Anuja Chandramouli graduated from Women’s Christian College, Chennai, and was the college topper in Abnormal Psychology. She also holds a Master’s degree in English. Currently she is studying classical dance and working on her next book.
This talented Indian author’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named in a poll conducted by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in the Indian Writing category for the year 2013. She is the mother of two little girls and lives in Sivakasi.
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When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
Even as a little girl, I used to have a certain knack for storytelling. My grandmother would make me tell the tale of Krishna and his defeat of the evil Kamsa to every single one of her guests and I would always get a big round of applause and a whole lot of oohs and aahs. Later at school, my friends and classmates would beg me for stories. It gave me a kick to put up a big fuss but eventually I’d give in and secretly I’d be very flattered when a big group gathered around for my little tales. Around that time, I won prizes for essay writing and the teachers used to read out samples of my writing to my classmates as well as the seniors and for the first time, I realized that this was something I could actually do well without screwing up too badly.
That was the beginning and I guess, it was in the cards that my life would be devoted to writing and telling stories.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
After the release of my first book Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince, I went through a bit of a dry spell, creatively speaking. Was working on a horror story hoping to become India’s answer to Stephen King, but my efforts came to naught and I was going bonkers. My publishers approached me at the time and we tossed around a few ideas for my next book. We shortlisted Parashurama and Kama and for some strange reason, I was really drawn to the latter. Perhaps, he struck me with one of his arrows... all I know is that I became quite obsessed with Kama. It has been an amazing experience getting closer to him and writing down his story.
Is there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
I have quite a few stories tucked away in my drawer that range from readably bad to unreadily awful. The thing is, I am my harshest critic and my early attempts were abysmal. The aborted literary efforts made me wonder if I was not barking up the wrong tree, career – wise (Unfortunately, I still have the same doubts) and if I was not better off pursuing a career as a criminal psychologist or a fitness instructor. Happily, the agonizing aside, I am glad I persisted with my dream of becoming an author. Even writing down those two beautiful syllables makes me all tingly and mawkish!
Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
All my characters have a few of my quirks. I am always told that my characters are very me. However they are very much their own people and have their own personalities. Creating characters is like having children. They may have your genes, flesh, blood and even a piece of your heart but that does not stop them from having a mind of their own or doing their own thing. As a writer, I take pride in the fact that my characters need my help only in the beginning to find their bearings and then they take off on their own.
Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I am a voracious reader and if I am stuck on a deserted island, you can count on me to pick books over anything or anyone else. It is really hard to pick my favourite authors because there are so many. Agatha Christie is a perennial favourite and currently I am in love with George RR Martin although I also hate him for not hurrying up and catering to my addictive need for his tomes. Bill Watterson is one of my heroes. Then there is Baradwaj Rangan.
Irving Wallace was an early influence on my writing because of the meticulous research that clearly went into his books. Gary Jennings and Terry Brooks are also a huge source of inspiration.
What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
I am a huge fan of Ranbir Kapoor and I think he would be perfect as Kama. Parineeti Chopra would make a great Rati. We could have the three Khans playing the divine trinity and Hrithik Roshan as Indra. Aren’t I a great casting director?
If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
Actually, I would love to carry just one thing – Hermione Granger’s enchanted purse which can carry everything from a library to polyjuice potion. It is too perfect for words! Hope the Louis Vuitton or Hermes people are reading this and getting inspired!
What do you have in store next for your readers?
It is going to be a big surprise and I am very excited about it. Since I am big on suspense, my lips are sealed for now but I will say it is about a beloved and mysterious Goddess. I can hardly wait for my next book to hit the stands next year. Hopefully my readers are already salivating.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
I love every one of my readers irrespective of whether they think I write like a dream and am deserving of the Man Booker Prize or are of the opinion that my writing sucks big time and I’ll do everybody a favour by quitting. So many of them have been so encouraging and have reached out via email or social media to give their feedback or suggestions for improvement and I never tire of it. I wish to thank them all for being so awesome!