10 December, 2014

#Interview :: Olivier Lafont, #Author of Warrior

About the Author

Lafont is a multitalented and versatile personality who writes fiction, feature film screenplays, and editorial pieces, but also acts in feature films, endorses some of India’s most popular brands on television, and lends his voice to many media in many languages. A French polyglot, Lafont pursues his eclectic interests at the highest standards having worked with some of India’s most acclaimed directors on films like 3 IDIOTS, Guzaarish and two HOLLYWOOD films, and continuing in the same vein with his new novel coming out with Penguin India. He is a familiar face due to his work in over 70 adverts on television.

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When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
At a very young age, actually, around seven or eight. My first serious attempt at writing a novel was around the age of nine, I still have that typed manuscript with me! Over time the idea that I wanted to be a writer never wavered. 

I hear you are also an actor and have written feature film screenplays. Tell us about this other part of your life.
For me acting and writing are two facets of the same art, storytelling. I feel very much at home in both these crafts. I also decided I wanted to be an actor at a young age, so I was fortunate to have a fairly clear focus early on about what I wanted to do with my life professionally. Acting is a different kind of thrill than writing fiction, it’s so immediate and revealing and intense. And it’s a collaborative effort, so that’s also exciting, to be able to build something with other actors and directors. 
Screenplays are another ball game, and equally fun. They’re very structured, and structurally technical, so it’s critical to really distill your ideas to the utmost. Whereas fiction is limitless, you’re not bound by time or space or production considerations. And then you also know that the screenplay is going to be interpreted by actors and the director. It’s so interesting to see how people bring in their unique perspectives on a screenplay. 

What inspires you to write?
Life and art - observing my life and other people’s lives; and imbibing all the art we see on a daily basis, whether its product art like films or TV, or living art like conversations or sports. 

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
I wanted to create a story on the same epic scale as the fantasy books I had loved, your ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Game of Thrones’, but that would come from a deeply Indian space. I also drew some inspiration from the Mahabharata, which is such a magnificent, intricate work. To me the Mahabharata is full of these incredibly intense family feuds, stories of cousins and brothers who had grown up together and now wage war on each other. And then the backdrop of the Mahabharata is this world where gods and demigods are powerfully present and involved… This juxtaposition of warring families and epic setting contributed to ‘Warrior’ a lot, and led me to create the critical plot dynamic of Saam and his family set against a world ravaged by cataclysms. And yes, I’ve got gods and demigods very powerfully present and involved in ‘Warrior’. 

Is there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
I have two other finished novels, and several stories which are on their way. I guess that’s technically still in the drawer, but I hope they will all see the light of day. 

Tell us about your writing process.
I have a fairly constant flow of ideas, sometimes for a book, sometimes a film, sometimes just a scene or a character or a line of dialogue. The most important thing I do then is to make sure I write it down in my notes. Over time some of the ideas begin to resonate and stitch together. The ones that are interesting and important enough tend to come to the top. Then once I have the general strokes of the story and direction I get to writing. When I write I can write endlessly, non-stop. I just really enjoy it so much, and get so engrossed… I usually end up doing some re-structuring as I go along, when some new ideas or things evolve from the writing. 

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
How to describe it without divulging the plot? Well, ‘Warrior’ is in large part the story of Saam’s conflict with his father Shiva, the god of destruction. There’s a scene when they meet where certain truths come to light. In that moment there’s a very pure, but also very complex revelation about Saam and Shiva as son and father, as man and man, as man and god… Whenever I read that scene I feel thick with emotion. For me it’s the most important and dramatic scene in the book. 

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
I have quirks? No, not that I know of. You’d have to ask my wife, she probably knows my quirks better than me so she’d be better able to say if any character is a prose doppelgänger. 

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if it’s a quirk, but I listen to the theme of ‘Last of the Mohicans’ on a loop. 

What is your usual writing routine?
I don’t have a typical routine since I do many different things. For me writing is a fairly modular thing. I’m able to write at home, or out and about, or travelling. I write for as long as a I can, and then get back to it as soon as possible. When I’m in the writing flow I try not to interrupt it. 

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style? 
My first all-time favourite books were Lloyd Alexander’s ‘The Chronicles of Prydain’. Those are the books that catalysed my mind into writing. After that I most vividly remember Terry Brooks’ early Shannara books, Ursula Le Guin’s evocative ‘Earthsea’ series, and of course Tad Williams’ massive, legendary ‘Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn’. Then it was Robert Jordan’s ‘The Wheel of Time’, and George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (also known as ‘Game of Thrones’). The most recent outstanding fantasy writer I’ve read is Mark Lawrence’s ‘The Broken Empire’. 
I think these and other authors may have influenced my writing ambitions and vision, but not necessarily my style. 

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
What I remember most vividly is my father telling me that starting is easy, lots of people can start - finishing is the hard part, and that’s the truest test. He meant it about writing, but I think that can also be applied to other aspects of life. 

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
I can share my own personal guiding idea, which is to write what really interests you, and know why you’re writing what you’re writing. 

What would be the Dream Cast for your book if it was to be turned into a movie?
Well, since we’re dream casting… Johnny Depp as Saam, with Emma Stone as his lover, Ralph Fiennes as his estranged half-brother,  Anthony Hopkins as an unexpectedly resourceful professor, Michael Fassbender as a misplaced soldier, Idris Elba as a menacing half-rakshasa companion, and the ubiquitous Andy Serkis to do the motion capture for another obscenely shaped companion. I realise there might be a slight discrepancy in ethnicity and age… 

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry? 
- My incredible wife - with her smarts we’ll turn the deserted island into a Necker Island 
- My incredible wifi - with this we can connect with the world, I can write, and we can get home delivery 
- A distillery - so we can turn the islands’s bounty to our merriment and round off the island life 

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I really enjoy watching sports in my free time, the NBA, UEFA, and UFC. To go unwind it’s either Goa or France. 

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
I went snorkelling in Borneo recently, and that was a superlative experience. 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
- I make an insane batch of crepes (even if I say so myself) 
- I have an almost pathological passion for patisserie 
- I love maps, looking at them, and drawing original ones for my books 

What do you have in store next for your readers?
There are several ideas. Right now I’m completely focussed on ‘Warrior’, so I’ll have to decide later. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Just have fun with ‘Warrior’! 

Join Saam, last son of the Destroyer, on his epic quest to save all existence.

About the Book
In Mumbai, driven to its knees by a merciless blizzard, Saam the watch mender is cornered into an intolerable position. As Shiva's only earthly demigod child, it falls upon him to stop his indomitable father.
Bred to war, the son of destruction, Saam rides with six extraordinary companions into the horror of a crumbling world to face Shiva.He is forced to join hands with Ara, his half-brother he can never fully trust, and take with him his own mortal beloved, Maya, on this desperate attempt to stop the End of Days. But his path is littered with death, danger and betrayal.
Interweaving mythology, epic adventure and vintage heroism, this enthralling novel will change the way you see Gods, heroes and demons.

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