Nominated in the category of English Fiction for the REC-VoW Book Awards, 2019)
Excerpts from the interview with Achala Upendran:
Your writing has a sense of mysterious charm which lures the reader into the fascinating Sultanpuri world. You have written every scenario in intricate detail. How did you develop such a mature style of writing and description?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember–short stories, plays, a long superhero saga that featured my high school classmates battling each other. I’m also always reading, and observing other writers’ styles, the means they use to build and visualise their worlds. I think it was a combination of practice and observation that led me to develop whatever style I have.
In the book you have written elaborately about the humans and Rakshasas. Do you think that it’s a relevant analogy in some ways in the contemporary world?
Rather than pinpoint one particular inspiration, I see this relationship as one shared by many different groups of people throughout history–an unwillingness to build together and, instead, find a sense of safety in separating themselves from one another. I tried to allude to the fact that there are faults on both sides in this particular case, even if the one community we spend time with—the humans–seem to believe they were nothing but victims.
What are your favourite books in the fantasy fiction genre and also Excerpts from the interview with Achala Upendran: 21 Days to go please mention your favourite author in the same genre.
I have my old favourites–Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, A Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time series (coming soon to Amazon!). And then there are newer books I love, like Among Others by Jo Walton and Summerlong by Peter S Beagle. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is still one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read. I recently devoured NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. Of authors working today, I’d definitely rank Samit Basu and Ken Liu high on my list of must-read- immediately.
Are the characters in the book related to or inspired by people in your life? If so, please do tell. How did you develop a liking for this genre? Is there a particular incident or reason for the same?
I don’t think there was a particular incident that set off my love for fantasy, but I do remember thinking–while staring at my copy of Lord of the Rings–that if I could read this entire book, I could read anything. That was my first foray into epic fantasy, stepping beyond Harry Potter and Narnia. I guess that was my gateway drug!The characters in the book might have shades of people I know, but that’s as far as it goes. I tried to avoid potential lawsuits.
It’s not easy to develop a whole fantasy world in our mind. How would you describe your journey of writing this book?
Every day, I sat down and wrote 500 words. Most of the time the words were terrible, and very, very few of them made it into the final draft. Once I’d finished one draft, I went back and rewrote it, changed the narrative so it had more of a plot, added and deleted characters, essentially gave it a totally new form. Then I want back and did it again, till it felt more streamlined. I’d compare it to building a house—first, I put up the bones and scaffolding, just so I’d have something to work with, then changed the layout, then went in and laid down floors and tiled the place…and finally ended with me rearranging furniture. Basically it was a slow and mostly boring process, which I’m realising is what goes into making anything worthwhile.
I must agree with Samit Basu’s praise that ‘Indian fantasy has its new star’. Please tell us about your next novel that you are working on in this series.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but we’ll see more of the empire than just Sultanpur. And some of our daring characters will return, and maybe some new ones will join them. I’m excited to explore new parts of this world, and find different eyes through which to view it. Hopefully readers will be too!
Achala Upendran grew up reading and re-reading fantasy books. Her writing on fantasy and comic book media has appeared in a number of places, including Scroll, The Hindu Business Line and Caravan. You can find her online at www.achalaupendran.com.
For the complete interview, log onto www.valleyofwords.org