Are both your books yet another release in the series of books which are a fine blend of mythological facts and contemporary mystery such as ‘The Da Vinci Code’?
AbsoIutely, and it is not just Dan Brown, even if you read the preface of Harappa, and if you read the acknowledgement of Harappa you’ll see that I’ve specifically mentioned several authors who have made an impact on me and there’s been a very strong rub off. Dan Brown is definitely one of them but he’s not the only one. And it’s not really from historical or mythological fictional genre, I think authors of all kinds has made an impact on me. There’s of course George RR Martin and there’s been a really authors of all kinds has made an impact on me. I would say Khushwant Singh has been a profound impact to me. William Dalrymple is someone I’ve been following.
Tell us more about Vidyut and Vivaswan Pujari- the two people separated by three millennia but joined by blood?
In Greek ‘Apotheosis’ means transformation or the rising of a human to become a God. This whole series is about ordinary people but who through destiny, circumstances, world changing events are compelled to rise above being simple humans and attain God like stature. Hence, I think every common man can connect with Vivaswan and Vidyut. Both Vivaswan Pujari and Vidyut are supposed to be Devtas(Gods) and they are described as half-human, half-God and it’s hard to connect with someone who is half-God, but yes both the characters of Vidyut and Vivaswan are immensely loved by the readers. They are connected in the story in a certain way, but are also different at the same time. I am getting so much fan mail, tweets and messages and I think female readers are really loving Vidyut more. Lot of them have written to me that with Vidyut you have raised the bar for men so high, that I don’t think any other man can fit into his shoes. So people are falling in love with both the character’s intensity, their strength and impact they are capable of.
What kind of readers do you have?
The good thing about Harappa and Pralay is that the kind of spectrum both the books has been able to reach out to. From children of high school like Shivanshika who was engrossed in reading Harappa, even though her board exams knocking on the door, to 74 year old Professor Phadke, book has found its way to shelves amongst every age group. Professor Phadke wrote to me saying, ‘ Your work reminds of great James Hadley Chase’ and he was insisting that I should write Science Fiction after this. On one end there’s a high school student and on the other a retired university professor. The coolest part about Harappa series is that it has been able to impact the entire spectrum of readership from very young people to senior people. Even the geographical range has been fantastic because like I said, I have been inundated with most gratifying times of my life where readers are from every nook and corner of the country readers has been writing to me. I have been receiving emails from Srinagar to Silchar to Chengapalli. So it’s not just the entire age bracket that we are reaching out to, but also the geographical spread.
Is traditional hardback book reading is on decline with e-book and audio-book format on an exponential rise?
I am one of the brand ambassadors for Amazon Kindle publishing, so I am huge supporter of e-books and I think both Harappa and Pralay are national best-sellers at this time. I would say that the split between the paper backs to e-books has been about 80 to 20. So if we are selling 80 copies of Harappa and Pralay as paper-back, then we are selling 20 copies of e-books. But I think e-book is a great new segment and with time will be growing at a much faster pace amongst readers.
Is history and know-how of cultures a bygone thing for contemporary authors?
I wouldn’t say that, infact there is a huge amount of resurgence in historical and mythological writing genre. If you see there are so many authors doing such excellent works on Indian history, tradition and mythology because this was long due. When we read Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons or Lord of the Rings, it’s so wonderful to read because the Western authors who are writing, they begin with a backdrop of their own history and mythology. And given the fact that India has such prosperous history, diverse and rich mythology, I think it is very important that we leverage that, and that’s why a lot of Indian authors are writing about Indian Gods, characters like Ashoka, Draupadi and Karna. I believe one of the reasons behind this huge resurgence is also the demand and growth of readership in this genre.
So is this the reason why you had shifted from writing entrepreneurial books to mythological genre?
Yes and no! I used write business books because I really felt that I had something to share in entrepreneurial field with my readers. I wrote my first book Build from Scratch: Steps, Strategies and Practical Insight Into Building a Successful Start-up Enterprise when I was twenty five years of age and had started my own company. At that point I really wanted to share with first time entrepreneurs that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you can learn from my experiences. And then wrote The Street to the Highway and The 30-Something CEO because I really had some learning which I wanted to share with the market. It was at the end of the third book, that gradually I got attracted to writing fiction because I think they was a storyteller in me that was dying to come out and that happened through Harappa. I am greatly interested in mythology and history and I hail from a Brahmin family, hence since childhood my grandfather used to narrate the Ramayana and Mahabharata to us. There’s of course a natural affinity to mythology and history but that’s not really what I am going to keep writing about. This series is about that, but in the next series I don’t want to restrict myself to just this genre, I look forward to write Science Fictions or Romance.
What are you reckon more – a book with best-selling theme or an underselling state-of-the-art literature?
I don’t think about it in that sense, when I write I can only write what I feel like writing. Back in the 16th century when Goswami Tulsidas wrote Ramacharitmanas, in the beginning he writes two words Swanta Sukhaye which means ‘I write for myself’ and that works for me as well. I don’t think of writing for critics or to become a popular writer, I write the story I want to write. The good thing is that both Harappa and Pralay has got massive success with readers and they have also got an enormous amount of critical acclaim.
What do you think is better for youngsters, become full-time authors or writing side-by-side a real job?
This depends on two things- one is what are your aspirations from life because a lot of best authors I know write not for money. They write for the passion and the craft of writing. They are satisfied and happy even if that does not bring an enormous amount of financial success. But if there’s somebody who is chasing financial success, then what I would suggest that the individual needs to understand that writing unlike many other profession takes several years, five to six books to get an author viable recognition, become a brand and then being financially profitable. Once that happens one can become a full-time writer, but until you reach that stage it’s always better to have a parallel profession.
With self-publishing and Indie-authors in the vogue, what do you have to say to conventional authors who just want to confine themselves to script writing?
Sadly it is true. I was at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year and had the opportunity to share the stage with Chenat Bhagat and Rashmi Bansal and all of us urged who were present there about this problem with book trade. Millennials today are very happy to buy a movie ticket of Rs. 250 and burn that in two hours, but not buying a book that will last for a longer period of time. It’s most unfortunate that the culture of reading in India is going down. And what options an author is left with, if not financially feasible or commercially successful. In the West there’s still a lot of reading by students, travelers done even today. And changing the cultural and behavioural pattern of the entire nation is very difficult. But as authors what we are doing is, creating more populous writing and making it available at a price of Rs. 80 to 90, and in turn hoping that all these will play some role in at least drawing the readership back.
I would insist that people should have a book by their bedside table and carry books when they are travelling. Millennials and youngsters should know that there is no superior form of content than books. Reading a book is a habit, some people have it and some don’t. A lot readers have told me that ‘I was not a reader, but I after completing Harappa I loved it so much that I have started reading more books now.’ My message for everyone would be to inculcate the habit of reading books, once they read two-three good books, then there’s no turning back.
Is it possible to gauge readers?
It is impossible to gauge readers, it is like asking a director of a movie if he can predict which kind of movies will become a blockbuster. Everybody makes a film or creates tv serial or writes a book with the hope that this is going to connect with the audience. But in the end it’s the audience or reader’s choice. Of course there are certain trends that you can follow, for example, basic level romance is selling now-a-days. If somebody wants to write, maybe that’s a safer bet. Even historical and mythological fiction has started doing well. But it’s a really a hard guess.
When are you planning to publish the 3rd book of the trilogy?
By July if I am able to finish writing and it’s called Kashi, Secrets of the Black Temple
Apart from writing, what is your hobby?
I am not a writer. My hobby is writing, and I consider myself as an entrepreneur.