Today on the blog, I have the pleasure of hosting an interview with Sumana Khan, author of The Revenge of Kaivalya, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading (read my review of the book here).
- Given that The Revenge of Kaivalya is your debut book, was there any particular reason that you chose the ‘paranormal thriller’ genre for the same? Or, as is the norm with most debut authors, did the story choose you?
SUMANA: I think it’s natural to write a story that one personally loves to read. Thrillers, horror, crime – these are all genres I love to read. I mean, I would not have debuted with a romance for example … that’s not my cup of tea – the only romance fiction I’ve enjoyed are mostly from classical literature.
- While you have provided a reasonably interesting explanation behind the origins of the name ‘Kaivalya’ here in this blog post (link to post), why did you choose the forests of Sakleshpur, Bisle and Kukke as the setting for the contemporary portion of the book? You might as well have chosen Vijayanagara itself given that the story of Kaivalya is inextricably linked to that location, right.
SUMANA: An important element of horror is atmosphere. In a well-written horror piece, the place itself assumes a character, almost as important as the protagonist. For example, the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, or Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. Nothing can beat the silent, somber environs of the Western ghats to induce a trace of fear…be it during monsoons, or during foggy winters. On the other hand, today, Vijayanagara stands as Hampi – UNESCO world heritage site – all cheery and touristy. My choice was easy J
- It is said that most debut authors have at least one character in their books that mirror their personality quite a bit. Which character in The Revenge of Kaivalya, if any, reflects your personality the most? Also, which character in this book is your personal favorite, in terms of the character-arc that the narrative describes?
SUMANA – I’d say none. I think in a good piece of fiction writing, the author should not surface anywhere. I think Matchu is a favourite – I had a lot of fun fleshing him out. But when it came to challenging every cell in my brain – it has to be Kaivalya.
- Can we expect more adventures from Dhruv, Tara and some of the other characters in the future? What are your writing plans in general, for the future?
SUMANA – As of now I have no plans for any kind of “part 2” for Kaivalya characters. But, never say never is my policy J Right now I’m knocking on many doors to peddle a set of stories. I’m also working on a full length novel: a psychological thriller.
- This particular post of yours (link to post) seems to suggest that writing was a cathartic experience for you in terms of the fact that it was something that you were good at and it was also something that helped you realize that writing was something that defined your personality in more ways than one. Would you be able to elucidate more on what writing means to you?
SUMANA: It is difficult to explain…let me try. It’s like the warmth you feel in the pit of your stomach when you realize you are in love. It just feels right…like it’s meant to be; you just know that come what may, you will be spending your life with that special person. You develop this tunnel vision…everything around you recedes to the background. Writing to me, has that exact same kind of a loud “CLICK”. I’m sure it’s the same for anyone who has discovered their passion – perhaps painting is their lifeline…or acting and so on.
- Most debut authors struggle to have their manuscripts see the light of bookstore shelves. While the second half of this post (link to post) provides us with some details regarding your tryst with self-publishing the book before Westland eventually accepted the same for publication, what was the one part of this entire process that you found particularly difficult/tiresome and what was the one part that you found particularly educative or revealing?
SUMANA: Difficult part is definitely the waiting…(now that could be a good title…The Waiting…)! One must have the patience of a python. When I got in touch with Westland’s chief editor with a query, I was asked to send across the synopsis and sample chapters, as is the norm. Within a day, I was asked to send across the manuscript. Thereafter, I waited for almost a year to hear a decision. Once I finally signed the contract, it took almost two years for the book to finally come out.
Educative – coming from an IT background, I was used to very process-driven work environments. I was now exposed to an environment that really runs on personal rapport – something that I’m quite hopeless at, given my reticent nature.
- What is the one piece of advice that you would give budding writers out there reading this interview?
SUMANA: At the risk of being repetitive (I’ve said this in other interviews as well)…no matter what you hear, please don’t take writing for granted. Just like any other art and vocation, writing too requires that you constantly improve, upgrade your skill. So…please don’t settle for a sub-standard quality of writing, and worse, defend that. Yes, and ensure you have another job. Writing may enrich the soul, but it sure does not fill the stomach.