With his debut novel “Asura: Tale of the Vanquished”, Anand Neelkantan’s novel became a bestseller of 2012. He has been chosen as “one of the six most remarkable” authors of 2012 by NDA. December 5th was his birthday and we saw no better time than to come out with his interview now.
Anand Neelakantan agreed to give his interview to Icy Tales, and here is the interview attached as is where he talks about his books and inspirations!
Q. Sir, I understand you are an engineering graduate. So, what brought an engineering graduate into the world of literature and fiction?
A. My passion for reading and writing
Q. Asura: Tale of the Vanquished, Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan, Rise of Kali- Duryodhana’s Mahabharatha, all of these belong to the genre of fictional mythology. How did you become involved with this subject?
A. I grew up in a family where mythology was and still is a part of life. I owe a lot to my parents.
Q. All your books convey an important message–The power of perspective. You speak from the other side. Is this an inspiration from the great writer M.T Vasudevan Nair?
A. He was an inspiration. I grew up reading his books. There are many parallel and folk traditions and that also have been influential in shaping my thoughts and ideas. One cannot confine folk tradition to one book or one culture. However my stay in malabar especially in kannur kasargode and wayanad introduced me to this world.
Q. Few Malayalee novelists have made it big in English novel writing, except for a Shasi Tharoor or an Arundhati Roy. Now we have Anand Neelakantan. What would you say is your formula for the success ?
A. I am not in their league. English is a forced language for me. I am more comfortable in malayalam. My books are widely read and I am happy about it. That is despite my English skills. I read an outside text book English book at the age of 16 with a dictionary.
Q.That is truly inspirational. Your books have been making readers across the globe, happy. You being a malayalee, can we expect a Malayalam novel from you in the coming years?
A. I hope so. Getting published in malayalam is tougher for a new author and in malayalam I am new though “Asura and Ajaya” are published by Mathrubhumi Asura is already in 2nd edition. Ajaya soon
Q.Congrats for your success on Asura and we wish you all the best for Ajaya. That being said, we are looking forward to get our hands on your Malayalam novels. Speaking of publishing, what are some of the things you learned through out the publishing process? Rejection is part of life So, after the success of Asura, was getting Ajaya published relatively easier?
A.Success breeds success. It was easy.
Q. What is the average time-frame for writing your books and how do you go about with the editing process?
A. Write first draft in 3 to 4 months and then use 4 months to edit
Q. You are also a cartoonist. Do you have any plans on creating a comic book?
A. I am writing for TV, signed for a film and have been writing for wo serials and am to write 3 books in next 3 years. Time is becoming a constraint.
Q. We did hear about Asura being made into a film. Whom would you choose as the lead actor?
Q, Given a chance to meet a character from Indian mythology. Whom would you choose and what would you ask him or her?
A, Ravana and his pushpaka
Q. You have been listed among the Forbes India Celebrity list. How do you feel about that?
A. Feels great. It is a long list… If I come in 100 then only there is real meaning
Q. What is your advice for aspiring writers?
I get queries from many aspiring authors about publishing books. I will list a few rules that I follow. I am not saying this is the right thing to do or not. These are just my rules that I framed and followed much before I had decided to write Asura and I still follow it. There are many highly successful authors who have proved all my theories as bullshit, so accept these as my method and not as the only Truth. It may or may not work for you. There is no right way or wrong way, but the way that works for you.
1. Rejection is endorsement. It doesn’t matter how many rejection I get, I will not hurry to get published. It took me six years for Asura to get published and I consider that super fast and myself very lucky. I am thankful to my publishers.
2. I will never pay to get published. No self publishing and no vanity publishing. Self publishing is like running a business and if a writer’s aim is to make money there are many other profitable businesses he or she can pursue. I have no comments on Vanity Publishing, except a warning to enter into it with open eyes, a deep pocket and a complete disdain towards money and common sense.
3. I will not spend my resources like time and money on marketing, self promotion etc. If publisher gives me only 10% royalty the marketing has to be handled 90% by publisher. I may pitch in with some fb post etc etc but not much.
4. I will spend my resources and time in improving my skills as a writer instead. As someone who learned English with lots of struggle and who is still not comfortable in this foriegn tongue in comparison to my mother tongue, I have spent considerable time in learning the language. Learning is the best investment and best marketing tool for a writer.
5. I am a story teller first and foremost and books are just one medium of telling stories. There are hundreds of other mediums.
6. I will not write for awards(which I may never get), for showing that I have a flourish in language (which I don’t have), or attempt to follow trends.
7. I will not imitate any writer irrespective of my admiration towards their works.
8. I will write every day. I will read voraciously every day without fail and I will keep a diary to jot down my thoughts 9. I will experiment with language, style and thoughts 10. I will develop a thick skin towards criticisms.