inKonversation: WordMaverick of the Month – March 2013

IT guy turned into a love story writer. Heard that so often, no? IT guy turns into a fantasy fiction writer!! that’s a new one, right?
Meet Sarang Mahajan – our very own WordMaverick of March 2013 on The Tales Pensieve. First he wrote Visual Basic and Java codes, then all those ish-wish web designing codes and now fantasy fiction (some varied writing experience there!!!) inKonversation with the man who has given Indian readers the much wanted fantasy fiction in Inkredia Series filling up a void that has been ever expanding due to all those romantic stories rush tide. Read about the man who sees realism in fantasy and vice-a-versa:

Sarang MahajanLuwan of Brida – a very fascinating title Sarang, in a nearly virgin genre as far as the Indian literary scene is concerned. Tell us what are you offering the Indian readers with this one?
It is a thrilling adventure set in a country named Inkredia; hence the name Inkredia Series, of which Luwan of Brida is the first book. Luwan, who lives in a village named Brida, finds himself in deep trouble after he prods the ruler of the domain. He is now faced with two difficult choices. Either he can remain in Brida and face the harsh and unjust punishment the lord will sentence him to or he can set out with his sister on a perilous journey to the next safe town where he can begin a new life. He chooses the latter and a sky of grave mysteries and unimaginable dangers breaks upon him. He is chased by far greater enemies than the one he starts running from, by the deadliest known assassins and by nonhumans of different sort. He is faced with difficult choices at every turn that test his character to the core.

Though it’s a fantasy, the story offers a lot of realistic drama based on relationships and critical situations all of us face in life at one point or another.

To speak of something that will be new to the Indian or even international readers, I have created my own magical races of people and creatures instead of using elves, goblins or dragons and unicorns. Starting from a mountainous region, the story moves through the fascinating locales of Inkredia. To top it, as I have been repeatedly told by the readers, the story is extremely unpredictable and gripping.

Yes, the fantasy/adventure genre is at a very nascent stage in India. But a lot of writers are now giving it a try. I hope to contribute to this beginning in a positive way with Inkredia Series.

How did the storyteller make an appearance amidst writing complicated HTML codes?
To start with, it was Visual Basic and Java codes. I became a programmer because I loved the creative challenge in the process. But when I started settling down as one, I could not see myself writing banking or accounting or inventory management software for the rest of my life. So, I took a call and shifted to web designing, which was a fairly attractive profession due to an enhanced scope for creativity. Yet, the main reason I shifted to web designing was because there was a fairly good market for standalone web designers and I could start my own business, which would make me my own boss. And as my own boss I could give myself long leaves when I needed to work on my book. I discovered I could write after I graduated and was instantly fascinated with the idea of writing a book. I let it remain in my head for more than a year. But when the idea wouldn’t leave me, I decided to give it a serious shot. Today, I am glad I did.

The first time you see your name attributed to an article, poem or story, isn’t it bliss in perfection. When did that first happen to you?
Yes, it is indeed a great feeling. At first, I got two or three of my short stories published in a local magazine. But it really made me happy to see my long comic story published in the same magazine. It was the result of great team work. Nearly fifteen artists worked with me to make it happen.

Tell us about your favorite books and genres.
My favorite genres are fantasy, adventure and science fiction. The first two have been there right since I learned to read. Later, I developed a liking for humor as well. If I were to recall the most fascinating time I have spent with books, it would be when I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings closely followed by Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time Series. Needless to say, I immensely enjoyed reading Harry Potter Series as well. Roald Dahl is another writer I enjoy reading for his realistic, humorous stories that end with a bang.

What is the inspiration behind writing a tale that is imagination magnified?
I find imagination itself to be the most inspiring element, not only in writing books but in every walk of life. It is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. I once wrote somewhere, if necessity is the mother of invention, imagination is the father. Without imagination, we still would have been animals hanging on trees.

Work pleasure is at its peak for me when I am pushing the boundaries of my imagination developing a fascinating concept into a storyline or when I think of an unusual, fantastical race such as wall-spirits.

In India, fantasy is automatically considered to be children’s territory, but it demands imagination of the highest kind. Not only as a writer but also as a reader. Since it hasn’t been a significant genre in India, our fantasy writers have barely stepped beyond magical potions and characters with funny names. I am glad that this scenario is now changing in India. Within next few years, I am certain that fantasy will be considered among serious genres of literature and more Indian writers will explore it with a deeply realistic foundation to their stories.

I am about to finish my third novel, which is a work of realistic fiction. Now that I have dealt with both these branches of fiction, I have experienced firsthand what it takes to write a fantasy. My respect for the genre and all the fascinating writers who have enriched it over the last century has grown manifold.

Is Luwan of Brida purely an overactive magnified imagination or did you research for components of the story?Luwan of Brida
Luwan of Brida is the first installment of a story that takes place in an imaginary country named Inkredia. Most of the things in this world – the villages, towns and cities, the culture, the currency, the economy – are originally conceived. Yet, the period strongly reminds us of the ages between 14th and 16th century. Though there wasn’t a great deal of research needed to write Luwan of Brida, I had to study the lifestyle of people from this period extensively for the second book, The Castle of Tashkrum, which attempts at bringing out Inkredia in a realistic and believable way.

We haven’t had a commercially successful Indian fantasy franchise in the past few years, how difficult was it to sell the idea to publishers?
It was not at all difficult. Luwan of Brida, though a fantasy, is based on a strong foundation of realism. If you were to take all the magic out of it, of course, it will then be less fascinating for the fantasy lovers like me, but it would still be a workable story. I think this factor widens the audience. My publisher, Popular Prakashan, considered this to be one of the positive factors. Besides, fantasy is rapidly finding roots in India now, thanks to all the Harry Potters, Narnias, Twilights and many Hollywood blockbusters we have had over the last decade.

Tell us about the plans for the franchise, what and when do we get the whole thrill?
The second book in Inkredia Series, The Castle of Tashkrum is the one that I am most eagerly looking forward to. It is expected to reach bookshelves across India in the first quarter of 2013. It is nearly twice as much as Luwan of Brida; will easily cross 525 pages. I have finished the manuscript, which is being edited at the moment at Popular Prakashan. The entire storyline for the third book is ready with me and I can safely say that there will also be a fourth book in the series. In my estimation, that one will conclude the series.

Fantasies generally have a protagonist who is intended to capture the minds of the readers and generally when you create something that strong you get pulled into the magic maze yourself. How much did Luwan take you over?
In the initial stages, I thought of imagining myself in place of Luwan. As a first time writer, it was an easy but smart way to building a character that will behave consistently and rationally. It was the most important character from whose perspective the story would take place and I wanted to get it right. However, by the time I put Luwan into his first grave danger, the character was beginning to adopt its own shades. Thereafter, the character chose a path that led it away from me as a result of the situations that Luwan faces, which I never would. By now, after having finished the second book, I’d say we are poles apart. Thankfully, I can easily separate Luwan from myself and look at it as any other character.

Authors off late have been quite deeply involved in the promotion of their books, quite a leap from what the scene used to be half a decade back. What are the plans for Luwan?
We are planning to reach out to the young-adults, the best means of which is the Internet. We have put together a website: www.inkredia.com and you can also watch the trailer for Luwan of Brida on Youtube by merely typing the name of the book. The second edition of Luwan of Brida will soon be published. When that happens we are planning a book tour to some of the major cities.

Your words of wisdom for newbie writers.
Well, I have not been in the profession so long as to have gathered any substantial wisdom, but some of the books that come out these days make me stress on the need to not – under any circumstance – compromise with the quality of writing. It appears as if all that most of the new writers want is to merely get published, as quickly as they can.

Indian English readership is rapidly growing, which means that there are many new readers who are not yet ready to handle the books that make comprehensive use of the language. Unfortunately, this pushes them towards the writers who are not so different from them, those who have a story to tell but haven’t invested enough time in learning the art of writing. Though this results in pushing the sales up for mediocre books, and in turn making it easy to get published since even the mediocre books sell, I believe this to be a temporary trend. In coming five-ten years, the writers in rush will find that they were nothing but stepping stones for the readers who have now matured and moved to a higher level. It will be a great thing for Indian literature if all new writers spend more time improving their content and honing their storytelling skills before getting published. That way, they will earn respect and go a long distance.

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