Y Bhargava Krishna hails from Hyderabad. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, books and movies. He graduated from IIT-Kharagpur a few years back with a strong desire to become a writer instead of an engineer. Connect with him here.
NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?
I think I was eight when I first wrote a story. I wrote a story about a demon who destroyed a kingdom. I wrote a story on James Bond and called it Bond 004 (because my roll number in my school was 4). I wrote many other stories, and enjoyed a very brief period of a celebrity status (if you may call it that!) in my little neighbourhood for being the kid who wrote. I wish I had all those writings with me now. The writing continued sporadically before it stopped. I rediscovered my passion for writing when I was 19. I had become a voracious reader devouring any book with an arresting story and a tinge of freshness. I think it was a golden accident one fine night when I thought I’ll take to serious writing. An idea had been brewing in the deeps of my thoughts for a long time and that night I resorted to paper and pen to add fuel to the fire. The never ending journey had begun.
NAW- Tell us about your book ‘Fatal Fires.”How did you get the idea for the book?
That’s perhaps a question any author will truly dread: how did you get the idea? I don’t know! I was toying with an idea though for a long time (I still do not know where it came from!). It was about a vampire striking an Indian village; and a backdrop of British India seemed perfect for the setting. Suddenly I had a mystery-fantasy story set in British India – a combination of genres perhaps not seen before. But I didn’t like something about the ‘vampire’. There were too many vampire novels by then, growing like cancer. I didn’t want to write another vampire novel. So I changed the nature of the antagonist without changing the major elements of the story and the theme. But that was just the beginning of the challenge. I was writing a historical novel, set in a village, and Brahmins were playing the protagonists. The book needed research on British India and Brahmins. I contemplated writing a much simpler book to begin with, but the idea was too strong to wait. I ran to British library immediately. I read whatever I’d find. Internet was another resort. For my research I was buying books nobody would even care to look at. I had to give a convincing description of a forlorn Indian village. I began drawing from my childhood memories. After a year or more I had everything I wanted to write for my first novel.
‘Fatal Fires’ (Book I: The Dark Before the Dawn) is a mystery set in 1700s British India, with supernatural tones. It’s about a British officer who seeks an unusual help in a time of distress and dire need. It’s about a powerful Brahmin who comes to aid to save the day. It’s about our fear to face our inner fears.
NAW- When everybody in India is writing a college campus love story, what made you write such a book? Were you apprehensive of the response from the readers? Or that publishers wouldn’t take it up?
To begin with, a campus love story never interested me. I never read those books though they were selling. So if I’m not interested in reading something, I’d never find the inspiration to write something similar. Add to that I’ve deep conviction to write something I believe would tell a good story, and something that’s new. A couple of people advised me to write stories which were selling. Hey, if that’s what the publishing industry feeds its readers with, what choice do the readers have? The advice, though well intentioned, seemed lame. I didn’t even think about how the readers would respond. I was a reader myself and I knew readers always look out for something new.
And publishers are sleeping dragons. You can’t awake them with originality. Imitation awakes them but then the publisher coughs smoke instead of spitting fire. Frankly, I didn’t even think about the publishers’ responses when I was writing it, or when I finished it. I had my conviction with me. One can’t write a good book if the writer keeps thinking about the publishers’ responses.
NAW- Any plans to write a sequel?
I intended Fatal Fires as a single book but the story has grown. It’s a trilogy now and I’m working on the sequel. All threads will come to an end in the third book.
NAW- Did you face any trouble while publishing your first book? How did your first book get published?
I don’t think any writer escapes the agony of repeated rejections and opinionated advices before he gets his first shot. My story is no different. The top 6-7 publishers rejected ‘Fatal Fires’. A couple of publishers reasoned that ‘It didn’t fit their publishing programme’- obviously a reason the publishing industry has invented for rejecting authors. A popular literary agency rejected because they didn’t find it ‘dramatic’ enough. The comment only reminded me of Ekta Kapoor.
I was also trying to find connects at various publishers instead of following the instructions on publishers’ websites for sending the proposal, because I hoped that would yield quicker results. I found connects at some publishers; the rejections came quicker this time. It took me around 7-8 months of search before my current publisher accepted the proposal for publication.
The agony of the first time author doesn’t end there. There are many publishers out there who have poor distribution and customer accessibility. They ask the author to pay for publishing expenses (sugar coated as vanity charges). The author can instead go for self-publishing. While this practice is not new, and I’m sure such publishers will have their ridiculous arguments in support, they’ll not have any motivation to sell the book once the author puts the money on the table. I had to sail through all this and denied paying any publishing expenses. It’s also helpful for any budding author to know how the copyright act works. Many authors have the fear of plagiarism. The protection of copyright is simple, and knowing the details of the act helps.
NAW- Writing is not looked upon as a full time vocation in many countries, were you aware that making a living solely out of writing is difficult when you first started out?
No! When you’re young you’ve many dreams and I was chasing it. I’m still chasing it, and I guess it’s worth chasing. But I’ve learnt a very important lesson on the way. For me, writing has become far more important than publishing or making money.
I want to get into full time writing for a very different reason though. With a job to manage, I take around one and half year or more to write a novel of a goodish length. If I was writing full time, I can manage 2000 words a day, which means I can finish a novel in 3-4 months, and write 3 books a year.
NAW- What do you do when you are not writing?
I think about writing! And if I’m not doing that either, I divide my time between family, reading, movies and my day job.
NAW- Please name your 5 favourite books.
It’s difficult to shortlist 5 books from the literary ocean. But I’ll try. Here they go:
Premchand’s Godan – Premchand paints characters who show true courage when times turn dark. It’s interesting to see the mettle his characters portray and the transformation a grave situation brings upon them.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – it’s a story of intrigue and mystery with engaging characters. Wilkie Collins was a master storyteller. He stands inspiration to writers of many genres today (if only one can discover him).
Tagore’s Wreck (Nauka Dubi) – Tagore presents an incredible crossing of fates. I haven’t seen another author who has ever presented such twists of fate.
Harry Potter books – enough said!
The works of J R R Tolkien – I say ‘works’ instead of naming a book here. Tolkien has created a complex world with a never ending story. Just as a mighty river has innumerable tributaries, the story arcs are inter-wining, countless, and span across thousands of years.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
As I said earlier, I’m working on the sequel. In the not very distant future, I’ve many tales to tell, which should make up for 20 books or more. I’ll resist from revealing anything. It’s all hush-hush for now!