By Aminah Sheikh
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
I guess I am expected to say: “I write because I love to”. But that’s about as true an answer as “I went into politics because I wanted to serve the country” or that “my father is a film-star has nothing to do with my decision to go into films”. The reason I write is to get published, and the reason I want to get published is to be read. So the actual answer to the question is “I write because I want you to read.” There is no greater high than the knowledge that someone invested the most precious resource they have, namely their time, in something you created, and hopefully obtained a satisfactory return on that investment.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My next book The Mahabharata Murders, a serial killer mystery, comes out in 2017 from Juggernaut, and I have done only one round of edits. At the moment, I am writing the next book in the Sultan of Delhi series, Sultan of Delhi: Resurrection, and for that I had to put on the back-burner, another project that I had finished quite a bit of—Shakchunni, a horror novel, set in 1930s Bengal.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Conflict, characters, ending. The inherent conflict, internal as well as external, must be well-established, the characters must have arcs (no static cardboards please), and the ending must pack a punch. Did I forget something? Oh yes. Conversations. They must be the primary vehicle for moving the story forward.
Who are your favorite authors?
Keeps changing. George RR Martin for his ability to create immensely complex characters (Jaime and Cersei for example), J K Rowling for her ability, at least in the Potter books, to be supremely readable (Can’t say that for her Cormoran Strike series), Stephen King for the atmosphere, and whoever who wrote the Mahabharata for giving us the greatest story ever told.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
Aah, a tough one. But I will go with The Mine. Horror is very difficult to do on paper, because many of the tools available to the film-makers, like the jump-scare and the music and the shock of the visual, is not available to the novelist.
What’s your idea of bliss?
Writing the last word, leaning back, and closing my eyes.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Seeing my book not available in book-stores, and instead racks stacked full of Three-Eighths Girlfriend, Sin Is In But Is Being In a Sin, My Boyfriend Is A Flirt And So Am I, and Love Thru Twitter DM. In general, the state of Indian publishing.
What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
In Search of Lost Time by Proust. All the volumes.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
My insurance agent’s number.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Don’t hurt others, and don’t let yourself be hurt by others. But if you really must, make your punches land. Also, when someone says one sentence, make it three.
Arnab Ray is one of India’s most read bloggers, known online as Greatbong. A PhD in Computer Science from State University of New York at Stony Brook, he has also written three bestselling books – May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss, The Mine and Yatrik. You can reach him on Twitter @greatbong
Aminah Sheikh is the Online Editor of Kitaab