: 37+ Grace Marks

Author: Vishal Anand

Genre: Fiction (Romance)

Publisher: Srishti Publishers

Pages: 190

Price: 175


What happens when you fall in love at first sight? That too in college, which is supposed to be the best time of one's life. But is it the best place to find love too?
Viraj falls head over heels in love with his classmate Nimisha, who could make boys on campus go crazy. While his friends Punit and Sahil just want to have fun - despite poor mark-sheets, grace marks to pass, and other everyday adventures - Viraj wants more from his life and love.
Life has led Viraj to the edge of a cliff. He has a choice to make – to forget everything and jump, or fight.
What brought him here? An unrequited love, encounters with law, or the dilemma of grace marks? Where does Viraj's story eventually end?

Welcome to 37 + Grace Marks, Viraj's journey to discover that there is more to life than marks.


37+ Grace Marks takes you back in your college days with ease. There is a lot to see and inspect in the chaos and mayhem. It is a book about friendship, love, college and a degree that isn't always easy to grasp.

The story is about a boy Viraj who is dealing with a lot of things at the same time which is very common of a situation in any book which deals with a college life, a girl, some brat friends and an interesting journey through the lawns of a college premises.

The characters of the book are not very appealing. If I talk about the lead character Viraj then he reminds me of Kundan from Ranjhana movie. Let me re-quote, just reminds and it is not a fact to be precise. He has everything a girl  never wants in a guy. I hated him every time he crossed my eyes with a new problem or situation in the book. I liked Nimisha for standing out for herself and being what she was throughout the book without changing at all.

The side characters like Laila, Mutthu etc were not complementing the story in any way. I liked Viraj's friends and I always longed for friends who are beside you even in your mistakes.

The story is very bland in the starting. The first 80 or so pages can be read in less than an hour because they have nothing interesting in terms of dialogues, characters and doesn't contain any twists and turns majorly.

The next 110 pages are also the same. There is very less of a story and certain emotions are projected meanwhile which took negative form for me in one way or the other. There were very less likable part in the book. If I had to jot down them then I would pick the essence of friendship and the college life shown somewhere in between the book. I just liked that.

Apart from that the book wasn't up to the mark. I can recommend it to only those who are new to reading or are interested in reading a very light and extremely quick book to reach their Goodreads reading goals in 2017 a bit faster.

Connect with the author:

  • Twitter: @vishalanand07
  • Facebook:

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Interview : Karan Vir Arora Author of The Sixth: The Legend of Karna: Part 1

In Conversation with Karan Vir Arora

1. Hi Karan. Thanks for being in conversation with me. I would first of all try to know how you formed an interest in mythology. When people are running behind romance and thriller how come you thought about writing mythology?

First of all I will not call it Mythology for me this is as true as reality for me it's Ancient history as I believe most of the events of our epics like Mahabharata were true Also Ancient Indian History part Mythology is fundamental to our culture and way of life, it is who we were our roots our Identity. Every street has a temple, every other city has an important mythical landmark. Romance, thriller, action genres are fickle. Our mass population is entertained by them today but twenty years ago different genres had people’s eyeballs. Mythology/Ancient History is ever interesting, ever fascinating and all-encompassing of every genre you can think of. I gravitated to it because I recognized its immortality both as an entertainment venture and a subject of interest & knowledge to share & make our youth aware about our rich culture & heritage. Thrillers are fun today, mythology has been fun since the birth of civilization.

2. I am also an ardent lover of Mahabharata and have read quite a lot of books on it. With so much in market how do you think your book would be different and appealing?

Literature in ancient history/mythology currently focuses on the “greatest hits” characters from our stories - Rama, Sita, Krishna even Arjuna, Characters that are instantly recognizable and have been represented over and over and over. With tens of thousands of gods and goddesses in our myths most books coming out are voluntarily limiting themselves to a handful of characters who we know all too well. My book holds a light on an under-represented character from a time gone by, a time forgotten and uses him as a mirror to express deep, hidden, under-represented reflections about our modern world.

3. Why Karna? Any specific inclination towards him, no doubt he moves the reader the most.

From childhood because of my namesake I got attracted & over time fascinated by him post researching & learning about him. Karna in my opinion is the perfect embodiment of ourselves in Mahabharata. Growing up in a society he clearly does not belong in, being rejected by one group due to his background only to end up being used by another group pretending to be family for that very background and all the while not being recognized for who he has become, what he wants to do & after facing so many obstacles, struggles, constant torture & onslaught of disappointments he carved his name in history as the greatest warrior in world also the most gracious philanthropist of his time & no doubt of this time too .… That is a great representation of our identity in the world irrespective of what century we live in. That draws me to him more than other historical  characters.

4. What can readers expect in this trilogy? What difference your book has which will make the reader glued till the end of the series?

Readers can first and foremost expect a new perspective of mythology. We know our epics as tales told to us from the stars but the nuts-and-bolts reality of war, pre-war, post-war time during these epics has not been explored. What was Karna’s true path in this complex battle? What do we not know about him in this story, and what can we learn from it? Another story thread is running in our modern day India that you will see in the first book is leading to greater, more terrifying, more glorious events. At the end of this series my fervent hope is readers have enjoyed a good story while gaining more knowledge about our epics in general and Karna in particular.

5. I found about Vimanika Comics. There is whole lot of comics displayed on the website. Please throw some light on this venture of yours.

Vimanika Comics has been the leader in Indian comic-book entertainment for the last ten years. We intersperse the medium of sequential art storytelling with our revered myths to bring to readers a unique, world-class experience. We sell mythological comics and comic-related merchandise around the world. Shiva, Durga, Karna, Kalki are some of our many god characters & personalities. We have published multiple bestsellers and won awards that cement our status as a flag-bearer of comic-book innovation & evolution. Please visit to learn more about our company.

6. From 2008 till 2017 how has Vimanika Comics evolved. Has it helped you in any way to write your own book?

When we started Vimanika was a small, budding startup company standing face-to-face with comic book giants and fighting to be recognized. In 2017 we are an internationally published book-house with multiple headquarters around the world, a steadily growing audience, a strong social media presence and strong partnerships with celebrities and organizations. We are proudly publishing daring, bold content while celebrating our culture’s roots. Our entertainment merchandise is also making waves around the world. Talking to new readers, learning new ways to tell stories, working with multiple artists has absolutely helped my writing. The words printed in my book owe much of their strength to our faithful readers and our well-wishers who have rooted for us since our early company days.

7. Why Mahabharata why not Ramayana? Is it only because of the central character of your book or is it because of the epic as a whole?

Mahabharata is on the surface a war epic but there is so much more to the epic than that. It studies love, family, greed, friendship and power in a way that is vastly different from Ramayana. Karna is also a vastly under-represented character which makes for interesting storytelling. He is a hero in some parts of Mahabharata, a villain in  others and a tortured tragic character in the rest. That is ripe fruit for good character development and stories.

8. Do you plan to write more after this trilogy? Want to try any other genre?

I am trying multiple genres in this trilogy. All good books are those that don’t clearly belong in a single genre. Much of the trilogy’s future will depend on the audience response we get. There is definitely a lot of possibility though, and I want to be optimistic.

9. Do you also prefer reading mythology? Or you try everything? What are your favorite authors, genres, books?

Yes I sure do ! Mostly Mythology/Fantasy & Ancient history. My favorite Authors to start with are J.R.R Tolkien (LOTR/Silmarilion/Hobbit) I owe it to my elder brother to introduce me to Mr. Tolkiens world of fantasy as it use to be our bedtime story every night :) Ashok Banker (Ramayana /Mahabharata series, Krishna Coriles). In more historical related titles NS Rajaram (In Search of the Historical Krishna) & Maj Gen GD Bakshi's (The Indian Art of War The Mahabharata paradigm) are some of the books that blew my mind and helped me to enter our rich, mysterious exciting world of Ancient History/Mythology more ferociously.

10. Any part of the book which:

● You want to change.
No part. Cause it's not being narrated through me but Karna himself. 

11. Your book has a very interesting cover image. Why did you choose this particular artwork? Don’t you think this goes a little off with the image of Karna?

In the first book’s cover we see Karna as a baby in a basket being slipped into unknown waters of blood by a lady (you have to read the book to find out who she is ;) .There is a reason why we went out to make sure the waters were bloody apart from the metaphorical implications, there is a sense of mystery & depth that I wanted to show, it is important that the readers know this is first and foremost a journey. Just like baby Karna we are on a journey that is new, unexplored, adventurous & dark in its own way. There is a time for the powerful warrior pose of Karna to grace our series’ cover, we should not be careful to jump to that yet.

12. Tell us about your journey after your book was completed? The evolution of a manuscript to a proper book? What role does the publishing house played in this?

My publisher, LeadStart, has been extremely supportive and helpful through the post-manuscript process. I have had the idea for this book for over 18 years now though I wrote down the raw story-line & plot 15 years ago it took me 10 years to pen down the actual script as I was not a naturally gifted writer in-fact nothing near one it is not only Karna journey as a warrior but my journey as writer too that is encompassed in these pages , like every creative endeavor it evolved and shaped itself as it was being formed and finished. With stories such as this it is important to let go of the control you think you have over the idea and let it live on the page . Once the manuscript was done I approached  LeadStart who was quick to choose it & provide everything necessary for the final book before Leadstart this script got rejected by 12 well known publishers lol. There was also a high chance for delays and mishaps (not unusual for any book publishing) but the folks at LeadStart ensured that the process was smooth and efficient.

13. Mythology is for mature readers, for the ones who have patience to grasp the aura. Do you think young readers have the patience to dive in mythology? Or do you think it’s the content more than the genre?

I don’t subscribe to the idea that mythology/Ancient history related stories & fiction is for mature readers. Ancient Indian history are narrated to most of us first at childhood by our grand mothers or grand fathers. There is a reason why you see just as many kids as adults at a Ganesh Chaturthi procession, just as much enthusiasm for children as for adults during Diwali or Sankranti. We underestimate our young readers as a culture. It has never been easier to read books than it is today. With the touch of a finger you can buy and read books from all around the world no matter where you are. Young readers can and are reading our myths and celebrating them, we just need to find the right tempo to present these to them. We don’t fully grasp the metaphors and depths in our epics until we become mature, but they are still enjoyable stories that invoke emotions that transcend age. 

14. What are your favorite incidents from the epic Mahabharata?

All of Mahabharata is a treat to me, but nothing beats my Karna his story & incidents in Mahabharata are the most fascinating i.e., his battles with all the five Pandavas climaxing at Arjuna was the most favorite incidents if you ask, just to see him destroying all of them then letting them go was unseen in the history of wars, & finally almost decimating Arjuna if only Krishna wouldn't interrupt in time it was overwhelming to say the least.

15. There are many characters that didn’t attract limelight though their lives were extra-ordinary for example, Maharaja Shantanu, Vidhur, Amba, your thoughts over this?

If it was up to the history and myth lovers in our nation every hero would have a day dedicated to their memory. While a few characters in our stories have international recognition, there are many who are forgotten today. That is not necessarily a bad thing; our stories are timeless. What might be forgotten today is celebrated tomorrow. The lack of limelight doesn’t take away the good qualities of these characters. Hence my dream to make such larger than life personalities known to the youth today as much as I can .

16. Would you like to pass on a message to your readers before they try your book?

Read as much as you can, celebrate our heritage as often as possible and do as much good Karmas as your life allows you. This is a message applicable to everyone irrespective of whether they pick up this book or not. To my readers specifically, if you feel lost, beaten, disappointed & dejected by life this is the boom for you, you will benefit greatly from Karna he is epitome of inspiration of how someone who had nothing was nothing become a King & the greatest warrior in the history of mankind not because he had a rich father (though his father was a god & though he was royal blood which he was unaware off) but because of his desire to achieve something, to be someone of significance to be the best him , to show life on his terms that he was not to be messed with no matter the consequence! 

Om Suryaya Namaha 

Thank You author :)

About the Book:

Karan vir Oberoi, a real-estate magnate living in New York has recurrent dreams of someone that looks like an ancient warrior clad in golden armour adorning golden earrings. He feels a deep bond with the warrior but the dreams remain a mystery to him. After miraculously surviving an assassination attempt, Oberoi is determined to seek answers. His quest for truth leads him back to his homeland India where his true destiny awaits him. Karna, the legendary hero from the Mahabharata is considered as one of the most valiant and generous kings of his era. He defied social customs and traditions to achieve immortal glory by his virtues and skills. He became a king and trusted friend of Duroyadhana - the crown prince of Hastinapur. Embark on a journey with Oberoi as the two worlds blend and as he seeks the answer to his existence. Will history repeat itself or will Oberoi choose to venture into an uncharted territory? Unravel the mystery. Read the legend! The Sixth - The legend of Karna is a masterpiece in storytelling by Karan Vir Arora - an Award winning CEO/Creative Director Vimanika Comics. He ushers us not only into his passionate research of fifteen years but the grandeur of a forgotten era, and presents before us a completely new and unexplored facets of Kama in his debut novel and the rumoured bestseller.

About the Author:

An Award Winning Founder & Ceo of Vimanika Comics which also is an Award winning Indian Comics Company. Also a Certified Personality development Trainer & Motivational Speaker.

An Award Winning Founder & Ceo of Vimanika Comics which also is an Award winning Indian Comics Company. Also a Certified Personality development Trainer & Motivational Speaker.

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Friday, 16 June 2017

Interview : Rahul Rajan Author of Rudravan

In Conversation With Rahul Rajan

1. Hello Rahul, thanks for being in conversation with me. I would first of all like to know about how you indulged in mythology?

Hi Jasleen, it’s a pleasure J. Frankly, while the Indian audience has woken up to Mythology in the past 7-10 years, it’s been fairly close to my heart for long. My grandfather started me off on this path, first with bedtime tales and moving me on to my first copies of Amar Chitra Katha. In fact, he actually worked on the interpretation of the Vedas while fighting cancer, and managed to complete it just before his death. I’m not sure if that fact influenced me in any way, but I’d like to think of it as fate….preordained, I guess. Actually, it’s not just Indian mythology that interests me. I’m quite a big fan of Greek, Egyptian and the Norse myths as well. I think a bit of that reflects in my writing as well.

2. Why Ramayana? And why Ravana? Do you find him more appealing then Lord Rama or did you find him over-shadowed and wanted to throw some light on him?

You know, as opposed to the majority, I always found the Ramayana more interesting than the Mahabharata. The fact that this was a clash between two beings who could decimate the earth and the heavens if they so wished really appealed to me. It’s the best fantasy/superhero fiction, and it has no equal.

So why write an interpretation? Because in spite of all this, it felt incomplete, somehow. And that ties in with your question on why Rāvan..! Sacrilegious as it may sound, I feel some parts of the story don’t add up.

Rama was born to kill Rāvan. That was the purpose of his avatar. And yet, the events were only set in motion after Rāvan abducted Sita. Just imagine, if the whole banishment to the forest thing hadn’t happened, the epic wouldn’t have taken place at all! Rama would have spent his whole life in Ayodhya, blissfully ignorant of the reason of his existence! That’s like leaving the fate of the universe to chance.

I guess from a logic point of view, I needed a reason to understand why. And once I started, I couldn’t stop looking. And somehow, each question seemed to draw me closer to Rāvan. Why did he need to be killed? And then, how was the boon of Lord Brahma bypassed so easily? And if it had to be a man, then why not ParashuRām? He was an avatar of Vishnu as well. The list of questions was endless. And once I started connecting the dots, they all seemed to link to Rāvan somehow. The search suddenly turned into a story about him, almost on its own. And from then on, the story flowed naturally.

3. I feel that Ramayana is an anti-feministic saga? Taking in notice what happened with Sita at the end of the tale? What are your thoughts over this?

Wow…tough question. Well, no, I don’t think the Ramayana is anti-feminist at all. If the concept of “feminism” equates to that of a woman being confident, self-assured and independent, then the portrayal of Sita was pretty apt. Let me try and explain. Sita was not forced into exile. She went with him out of love, not any obligation. She made that decision, out of her sense of duty, her own Dharma, not as an obligation. We need to understand that difference without losing our own perspective.

Now, the hard part. The trial by fire, and her eventual second exile. This is where Rama-baiters have a field day. But here’s what I have to say, and it might not be what “modernists” want to hear.  “You cannot judge the past by the standards of the present.” Bound by the law of that time, Rama had absolutely no choice in the matter. He was king. And the king was morally obligated to uphold Dharma, as it was defined then, far more than anyone else. So he chose to suffer as a man, rather than diminish the authority of his position.

And he suffered quite a bit. It is mentioned in the Ramayana, that all joy from his life vanished after she left his side.  Sita had her twins, Rama had nothing. When he had to perform the Yagna, he got a golden statue of Sita made to sit beside him. It served to show everyone that never for a moment did he doubt her purity. It was his public act of defiance, the most he could do.

And before you say I’m presenting a one sided story, let me tell you that Sita knew this for a fact. Never once does she believe that he can live in happiness without her. If you look deeper into their situation, you feel bad for Sita, but you feel pity for Rama.

She lived life on her own terms, including choosing the manner of her death. He was bound by oaths and duties throughout. How is that anti-feminist?

4. Do you think Ravana can rule the hearts with the help of your book? Or you have just penned the story as it is shown in all these years?

Well, the book was never written with the intention of Rāvan ruling anyone’s heart. It’s more of a perspective on the events that led to his death, and how despite all his power, the deck was always stacked against him.

Yes, I do believe readers will see a very different Rāvan. He is not the magnificent hero that Rama is, nor the invincible, and yet humble warrior that Hanuman is. In fact, whenever they are in conflict, you would see that Rama is the better man, at least morally. And yet, you will find yourself empathizing with Rāvan. Because he behaves like a man, trapped in a world of Gods. You know he is wrong, but a part of you still wants him to win. You know he will die, but you want to prolong the inevitable. I think that sense of empathy, that sense of giving Rāvan the respect I feel he has been denied so far…I think that’s all I am looking for.

5. What makes your book different from others? What can readers expect?

It’s hard to answer this question without sounding presumptuous. I think first of all, it’s written as a thriller…a mystery. You will find yourself wondering what will happen next, despite the story staying true to the events of the original epic. You know Ravan is going to die in the last day of battle, but until the last paragraph, you will not know how. I think that’s the best part.

The other is the sense of logic in the story, the interweaving of so many secondary myths to form one meta-story. It’s like the strands of a spider-web all coming together at the center. Everything is connected.

Lastly, unlike most mythological reinterpretations, this does not attempt to present Gods and Demons as humans. This is mythology-plus, if I may say so. These are beings that can destroy planets on a whim, consume suns, collapse whole universes. I think the cosmic scale of this story is quite unlike what readers have been exposed to until now.

And lastly, it’s not a black and white story of good vs evil. It’s good vs good, with an equal and opposite justification throughout. I really think…no…I believe…firmly…that the readers are going to love it.

6. What are your favorite books, genres and authors?

No surprises here. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, Arthur C Clarke’s “The Odyssey series”, the original pulp fantasy works of Robert E Howard, David Edding’s “Tamuli” series, almost all books of Clive Cussler (Action-Adventure) and Michael Crichton (Sci-fi adventure). I think the fantasy/sci-fi/mythology mash-up really is my thing. I am also a HUGE Superhero fan, and might have the largest collection of DC/Marvel. And I think a lot of that has also found its way into my writing. I would have loved to write humor as well, being a P.G Wodehouse geek as well, but I don’t think I have that kind of ability.

7. What are your future plans in writing? Will you try anything extra-ordinary just like this book of yours? Or will you be trying any other genre?

Yeah, hopefully I’m not a one book wonder. I have some ideas on what I want to write on next, and I have begun work on that. Research mostly. I’m not sure about the word “extraordinary”, but it will be on a scale larger than Rudrāvan. Regarding the genre, I am going to be dipping into mythology once again, but not to the extent of this one. I want to really experiment with the fantasy and sci-fi angle a lot more, with mythology playing second fiddle this time. I think I want to carve a unique space for myself, my own personal sandbox, so to speak. And yeah, it’s not going to be one book. It’s time I entered the world of trilogies. J

8. What is hard: thinking about the concept, writing the story, editing it or getting it published? Tell your story from start till the end.

Getting it published is the hardest part, really. It’s almost painful, the kind of effort that you have to put in there. But to answer your question completely, I guess thinking about a concept is not tough for a writer, even an aspiring one. Most of us are quite imaginative, and never short of ideas or concepts. I think the tougher part is sifting through hundreds of those and finally deciding on which one to choose. Rudrāvan too happened quite like that. Then comes the plot. The theme, the dilemma, the characters, the twists etc. Then the plot linkages, making sure each event flows logically into the next and your story doesn’t suffer from a case of deux ex machina, which I think lots of writers fall prey to. Then comes the research, ensuring that you don’t get the basics of what you are writing wrong. Writer’s liberty cannot and should not be misused. Post that, a seasoned writer can write the story pretty easily. I know I only face a real problem with descriptive parts, but that’s just me, I guess. Editing, for me, was both educational, and laborious. Educational because I realized that even after multiple rewrites, there was a chance I was not getting my point across. Laborious because of the sheer effort to going back to story with another person and taking them through it word by word. It was grueling, to say the least.

Finally, getting published is a nightmare. I think it’s really hard for a first timer to get picked up. The dynamics of economics are simply stacked against you, and the quality of your writing has precious little to do with it.  I was lucky Leadstart picked me up. But it was just that…luck.

9. What role does the publishing firm plays in an author’s life, especially in the life of a debutant author?

I think a publishing firm gives an author credibility, more than anything else. This is not to diminish self-published authors in any way. God knows I was ready to take that plunge myself. But I guess the sense of professionalism a publishing firm adds is critical. Getting an editor assigned, discussions on cover layouts, page layouts, font sizes, advice on media mgmt., e-com and e-book listing, all of that is pretty important. Obviously firms lean forward a lot more in the case of an established author, while a newbie gets the no-frills version. But that again is dictated by market dynamics, which unfortunately for us writers, is a fact of life.

10. Any part of the book which:

·         You want to changeà  I would have loved to change the sales figures for sure J. You know, pre-booking in millions, a film deal…the works. Seriously though, I should have worked harder on the art. J. Else, I don’t think I’d like to change anything. It turned out just as I had imagined it would.
·         You find the bestà Far too many. Rāvan lifting Kailash, Ram breaking the Pināk, The battle of Dandakaranya, the conversations between Shiva and Vishnu, Ravan’s first encounter with Vishnu, Parashuram’s battle with Kartavirya Arjun, Hanuman defying Ravan in the court of Lanka….far too many, like I said.
·         You can re-read till deathà Only JRR Tolkein can be re-read till death.  I’m not there yet.
·         You memorize by heart. Hahaha….I think it’s the dialogue between Rāvan and Hanuman. I had a ball writing it.

 “You insolent bastard,” growled Rāvan, “do you think you can so easily escape from Lanka?”
Hanuman laughed, “Escape?” he asked, “I did not come here to escape, Ravan. I came here to break your world…just as I have broken your sons.”

11. Your favorite quotes from the book?

There aren’t too many quotes in the book. But there is a passage where Ravan first learns of Ram. It is after Ram breaks the bow of Shiva.

“The prince of Ayodhya, they whisper…as they see him hold the broken bow, and the smile on his perfect face reappears. He turns to look at them, and a silence falls once more as he raises the bow of Shiva.
And then the sound that follows drowns even the thunder of the shattering of the Pinaak. It is the sound of the name of its conqueror…the name of the prince of Ayodhya.
Ram…they say…they shout…again…and again…and again…Ram!”

12. This book certainly shows that it needed a lot of research work and knowledge in the subject matter. Tell us about your journey of this phase?

I think I answered that partly before. See, before knowledge comes interest. If you are interested in a subject, you won’t mind reading tons of literature on the subject. As I’ve already said before, mythology is my calling. I never tire of the subject. In this case, the basic knowledge was already there. The real problem was actually with that knowledge. The inconsistencies that were far too many to ignore. The tough part was finding a solution where none had even envisioned a problem. But here I found our mythology to be wondrous. I had to create very little of the events myself. As I began searching for one answer, it would lead me to another path with another question getting answered. I ended up with a whole list of facts and people connections that I had not known previously. Some of them were automatic fits into my story, and some I had to adapt. A certain event that seemingly existed in isolation, but in my eyes, tied into a larger story.

It was like a genuine mystery. “The mystery of Ravan’s death,” if you want to name it.

13. What are your needs as a writer? A long follower list or readers with a genuine understanding? Do you think the race is never-ending?

Well, I’d be lying if I said fame and adulation don’t matter to me. But I also know that my choice of genre, and my style of writing limits my numeric target segment. And I am ok with that. But I really want my core readers to love what I write. Their…what did you say …”genuine understanding” is really important to me. More than that, I want them to proudly acknowledge that they love my writing. About the race part, I guess only the top dogs are in any kind of race. The rest of us are too far down in the food chain to actually worry about such things. But if it ever came down to it, I’m cool with any and all competition.

14. Do you think the book market is expanding in a wrong way? What chance does a debutant hold in the midst of the chaos?

Hmmm…not sure about this one. I do think that the major publishers are playing it very safe, and it’s very tough for a new author to crack the code. When things like safe word count, safe genre, previous writing credentials (which are mostly none for a first timer) enter into a writer’s world, he is limited in a huge way. And frankly, history has shown that publishers almost always get it wrong. Just look at JK Rowling. So it’s pretty disheartening for a debutant. But my advice is to not lose hope. You just have to believe in what you have written. Be open to criticism, and even reworking your book entirely. But in the end, if you are sure, and nobody is still willing to bet on you, bet on yourself. I know that’s what I would have done.

15. Would you like to pass on a message to your readers before they try your book?

If you are fans of mythology, fantasy, even sci-fi, you will love this book.
Most reinterpretations offer a different viewer’s perspective of the original tales. This book goes beyond that. It offers you the perspective of each player involved, and never lets you choose a side. It forces the readers to become the jury in a grand trial with each side arguing its case equally well.
The second is the mystery element. Despite knowing the end of the story, readers will struggle to guess how that end would come about.

Lastly, the story is set on a cosmic scale. It takes away the homely representation of our myths and replaces them with beings whose existences span universes, and who actions can instantly lay waste to entire worlds.

It will show our Gods in a light in which they have been seldom seen before, and give our legends the respect that is their rightful due.

Thank You author for the wonderful answers :)

About the book:

The greatest villain of our legends, burnt down every year, reduced to ashes again and again, only to rise anew. His is a cycle of death and rebirth that never ends, a legend that refuses to die. And there is a reason for that.

The tale of Rāvan still screams to be told, to break free of the falsehoods that have buried his truth. But in the vastness of our myths, there are bits and pieces of his legend scattered all around, leading us to the truth of what could well be the greatest unsolved mystery of all time. The truth of Rāvan's life, and his death by a God in mortal flesh…

Rāvan's origin, as the descendant of Lord Brahma, his devotion to Shiva and his conquest of Swarga speak of a great king, stronger and wiser than even the Devas. How then does he succumb to lust, cowardice and finally, foolhardiness?

And what was Rāvan's sin that made his death necessary? The abduction of Sitā was a mere front, for the Rām avatar had been born long before that. Why did Vishnu stand against him, when he was blessed by both Shiva and Brahma? How was Rāvan, blessed with invincibility, defeated so conveniently, by a God in human flesh? Could Rāvan not have thought of that, and prepared against it?

And why did Shiva allow the death of his greatest worshipper, the one he himself had named?

What if the Rāmayan was just a part of a greater story, a cosmic game
of chess between Vishnu and Rāvan? What if our greatest epic is merely the end of a tale that had begun long ago?"

About the author:

"'Rahul Rajan is a self- anointed master of all knowledge least relevant to the real world, and more suited to an era that he admits 'never quite existed.' Dropping out of college to joining the Merchant Navy to seek adventure in far off lands (not realizing that he was about 500 years too late), he counts sailing through the Bermuda Triangle and the Amazon River amongst some of the highest points of his life. Aften a severe back injury forced him back on shore, he completed his BSc in Physics from Fergusson College, Pune and then completed an MBA in Marketing from the SP Jain Institute of Mgmt. & Research, Mumbai. Fate then took him on the turbulent waters of the corporate world, where he worked with Procter & Gamble for seven years before moving on to Philips. And now, disguided as a mild mannered cubicle dweller, fighting a never ending battle for sales and distribution, he spends his nights typing away on his laptop, creating imaginary worlds and creatures that have dwelled in his subconsicous mind for far too long. He is settled in Gurgaon with his wife Ruchi and two sons Abhimanyu and Shaurya. He can be reached on Facebook at ''Rahul Rajan's Rudravan""

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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Interview : Siddhant Dwivedee Author of Rama’s Musings

IN Conversation With Siddhant Dwivedee

1. Tell me something more about yourself? You do a lot of things, stand-up comedy, creating content and now writing. How has the journey been?

It’s been an unusual journey, to say the least. I studied engineering, got a job in digital marketing & then decided I wanted to be a full time writer. I guess one thing led to another but in retrospect, it has also been quite the journey & I’m glad I took the road less travelled & decided to become a writer. Stand-up comedy is a more of a hobby, really – I like to get on stage and do an open mic or two when I get a chance.

2. The book deals with a very complicated yet interesting topic. What inspired you? From where the kick came?

When I started writing this novel back in college, I was heavily influenced by books like Filth by Irvine Welsh & I wanted to write about something intense – like an unlikely drug addiction or undiagnosed mental disorder. The Mahabharata itself was a huge inspiration too.

3. Being a comedian why you chose such dramatic theme to write. You could have hit the bull’s eye with a light comedy too. Any specific reason?

I’ve been a fan of the Mahabharata since I was a child. When I decide to write a novel, the go-to topic was the Mahabharata. Somewhere along the way I realized that the audience for a purely mythological novel would be very niche so I thought of adding a fictional element and that’s how the protagonist, Raghu was created.

4. Why do you think Mahabharata is the tale to adopt with ease?

The Mahabharata is my Star Trek. As a child, I used to watch the TV show every Sunday & my obsession with the characters and the story grew with time. I find its relevance today remarkable – the grey areas, the moral conflicts and the flawed nature of protagonists in general make for very compelling stories.

5. Many authors use schizophrenia to create a great thriller/mystery sort of story. But they end up doing a blunder. It’s a very delicate topic to talk about. What are your views?

I’d be lying if I said my reasons for including the schizophrenia were different. However, I did end up reading up a lot to make it seem as authentic as possible. It is indeed a delicate topic & I hope I’ve been able to do some justice to it, at least from a storytelling point of view.

6. What kind of books you read and what kind of impact it had on your book? What are your favorite genres, authors and books?

I love fiction novels – pretty much all kinds. I particularly like The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the entire Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & The Seventh Secret by Irving Wallace.

7. So have you trusted your instincts and old folklore while taking inspiration from the great saga or you have researched beyond the extremities to reach the core?

A little bit of both – I’ve relied on already established storylines and also tried to I introduce new ones. For example, many of us know about Bhishma’s vow from the Mahabharat but there isn’t much literature available on what his life was like prior to that so it creates an avenue for a new story.

8. Thriller and Mystery are accepted with ease in publishing world. How was your experience in this? How you ended up at a place where you and your book are presently?

Rama’s Musings may not be a conventional thriller or whodunit type of mystery novel but there has to be something that makes you flip through the pages and find out more. I tried to focus on creating this intrigue for the reader.

Since the outset, Leadstart had faith in the idea but when the book actually gets publised is a function of several things - editing the manuscript, timing, trends among readers and other aspects that I'm not aware of. Mythological fiction is an extremely popular genre now so I think the timing has been perfect!

9. What’s next in store for the readers?

Sharing their feedback? Haha, I’m working on another novel. Not sure how long it’ll take to finish but it is in the pipeline. I try to tell stories on my Instagram page too! @siddhantdwivs

10. What are your expectations from your readers? They should adore you or they should understand you? Or beyond that they should become a fan?

Above all, I want my readers to be comfortable with however they felt about the book. To expect them to react a certain way would be tantamount to insulting their imagination.

11. Your book has a very interesting cover and title. I was not able to judge it before reading the blurb. Would you like to say something about how they were chosen for your book?

Personally, I think the title should invoke intrigue and should also do justice to the story. The cover also aims to do the same – serve as a clue and a puzzle at the same time.

12. Was there any time while writing when you felt this ain’t gonna work or it will work a big time? Any time you feel utterly motivated or completely dejected.

I was short on attendance in the 6th semester when Rama's Musings got the letter of intent to be published. So when I was sitting in the Principal's cabin during submissions, she told me that I won't be allowed to sit for practical exams and would effectively get 4 KTs. So I told her that I know it's no excuse, but I kinda wrote a novel this semester and I'm only a couple of lectures short of the minimum attendance.

She said, and I couldn't believe my ears, "Am I supposed to ask all students who don't have enough attendance to go write a book?"

I had to clear those practical KTs in the next semester. It's bittersweet now, as I look back with a smile on my face. I can forgive my injuries in the name of wisdom. If you know someone who's got passions that their college doesn't always understand or encourage, tell them to keep at it. It's all worth it later.

13. Why do you think your book will attract readers in these ever changing reading habits of today’s generation?

I guess we’ll find out together!

Any part of the book which:

         You want to change
         You find the best.
I find the epilogue to be the best part of the book.
         You can re-read till death.
Particular the second chapter is one I can re-read and still find new meaning.

15. Would you like to pass on a message to your readers before they try your book?

Thank you for your faith! I hope Rama’s Musings expands your mind like no other book did!

Thank You Author for your valuable time.

About the book:

Raghu is a 25 year old schizophrenic paralegal who has visions of living the life of Devavrata and his visions draw parallels from the events in his real life. As the psychiatric help he receives begins to take effect and the visions are gone, his life seems boring and one dimensional. He's so used to living his double life that he begins to abuse drugs to induce the visions again and his life goes into a downward spiral. What will happen to his love life, his novel and his family? Will he find a way out of the mess or succumb to the chaos?

 About the Author:

Siddhant Dwivedee is an engineer who moonlights as a stand-up comedian in Mumbai and blogs at Rama's Musings is his debut novel that he wrote as an engineering student; the culmination of his childhood love affair with The Mahabharata and steadfast passion for writing. In his spare time, he creates content for some of India's biggest brands at Publicis Media as an Associate.

Connect with the author:

Instagram : @siddhantdwivs

Buy the book:

Interview : Prateek Dubey Author of The Disobedient Darkness

 In Conversation with Prateek Dubey

The title of your book is very interesting. Would you like to throw some light on how you finally reached on this? Was it suggested by someone after beta-reading or was it your own idea?

The title of the book was a little different when I conceived the story, but it had ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ in it. After revising the first draft I concluded that anything more than ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ was unnecessary. How did the title occur to me? I don’t know or cannot explain… I believe these are strokes of imaginations which pop into the mind from nowhere inexplicably. The same goes for the name of the daemōn that guides the hero of the story. I don’t know what it means or why I chose it; coming to me one night after drinking four rum and cokes.

It’s always hard to start. How does it feel to finally see oneself at the top of the steps?

Yes, it is hard to start, even when you are won over by the idea. The story is about a man without a doubt, and so I imagined myself being without a doubt. This helped me a great deal spiritually. The story has many absurd moments in it, but I ploughed through regardless, believing in their relevance. Now, it is a satisfying feeling that I trusted myself and let the book happen without interfering or hesitating.

3. Hard is not to combine your thoughts, hard is to convince. What was your experience in this?

I would say that it wasn’t very hard, rather, I didn’t try too hard. The story is pretty crazy, and many times while writing it, I put my hands on my head thinking, ’Where did this come from?’. But I trusted the process in the belief that an unknown force is speaking through me vicariously.

Whether the reader is convinced of the story, I don’t know yet. Only when people who don’t know me personally read it and ask questions, will I get to know whether its voice has reached them successfully or not. I am still waiting for someone to ask me uncomfortable questions like, ‘Why do you say Death is a misunderstood blessing?’. The story has many such controversial ideas.

How you reached at the subject of your book? Any particular incident or is it inspired by something?

There was an incident, which sort of, revealed me to myself. It is described in the first paragraph of the chapter ‘The Journey’. I imagined myself reacting the way our protagonist did (in reality, I didn’t). That event has rankled me time and again, releasing endless chain of thoughts, consummating into all sorts of consequences. But the story is more than a cathartic outpouring. I think it is a mirror of man’s journey, his presence and purpose of existence. Mind you, while writing, I thought it would simply be an entertaining adventure, but as you know, things have turned out differently.

I saw your blog. It is really fascinating to see the vibrant hue. Do you think you can ever find stories from these pictures? Or have you already found something?

Thank you for finding my blog colorful. I am usually shy and don’t interact too much with people, but come a camera in my hand, my disposition changes. I think most of the characters in ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ have come about from  moments I have been through while taking pictures, talking to people, listening to their stories. In the blog too, are a few strange and strong personalities, which will perhaps lend themselves into my future stories.

What are your future plans in the field of writing?

At the moment, I am working on a sequel to ‘The Disobedient Darkness’. It will keep me occupied till the end of this year. I am inclined to write science-fiction fantasies, especially diverging from the idea of an alien being the villain (I really don’t believe in villains anyway). I will be writing children’s stories and poems later.

What inspires you the most? People in your pictures or the stories in their eyes?

I think both are inspiring. The stories in their eyes take me to a different world altogether. It’s a crazy feeling, standing in an instance and seeing so much beyond it. I don’t know whether you’ll believe it, but people find themselves in a particular moment to fulfill it (the moment itself) wittingly or unwittingly. And when every scratch, every texture, sound, colour, shadow comes together to make a unique symphony, you get a good picture. This is the essence of photography. ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ carries forward this theme particularly in the chapters of ‘Pipes’ and ‘Ganga’.

8. Do you feel reading is enough to understand the better part of words? Or there is a different mantra you followed?

Words are manifested thoughts. But sometimes they are not enough to describe a feeling. Fiction, especially fantasy fiction has to be lived, emoted, suspected, questioned to enjoy it fully. If the words do not take the reader into the unknown, then they are simply words and nothing more. So, my mantra in this story was to lead the reader into believing the fantasy, however absurdly it might be coming across, using ambiguous phrases that had words strung in an unusual manner. It was especially needed when our hero steps into the realm of death.

Your favorite authors, books, genres, literary period?

There are far too many. If I mention ten authors, I would miss ten others. But a few authors, by the force of their style have left a mark upon me. These are: Earnest Hemingway, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, J. M Coetzee, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Albert Camus and Edgar Ellen Poe.

My reading is wide and varied. From the writers, I have mentioned, you would have guessed that mostly a direct style of narrative appeals to me. I like to stay away from prose, though I’ve enjoyed reading Salman Rushdie. For me it is the conviction and honesty of an author that is enticing and not his/her clever use of language.

These days I am reading John Updike’s ‘Rabbit Run’ and David Mitchel’s ‘The Bone Clocks’. Both are unusual and brave in terms of their writing style.

It is always hard to keep on re-reading your work. You tend to find flaws after flaws. What strategy you adopted to avoid this scenario?

This is a problem. I am still working to improve the script of ‘The Disobedient Darkness’ and hope to incorporate the changes in further editions. One thing I’ve learnt from the experience is to make people (who you can trust) of various backgrounds read your script before its final presentation. There are a lot of grammar experts sitting out there who themselves have very little clarity about it, but their practical observations will set you thinking and improving. It was so funny in the case of ‘The Disobedient Darkness’, that the slowest passages had the most mistakes pointed and the gripping parts very few or none at all. It told me about the involvement of the reader and the grip of the story.

The only strategy I can think of now, is not giving up on learning and constantly seeking to improve. How and when to let go, is an elusive concept for me. The reader is my best guide, that is for sure.

Any part of the book which:
     You want to change.
- None that I can think of right now
     You find the best.
- I have always enjoyed reading the, ‘The Gate’, ‘Nanda Devi’, ‘Blood Flower’ and the ‘The Pocket’ the most. In my forty odd revisions, I’ve never found a dull moment in them.
     You can re-read till death.
- The chapters of ‘The Gate’ and ‘Nanda Devi’.
     You memorize by heart.
- I would say the whole book. Since, I don’t have a very good memory, it is a boon when I visit it after a few weeks and still enjoy reading it. But the poem of the Ganges is especially dear to me, considering, that till the very end, I had no idea what it meant or how it would play out in the story.

  The trend of writing is changing. Do you feel only exposure is the key to succeed?
Yes, the trend of writing is changing and so of everything else. People don’t have much time and want results quickly, but that shouldn’t be the greatest of influence. The most important quality of any author is his honesty.

Exposure is the life-blood of any creative person. It is timeless and independent of trend. So, exposure to literature, philosophy, art, music, movies, politics are absolutely essential to achieve anything worthwhile.

13.  Tell us about your journey after you completed your book? The journey from publishing to reader’s notice. Your experience with the publishing firm.

This is the most interesting phase in a first-time published author’s career. He does not have a reputation and still has to earn it.  For me, the world responded in an unexpected manner after the book became published. A lot many people who I considered friends, stopped talking to me. On the other hand, many with whom I was not in regular touch, connected by buying the book. Then came the concerned well-wisher; who cannot write a single grammatically correct Facebook post or a WhatsApp message, advising me on the nuance of language. The priciest are those members of family, who pucker their nose and say, ’I don’t read such kind of books’.

My wife, my father and my sister supported me at every step of the book’s construction. Without their participation, it would have been an uphill task. I am happy to say, that most who have read the book in entirety, enjoyed it. Hopefully there will be many more like them.

The publishing house has been very co-operative. I am lucky to have found them, for they are a patient bunch, accepting my suggestions without a fuss. I have made new friends on the way and that is what matters in life for me.

Did you focused on catchy phrases and high imageries in your book? They are really an important part of many classics. Or did you just focused on the story.

No, not consciously. I focused on honesty. There are instances in the story that needed a certain emotional flavour, so I put myself in the situation and described my feelings in the best possible manner. Epigrams, maxims, aphorisms and prose do make an interesting read, but that is not really my style.
The book, according to many who have read it, is by its nature high in imagery. A professor of comparative literature told me that it was like reading a comic-book. I took it as a compliment.

Would you like to pass on a message to your readers before they try your book?

The story challenges conventional ideas of life, existence, death, immortality, good and evil. If you already know everything, then this book will probably appall you. And if you are an explorer, a student, a ponderer who likes to scratch his head, then the book will entertain you and fill you with further questions.
Just to set you up for it, the first chapter is called ‘The Gift’. So I ask you,

“Is life a gift? If it is, what are you doing with it?”

Thank you author for your precious time...

About the book :

What is your plan for life? Do you know its dark side? A man trades his doubts for a unique gift from his daemon. This puts into motion his metamorphosis, ' a doubtless mind connecting him to other layers of existence and unravelling some extraordinary latent powers. Using his newfound abilities impetuously for the benefit of others, he inevitably runs into the dark side of goodness. Then, one day, a moment of violence, a call for justice hurls him into a maelstrom of an extraordinary adventure - a quest for a pitcher of ancient mythic water, hidden deep inside the Himalayas. It is the only weapon capable of countering a sinister force abducting humans from Earth. But an unexpected turn awaits him as he moves closer; the water is nurturing a secret intent that could challenge the destiny of mankind.

About the author :

"Prateek Dubey is a photographer, writer and an artist based in New Delhi, India. His work has featured in the Guardian U.K, the Deccan Chronicle, The Hindu and N-Photo magazine besides various photography sites around the world. Writing has been his favourite form of expression for a long time. He has written many pieces of entertaining short fiction using whiskey, Black Sabbath, beautiful aliens and other unconventional elements as his motifs. He blogs (Prateek's World), merging photography with storytelling, on his experiences of life in India. Some of these photo essays have been featured in the Pioneer and Mail Today. He has also had a solo show of oil paintings at the Lalit Kala Academy in 2005 besides participating in various group shows of painting and photography. Prateek is a graduate of chemistry from the Delhi University and also a trained fashion designer from India's premiere fashion institute, the National Institute of Fashion Technology."

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