Let's start with your book 'Nights in Pink Satin'...That must have been an easy story to write about, as you know Mumbai?
The Mumbai part was definitely my comfort zone – the city is a veritable haven for those who wish to observe society and makes a plausible backdrop to create all kinds of characters. I love people watching, and often file incidents and conversations away in my head for later use. Of course, in this book only one section of society is portrayed, but I think it’s a fun read, and I enjoyed creating Simran. The book is an affectionate take on the shenanigans of high society.
The book 'Secrets and Second Chances' in the beginning is based in Delhi and then shifts to Mumbai. Do you know Delhi that well? This is one book that hooks a reader till the last page, it is so interesting. How did you plan this story?
I was born in Delhi, but I don’t know it as well as I know Mumbai. But human nature is the same everywhere, as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple kept saying! And then, once the story shifted to Mumbai I was in familiar territory. This was my first book, so planning and structure were a bit of a struggle initially. It took me longer to write it than a similar book would at this point, but I enjoyed the journey. I put a lot of thought into creating interesting dynamics between the characters because through the self-discovery of the protagonist, it is eventually a love story.
In 'Adriana's Smile' you have woven in rich details of art history. You were an Art Director that definitely might have helped. Did you do any research for the same?
I am an art student and studying the history of art was part of my curriculum. I enjoy wandering through the great museums of the world when I travel – also having watched many historical movies; I know the background of art being ruthlessly appropriated by the Nazis. The idea for the book was born when I was travelling through Tuscany a few years ago, and I was enchanted by the little towns that dot the countryside. So there’s art, wine, and lots of Mumbai in between!
Romance and intrigue add to the attraction of your books, which make your stories really 'different'. Your take
I do enjoy writing romance, but I believe it should be peppered with other things – a bit of intrigue, mystery, or some form of conflict other than the romance make for more interesting reading. Writing about new places, cultures or unusual workspaces give the reader an insight into something different. In Secrets and Second Chances, my protagonist Nandita is an architect, and I have spent time describing how she works. I like adding that kind of detailing in my books.
You then shift to mythology with your book 'Aryavir'...what made you take this leap? Not to mention you have been successful in this genre as well.
I believe in reinventing myself to stay interested in what I do. Mythology and fantasy are what I love to read, so writing in the genre seemed a very natural step. I was looking to do something that would appeal to readers across the age demographic, and mythology is very close to our Indian hearts, whether we are 18 or 80. Part of the success comes from this very universal appeal – I have readers who are young and old, male and female, and they are all equally fascinated by the two books that have been published so far.
How did you plan this trilogy? Which Indian mythology/mythologies inspired you?
I’ve been an avid fan of the Mahabharat since I was ten, so the main inspiration is definitely from there. I have also been watching the Game of Thrones TV show, and while it’s not mythology in the Indian sense, I loved the detail with which that universe has been created. I was very keen to create a similar world in the Indian context, with characters, values and an ethic that relate to our sensibilities and ideas. I planned the story before I started writing, but more difficult was planning the characters, the dynasties, their complicated family trees and how they fitted chronologically into my timeline. The Kamal Akshis have an interesting history, and I really enjoyed creating them. In fact, every character has a detailed back story, which may or may not end up in these books, but I know them so well in my head that I could write a book on each of them separately!
Your second book of the trilogy 'Sitanshu' is now out. What can readers expect from it?
Sitanshu picks up literally where Aryavir, the first book, left off. There is no time lag. The divine Blue Lotus Indivara has sprouted an ominous red petal, and no one knows quite what it means. The protagonists Aryavir and Sitanshu are on their way to the border of Kalipura for a bloody showdown with the Chandraketu King Divyendu. The Kamal Akshi Army is relying on its undefeatable long-haired Kesakuta warriors who cannot lose a war, but the wily enemies of Kamalkund have diabolical plans that are not written in any rule book. With the evil machinations of the Mayakari Queen Tamasi and wily King Kratu, the Kamal Akshis are facing the battle of their lives. Aryavir is awaiting the arrival of the comet Padmaketu with apprehension, and Sitanshu must finally move out of Aryavir’s shadow and face his own destiny. With hidden ancient secrets that are known only to the revered Maheshwari Masters, the mythological Old World is about to be plunged into intrigue and danger it’s denizens could never have imagined. Though on the surface, good versus evil is a recurring theme in mythology, I’ve tried to steer away from a black and white portrayal for my characters. There’s ambition, love, courage, lust for power and spirituality, but more than anything the ultimate message of the trilogy is unity for the greater good.
Your profile says you are busy writing the third and final book of the trilogy. By when will it be out? In the first 2 books Aryavir and Sitanshu were the central characters. Who will be the central character in the third book?
Aryavir and Sitanshu continue to be the protagonists, but in book three there are a series of flashbacks in which we find out more about Ambujakshan – Aryavir’s grandfather. It was during his rule that a chain of events started that have a bearing on what is happening now – and several wrongs that were committed must be righted. Madhumalli’s story too comes out, which I love. As a character, she fascinates me – she appears in the prologue of all the three books, but in the third book we see a lot more of her. She has an aura about her that is blessed yet tragic at the same time. Ambujakshan and Madhumalli share a love that is doomed from the outset, but I cannot help rooting for them even though it means angst for Chandrabha. I am currently about a third of the way through book three and hope to finish the first draft in the next couple of months.
Which genres do you like better-romance and intrigue or mythology?
Who said mythology cannot have romance and intrigue, just like a modern romance? The only difference in the setting and era in which the story takes place. Eventually, the same emotions drive human beings, whether they lived 5000 years ago or they live today – ambitions, envy, love, revenge… nothing changes! My favourite part of writing is creating believable characters and understanding what makes them tick.
Being a creative consultant to an event management company you get to travel a lot, how has this helped you in your writing?
I have visited about 35-40 countries in the course of my travels, some of them many times over. You learn to see with new eyes, delve into the history and art of these places, and understand their culture and how your horizons open up! Curiosity is a wonderful thing – I ask people all kinds of questions and usually get very interesting answers – it’s a good way to add some richness to the characters I develop for my books.
Bookaholicanonymous wishes Anita success for all her future endeavors. We are eagerly waiting for the third and final book of the Guardians of the Blue Lotus trilogy!
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