Aditya Iyengar graduated from St. Xaviers’ College with a BMM degree. Somewhere he felt that he wanted to learn something more and promptly got himself an MA in English Literature via Mumbai University’s Distance Education program. Currently he is a Marketing Executive at a TV Channel.
Previously he used to work in advertising as a writer where he learned his chops. In his advertising days, he won a number of awards for creativity including recognition at international award shows like the Clios and Cannes, and was ranked among the top 500 creatives in the Asia-Pacific region for a couple of years. Let us know more about a very creative writer in his won words.
What inspired you to start writing?
I really can’t say. Or maybe, I look at inspiration differently. For me, it’s not like a switch – one moment you’re uninspired, then something happens, and you’re altered forever. It’s more a constant immersion in a way of life that eventually helps you make your choices. I grew up in a family of readers. My mother and brother both read and we’ve grown up discussing books almost regularly. Somewhere along the line, writing didn’t seem like such a crazy idea.
What did you like to read when you were a boy?
The usual suspects – Enid Blyton, Ruskin Bond, Harper Lee. The ones that really stuck were KM Munshi’s Krishnavatara octet, Rosemary Sutcliff’s books on King Arthur, and Christian Jacq’s Ramses Quintet.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
The daily discipline required from it, often for months at a stretch. Social life? What’s that?
How much research do you do before writing the book?
A lot, actually. I read not only the subject I’m writing about, but related subjects as well. For ‘The Thirteenth Day’, I read from KM Ganguli’s translation of the original epic, and from CR Rajagopalachari and Irawati Karve’s books of the text. Since the story is set around 1000 BC, I also read material about that time period especially pieces that described battle tactics and combat techniques of the time.
What motivated you to write the book “The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War”?
I wanted to write the Mahabharata (or at least a part of it) in a way that no one had before. So I did some research and treated it like history rather than myth, peeling away all the hyperbole. I wanted to make the story about regular people. People like us, who suddenly find themselves in a situation they can’t help, but are trying to make the best of. It just so happens the ‘situation’ is war.
Myth creation is also a big part of this book. The process of fact becoming fiction with repeated retellings is one I wanted to explore. How regular people go from being ‘ordinary’ to becoming ‘heroes’ or ‘legends’. In keeping with this, I’ve demythologized the story, so it is told without the flying vimanas or astras or divine beings or any of the other elements you expect from mythology.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War”?
The Thirteenth Day is (as the title suggests) about The Thirteenth Day of the Kurukshetra War. It is the day of the Chakravyuha and essentially involves a plot by the Kauravas to take over the throne of the Kurus and how that unravels from the tenth to the thirteenth day. It is narrated by Yudhishthira, Karna (who is called Radheya in my text) and Abhimanyu. Along the way, there is a lot of war, and enough backstory for someone who is not well versed with the Mahabharata to get the entire picture.
How did you came up with the idea of mythological genre book?
I don’t think of ‘The Thirteenth Day’ as a ‘mythological’ book. Far from it. The Thirteenth Day depicts the events of the Mahabharata and the Kurukshetra war as real events without the nuclear potential astras or divine beings. It is mythology treated as history that shows the process of how real events got conflated to mythological status.
Who are your favourite authors?
Don Winslow, Kiran Nagarkar, Dan Simmons, Milan Kundera, Michael Chabon, Arun Kolatkar, George MacDonald Frasier, Trevanian, Neil Gaiman, Susannah Clarke, Philip Kerr, Stephen King. Phew! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stylistically, I also derive a lot from a number of sports writers like Barney Ronay, Sid Lowe, and Wright Thompson, and writers like Joshua Rothman, Dave Trott, and Tom Junod who are not known for writing novels but articles and opinion pieces.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
When I’m working on a book, I wake up early and spend an hour every morning writing on week days and normally work from the morning till 5 pm on the weekends. Some days more work gets done, and other days, very little. The important thing, for me, is to keep plugging away.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
I’m just one book old, so I don’t think there’s much I can contribute in terms of real world wisdom. I will suggest, however, that everyone must Google their favourite writer along with the words ‘writing style’ or ‘writing tips’. It’s a technique I use quite frequently. Most great writers are very generous with information and chances are you’ll pick up some really good tips. I know I have.
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