- Hearty congratulations for the success of Birth of the Bastard Prince. How does it feel?
Each new book is like a child taking birth for an author. The closest parallel I can draw for my feelings on watching one of my titles achieving success is that of a father watching his child being felicitated – truly priceless. The case of Birth of the Bastard Prince was somewhat different though. Being a work of historical fiction, the work had commanded much more devotion vis-à-vis some of my other works. Hence, the words of appreciation it received were that tad bit more satisfying for me.
- Please tell us how did Amrapali visit your thoughts?
My native village is located in the Indo Gangetic plains, the very lands that Amrapali once walked. Stories of her beauty, valor and magnanimity form an integral part of the folklore of the region, and it is these tales that I have grown up on. Hence, the desire to weave these bits from her life into a full-fledged story was always there. The only question that I needed to answer was, when.
- Anurag could you share your experience of writing a book about a character which has existed in the history.
If I were describe this experience in a single word, it would be ‘Enriching’. The research that went behind plotting the story – from secondary sources to a visit to the ruins of Vaishali – I gained tremendous insights into an era from our past and its glories. Of course, the writing itself proved to be a demanding process, requiring a far higher degree of involvement and concentration, but the end result made it all worthwhile.
- What kind of research did you undertake for your book? Any interesting nuggets of history which you would like to share with our readers.
From reading all published works around the life of Amrapali that I could lay my hands on to surfing the internet, the research that went behind the Book was pretty extensive. I even got an opportunity to visit the ruins of Vaishali and see the Abhishek Pushkarini (the coronation tank used to anoint the appointed rulers of the kingdom) and several artefacts from the era that are displayed in the nearby ASI museum.
The one startling fact that I discovered during my research was that the very concept of Democracy was first introduced by the Vajjis as early as 500 BC. So, in the present day and age, where many of the developed nations are clamoring to establish themselves as the pioneers of Democracy, this is a fact that we Indians must derive pride from.
- Please tell us something about your childhood.
I was never what you could call an academically inclined child. In fact some of my friends don’t, till this day, hesitate in expressing their surprise over the fact that I took to writing. However, I was always interested in stories – from comic books to novels, I loved reading whatever I could lay my hands on – and that, I guess, formed the foundation of my writing.
I pursued most of my education staying in hostels, away from my family – a situation that I detested then, but, in the hindsight, am glad to have endured. The understanding of human nature and psyche that hostel life exposed me to holds me in good stead not only with respect to my writing but also life in general.
- What kind of book do you read? Who are your favorite authors?
I like reading everything from light novellas to serious literature, depending on my state of mind at the given point of time. Some of my all-time favorite authors include, PG Wodehouse, Earl Stanley Gardner, Franz Kafka, Tagore and Shankar.
- How much time do you devote for writing? Give us some tips as to how working professionals should take out time for writing?
The key to finding time for writing, or any other such interest for that matter, is discipline. Once I start working on a manuscript, I make it a point to spend some time on it, no matter how short the duration, on a daily basis. This not only ensures that the plot remains alive in my head at all times, but also helps me keep a check on the progress I am making. This is somewhat like what a visit to the gym is for health enthusiasts. If someone is in the habit of working out on a daily basis, he or she doesn’t have to consciously find the time for it. The time somehow manages to find itself.
- What would be your advice to budding writers?
I have come across several aspiring authors who begin to worry about aspects such as finding the right publisher or the right ways to market their book even before they have completed the first draft of their manuscript. This, to my mind, can only be counterproductive. An author’s primary responsibility is to ensure that he or she does complete justice to the manuscript in question, everything else follows. So, my one advice to aspiring authors would be to do what they are supposed to do – come up with the best possible manuscript. Once you have a promising manuscript in your hand, everything else will follow suit.
- How was your experience of finding a publisher?
I keep hearing painful anecdotes of how an author’s work was rejected by many publishers or how a particular manuscript was trashed by an insensitive commissioning editor. Fortunately though, I was spared much struggle on this front. My first work was a self-help book titled, Pillars of Success, and the only publisher I shared the manuscript with – an Ahmedabad based outfit known for publishing language titles – agreed to take it on. Since then I have worked with several publishers and have little to complain about the treatment I have received.
- These are the days of aggressive book marketing. Books have to be promoted. Your take on this?
Today, when duly elected governments are having to deploy aggressive marketing tactics to communicate their achievements to the populace, it is only fair that authors and publishers get together to market their works to the best they can. Cynics might argue that good books will sell on their own, and I agree. However, even to ensure that a basic threshold of readers get to read the book and form their opinions about it, there is a need for it to be marketed. The advent of social media has been a boon for many authors in this regard. It offers a cost-effective medium to inform potential readers about an upcoming work and generate enough curiosity around it.
- Tell us about your future projects.
I am simultaneously working on two projects presently. The first is a contemporary love story with a difference. Clichéd as the plot description may sound, this book is likely to connect with readers who prefer to read about real characters and situations rather than fantastical ones. This title is expected to hit the stands towards the year end.
The next is a non-fiction book aimed at guiding aspiring authors through the process of writing, publishing and marketing their works. Tentatively titled, ‘Scripting your Dream Bestseller’, this book should be available on the stands by the first half of 2016.