Yesterday, I had an interesting chat with Usha Narayanan, the acclaimed author of Pradyumna, Son of Krishna and The Madras Mangler regarding her books, about writing, and the challenges authors face in the industry. Here is a transcript of the whole interview.
- Tell us more about yourself.
I am an eternal optimist who loves animals. I’ve lived most of my life in Chennai but love to travel and observe people and connect with them. This empathy has helped me advance in my career ― as creative director in advertising and radio, as web editor and corporate communications manager. And now, as a full time author, I am able to give full freedom to my creativity and I absolutely love that!
2. What made you choose this topic for your book?
I am a voracious reader of everything from thrillers to fantasy to romcom. When I started delving into Hindu mythology of which I did not know much, I was caught up in the magic. I found that there were some characters often written about, while some others, equally deserving, were ignored. I chose to tell these untold tales. And then, a mysterious pull attracted me to one particular character ― Pradyumna.
I have a history with him, you see, maybe a shared destiny! The hero of my crime thriller, ‘The Madras Mangler’, was Vir Pradyumna, though then I had no knowledge of my mythical hero. And when I discovered Krishna’s son, I had to write about him, though there was little material available and he was lost in the shadow of Vishnu’s avatar. I fell in love with this unsung hero, this man so much like us, who fought for his place under the sun. He galvanized my imagination and turned out to be so magnificent that I needed to write not one, but two books in order to capture his grandeur! Read the first of the books now and I think you will agree.
3. What is it about mythology that interests you most? And why?
There is so much literature in our native languages, but most of us are unfamiliar with our rich lore and our scriptures. There’s something in it for everyone, for people of all ages and interests. There are fascinating stories, splendid gods and fearsome demons, divine love, action on a gigantic scale, and all the human emotions that we can relate to: fear, greed, desire, envy, anger and more. I enjoyed the challenge of reimagining myth to suit our times and our needs, while retaining the splendour of ancient days.
4.Tell me something about your book. What can readers expect?
Let me use quotes from my first readers to tell you what you can expect! One of my first reviewers was a ten year old who told me she loved it so much that she wants me to stick to writing myths in future! Adult readers have praised the human dimension of this myth that will help ordinary people tap into lessons of a lifetime, while enjoying an ‘outright spine-tingling narrative.’ Another excitable reader opines that our ancestors seem to have had all the fun, with their colourful lives, their flying machines and celestial weapons, and wants to pin me down to a definite date for Book 2.
Underneath all this glamour, discerning readers will discover a foundation of wisdom drawn from the Gita and other spiritual texts, blended in smoothly to make the book more meaningful.
And yes, my oldest reader is 83, and loves Pradyumna too!
5. Do you plan your book before you write?
‘The Madras Mangler’ started off as a romcom and morphed into a crime thriller, at which point I had to rewrite it completely, writing hundreds of outlines, colour-coding characters and weaving a complex web to keep the suspense going till the end! ‘Pradyumna’ was plotted carefully before I began, but then, the warrior took off on a celestial orbit and I had to fly to Kailasa and Vaikunta to catch up with him! So ultimately what matters finally is my zest for the characters and their lives that carries me along on a riptide, backed by countless hours of hard labour!
6. What according to you are the challenges faced by writers these days? What is your advice to young and aspiring writers?
There is an explosion of writing in English following the success of a few Indian writers. This is good, as there will be more authors, more readers and more books that are rooted in our soil and our culture. But when there are so many manuscripts on offer, not all of them, even if they are good, will be published. The solution as I see it, is to make sure that your work is perfect and then persist in your quest. Bestselling authors like J K Rowling were rejected so many times; so never give up. Remember too that there is the option to self publish.
Follow your passion and success will follow you. Good luck!
7. Do you plan to write any other genre in the future?
Well, my next book coming out at the end of this month is a romcom, published by Harlequin-HarperCollins. So I’ve already written a crime thriller, a myth and a romcom. Now what’s left? Do you have any suggestions? Or would you prefer I continue in one of the genres I’ve already explored?
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You can buy ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ at a bookstore near you or on Amazon: http://goo.gl/4WSbyG
You can buy ‘The Madras Mangler’ here: http://goo.gl/0kI4cm
Here is the cover for Pradyumna, Son of Krishna:
Here is the cover for The Madras Mangler: