29 July, 2017

#SpecialFeature :: An #Interview with Shweta Taneja, #Author of the Matsya Curse

*** Special Feature - July 2017 ***

About the Book:
Tantrik detective Anantya Tantrist is back, smart-ass comments, dark mantras and all.

In Banaras, Bhairava, a black tantrik, sets out to win control of life through mass murder, aided by an army of pretas. In Delhi, a tribal supernatural melts to death in a five-star hotel on the same night that an ancient demonologist is murdered. All this while, the government and the Central Association of Tantriks choose to look the other way and gods, demi-gods, immortals and rakshasas all join Bhairava’s army.

All that stands between the murdering bosses and the hapless masses is unofficial detective Anantya Tantrist, armed with a boneblade, a tote of mandalas and a cocky attitude. Just as she begins to see a pattern between a goddess who is selling art, a miracle-producing minister, an undead mob attacking a rock concert and her immortal friend throwing a tantrum, Anantya faces her most personal hell: her ex-boyfriend Neel has come back from the dead and is trying to kill her. He’s not the only one, of course. A powerful rakshasi wants her head, a pair of demi-gods wants her blood and the trolls are trying to squash her to pulp.

She cannot even sleep off the exhaustion, because each time she drops off, Bhairava invades her mind, trying to consume it. Join Anantya as she faces her most formidable enemy yet in the ultimate battle for her mind and her city.

Book Links:
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An interview with the Author

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I was always a storyteller, right from when I was little and would tell dark tall tales to my cousins when electricity would go off on stormy nights. The writing medium for telling these stories came to me about eight years ago, when I was tired of chasing stories as a journalist and wanted to create characters and write their tales.  

What inspires you to write?
Sometimes, as is the case in Anantya Tantrist mysteries, it’s the character herself who is insistent that I write her story. Sometimes, as is the case with the new novel I’m working on, it’s the core idea that takes me forward. Most of the times, it’s this deep desire within me to tell stories, thrillers that chill, that inspire, that make readers cry, react, understand, enjoy, change. This desire in me, to see stories connect with others, insists on being indulged again and again and acts like a motivation to do it.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
Anantya Tantrist series is a story about a 23-year old tantric detective based in Delhi. It’s a thriller, with a different case in each novel. The idea for the series came because I wanted to work on a detective series using the Indian occult. When you think Indian occult, the first thing that comes to mind is tantrism.
Anantya herself came from another novel which I could never start on. She had faced abuse as a child and turned into this gutsy, independent woman living her own life, on her own terms in Delhi. In the series, she chooses to be a tantric, when in her world, it’s an illegal profession for women.
The Matsya Curse which is my latest novel, is the second of Anantya’s adventure. In it, a tantric cult is trying to attain immorality for a few ultra rich humans. This story idea came from a poster I read somewhere in Uttar Pradesh while travelling in India. It mentioned that Hanuman, the immortal god from Hindu mythology, was still alive, living as an old man, somewhere in Himalayas, for you see, he’s supposed to be an immortal. From there, I unearthed all other immortals in Indian mythology. The Matsya Curse is a clash of ideology between immortals who want to die and mortals who are ready to kill for immortality.  

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Which writer doesn’t have those? I have one somewhat written novel, one planned novel and scores of short stories, some almost done, some just started, scribbled and forgotten about. And diaries full of late night, early morning thoughts and ideas that someday might take a shape of something that can communicate. I have them all in a folder in my laptop which is aptly named: Somedays.

Tell us about your writing process.
I’m boringly disciplined when it comes to writing. I treat it as a 9-5 job. Once the idea has planted in my head, I plot it, divide it into chapters or scenes and start writing. Everyday, I start post breakfast in my study and write for the first half. Second half is reserved for what I call meta-work – emailing, researching, editing, social media, etc. I switch off the computer at 5pm and go to the gym or take a walk. Repeat the next day till the novel is finished. Then I take a holiday. Then a new novel.
The creative process is much more messier than this. Somedays, the writing flows, comes smoothly, somedays I spend the whole day staring at the computer screen, waiting for a line to be written. But the discipline aids the creative part. For the story to be written, you need to write it first.  

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
I loved writing the scene in which Anantya gets to fight a daitya, a troll in the middle of Chandni Chowk. It’s a hilarious scene where she’s slightly drunk and hits a house where a route to her house should be. This house, tells her to wait, just like a Call Centre, and she does, only to realize it’s a troll and they want to arrest her for something or the other. She ends up fighting this tutu wearing troll. I was laughing my head off all the while writing it.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I have to, just have to, get up after writing a couple of lines and take a walk around my apartment, sit again, write a couple of lines, get up and take a walk again. It’s a funny thing I do, however, it does give me a lot of exercise.

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
Of course, I read day in and day out. My favourite fantasy authors are Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Ursula Le Guin and Octavia E Butler. I get inspired by each of them, be it their poetic narrative style, humour or eccentric characters.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date? What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Just keep writing. Go into the black hole and emerge only after you’ve written. Every day. Don’t think about writing. Do it. Do. It. That remains the advice I took and found helpful. That’s the advice I keep giving again and again to people too. There no magic to it. All you have to do is, be stubborn, persevere and keep writing, one line after another, one paragraph after another, one scene, one chapter, one book after another.

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
My towel as Douglas Adams thinks that’s the most important thing to carry when you are galaxy hopping. And I agree with him there. And a crate full of books and maybe a house with internet connection and inexhaustible supply of food.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
Mostly it’s conversations with friends, over wine or coffee depending on the time of day. Also I take long walks, staring at the skies and daydream. A lot.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list
I want do do deep sea diving. I’ve learnt swimming recently, not that it’s a requirement, but I’m fascinated by life under water and want to experience it first hand.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I’m working on a science fiction novel. Something I haven’t written before, and a story I’m very very excited about though I don’t know how to shape it yet.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
As any author would vouch for, I love to hear back from readers. Tell me what you read, what you would like to, and why and how you read. Anything. Send me emails, DMs, messages on social media. I’m available on most places online with my handle @shwetawrites Let’s talk, eh?

About the Author:
I am a fantasy author, graphic novelist and journalist based in India. My weakness is to create, retell and listen to stories full of magic, fantasy and non-human thingummies. That and tea of course.

I’ve written seven books and two hundred articles in a career spanning fourteen years and I continue to write. I’m a Charles Wallace India Fellow (2016) and was shortlisted for Best Writer Award in ComicCon India for The Skull Rosary (2013).

My books include the bestselling series Anantya Tantrist mysteries (HarperCollins), Ghost Hunters of Kurseong (Hachette), and Krishna Defender of Dharma (Campfire). The latter is included in the CBSE Must-read list for schools, is sold internationally and has been reprinted many times. The latest How to Steal a Ghost @ Manipal (Juggernaut Books) is in the bestselling category online. Check out my Wikipedia for more on me.

Connect with the Author:
Website I Facebook I Twitter I Tumblr I Instagram

One Signed Copy of The Matsya Curse - Open for Indian Residents Only

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