1. Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy creating something which I can share with other people.
2. How many books have you written?
Only one. A historical novel entitled Trade winds to Meluhha which is published as an e-Book on Amazon, B&N and other sites. However, I have written two booklets which are distributed free. They are entitled How I wrote a Pre-Historic Novel and Novelizing the Ancient Indus Valley. They describe my experience of writing Trade winds to Meluhha. Interested readers might download them at http://www.smashwords.com/
books/view/75096 andhttp://www.smashwords.com/ books/view/178975 respectively.
By the way, I had written an account of a short tour in Kenya and Tanganyika (now Tanzania) as a high school student. It was in my mother tongue Gujarati. Written with a fountain pen and illustrated with pencil colours, that 40-year old manuscript is my priceless possession
3. What inspired you to write your (latest) book?
India and Pakistan have as ancient a heritage as the Middle East and Egypt. Indus Valley Civilization was contemporary of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, and had had cultural and trading ties with them. Yet, it isn't as well known to the West.
One reason is the famine of exciting fiction on the Indus Valley. Probably your readers learnt about it in school along with Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. However, they can't recall only the Indus Valley because while many interesting novels were written and several films made on the other two cultures, nothing existed on it.
When I discovered how the Indus Valley people planned their towns, harnessed rain-water, manufactured intricate jewellery and built reed ships which could sail across the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, my engineering background turned into a ghost. It started pestering me at night to narrate those achievements of my ancestors to the world.
4. What is your favorite genre to read?
Adventure, Mystery and Thriller. I like Historical Fiction only if it contains a good measure of all three.
5. Is your writing style at all influenced by those of your favorite authors?
Definitely. I was schooled in Kenya when it had just attained freedom from the British rule. We were taught English Literature by British teachers who loved Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hardy and HG Wells. Often they got so involved discussing, that neither they nor the class heard the bell that signalled change of period. Later whenever I read novels, a little of the analytic thinking that I'd learnt from them sprang up at the back of my mind. It made my reading experience more enjoyable. So when I started writing Trade winds to Meluhha, it was but natural that my mind worked in a way it had been trained while discussing the writing of great novelists.
6. Which is your favorite book that you’ve written?
Trade winds to Meluhha. It took me three and a half years to research and write, and was considered in the top 5% in Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, 2012.
7. What is your opinion of the art of writing?
My writing stands nowhere near the famous writers of fiction such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Rabindranath Tagore, who were 'Word Artists'. Commercial fiction is more a craft than art. Puritans in English click elsewhere after glancing through the first page of Trade winds to Meluhha on Google Books (http://books.google.co.in/
books/about/Trade_winds_to_ Meluhha.html?id=xSwK2Sm2cuoC). However, lesser mortals like you and me are likely to finish the chapter and scroll to the next. That, I consider as my success as a fiction writer.
8. What advice would you give someone who is just beginning their own novel?
It's too early for me to proffer advice. However, I'd like to share here an anecdote narrated by Brian Shell in an authors' forum:
"When I decided to make my leap of faith away from engineering in Los Angeles to move back home to Detroit in 1995, the senior scientist I worked with asked why I was leaving... if it was something he did. And I told him that he was really a delight to have as my mentor... but that I wasn't experiencing the creativity I desired in my life. 'I'm good at math and science, but I don't love it.'
He then told me: 'I applaud your decision... myself, as a PhD who writes the computer code the company uses to analyze satellite antennas, every day is creative for me. I'm the master of my own destiny in a sense.'
He then thought a moment and said, 'You know... the only truly happy people I know are those who are creative on a daily basis.'
That last one has stuck with me for the past 17 years."
9. Do you have any funny and / or interesting stories about how you’ve come up with plots or characters?
Not in a plot or a character, but in several scenes, yes. Let me narrate one that my father had recounted to me.
My father spent his childhood in Morbi, one of the erstwhile princely states in Western India. Near the railway station there was a tea stall. It was very popular among people from the surrounding villages coming to the town for shopping. One donkey used stray to the stall everyday to eat the discarded tea leaves.
Once, the stall owner went out of town. When he returned, he found the means of his livelihood in shambles. Someone informed that the donkey had kicked and broken open the wooden stall. Everybody wondered at the beast's strange behaviour.
Later it transpired that in order to grow his clientele, the owner furtively added opium in the boiling beverage. Traces of it must be remaining in the tea leaves that he threw away. Thus the animal too had got addicted to opium and it lost temper when it could not get its daily dose.
That incident became the basis of a couple of amusing scenes in Trade winds to Meluhha.
10. Coke or Pepsi?
Neither. I prefer to sip green coconut. Under the tropical sun, its cooling effect on the stomach and the head is more lasting than any refrigerated soft drink.