29 March, 2016

#SpecialFeature :: #Interview with Hariharan Iyer

*** Special Feature - March 2016 ***

Quick Recap
Interview with the Author
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I was blogging on current affairs and media ethics for over a year. But there is a limit to which one can analyze facts based on published material. It may not always be possible to connect the dots. For that one has to either get into investigative journalism and dig the facts or move into the realm of fiction. I chose the 2nd option. This was about two years ago when crime against women debate started dominating the media space.

What inspires you to write?
Exceptions. Anomalies. Controversies.

What kind of research goes into your book?
The novel revolves around political controversies, human rights violations and media’s coverage of them. So, I spent a good amount of time researching the legal and constitutional provisions, and updating myself with court judgments. Another aspect of my research was on the functioning of media— how they run their newsrooms and back-office, what kind of compulsions they face while reporting a story, how they manage their finances in the wake of ever-falling ad revenues and meet the astronomical salaries of celebrity anchors.  

What are you working on at the moment?
Two things: One, the promotion of this novel. Two, my next book which deals with an aspiring young girl who wants to pursue medicine, but the reservation laws of the country would not allow her to do so. What does she do—curse her fate and choose another discipline to pursue like her elder brother did a few years earlier or fight back?  

How did you come up with the idea for your current story? 
A couple of years ago, a law intern alleged that a retired judged behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner with her. Celebrity lawyers took up her case. Media hounded the judge. He was forced to resign from a strategic post retirement job. Thereafter when the police registered a case and wanted the victim to testify, she vanished. We don’t know what happened. Was there pressure on her not to testify? Or was it decided that the purpose had been achieved? Neither the celebrity lawyers nor media felt obliged to explain their position to the masses.
Secondly, a series of articles by an IIM professor on the mushrooming NGOs and their questionable sources of funds forced me to think. Around the same time there were reports that well-known personalities who were running foreign funded NGOs were using the funds for buying branded jewelry, clothing and shoes! It made me wonder what the underlying motivation could be for floating such NGOs.
Both the above gave rise to a lot of what ifs in me and pushed me into the realm of fiction. And the novel was born. I would, however, like to clarify that it is not a real life story.

If you could pick any famous author to review your book who would you pick and why?
More than an author, I would prefer a journalist to review the book as it revolves around contemporary issues and media’s coverage of those issues. It would be like showing a mirror to a journalist. Whether he likes the image, is what the review will be about.

Name three things that you believe are important to character development?
Purpose: Every character has to have a purpose. Purpose in two senses—One, he/she should try to achieve something in life. And the purpose should be different from that of other characters. If it contradicts with that of others, it is all the more better. Two, the character should serve a purpose in the story; he/she should help move the story forward.  
Ego: Another essential ingredient is the ego state of the character. It influences the character’s behavior and his/ her effort to achieve the purpose. A character with a well-defined purpose and ego is a reading treat.
External personality: This is equally important as it helps the reader visualize the character. 

Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so what helps you to get over it?
Yes, writing the denouement was difficult. Writing an action packed end would have been easier, but the story didn’t require one. A denouement should have drama and believable surprises. Arguments should be intelligent as to not just cover all the loose ends but also make the reader feel why he could not deduce what the main character was concluding.  The initial 3-4 drafts did not bring out the drama I wanted. I went blank for a week.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?
Writing the first draft was the most enjoyable. After all, that was what I wanted to write. 

Do you know the ending of your books before you finish writing them?
Yes I knew. And that created problems for me. Since I knew the end, I was tempted many times to force the characters to behave artificially/ illogically so that they could facilitate in achieving the end I had in mind. Of course, I resisted the temptation, but it was not easy.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
I am a new author. This is my first book. I don’t think I am competent to advise others.

About the Author:
Hariharan is a finance professional by default and a writer by choice. Not content with just a rewarding corporate job, he took to writing a couple of years ago. He blogged on media and current affairs for a year at valadyviews.blogspot.com before hitting on the idea for this novel. 
Strangely, he got the idea for his first novel while reading the balance sheets of a few NGOs and corporates! An idea so powerful that it convinced the accountant in him that he could put together not just a balance sheet but an intriguing political thriller as well. Indian cinema over the last many decades has created many stereotypes— ‘Media crusades against anything bad’, ‘netas are, without a doubt, evil’ and ‘human rights activists are God’s gift to earth’ to name a few. What if any of these stereotypes is wrong— What if a human rights activist, consumed by personal frustration, tries to bring down an elected government? What if media plays the role of pliable ally? What if a politician is a victim of circumstances? 
Answers to these what ifs, his wife’s challenge to write a novel out of them and about nine months’ of labour produced Surpanakha.
Hariharan lives with his wife in Dar es Salaam while his two sons are pursuing their ambitions in India. 
Contact Hariharan:
Facebook |Twitter | Blog 

About the Book
Educated, young, no-nonsense bearing, able administrator—these are the qualities that won Sesha the loyalties of the people after three years of rule as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. An allegation that he was the mastermind behind the murder of 73 Kannadigas threatens to bring him down but he is miraculously saved in the 11th hour.

Even before he can relish his victory, Sesha is slapped with the charge of sexually offending a young nurse. This time round, the case is strong and his supporters are uncertain. Worse, his teenage daughter calls him 'vile' and walks out of the house. While Mythili, his wife promises her full support, her secretive activities—undertaken with the help of a retired cop—is a cause of concern for Sesha.

Will Zarina, the human-rights activist, succeed in bringing him down? What about the insinuations of a celebrity lawyer that he is casteist and anti-minorities? When the young nurse is found dead, the case becomes even more complex. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? And who is the mastermind?   

Buy Links:
Links for downloading e-books: Amazon India | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Links for ordering paperbacks: Amazon India | Flipkart

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One Papeback Copy of Surpanakha
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