Posted in Interviews

Author Interview: Usha Narayanan on writing mythology and her latest release

Usha Narayanan is one of my most favorite mythology writers. And I am super excited to host her on my blog with this lovely and deeply insightful interview that she did with me.  The level of details that she delves into in her answers is key enough to show how thorough and in love she is with her craft.

varaha.jpg

The questions herein are aimed to understand things that aspiring mythology writers should keep in mind. I’ve also asked her the one question that made me buy her new book, Prem Purana, by Penguin India.

Read on, and I hope you are as inspired to get your copy of the book as I was.

Here we go…

NikitaFive tips you wish to give authors who want to venture into writing mythology.

Usha:

  1.  It’s hard work to first research and then write an interesting mythological tale that will hook readers and keep them turning the pages. So make sure that you are ready to be consumed heart and soul by the project before venturing into this territory!
  2. Do you love reading stories of gods and goddesses, rakshasas and pishachas, curses and heroic quests? You need to enjoy this fabulous world, rich with magic and mysticism if you want to write about it. After all, it is your zest for this magical universe that you will be conveying to your readers. When writing ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna,’ I travelled vicariously to heaven and the netherworld, wielded the trident and the chakra and fought with Yama himself!
  3. Always look for little-known stories that will capture reader interest, for not many would like to read a straight retelling of the Mahabharata, when so many versions already exist. What is that something extra, something special you bring to your storytelling? That is the key to success. In ‘Prem Purana,’ I shed light on Ganesha’s wives who are often just mentioned by name, and sometimes in different combinations! Similarly, who thinks of Pradyumna, Krishna’s son or knows anything about him? I discovered enough to inspire me to write not one, but two books with him as my hero, delving into his exciting past lives and those of his wife Maya!
  4. Choose a character that calls out to you – one that you fall in love with – for you will be spending many hours with him or her! Let it be someone who is not perfect, but one who evolves as you read the story. That way, your readers too will be able to relate to him or her. There’s no suspense in depicting a great god who is so powerful that no one can challenge him or bring him down. You need a powerful anti-god and thrilling battles of the mind and body to keep the interest alive! And do not forget that a satisfying mythological tale requires a heroic quest and a canvas that is much larger than life.
  5. Do not be afraid to add fiction to make your story more appealing and delineate your characters better. Keep in mind that these fictionalised elements should blend seamlessly with the puranic stories to provide a smooth tale. Remember that your language needs to be consistent and pay particular attention to language and settings that are true to the age in which your story takes place. Good luck!

Nikita: What is the most difficult part about writing mythology?

UshaTo mix it up, to keep it lively, to make it sound fresh in each book. In how many different ways can you portray evil? It’s easy to fall into a rut, when all that the asuras are doing is to kill people, regularly and monotonously! Instead, look at your villain’s motivations, the character flaw that makes him do what he does and the people who have moulded him to act in this way. The hero too must work for what he gets, though gods and divine weapons may help him. Even though ‘Prem Purana’ is a romance, you will find the battles engrossing too! The interest lies in the hero having to struggle to survive and to succeed. It is these factors that help me take my reader on a roller coaster ride of thrills and spills!

Nikita: What is the easiest part about writing mythology?

UshaYou do not have to look for a conflict, for there is one on every page of the puranas! By this I do not mean just the battles, though there are many magnificent wars between the asuras and the gods. It is also the clash between good and evil, in ideas and ideals, in choosing the easy path or the tough one. Often, as in Ganesha’s story in ‘Prem Purana’, it is the conflict between love and duty.

Nikita: Ravana and Mandodri are not a couple one would immediately think of when it comes to love stories. What sparked this idea?

UshaWhen reading several puranas and epics, I came across this pair and realized that they had a fascinating back story that not many would have heard about. It’s quirky, intriguing and so unexpected that I had to make their story one of the three in ‘Prem Purana’. I was also interested in fleshing out the character of Mandodari who is mentioned only in passing in most narratives. How would a wife and a queen react when her husband is willing to sacrifice his kingdom, his people, his family and his own life in order to win another woman, that too a god’s wife? My heroine Mandodari is no doormat. She is loving, fierce, wise and occupies centre stage. I think discerning readers, male and female, will appreciate her strength.

Nikita: How do you deal with writer’s block?

UshaHowever many books I may write, there are days when I do not write a single word. Deadlines loom, each passing day is like the knell of doom! I fret, I fume, I worry, I rant. But now I have realized that the block is not because I am running dry or becoming lazy. It’s because I am not clear about the way forward. I cannot ‘see’ the scene with all its colour and action. I must work on it, keep thinking, devise a plot point that is surprising, absorbing and moves the story forward in a delightful way. To me, it’s not the number of words I write each day, but the quality of what I have written that keeps me going. I know that I have overcome this block before and am confident that I can do it again. So I spend time on research, read books totally unconnected to mythology, and sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to start writing like one possessed!

From Usha

Thank you, Nikita for coming up with these lovely questions and featuring my interview on your blog!

Dear readers, please leave a few lines or a rating on Amazon and Goodreads when you read one of my books. Your feedback means a lot to me!

Advertisements
Posted in Interviews

Author Interview: T F Carthick on writing unfairy tales

I hope you’ve already my review of Carthick’s Unfairy Tales (if you haven’t, the name of the book is a hyperlink; click and READ NOW!) Thanks to The Book Club, I got an opportunity to interview this super-talented author.

Karthik (2)

Here it goes!

Nikita: Which one of the stories in this collection did you enjoy writing the most and why?

Carthick: Hunger Games is my favorite story because I tried something very innovative in this story. We have all kinds of narrators in stories – mostly human, sometimes animal and sometimes even the inanimate. Here I had a personification of an abstract concept narrate the story. I don’t claim originality or being the first to try this idea though – I got this idea from ‘The Book Thief’ by Marcus Zusak.

Nikita: What is your favorite time of the day, or night, for writing?

Carthick: Actually, it varies from time to time – sometimes early morning, sometimes mid-morning, at other times even evenings and nights. Also with the demand of a competitive career and a family with a toddler member, finding time to read and write itself is a luxury. So one can’t afford to be too picky about when and where.

Nikita: What is your most favorite book and why?

Carthick: My favorite book is “The Six Cousins Again” by Enid Blyton. I have read it over and over again. There is that emotional appeal in that story that makes you go all warm and fuzzy. I could really empathize with the character Roddy and was really one with that story.

Nikita: Which is that one book that you had expected to be a great read but you didn’t enjoy it as much? The reason(s), of course.

Carthick: There have been many but difficult to recollect as such books are imminently forgettable. But the most recent one was City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I had heard so much about this author and had big expectations. But the story felt so shallow like the script of some American paranormal soap.

Thank you, Carthick, for this absolutely wonderful interview. Your answer to the question  about your favorite time of the day for writing is going to be my go-to quote every time I need some motivation!

Posted in Interviews

Author Interview: Pamela Hutchins on Hell to Pay, writing, and more…

Heya reader!

I hope you are in as happy a mood as I am as I write this!

I don’t do too many author interviews. Usually, it is the same set of questions that I have and I don’t find the thought too interesting. But when I read Pamela’s Hell to Pay (What Doesn’t Kill You, #7) there was so much that I wanted to ask her (You can read my review of this book here to know how much fun I had when read it!). And I am super-glad that Pamela did this interview with me. Read on…

Nikita: How did writing happen?
Pamela: I’ve always expressed myself through writing. My husband believed I had a knack for it, and he pushed me and pushed me until I gave in. In fact, he was on a trip to Jamnagar, and I wrote a novella to get him off my back. When he came home, I presented it to him. And he said, “More, more!” So much for getting him to stop, right? Anyway, that novella became, many iterations later, Saving Grace.

Nikita: Did you always want to be an author?
Pamela: No! I wanted to be a reader 🙂 And I am a reader. I’m a huge fan girl of soooooo many writers. But my third grade teacher predicted I would be a novelist. She must have seen something.

Nikita: It always fascinates me to think about how an author thought of a story and its characters. Can you tell me a little something about how this story was born?
Pamela: I learned about a crazy cult operating out of my hometown, and it made me disgusted and angry. I decided to deal with them in a novel, since it would be illegal to in real life.

Nikita: Tell me something about Emily Bernal; as her creator, what is that one trait of Emily that you are proud of?
Pamela: Emily is brave and physically tough. She’s smart, but unlike most female protagonists, she combines her brain and her physical skills to save the day, not just for herself, but for her male counterparts as well. I love that she does this authentically without losing her femininity.

Nikita: Emily’s braces certainly qualify as one of the leads! How did you think about bringing them in?
Pamela: A childhood friend of mine got braces when she was forty-five. She’d always had this adorable gap, but she decided she had enough with it. Her stories about being an adult with braces were hilarious, and I hoped I would find a way to use them some day. In Emily’s case, she is moving from a place of low self-esteem and insecurity about her looks, to a place of confidence and acceptance. (Go Emily!)

Nikita: You’ve also got books with Katie and Michele in the leads. How did the idea for the series come about?
Pamela: The first novel I ever wrote was a Katie novel, and in it, Emily and Ava popped up. The second novel I wrote was a Michele novel, and she had a connection to Katie. From there, I realized that I enjoyed writing a couple of books for each protagonist, enough to give them intriguing character arcs, but that my interest wandered after that. I could let them play supporting roles as I moved through the cast of characters. So I guess what I am saying is that it all started with Katie. (Ava will also have three novels, as will a character from the Michele novel I’m working on right now; who knows who else will enter the What Doesn’t Kill You world and capture my imagination.)

Nikita: Which one of the three is your favorite-Katie, Michele, or Emily?
Pamela: Michele is the most like me. Katie gets to live the life I used to (so I am a little jealous). Emily is the most kick ass. Emily. Definitely Emily.

Nikita: Which one is your favorite scene in Hell to Pay?
Pamela: When Emily shows off her snake handling skillsto her fiancé Jack’s parents! I just cringed writing it.

Nikita: What’s next?
Pamela: Another Michele book: this one is called Going by the Book, and here’s the blurb:

Michele retreats to the country for peace and quiet while her teenagers are away for the summer, hoping to learn how to be alone in the wake of the death of her husband. But when her elderly neighbor Gidget—a Houston art gallery owner whom Michele is assisting in writing her memoirs—dies and leaves everything to Michele except a bequest to a daughter no one knew existed, it seems like half the state shows up: some to help, some to contest the will, and others to make sure the mystery daughter is never found alive. 

It’s nearly done!
Also, I have a prequel novella coming out exclusively for blog subscribers (free) in the fall of 2016. All my protagonists appear in it and take turns telling the story.

~*~

And now for a rapid fire (I love these questions and the little things they tell about a person!)

Nikita: Your favorite book?
Pamela: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty

Nikita: Your favorite author?
Pamela: Pat Conroy

Nikita: A book you wish you’d have written?
Pamela: The Great Santini

Nikita: A book of yours that you wish to adapt into a movie?
Pamela: Saving Grace

Nikita: Your favorite time of the day for writing?
Pamela: Afternoon

Nikita: One peculiar habit of yours, as a writer?
Pamela: I record my first drafts on a hand held device while out walking with my pack of rescue dogs and goat. 🙂

~*~

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much I and Pamela enjoyed coming up with this. If you’d like to know more about this book, you can read my review of Hell to Pay (What Doesn’t Kill You, #7) here.

Stay happy,

Nikita 🙂

Posted in Interviews

Interview: Aditi Chopra of The Imperfect Series

The super-talented Aditi Chopra is on my blog talking about… Well, talking about what I wanted her to talk about 🙂 . Much thanks, Aditi!

In your latest book, out of the three women which one is the closest to your heart and why?

Great question, I would say out of all the three heroines, Nikki Desai’s character in House of Love is closest to my heart. Nikki is an ambitious real estate agent and is very successful and efficient at what she does. Her brother wants to learn from her and appreciates her professionalism. Nikki has built a good client base in the city of Dallas and doesn’t compromise with her career. Incidentally, I have always been career focused myself, hence the connection is strong.

What was your inspiration behind these stories?

For good or bad, I have always been trying to be a perfectionist and also expecting that same behavior from others. However, with time, I have realized humans cannot be perfect. I remember distinctly, one of my seniors had said to me – don’t let perfect stand in the way of good! These three stories revolve around imperfections in contemporary relationships.

If you could rewrite one of these stories, what would you change and why?

You know, a writer always has this feeling when they look at their work later on that they could have done things differently. I too get this feeling from time to time especially since I have the tendency to be a perfectionist. But then, I always tell myself, there was a reason the story was written the way it was and I don’t need to change it! With that thought, I feel content with my work. Of course, I do take input on the craft of writing and keep improving that over time.

If any one of your books had to be turned into a movie, which one would you want it to be and who would you cast in the lead roles?

Wow, a great question! Who wouldn’t want their book to be turned into a movie? I would have to say my debut story; LOST IN LONDON is a great candidate for a Bollywood movie. It is my definition of true love and has all the right ingredients for a movie. I would cast Ranbir Kapoor as Rahul, Deepika Padukone as Priya and Bipasha Basu as Mona.

What are you working on next?

Right now, I am working on another contemporary romance series which will have three distinct stories revolving around destiny. Destiny plays a big part in our love lives, career and so on and so forth. There is a certain romantic aspect to how destiny changes our life path at times. I will be exploring the role of destiny in the lives of three different couples and hopefully give readers something fun to read.