Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category


The four F’s go brilliantly together – fun, food, family and friends!


Shana Susan Ninan: You have combined your love of many things in these books. How did you successfully manage that?

Smita Jee: I have had a very active and happy childhood – playing sports, doing athletics, learning new forms of arts and crafts, etc. (Hopefully my children have had the same – the neediness of a parent just creeps in.) So understanding the needs of a child comes naturally for me growing up in a joint family with guests and children flowing in and out of our home all the time. My love for food is in my genes. Yes, I am a foodie by birth though the love for trying new dishes developed only when I became a housewife. When I come to think of it, combining all these and more seemed as natural as breathing. Now whether it is a success or not is for you to judge coz I don’t think there is any other way for me.

SSN: How has the journey of self publishing been? 

SJ: That has been a tough ride and definitely not as easy as breathing! Knowing nothing about the industry or its working, I seemed to have got my foot caught in the doorway finding no means of escape but to step in. Luckily I had family and friends who themselves knew nothing about the ways and means of a publishing house but were ready to chip in and pitch in. In fact, it has been such a pleasant journey that I don’t think I would have it any other way. We have learnt so much in the process and our confidence has soared to such an extent that we are ready to help anyone wanting to hold their dream in their hand to self publish.

SSN: Tell us about the cover page choices for the three books.

SJ: Oh! They have been a breeze especially in the conceptualisation part. I knew exactly what I wanted on it and Mrs Neha Gupta and Mrs Mamta Agarwal (the illustrators and cover designers) brought out their best and put it in visual form with precision. The colour combinations and attractiveness of the covers were all their doing, making it catch the eye of children and parents alike.

SSN: How is this different from writing from a blog?

SJ: A blog for me is like a diary. You write what you feel at that particular moment. But while writing a book you need to stick to the plot. Although I had not really thought of the climax at the end of each book, I had a basic idea of what the circumstances would be. In fact, for The three on a Spree I had to change four or five chapters entirely towards the end as the plot seemed to have wavered according to Mrs Kusum Dhanania, my editor. I am glad I changed it because it did sound a lot better the way it has been published. I am not sure if we really need to do anything of this kind in a blog.

SSN: Food is a great choice to bind friendship, which you have used that beautifully in your books. Please share some anecdotes from your real life.

SJ: Being a sporty choice, I had an enormous appetite especially amongst by friends and colleagues. So have literally been laughed at for being a hog! Well I have had my share of fiascos in the kitchen to say the least and not with a very edible outcome especially when I cooked as a child with recipe books and all! Hahahhaha! But after the wedding and then after having children, I started enjoying the contentment on the faces of my family after eating an ordinary home cooked meal. (They didn’t have a choice really!) This encouraged me to experiment and make dishes trying to suit their individual palates. And then my children would help me in the kitchen giving me memories to keep with me forever. Today my kids are exceptional cooks especially for their age. In fact, for any age. And their is nothing ordinary left in our everyday meals! Every meal is special! The four Fs go brilliantly together fun-food-family and friends!

SSN: How did you come to choose the age group for your readers?

SJ: You know when I started writing Shreya’s Eighth, my children had already crossed that age. But somehow I didn’t really plan on the age bracket. I just wanted to write something that everyone could read and feel good about. That’s all! To be honest, when the initial draft was read by a few family and friends and I asked them to give me an age bracket – each had a different bracket! One thought it could be introduced to the children as soon as they began reading, the other thought the pre-teens and early teens would like it. There was even a suggestion that it was for new mothers who could just read into their child’s mind and live their childhood days with their children! One even went down her own nostalgic childhood journey and thought every grandparent should be reading the book. So be it a child, teenager, young adult, new parent, parent in general or even a grandparent, it’ll be relatable.

SSN: What books do you have in the pipeline?

SJ: The first book The Braces Club of my new series The Double Digit Club is scheduled to be released this year. The book, as the name suggests is about children needing braces. However, again, everyone will enjoy the books not only due to the feel good factor and family values imbibed in each of the writings but also because at some point of time in each individual’s life some experience mentioned in the books is most likely to have occurred to them. There are recipes blending into the storyline, especially for children with braces – mostly sweets and desserts. The second book in the series would be The Cycling Club and the third The Trekking Club. Keep tabs at or write to me at

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Rating: 6.3/10 (16 votes cast)

“It’s great to know you’ve brought someone so much enjoyment.”

Here’s what best-selling author and friend of mine, Steven McKay has to say about his experience so far… books, stories and expectations. Read on!

Shana: You’ve published four books now. How has the experience been?

Steven McKay: Five actually – I just put out Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil on Friday November 13th! It’s been fantastic so far, really exciting and lovely to find so many readers enjoying my work. I’m still full of enthusiasm for writing so I guess it must have been a good couple of years since I first published Wolf’s Head.

There’s a nice balance between the youngblood Robin Hood and the settled, father Robin. Does that change the magnetics of the game?

Yes, definitely. Young Robin – in Wolf’s Head – was frightened and not really sure how to deal with the situation he found himself in, whereas the slightly older, more mature Robin of Rise of the Wolf is still frightened but he’s much more confident and able to deal with the harsh realities of live in medieval England. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how old we get, we all still feel frightened at times don’t we? So, although Robin is a hero, he’s not a SUPERhero. Hopefully my books show that. Of course, being a father now means the next, and final, book in the series will need to explore that aspect of his life and character…

Which was the most difficult/ time-consuming character to develop in the Forest Lord series?

Probably Matilda. Being a man it’s hard to put myself into a woman’s place and you’re always worried it won’t work and female readers will hate what I’m doing! But so far everyone seems happy that Rise of the Wolf has two strong female characters playing a big part in events. Medieval Europe wasn’t a place filled with women who fought alongside the men – they were very much kept at home and seen as second-class citizens so trying to make Matilda interesting and realistic yet still powerful and identifiable to a modern audience was something I had to work at.

Do you plan to try writing in a different genre now?

Well, I kind of branched out into the horror genre with my novella Knight of the Cross, which was heavily inspired by HP Lovecraft although still in a historical setting. Similarly, my brand new novella, Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil is more of a medieval mystery than all out action and adventure. I don’t have any plans to abandon the historical fiction genre any time soon – once I finish the Robin Hood books I think I’ll be starting a new series set around dark ages Britain.

How has the journey of self-publishing been?

It’s been great! I like the fact I get 70% royalties from each ebook sale and Amazon have been great helping me out in promotions and stuff. Sometimes it can get stressful – for example someone noticed a minor error in one of my audiobooks so I had to try and get that sorted which isn’t as simple as you’d think! And at the same time I’m juggling a full-time job, young family and trying to write another book so it can be hard. But at the end of the day I get a great sense of achievement when I see the nice reviews people have left on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever. It’s great to know you’ve brought someone so much enjoyment.

What can we expect from your writing kitty in the near future?

The final Robin Hood book will be out next year, all being well and after that I may do another novella with those characters. I’m not sure. Novellas don’t seem to sell as well as full length novels so, although I love writing them, it might not be worth the effort…I’ll see how it goes. After that,as I say, I plan on a brand new trilogy with all new characters. The planned title for the first one is – and this is an exclusive! – The Druid. I’m really looking forward to it – it’ll be nice to create my own characters after two or three years writing about old, legendary people like Little John, Friar Tuck and Robin himself. I hope you’ll all join me for my future adventures!

Thanks for having me in this Q&A Shana!


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Rating: 8.4/10 (7 votes cast)

My readers are normal, everyday people… they can identify with someone like Robin who has the same hopes and fears as they do

A brilliant debut writer who knows how to set the tone and the pace for the reader. Introducing Steven McKay to IBR readers. His book Wolf’s Head is the journey of legendary Robin Hood, from a fun-loving young boy to a forest lord. Almost. This is the first of the series.

– Shana Susan  Ninan

Shana: Action from the word go. How exciting was it to write an action-packed novel as yours?

Steven MacKay: How exciting is it to READ an action novel? Well, double that. Writing a novel is an opportunity to let your imagination run free. Of course, I’m not writing fantasy so there are limits, but in general, Wolf’s Head was so much fun to write that it never became a chore until well into the editing stage. When we read a book we place ourselves in the shoes of the protagonists, but actually creating the protagonists is even more exciting. Working a full-time job, as I do, then coming home and spending hours writing a novel would be impossible if the writing wasn’t so much fun. Come on – how hard can it be to write about a 7 foot tall giant like Little John, kicking everyone’s ass about a forest and drinking ale with his mates?! I loved it!

SSN: So many versions of Robin Hood’s story out there in the world – in classics, movies and cartoons. How does your Robin stand out?

SM: I think my Robin stands out because he’s different to all the versions people are familiar with nowadays. The modern version of the myth has become all about a disinherited nobleman, or, like Angus Donald’s, some kind of medieval gangster. The original ballads were about a normal man, a yeoman, not a nobleman – that was all a much later addition to the legend. My Robin is a frightened teenager who slowly grows in stature until he and his friends eventually become local heroes. Wolf’s Head isn’t a story about a rich man trying to regain his wealth and property from more rich men, it’s about a normal young man fighting to survive and live a regular life without being hunted down and killed like an animal.

SSN: The violence and the gore, I enjoyed it. But I’m sure a lot of readers might find that not too easy on the eye or the mind while reading. What do you feel?

To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. A few of the reviews on Amazon have complained about the swearing, but none have mentioned the violence. When I was writing the book, right from the start I wanted it to reflect reality as much as possible. The middle-ages were a hard, extremely violent time and people today are used to seeing that violence recreated in movies or described in books by guys like Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow. I don’t want to offend anyone, and I certainly don’t want to stop people reading any future books of mine but, honestly – being hit in the face by a sword can’t have been a pleasant experience. I hope the pain and terror of something like that comes across in my writing.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)

I write… to understand myself.

A poet and an author. And a good thinker, too, I should add, Sanjiv Bhatla’s books have been great reads for me. His thoughts and ideas penned on paper makes you stop and look at issues and themes differently.

– Shana Susan Ninan

SSN: Let’s start with your latest book. How are the two long poems you’ve published different, in terms of plot, pace and poignancy?

Sanjiv Bhatla: A Sinner Says tries to postulate what basic ingredients went into the very creation of Human Nature. Why human beings behave and feel the way they do. What constitutes their emotions and aspirations. How God-created Human Nature prompted man to create human society.

Ninmah’s Lonely Man picks up from where A Sinner Says leaves off – its third and last sections presents the situation of “one such human being” embedded in the man-made society. First section of NLM extends this situation. It once again returns to it in the fourth and last section of NLM.

The running themes of these composite four parts are twofold: one, that God is omnipresent and all powerful, in full control of his entire creation, two, that God is in a love-hate relationship with his son – the living human being.

SSN: Did you experience some of the situations and events mentioned in ‘Ninmah’s Lonely Man’,  yourself?

SB: As said before, I try to understand myself through my writings. I may not have experienced EXACT SAME situations, but SIMILAR. In few cases I have also IMAGINED them, but in such a way that they This is a sleight of hand which a writer of Realism should be able to pull through.

SSN: God, or rather his absence, has a large presence in your works. Is that a conscious effort in the writing of the books? 

SB: I am a staunch believer, Shana. God’s omni-presence looms very large in my conscious mind. And therefore his omni-absence also looms very large in my conscious mind. The former causes elation and assurance, and the latter, desperation and dejection. Both these contra-set of emotions are more vividly espoused in Ninmah’s Lonely Man than in my other long poem, A Sinner Says. I won’t be surprised if you detect such tug of war of Belief-related contrasting emotions in my other books as well.

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Rating: 8.5/10 (6 votes cast)

Do same-sex relationships help to soothe scarred people? Yes & no.

Conversations with author Pauletter Mahurin, who wrote The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, via emails and messages have always been a pleasure. She’s passionate about many facts of life, animal rescue and rehabilitation toping the list. She talks to IBR about her book, the very true-to-real-life plot, her writing inspirations, and more… Read on.

Shana Susan Ninan: I cried when I read your book. I cried ‘cos I could relate to the various characters and the direction of the plot. When you wrote the story did you think of how the reader would react?

Paulette Mahurin: First let me say thank you so much Shana for having me over to your great site, for your time and generosity in reading and reviewing my book, and helping to shine a light on tolerance.

I’ve had feedback from several readers that the story made them cry, the ending in particular which unexpectedly reveals the unintended consequence of acts of hatred.  I could relate to the characters as well which may sound odd being that I am the author of the work but in reality they spoke to me and told me their stories, some through people I know and have worked with, one person in particular who committed suicide because he was gay, others from things I read about the history of lesbians, and then the varied emotions I see surrounding me in every day life, inside my head and that of others. We are all shades of the human condition, no one escapes loss and death, and some of us with compassionate hearts, sensitive souls, see these things even in fictionalized stories.

I felt the reader would react as all humans react when faced with anything, through their own subjective personal experience, conditioning, emotions, and knew it’d be all over the place. The reviews reflect this from hating it because it has a lesbian protagonist and it violates their belief system to loving it and finding God through the words of the story. I kid you not; one reader wrote to the book’s Facebook page this story helped her find her God. That floored me. I’m a practical person and don’t hold out a lot of expectations which lends to some lovely surprises as I move along in this journey called life.

SSN: How did this storyline come to you?

PM: I had been working with a person who was in the closet (as a medical provider) here in the United States. The person was tortured and abused as a child and shared this with me in confidence. It weighed on me and was present in my mind while I was in a writing class and came across a photo of two women, dressed circa turn of the twentieth century. We had to do an exercise using a photo and write a ten-minute mystery. The two factors melded together and out came the theme of the story line—a lesbian couple on the frontier afraid of being found out. It continued to haunt me after that class was over, demanding I write about it. Out poured the story, which was published six years later. The time lag was due to my having a chronic illness and limited time to put into writing as well as the amount of research and editing that all went into the book.

SSN: Fictionalised true events or pure fiction, what appeals to you as a writer?

PM: What appeals to me is the story, does it grab and hold my attention, do I relate to it, want to read it, and am I sorry when the last page is turned and it’s ended. Whether it’s fictionalized true events or pure fiction, if I’m not engaged than that speaks for what I like or not. I do find it fascinating that anything one can imagine has probably actually taken place lending to the old adage that fact is weirder than fiction. When one comes across these pieces of info it’s so interesting. I found a lot of that in writing this book, the debacle Oscar Wilde went through, how lesbians were treated on the frontier, right down to the details of aspects of daily living: what they ate, how they cooked, dressed, survived when their money ran out, etc. I loved, and got way too sidetracked, cruising down history lane as I wrote. The upside is it helped expand a few of my cerebral gray cells, lol.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (9 votes cast)

“The editing process of your manuscript is just like disciplining your children – painful, but necessary!”

Author of The Dirty Secret Brent Wofingbarger talks to Indian Book Reviews about his book, the research that went into writing it and give writing and editing tips to aspiring authors.

– Shana Susan Ninan

Shana: First off, what’s the “secret” you had in mind when you framed the title, The Dirty Secret?

Brent: It was intended to refer to the fact that the Electoral College is the “dirty little secret” in America’s constitutional system. Until the close election between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, most people had only a vague perception that Americans do not directly elect their President. The ensuing legal battle that year over Florida’s decisive electoral votes unquestionably heightened the public’s awareness of the Electoral College, but I think the overwhelming majority of people still don’t understand exactly how it works in the real world. Part of my motivation in writing the book was to cast some light on the way it operates at a nuts-and-bolts level, and also to demonstrate how easily the whole thing could be corruptly derailed.

IBR: How did you manage to merge politics and romance and some thrilling events into one book, that, too, your debut work?

Brent: By carefully and ruthlessly sketching out the plot before I wrote a single word of the story. 🙂

In all seriousness, I find it disheartening that our country (America) is so bitterly divided right now, politically speaking. Not too long ago, even when people disagreed about certain political issues, they would still typically treat one another with mutual respect and “agree to disagree” on those political issues without poisoning their overall relationship. So as I was crafting the plot for The Dirty Secret, I found the notion of two fundamentally decent human beings from opposite sides of the political fence cooperating with one another, while slowly healing the rifts in their personal relationship, inherently satisfying. I thought having those two characters’ personal journey unfold in the context of the larger political battle would make the overall story a more enjoyable read. And judging from the feedback I’ve received from reviewers like you, it seems many readers agree. 🙂

IBR: That I totally did! Now tell us, what was the research that went into the story and the characterisation?

Brent: I was blessed to have a lot of election law experience before I started writing the book, but I definitely needed to research how the more modern, computerised voting systems operate to make the story more believable. I also had to dig a little deeper to make sure my understanding of the state and federal laws governing presidential elections was accurate. In fact, I was shocked to learn about the loophole in West Virginia law that is revealed in Chapter 55 of The Dirty Secret, and that discovery required me to adjust the plot’s trajectory somewhat.

IBR: If there are other genres you’d experiment writing in, what would they be?

Brent: Humor. I enjoy making people laugh, and I have thought about writing a collection of short stories about some of the humorous adventures my circle of friends has experienced. But I will definitely have to change the names of those involved, to protect both the innocent and the guilty. LOL.

IBR: Your reading and writing influences…

Brent: One would be John Grisham, of course. He was one of the first to transform legal conflicts into riveting entertainment. I love Stephen Ambrose, and how his passion for history helped him transform some old, dusty subjects like Lewis & Clark’s Voyage of Discovery and the construction of the transcontinental railroad into real page-turners. I enjoy the way John Scalzi and Eric Flint (in his Ring of Fire series) use regular guys with common sense and virtue as their action/adventure protagonists instead of hyper-macho dudes who just kill everything in sight. I love how Neal Stephenson allows his sense of humor to shine through his writing, a trait he shares with Scalzi. I also like how Nicholas Sparks develops an intimate bond between his readers and his characters, because I honestly believe it’s the emotional reaction readers experience when reading a story that separates the good books from the truly great ones. A good book can keep us entertained for hours, but we tend to cherish and remember books that tug at our heartstrings or evoke other strong emotions.

IBR: What was the experience like for you to draw from your experience as a law practitioner into fancying a story so similar to your work/ career?

Brent: Very rewarding. Stephen Coonts is another lawyer from West Virginia who has enjoyed an unbelievably successful career writing thrillers, and he got his start in the business when he wrote Flight of The Intruder, a tale of a U.S. Navy fighter pilot flying missions over Vietnam.  Not coincidentally, Mr. Coonts spent eight years in the cockpit as a fighter pilot before going to law school, so he was able to draw upon that experience in crafting his story.

Mr. Coonts was kind enough to share some of his insights with aspiring authors on his website, which I took to heart. And in preaching about the importance of a story’s originality, he offered this advice: “Beginning [sic] writers are well advised to write about something they know. Many beginners try to write about people and places and events that they know absolutely nothing about, and consequently expend vast quantities of time and effort but cannot get the story to read right.”

IBR: Why did you choose an Asian female protagonist for the story?

Brent: Because I wanted my story to be different than all the other thrillers on the market, and it sadly seems there is a real shortage of Asian female protagonists out there. Waves of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent have been successfully chasing the American dream and carving a place for themselves in our country for years, but it seems like their story is being given short shrift when you look at the commercial fiction shelves today.

For some reason, I was drawn to the concept of a strong, intelligent woman with exotic beauty playing the central role in my book. She had to be comfortable in her own skin, yet simultaneously be accepted as part of the community in an area of rural West Virginia that is exceptionally close-knit and is traditionally quite suspicious of outsiders. Casting Rikki as the daughter of the town’s pediatrician – an Indian immigrant who was universally respected for his competence, care and compassion – allowed her to be accepted by the community as “one of its own,” while simultaneously retaining her unique cultural heritage.

Moreover, I liked telling the story of two people who fell in love despite their different ethnic backgrounds and political beliefs. I think many people want to believe that love can conquer all, even though that idealised vision doesn’t always pan out in the real world. When my book begins and readers learn what transpired to cause Dave and Rikki’s relationship to fall apart, and they see the huge gulf that exists between them 15 years later, I like to think readers secretly start rooting for them to get back together. And the latent tension over whether that reconciliation will occur helps move the plot forward and keep readers wondering what will happen next.

IBR: Do you prefer to read single plot stories or have multiple or simultaneous plots in a story?

Brent: I personally prefer reading books where multiple plots unfold at the same time. A prime example would be the three books from Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle, which I absolutely loved. I think Jack Shaftoe from that trilogy is one of the most unique, compelling, flawed, and utterly hysterical characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter, and I love the way Stephenson weaved together multiple plots in those books. Reading books like that, it feels like you’re in a chess match with the author, trying to figure out how he’s going to tie all these seemingly unrelated threads together in the end. And if the author can pull it off, that makes the whole reading experience even more satisfying to me.

IBR: When are you visiting India?

Brent: It depends on whether The Dirty Secret hits the best-seller list! LOL

I definitely want to visit India so I can personally experience its rich culture, its architectural wonders like the Taj Mahal, and to see for myself some of its vibrant, bustling cities. However, my children are still quite young (I have a three-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son), and I’m pretty sure they would find it challenging to tolerate the 20+ hour long plane ride to India. So my wife and I will probably have to start training them by taking a shorter trip to her Caribbean homeland (Trinidad & Tobago) in order to build up their endurance for the longer pilgrimage to India. 🙂

IBR: Any lines for those debut authors trying their hands at political thrillers?

Brent: Life is too short. Stop thinking about it and just do it! Sit down, think through and outline your plot, and draw up paragraph-length portraits of your characters to help you understand who they are and how they think.  Research the story’s aspects you aren’t personally knowledgeable about to make sure your story is as factually accurate as possible. Review The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. Then start writing. Remember that Rome was not built in a day, but in order to begin your journey, you have to take that first step and begin writing. Establish reasonable writing goals and try to put aside a set amount of time at least a few days each week (if not every day) to work on your book. Consider using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to maximize your efficiency (but use a high-quality microphone to capture your dictation if you do.)

After you “finish” writing the book, put it aside and don’t even look at it for at least 30 days.  Then take it back out and edit it ruthlessly. Cut out every scene that is not crucial to moving the plot forward, and cut out every surplus word that is not truly necessary. For instance, my first draft of The Dirty Secret was over 1,79,000 words, but the final version ended up at just a little over 1.13,000 words!  Writers view their books like their babies. But even though we love our children, we realise they need discipline to become the best they can be, and the editing process is just like disciplining your children – painful, but necessary! 🙂

Ask a few avid readers whose judgment you trust to read the book and offer their feedback as “beta readers.” Implement those suggestions you feel have merit and revise the book accordingly. Ruthlessly edit it again and again until you are convinced that you have written the best book you are capable of writing on your own, and then find (and pay) a professional editor to go over it with a fine-toothed comb. I used Rob Bignell and found him extremely competent, extremely affordable, and his suggested changes were great ones.

If any aspiring authors have any other questions, they can look me up on my website at

Good luck!

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Rating: 9.9/10 (8 votes cast)

“Women’s perseverance and strength of character see them through. …aptly demonstrated by Amrapali’s story.”

Author of The Legend of Amrapali, Anurag Anand talks to IBR about his third book, his eagerness to throw light on the illustrious life of the danseuse and women as role models today. Read on!

IBR (Shana Susan): After two books, what made you choose a female lead for your story?

Anurag Anand: A story can hold enough intrigue and complexities regardless of the protagonist’s gender. There are enough examples in the texts of history and even the current day where women have led lives no less adventurous and exciting than their male counterparts. Hence, the lead being a female was merely a derivative of the exhilarating and inspiring nature of the story and not some frivolous fancy to bring about gender equality in my writings.

IBR: Why Amrapali, and not any other famous woman from history?

AA: In the current times there are many who have heard of the legendary courtesan Amrapali, but not many know of her. There is little recorded history to corroborate the grandiose anecdotes and tales from her life that have been passed down for over 2,500 years now. Her unmatched beauty, her magical dance moves and her benevolence, all remain unsubstantiated and the only recorded facts about Amrapali’s life can be found in some Buddhist scriptures, since she is said to have renounced all her worldly riches to become the first Buddhist nun. The resultant gaps in her story presented an exciting opportunity for it to be mingled with fiction and retold in a manner that the readers of today can relate to, which is what I have attempted with The Legend of Amrapali.

IBR: Part in the book you totally enjoyed writing…

AA: Like the readers, often writers too find themselves being swayed by the twists and pace of a story. In this regard, the last few chapters of the book where the crafty political machinations of the Nagavadhu begin to unfold were the most absorbing ones. I found myself continuously thinking about what would transpire next and had to fight a strong urge to run through the story in a single sitting. At that stage it was extremely difficult for me to keep myself away from the writing table.

IBR: What was the research done for this story? Did it take you long to finalise the finished book?

AA: The research for the book was an extensive process. I not only read and saw all past works that have been done on the subject – from Bollywood movies to television serials and from comic books to novels in other languages, but I also had to do extensive reading about the period – prevailing customs, attire and language of the masses, and the geographical, political and religious factors that played a role in shaping the everyday lives of the people. The research took a little over six months, post which I got down to penning the story. The first satisfactory draft of the book took about 15 months to shape.

IBR: The politics of Vaishali, is that seen even in today’s India?

AA: The nature and form of governance, the players involved and the strategies adopted by them might have differed, but the motivators in the corridors of politics have remained constant through the passage of time. The same greed and lust for power which saw Lord Ram spending fourteen years in exile, which has seen mighty kings being slain by their own brood, and which has got brothers up in arms against their own siblings can still be found lurking in the backdrop of almost every politically significant decision that one hears about today. And sadly enough, these covetous motivators have ingrained themselves into the very fabric of politics, depriving it of any traces of altruism and selflessness.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (5 votes cast)

“Writing is like a drug and I have written like an addict, getting my fix from the 800 words that I would generate every day.”


Author of Prey by the Ganges, Hemant Kumar narrates how he wrote (and rewrote) his debut novel, his thoughts on crime writing and writing experience for him. He tells us his favourite crime thriller, and more!

– Shana Susan Ninan

IBR (Shana) – Please introduce yourself to IBR readers – your background, career and published works.

Author Hemant Kumar – I am a journalist. I wasn’t born in Bihar, but I went to school there – from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. I lived in Ranchi and Patna. My parents were both freedom fighters. My father worked for the government and my mother, a home maker, was a singer on the radio. I grew up in Ranchi, now in Jharkhand. The book is set largely in the areas surrounding Ranchi—places like Netarhat, Patna and Shibgunj.

After graduating in Economics from the University of Bombay, I began as a reporter with the Press Trust of India (PTI) in the early 80s. Eight years later, I joined Doordarshan News as a correspondent, covering the elections Live with Prannoy Roy and Vinod Dua. In 1998, I left for the US, to work for a media company. In 2005, I returned to India, and worked for a few television channels, chiefly India TV, as vice president, and News24, as head of one of its verticals. In 2010, I left television, and started editing a magazine for the government of India. Called India Now, it’s a brand India vehicle that goes out to all Indian missions abroad, missions of all foreign nations in India, think tank and policy groups worldwide and to senior government functionaries in India and abroad.

But more importantly, I began writing my book all over again in 2010. All over again, because I had written it once, entirely, in 2006—all 1,50,000 words of it. Then in 2010, I wrote it all over again—all 1,25,000 words.

IBR – How did you coin the title – Prey By The Ganges?

HK – It was easy – the story begins at Ganga’s banks and remains in its vicinity. And it’s a desperate cat-and-mouse chase throughout the fateful night. I have written about the deification of Ganga and how people pray at its banks. The words ‘pray’ and ‘prey’ kept coming to me, over and over and over again. Hence the title Prey By The Ganges.

IBR – How was the writing experience for Prey By The Ganges?

HK – Writing is my calling, Shana. I have always known I am a good writer, but the need to write seriously occurred to me only when I turned 40, I think. I was living in the US at that time. However, the actual writing did not begin until after I had returned to India, in 2006.

Writing the book has been cathartic for me. It has flowed out of me like a hot spring that could not be contained anymore. You may say I have written the book. However, my understanding is that I just sat before the laptop, and an unseen energy, perhaps divine, moved my hands and formed the words and paragraphs and pages and chapters. This is how it felt.

It was frustrating, at times, when I found myself clawing at walls of resistance that kept inspiration hidden away. But I kept hammering away, chipping at the masonry, bit by bit. My friend and the book’s editor, Ruchira, kept my confidence and focus intact with inspirational emails and conversations. This book is the result of lengthy conversations with Ruchira, about each little twist and turn in the story.

Writing is like a drug and I have written like an addict, getting my fix from the 800, or so, words that I would generate every day and toss at Ruchira, to edit. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing Prey By The Ganges, and hope to get into that mental and spiritual zone again, really soon, to start writing my next novel.

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Rating: 8.8/10 (4 votes cast)

“In reality, Any Woman Who Wants To Have A Meaningful Life Must Find Herself First”

Jane Ainslie, debut author of Chai for Beginners, talks to IBR about her experience in writing, her love for In and of course about people and relationships. Jane lives in Australia and has travelled to and within India several times.

IBR: First, the obvious one – why choose India as a major backdrop for your story?

Jane Ainslie: The contrast between life in Australia and life in India provides Sita, the main character, with an opportunity to see her life from a different point of view. It makes her question her own values and beliefs as she witnesses a culture completely different from her own. Of course, India is far more spiritual in outlook than Australia; so as that is a central theme for Chai for Beginners, it was a fitting backdrop to her story. On a personal note, I love India. I think it is one of the most amazing, wonderful countries on earth so I was thrilled not only to be able to write about India, but also to be published in India, with an Indian readership.

IBR: Who does Sita Sinclair represent?

Ainslie: Any woman who has searched for meaning in her life. It’s so easy to assume that having a husband, children, a great job, a huge house, etc. will fulfill you, but in reality I think any woman who wants to have a meaningful life must find herself first.

IBR: The characters in the book are diverse and yet they have gelled fine in the story.  How did you manage to weave them into the plot so well?

Ainslie: Sydney, and in fact most of Australia, is very multi-cultural so in everyday life most Australians know lots of people from lots of different backgrounds. Sydney is quite a progressive city as well and different lifestyles are well tolerated there. Weaving a diverse mix of characters was easy, because that’s what living in Sydney was like for me.

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Rating: 5.7/10 (7 votes cast)

“I wanted to create a new age rocking detective.”

A quick read with an out-of-the-ordinary plot that’s based within an Indian IT firm – that’s Sundip Gorai’s Hickory Dickory Shock!. It’s readable across all age groups and can be swallowed in a day! The story is peppy and the characters are fun. Sundip’s writing style is unfussy and streamlined. Check out an email interview of his with IBR.

– Shana Susan Ninan

IBR – You’ve just given us India’s first IT thriller. What gives Hickory Dickory Shock the one-of-a-kind feel?

Sundip Gorai – Yes, there are a few firsts – It is the first Indian novel that
1. covers the macro dynamics of the Indian IT industry
2. explores various variants of locked room mysteries – a sub-genre of detective fiction where a crime is committed in a hermetically sealed locked room and the culprit vanishes from inside the room
3. leverages the knowledge from rich historic artifacts from Indian history to create the build-up leading to the thriller climax.
4. leverages intriguing math puzzles (inspired from Vedic Math, Euler – the French mathematician, Sam Loyd – American puzzle maker, Fibonacci sequence and others) to pace the Thriller
5. has a protagonist who has a numeric name (210 – Tuten, as he was born at 2:10 a.m.)
6. uses intricate cipher techniques based on the work of Vatsayana (creator of ‘Kamasutra’)

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Rating: 8.0/10 (6 votes cast)