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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 this to come out with his interview.
Anand Neelakantan agreed to give an 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. Many parallel and folk traditions 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 Shashi Tharoor or an Arundhati Roy. Now we have Anand Neelakantan. What would you say is your formula for 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 them. That is despite my English skills. I recall reading an English Textbook 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 “Mathrubhumi Asura publishes asura and Ajaya” is already in their 2nd edition. Ajaya soon
Q.Congrats on your success on Asura, and we wish you all the best for Ajaya. That being said, we are looking forward to getting our hands on your Malayalam novels. Speaking of publishing, what are some of the things you learned throughout 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 the 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 two serials I and am to write 3 books in the 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 in the Forbes Indian Celebrity list. How do you feel about that?
A. Feels great. It is a long list… If I come in the top 100, only then is there a real meaning to it.
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 my rules that I framed and followed much before I had decided to write Asura, and I still follow them. Many highly successful authors 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 an endorsement. It doesn’t matter how many rejections I get, and I will not hurry to get published. It took 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 aims 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 the publisher gives me only 10% royalty, then 90% of the marketing has to be handled by the publisher. I may pitch in with some FB posts and such, but not much.
4. I will spend my resources and time improving my skills as a writer instead. As someone who learned English with lots of struggle and is still not comfortable in this foreign tongue compared to my mother tongue, I have spent considerable time learning the language. Learning is the best investment and the best marketing tool for a writer.
5. I am a storyteller first and foremost, and books are just a medium for 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 the language (which I don’t have), or attempt to follow trends.
7. I will not imitate any writer irrespective of my admiration for 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.