I know author and blogger Kiran Manral since the days when she was a freelancing writer based in Mumbai and me, a fulltimer in Femina, based in Delhi. We didn’t ever meet, we still haven’t but we interacted over email and kind of kept in touch for all those years. She’s a very popular blogger in India, one of the most popular ones and has moved on to become a novelist as well. So it happened that I offered a giveaway copy of Cult of Chaos on her blog which has a very, very strong following and she, like the sweetest woman that she is, agreed not only to the giveaway, but also on doing an interview with me.
Read the complete interview here. My favourite bits of it:
What made you decide to write a book, what was that moment when you decided you must give it a shot?
I don’t remember any one instance really, but after a few years of chasing stories as a journalist and editor, I realized that I wanted to tell stories instead. I didn’t start immediately however, something that I perhaps should have. From the desire to write, it took me five years of a Master’s degree, two failed novels, millions of procrastinating moments, blogs on stuff, to get to actually writing. And once I did, I haven’t stopped! In the last five years, I’ve written six books, four of which are published and two lie at various edit levels. The longest of this, my latest Cult of Chaos, touched 1,20,000 words at manuscript stage.
How long did it take you to research and write this, and how do you see this evolving as a series perchance?
Once I had the initial idea, instead of just making everything up, I started to research, because I wanted to keep it a layer away from the real. For about a year, I explored practicing tantriks, shamans and superstitions in folklores, village tales, oral stories. I must’ve read about forty scholarly books, innumerable papers, pop books sold on the streets on tantrism, and articles. All of this, pop and scholarly research and written and oral histories went into the making of this book.
I won’t call the book real, since I took many liberties with rituals and dramatic rendition of it in the book, but it’s a shade away from the real. There’s an echo of reality, of the way black magic happens in the book, which makes it more fascinating.
To answer your second question, the series will explore and go indepth into the tantrik folklores that swim in our country. But each of the book stands alone in the sense that one mystery is solved in each. I’ve signed a three-book contract with HarperCollins, which means you get to see atleast three adventures of Anantya Tantrist, but my feeling right now is that it would be about five books before I’ve explored the complete world. Other than the world itself, I would be exploring Anantya’s violent past in the next two books, as well as her evolution from this angry young lady to maybe someone who resolves stuff and moves on. Frankly I don’t know where she will head to next. She’s got quite a mind of her own as you can see!
What is your writing routine like?
Since I work on my own and am my own boss, I am quite disciplined. I begin a story by fleshing out the plot and figuring which medium it’s meant for—graphic novel, novel, short story or game. Then I develop the plot on little chits of paper, spread across a table. This plot keeps on thickening till I am satisfied and want to begin the story. The writing of scenes itself is magical and creative but I stick to the plan of writing a particular section per week. If I miss a week, I write two sections in the following week. This disciplined approach has helped me to finish books and be more efficient before I get bored of them. The first half of my workday goes into writing and the second into answering emails, researching, relaxing. I take the weekend off only if I’ve finished my week’s work and forget most of the holidays.
Tips, advice, words of wisdom for looking to get published writers, with a novel in them or sitting in their computers?
There’s no better teacher to writing that writing itself. The process of writing, putting one word after another, will help you bring the story in your head onto paper. Write. If you can’t do it well, keep doing it. Read the masters, the accomplished novelists to see how they express the world. Your control over language as well as your finesse in expressing an idea will improve only through the process of writing. One word after another. Every now and then, I do write about the tricks and business of writing on my website under a section called Witchery of Writing here : http://staneja.com/writing/