Today on the blog, I feature Anurag Anand [Link to website], author of the recently released Birth of the Bastard Prince : Legend of Amrapali [Link to my review of the book]. Read on as Anurag shares some interesting snippets behind this book and his writing habits in general.
- At the outset, let me ask you whether the story of Amrapali was always envisaged as a two book series by you? And the primary reason for this question is the fact that there was almost a two year gap between the two books hitting the bookshelves?
My motivation behind writing Amrapali’s story was to make it accessible to as many readers as I could. Given that a lengthy book ends up being a major deterrent, especially with respect to occasional readers, I had planned to present the story in two parts from the onset. So, while ‘The Legend of Amrapali’ deals with the early years of the protagonist’s life, her appointment as the Nagarvadhu of Vaishali and her cleverly crafted revenge, ‘Birth of the Bastard Prince’ takes off from where the prequel ends. In Birth of the Bastard Prince, readers will get a flavor of the political machinations that led to one of the most ferocious battles of those times, fought between Magadh and Vaishali, Amrapali’s romantic liaisons with the neighboring emperor, Bimbisara, and how she finds herself in a position where her decision would have a lasting impact on the history of Aryavart.
I have however provided a brief capsule as a prelude to ‘Birth of the Bastard Prince’ that will enable readers to read the book on a standalone basis. This is to make the book relevant to those who haven’t been able to read the prequel yet.
- You have written at least five other books in the more regular ‘popcorn fiction’ or the ‘chick-lit’ genre, if I may call them that. Was there any particular reason you picked up the ‘historical fiction’ genre and picked the specific story of Amrapali to tell? Or as they say, did the story pick you?
Well, the five books in the contemporary fiction genre (as I like to term it) aside, I have also authored two self-help books. Writing is a medium for me to express myself and to that effect I don’t like to be constrained by the convention of sticking to a particular genre. I write what I feel like writing, period!
In case of Amrapali, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the story chose me rather than the reverse. Hailing from a village not very far from Vaishali, Amrapali’s motherland, I was exposed to her enigmatic tales right from my childhood. Thus, even as I was dabbling with my first manuscript, I knew that someday I will make an attempt to present her story to the world. It took a bit of time, but with ‘The Legend of Amrapali’ I was eventually able to muster the courage to do so.
- While it goes without saying that you must have had a lot of research and reading to do to write the story of Amrapali, what are the other challenges that you faced when you wrote the Legend of Amrapali series when compared to your earlier books?
Writing historical fiction, especially stories where one attempts to mingle facts with fiction, is very different from writing a story set in today’s day and age. In case of contemporary stories an author can draw his characters and settings from his immediate surroundings whereas for historical fiction everything needs to be imagined in an entirely different dimension of time and space. Some things that we take for granted today might not have existed in that period and this poses a major challenge.
In my case, where I balance a full-time corporate job with my writing, it meant that my pace was hugely compromised as a result. Unlike my earlier books, I couldn’t return from office, pick up my laptop and simply start writing. I had to wait for the right time and frame of mind (mostly weekends) for piecing the story together.
- I am sure that quite a bit of extensive research has gone into writing the Legend of Amrapali series. Are there any interesting snippets of information that you came across during such research that did not find its way into the books due to whatever reasons? Would you be able to share something with me?
One of the most fascinating aspects of my research was my visit to the present-day Vaishali. The town, amidst ruins from its glorious past, houses several stupas and pagodas that are breathtakingly beautiful. There are Buddhist temples and shrines constructed by countries like Japan, Combodia and South Korea, and the Buddha Relic Stupa where a part of Gautama Buddha’s remains were buried. It was enthralling to come across a site of such rich heritage and yet disturbing to note the neglect it is being made to endure at our hands. I hope and pray that the region is able to claim its rightful place in the tourism map of the country and the world sometime soon.
I did come across several astonishing facts from the said period too, but I have tried to incorporate most of them in ‘Birth of the Bastard Prince’. Many of them have been a matter of great pride for me as an Indian, like, Vaishali being the first kingdom on earth to have a democratically elected government, or the fact that several weapons of mass destruction were first introduced in the 16-year war that Vaishali fought with the neighboring kingdom of Magadh.
- You are still work with a leading MNC company which by nature of the industry it is in probably puts more than enough pressure on you at the workplace. How do you manage to find time to author books in the meantime? What is your writing work ethic like?
As I have already mentioned, writing to me is a form of self-expression, and hence, despite my demanding work schedule, I have never really had to make time for it. It is akin to a health enthusiast finding time to sweat it out in the gym or a television-buff finding time to catch his or her favorite program – unforced and involuntary.
However, when I am writing, I like to give it my complete attention. I hate to be disturbed then, even if it is for being offered a cup of coffee. Thankfully people at home have adjusted to my whims by now and they allow me to get away without offering much resistance.
- What can we expect from you (from a literary perspective) next? Are there other books in the pipeline right now? If yes, at what stage of the creative process or publishing process are they in?
Yes, I am working on a contemporary love story presently. The book is targeted at readers who are looking to graduate from campus fiction. My previous work in this genre ‘Where the Rainbow Ends’ was widely appreciated by readers, and that gave me the impetus to pick up another story in the same space. I expect the manuscript to be ready in a couple of months post which the publication process will begin.
- Any words of wisdom for upcoming authors? Any parting thoughts for your readers?
It is a fantastic time to be an English author in India as several publication houses are not only willing to back, but are even scouting for homegrown talent. So if you’ve got a story within you, it is time you got down to putting it on paper.
To my readers, I can only thank them for spending their precious time with my books – it truly means a lot – and request them to share their feedback. I can be reached at email@example.com, Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/anuraganandauthor and Twitter – @anuraganand1978.