Today, we have Anita Shirodkar, author of books like Secrets and Second Chances’, ‘Nights in Pink Satin’, ‘Adriana’s Smile’, and ‘Aryavir’ answering a few questions on books, writing, etc.
- What inspired you to become a writer?
I have always been working in the creative space. I spent many years in the field of graphic design and advertising, so creative expression is part of my background.A few years ago I discovered that writing fulfils a part of me that remained unexplored so far. I love reading, and writing is a natural extension of the storytelling space for me. My first novel was published only four years ago, so when I was well into my 50’s, I was fortunate enough to discover a new career! Before the fiction books, I was writing copy and content travel websites and coffee table books. I found I was enjoying it immensely, so the next step was full-fledged novels! When I embarked upon the Guardians of the Blue Lotus series, I was very excited to be able to delve into what was, for me, uncharted territory.
- Your previous two books – Nights in Pink Satin and Secrets and Second Chances – explored sexuality and romance. What made to choose a new genre – Mythological Fiction for your recent novel?
I am a huge fan of the Indian epics, especially of the Mahabharata, and my inspiration started there. I think it’s the most complex story ever told, and I love the characters, the story, the weaving of so many sub-plots into one fantastic saga of love, enmity, morals, courage, jealousy, chivalry and war! And I must say, mythological fiction too has its share of sexuality and romance. I wanted to recreate some of that magic, albeit with a more contemporary twist in terms of characters and their motivations, so that I could appeal to a modern-day reader. Aryavir is the first of a trilogy titled Guardians of the Blue Lotus, and the story follows the fictional Kamal Akshi people and their kingdom of Kamalkund. There is such a wealth of inspiration to be culled from our classics that writing this genre is a labour of love, as far as I am concerned. Having gone through the gamut of writing contemporary fiction for the last three years, the decision to shift gears to delve into mythological fantasy has been a rewarding one. Aryavir, my new book, is the first of a trilogy that comes under the umbrella name of ‘Guardians of the Blue Lotus’ and currently I’m busy working on the second book. It’s an all-absorbing, time-consuming project – not only is the storyline a little complex, but the trilogy features a large number of characters, many of who fill important roles in the books. Keeping track of all of them and where they’re going is quite a task, but I’m enjoying their journey tremendously.
- What are the challenges you faced while writing a book from a male’s perspective, especially after having written two books that were predominantly from female’s point of view?
Interesting question! I didn’t really think of it as a challenge, because it came quite easily. It is definitely my first foray into the mind of the male protagonist, but I have had plenty of material to draw upon based on my understanding of the mindset that prevailed in those times.Having said that, all the characters in Aryavir are quite modern in their thinking. Also, there are plenty of other point-of-view characters in the book, both men and women, and of course some rather adorable children.
- These days, we see quite a lot of mythological fiction books. Do you think this just a fad or will, in turn, become classics for our future generation?
I hope that the original classics remain the true classics. These fiction books are meant for pure entertainment, and not as a replacement for the epics. However, it is possible that the characters who appear in mythological fiction will enjoy cult following, because younger readers will relate to them more easily. Aryavir and Sitanshu, two of the lead characters in my trilogy, are heroes but very human ones – with all the angst and doubts faced by every young man in today’s world, therefore they are characters that one can identify and empathize with.
- How does a typical day in Anita’s life look like?
It varies drastically from day to day! I divide my time between Dubai and Mumbai, so I run two homes, and work as a creative consultant to an Events and Destination Management company. Daily chores have a tendency to take over far more time than one is prepared to give, so my writing, out of necessity, happens first think in the morning, or last thing at night. But basically, when I am not travelling, my day looks something like this.My morning is spent on my laptop, reading the news, writing, doing my design work, getting through emails etc. Often when I am in Dubai I cook lunch (I love cooking and am a quintessential foodie). The afternoon is reserved for reading, friends, a nap, possibly a game of mahjong, meditation, chanting or more writing. Evening is walk time, and this is when I really love being in Dubai in the cooler months. My husband and I enjoy being with friends, so dinner is often with people, either out or at home. Late at night, I write.
- Your current novel is part of a trilogy. Share some unique and quirky experiences that you are having while writing a book series.
The really challenging part is keeping track of characters, timelines and back stories of so many characters! Early on in the process, I created family trees for the various families for my own reference, and then realised it would be a good idea to add them to the actual book – there’s a lot of people to keep track of! Then as I am cooking, or walking, or falling asleep, something interesting will come to mind that needs to go into book two or three, and I have to jot it down immediately, in case I forget. As a result, I have notes on my phone, my diary, random scraps of paper like the back of a grocery bill and kitchen towels. Then I have to try and remember where I wrote what! Jokes aside, a trilogy spanning three generations take a lot of effort and planning. Though it is a story that goes back to Aryavir’s grandfather, the actual span of time the plot covers is less than a year.The beauty of writing fantasy is that research need not be a major part of the process – one can rely on imagination to see you through the difficult parts! Having said that, my study of Advait Vedanta led to the creation of Ishv, The Formless One, who has no shape, form, characteristics or attributes, and is considered the one god of the universe I write about.
- Who is your favorite Indian author and why?
In the Indian author space, I read a lot of spiritual books. My favourites are Swami Rama, Swami Muktananda and ParamhansaYogananda. I have read some Indian fiction, and I have enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri and Rohinton Mistry.
- With more and more people wanting to be authors today, what do you think makes an author a successful bestseller?
Mostly the right marketing. Lots of lovely books go unnoticed because of the lack of visibility, and trashy ones become bestsellers with fantastic marketing. Like everything else in the market today, a book has to be sold properly to its audiences.
- What is your writing regime – do you write a certain number of words each day or are you an unconventional writer who has no daily word/chapter limit?
I travel a fair amount, so I do need strict with myself about my writing. For the second book in the trilogy which I am just finishing, I had set myself a daily target of a thousand words, so sometimes when I’m having a busy day, it literally it means I snatch 15-20 minutes at a time through the day, as and when I can! I find that unless I set myself goals, the gaps become so long that I have trouble getting back to work. I actually get my best work in with my morning cup of tea, and then at night when the household is asleep.
- What is your elixir? J.K. Rowling loves Gin and Tonic while Balzac was obsessed with coffee. What’s yours?
Certainly not coffee! I’ve often been told that I don’t drink enough water, so now I have a bottle on my desk at all times. Water is my elixir. But I know that sounds boring, and I’ll tell you what’s next best – a nice peaty single malt on the rocks!
Thank you so much, Anita!
If you guys liked her witty, interesting, and lovely responses, I am sure, you will lover her books too, check out Aryavir – my current read – review will be up soon – on Amazon