Anuja Chandramouli graduated from Women’s Christian College, Chennai, and was the college topper in Abnormal Psychology. She also holds a Master’s degree in English. Her articles, short stories and book reviews have appeared in various publications like Femina, Women’s Era, Lonely Planet, The Hindu and the New Indian Express.
This bestselling Indian author’s highly acclaimed debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named in a poll conducted by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in the Indian Writing category for the year 2013. She also authored the bestselling novel, Kamadeva: The God of Desire. Her third book, Shakti: The Divine Feminine is the definitive work on the Mother Goddess and establishes her as a brilliant New Age Indian Classicist.
She is the mother of two little girls and lives in Sivakasi. Currently she is studying classical dance and working on her next book. Connect with her on twitter through @anujamouli, Facebook or at her website.
NAW- Tell us about your book Shakti. How is it different from the texts already available on Shakti?
I can honestly say that nothing like this has been written on Shakti, ever before despite the Feminine Divine being a conceptual favourite for so many authors all over the world. The book is almost entirely my personal interpretation of the most enigmatic, elusive and powerful presence in Puranic lore.
Shaping this intricate character of the fathomless depth, has been an exciting, enlightening and sometimes frightening experience. I am really happy about how Shakti: The Divine Feminine has shaped up and I can hardly wait for my readers to get their hands on it.
NAW- Tell us about the research you carried out for Shakti.
As always, the research process was an exhaustive one. I scoured the available material on the Goddess and believe me when I say that it felt like an ocean of verbiage out there and it was often hard to stay afloat or separate the wheat from the complex ideation and sometimes pseudo – philosophical gobbledygook.
Strangely enough, this time around every one of my characters really came into their own, when I stepped away from the rigid strictures of research and let them tell their own stories, untrammelled by traditional notions of their roles in the greater scheme of things. It is what makes them unique and I love them all!
NAW- Interpreting mythological and religious figures in a contemporary setting is becoming the norm in Indian publishing. How does your book stand out among the plethora of novels out there already?
Tell me about it! If sex sells in the film industry, then mythology seems to be the biggest seller in Indian writing!
I would rather not compare my books against others in the same genre, since that sort of thing makes me really nervous. That said however, the USP of my books are that they are passionate and intense in addition to being wickedly irreverent and humorous.
NAW- Shakti is the principal Goddess in Hinduism and unlike many other also has a feminine side. How have you explored the feminine side of Shakti in your book?
The feminine side of Shakti has been the predominant focal point of this book and it has a very contemporary resonance. I think women will be able to empathize with her power struggles in a male – dominated pantheon whereas the men will find they can get a fresh insight into the essence of femininity without feeling unduly judged since there is no male – bashing or bra – burning. The approach to gender is a balanced one, I think and challenges age – old constructs and stereotypes of the masculine and feminine.
NAW- Writing on Indian mythology can be a tricky thing in India considering the backlash faced by some authors. Have you experienced any untoward incident given that you write principally about Hindu Gods?
Some of the criticism has been strident in terms of the irreverence, which is reflected in the language and somewhat subversive tone adopted but most of the readers find the same thing absolutely delightful and have been generous with their praise. I like hearing out anything my readers have to say irrespective of its complimentary or uncomplimentary nature and so, I would not call them untoward incidents.
All I can say to the harsher of my critics is that my love and respect for the material is unmatched and therefore, I feel perfectly justified in treating it the way I do, after all to the well – ordered mine the sacred and profane have always co – existed in relative harmony.
NAW- How do you make time for writing? Tell us about your writing schedule.
My writing schedule is flexible but I do have a well – oiled machine of a routine in place for it. Certain parts of the year are devoted solely to writing, during which I like to keep my evenings entirely free for work, although I tend to welcome distractions in the form of invitations to dinner, functions, movies or sudden trips. But mostly, I am a good worker bee and adhere religiously to the schedule, even if I have to stay up late.
I keep myself motivated by promising myself small rewards for effort if I can make the deadline. My husband always helps out in this direction because he is amenable to my strong arm tactics and is willing to fund my innovative ideas on self – motivation or alternatively keep me plied with ice cream cake when the stress gets to be too much. Caffeine is a beloved ally as well, though we try not to get into an addictive relationship.
NAW- What are you working on next?
I am thinking of heading in a new direction and am keen to try my hand at a pure fantasy with mythological overtones. Or perhaps, I’ll sit down and write a horror story that is so terrifying that it scares me senseless and keeps me up all night!