Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Meet Gunjan Porwal - Discussion about "Ashwatthama’s Redemption – The Rise of Dandak"

"Ashwatthama’s Redemption – The Rise of Dandak" by Gunjan Porwal made into our must-read list. Almost after 5 months, we got chance to publish an interview of Gunjan to know more about the book.

Can you brief us about your educational background?
I had done my schooling from St Xavier’s and DAV JVM, Ranchi. I did my graduation from IIT Kanpur in Computer Science & Engineering in 2002. 
What are some day jobs you have held?
I have primarily worked in the software industry. Most of my work has been related in the graphics domain in Computer Science. 
When did you start writing?
Incidentally, the first thing I remember writing was a short chapter, as an extension to a book I read in my college – Small Remedies by Shashi Deshpande. It was an amazing book, about a couple dealing with the loss of their child. I had shown the chapter to my friends, who commented it looked like a natural extension of the book. 
Is this your debut work?
As a published book, this is my debut work. Before this, I had started writing a technical blog, but it did not take off, and so I discontinued it. 
What genre are your books?
Since I have only one book, this belongs to mythology-fantasy genre. I find it interesting to write because while you get to let your imagination fly, it is also imperative that the story is believable. 

Can you describe your current book in few lines? What’s it about?
‘Ashwatthama’s Redemption: The Rise of Dandak’ is a fiction account of Ashwatthama’s journey, about a hundred years of the Mahabharata war. The story goes into his emotional state and the suffering he has to endure. The story tries to explore what if the curse that had been given by Krishna, had a deeper meaning, and it was given for a different purpose. So in effect, the story takes Ashwatthama’s life to an alternate timeline. 
Give us an insight into your main character(s)
Ashwatthama, one of the fiercest and strongest warriors among the Kauravas, was cursed by Krishna on the 18th night of the war, after he single-handedly killed the survivors of Kurukshetra war, including the sons of Pandavas. As expected, anyone with such curse is liable to become a recluse, and remain cut-off from humanity. The story tries to take his mental state, and tries to create situations that he cannot avoid, and gets drawn into, but he is also on a journey to find answers to many questions that have been haunting him since the night he was cursed. 
Where did you get idea for this book?
Ashwatthama had been one of the most ignored characters in Mahabharata. While studying about different characters, I found his story intriguing, since the magnitude of punishment given to him was much more than what he seemingly deserved. That got me thinking as to if there could be a different reason for the curse. 
How much research did you do for this book?
There was lot of research done for getting the locations, language, attire and objects worn during the Mahabharata age. It is not possible to entirely recreate the intricacies of that age, but the thought is to retain the essence. The research spanned months to get many things right, and mostly it happened during the editing stage when I had to get the details right. 
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
My favorite character would be Ashwatthama. I think it was because writing things from his point of view has been most challenging given his background, and also enjoyable, thinking about how things could have taken a different turn. 
Who is your least favorite character and why?
I don’t have least favorite characters since I would not have put a character then. I enjoyed writing about all the characters, may it be Vikram, Rana, Urmila, Yetiraj or even Raktaveej and Vidyut. 
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The hardest thing was making sure that the elements of fantasy are believable in the book. Often, it is easy to get carried away in mythology with the liberty, but it is very imperative to ensure that even the fantasy elements are believable. They should surprise the reader, but not shock them. 
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?

Release date. 
15th September, 2018
What are you working on at the minute?
Right now, I am working on the sequel to ‘Ashwatthama’s Redemption’. I expect to complete it in a few months, and the book to come out after mid-2020. 
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I think it’s a great way of storytelling. However, the key element is that the book series must hold the reader’s interest. So, it should only be done when the story is so large that it does not fit into a single book. Also, sometimes many subplots appear in the book series, which do not contribute strongly to the main plot, and they must be avoided. The story must be well-knit without sidetracking a lot. 
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