Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How to have a Nightmare and Write a Book: An interview with Vadhan

It is really surprising to know that a nightmare pushed a 12 year old into writing. Vadhan, author of Agniputr, started writing book when he was twelve year old, looking at number of years spent behind shows brilliance of the book. Let's see what Vadhan has to say about it.


Can you tell us about your professional background?
"I am a lawyer by qualification and practice. I like to call myself a lawyer who doesn’t go to court. I know, right? like a sun that doesn’t rise, a duck that doesn’t take to water! What can I say? 
Really? Then what you do for living?
I advise and assist large corporations to manage their compliance programs across a variety of legal topics and across countries in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and of course, India. I was a practising lawyer for ten years. I moved into corporate law as Head-Legal, Vice President Legal and finally as Managing Director of a Legal Consulting company. The most amazing job I ever did was to start writing.
Can you describe your childhood & teenage in one word? Why?
Restless. I was very restless. Anything conventional tends to bore me. I hated homework at school and exams. Boring. Same old, same old! I loved 11th and 12th classes in school. I loved everything about law college. Law was interesting. The human mind had documented all the things that could go wrong and set up societal rules of good behaviour that helped stem the rot. And then, finding loopholes in those rules, not to break them but to bend them, is cheer brilliance. It is like wizards learning magic to live outside a common muggle world.
Tell us about the authors that you love to read.
I cannot possibly list out all the authors I’ve read. Let me select a few for you. Amongst contemporary Indian authors, I’ve read Amish’s Shiva Trilogy, I’ve read a number of Ashwin Sanghi’s books, I think his research is fabulous. I’ve read Amitav Ghosh, Shashi Tharoor, Devdutt Patnaik and many more. Amongst international authors, I absolutely adore P. G. Wodehouse, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dame Agatha Christie, Lee Child, Robert Ludlum, etc. I am fantasy fan so J.R.R. Tolkien, R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, Jim Butcher, Russel Kirkpatrick, etc. I can go on you know, genre-wise!
When did you decide to become a writer?
I always was a writer. I wanted to get published just a few years ago. It was a struggle initially. It’s thanks to my literary agent that my book was published by Bloomsbury. Full kudos to his high-energy levels. Ideas are floating in my mind all the time. Anything can trigger an idea. There are several first three chapters on a variety of topics on my laptop. Some stories are like wild fire. Can’t stop writing until I finish. Others are slow burners. Need to think a lot to take them forward.
When did you start writing?
I first attempted a book at age 12. I called it Agniputr. I finished it just a couple of years ago. It was published in September 2016 by Bloomsbury India and launched under the auspices of Mr. Ashwin Sanghi. It is reviewed in most major English newspapers, literary magazines and has rave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
My first completed book is Shatru, Book 1 of the Kronikles Series which was selected as the Editors Pick of the year 2015 by the Free Press.
I used to write a lot of poetry when I was young.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Recently, one of my readers posted on Goodreads about my latest book, Agniputr, that it was like reading Dan Brown. I was floored. One day, I’d like readers of other authors to say ‘it was like reading Vadhan’. That is the ultimate kick. I don’t intend to come across as boastful by making that statement. I must work really hard to come up with something extraordinary to earn that honour from my readers. The other ambition I have is to take Indian writings/ authors to the world theatre. It’s not too difficult. We just need to learn to ‘write right’.
How do you manage to get time for writing from your professional schedule?
I write at the oddest hours. Believe me if I set 11.00 am to 12.00 pm, for e.g., as the one hour to write, my mind will make me do everything but write. My mind’s a monkey. I write at the most extraordinary times. Once I was waiting to board a plane in Mumbai airport and almost forgot to board it because I was so immersed in writing. They said they even called out my name. A business colleague alerted me to the imminent danger of being marooned.
As you mentioned your book Shatru already published in 2015. Can you brief us about that book?
My First book, Shatru, is part one of the Kronikles Series. Kronikles is a pureplay fantasy based on Indian mythological characters and stories. It is about the end of Kaliyuga and how a bunch of Demi-Gods and their allies are trying to stop the end of the last age by protecting it against a supreme evil that appears at the onset of the end of days.
This is your second fantasy thriller. Any specific reason for your liking to this genre?
Indian mythological figures have been ridiculed in the past. I saw a regional movie once where Lord Yama doesn’t know what ice cream is. People have been fed with doses of nonsensical data about Indian Demi-Gods. So, with Kronikles I’ve given a little twist to the tale while at the same time I’ve tried to retain the seriousness and magnitude of the mythological characters. The Demi-Gods in the Kronikles are very different from the Demi-Gods you would have read about or seen in movies. There is an explanation for everything, a reasoning behind even how they appear and disappear at will.
Agniputr is what they call an urban-fantasy. A lot of my readers have described it as a multi-genre book.
Can you describe your current book in few lines? What’s it about?
Agniputr is the story of a lawyer and a quantum scientist who, through a set of circumstances, find themselves fighting a potent energy that will destroy the world. They face-off against a powerful politician who wants to harness the energy for his own reasons. The only way to save the world is to decipher an ancient Vedic phrase using futuristic science. As the energy gets ready to break free of its shackles and the politician is set to kill them to harness it, the couple are running out of time and options. Will the energy destroy the world as we know it, will the politician harness the energy or are the couple caught in an even deadlier game?
Agniputr has reviews in national dailies like the Hindu, The New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle, Asian Age, Deccan Herald and in Literary magazines like New Asian Writing, Writersmelon.com and Sakal times. Goodreads rates the book at 4/5 stars. I am so flattered and humbled by the response for the book.
Give us an insight into your main character(s)
Every character has something important to offer in Agniputr. Be it a two-page character like Pichi Rathaya who is blind to our world but whose ability to see things will take him elsewhere or Sathyanarayana, the scientist whose curiosity gets the better of him. All the characters have shades of grey, whether it be Raghu, the lawyer whose meaningless life takes on the ultimate meaning or Sheila the scientist who, through unbelievable events, sticks to her simple and straightforward principles. Be it Govind the powerful politician who wants to control extraordinary power and is willing to sacrifice everything to attain it or the Tantrik, who like a puppeteer, steers everyone to do his bidding till he is challenged by Raghu and Sheila. Every character has flaws. None of them are entirely right or wrong. Yet, their choices and the stand they take against a thing far more powerful than all of them prove their worth.
Where did you get the idea for this book?
I had these recurring nightmares as a child. Agniputr is based on one of the nightmares. I started to write the book when I was twelve just so I could get the nightmares out of my system. I did not know how to finish the book then. I did now. I am very happy with the way it’s come out.
How much research did you do for this book?
I had to find a Vedic verse that fitted into my story. It wasn’t easy, let me tell you. To understand the verse, I had to translate many, many verses over a period of time. I found ‘the one’ I wanted in the Yajurveda.
I had to do quite a bit of research on quantum physics. I am no science student. I am a commerce student. I did law! But for some reason I am fascinated by Quantum Physics. I had to get hold of theories that fitted with my story and the Vedic verse. Several earlier theories have since been rejected by latter day scientists. I had not only to understand the theories but also be able to present them so my readers did not lose interest. In other words, no hyperbole! People love Agniputr. The reviews are to die for.
There is a bit of law in Agniputr between the Vedas and science and fantasy. It deals with a legal battle for ancestral property. So, I had to brush up on my inheritance laws for that bit.
You give emphasis on characters, any specific reason?
There are some authors who think the story is everything. I don’t agree. I’ll prove my point. 1) Who wrote Sherlock Holmes? 2) Who created Hercule Poirot? 3) Who created Jason Bourne? 4) Who created Jack Reacher? These are all characters. Alright, (A) who wrote the classic, The Lost World? Can anyone tell me? It was a very famous author. If you’re able to answer questions 1 to 4 without googling and are unable to answer question (A) without googling, you’ll understand the importance of characters.
So can you tell us your favourite character from Agniputr?
The character I most enjoyed creating in Agniputr was Pichi Rathaya. He comes for hardly two pages in the book but he plays a defining role. I immensely enjoyed creating all the characters in the book. Truly, they were fun to work with.
And your least favourite character?
You can ask a teacher who his or her least favorite pupil is. You’ll get an answer. You cannot ask that of a parent.
What was the most difficult thing about writing your latest book?
Bringing out the laughter. Humor is serious business. Ask Walt Disney! It’s not easy to make people laugh. It’s not like a soggy heart break story. There are some really funny moments in Agniputr. Like when Govind and Poti meet or when Raghu and Sheila are teasing each other. The readers have mentioned the humor quotient positively in their reviews. I am glad they liked it.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book? (* please provide a link to trailer if you have one)

When was your book released?
The book was launched on 4th September and is available now in your favourite book stores and on Amazon.in
Can you tell us about how book is doing and how well it is accepted by audience?
Around 2000 books have been sold overall till date. The book is rated in Goodreads at 4/5 stars and in amazon as 4.5/5 stars.
What are you working on right now?
The manuscript of book 2 of Kronikles is doing the rounds with publishers currently. I’ve completed around 85% of Kronikles book 3. I’ve completed the initial draft of a legal/ action thriller based on spurious medical drugs. I am working on the editing part right now.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Pen down ideas. Ideas are important. Don’t worry about rejections. Keep writing. You will get your groove. The key question you want to ask yourself is, would you like to read the book you’ve written if someone else had written it? If the honest answer is yes, then you need no other assurance from anyone. You’ve reached your destination.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
A quote from The Hindu “Vadhan’s narrative aptly provides thrill a minute at the same time keeping the suspense factor intact.”
Links for your book readers
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