Author Shatrujeet Nath managed to win the hearts of thousands of readers with his exceptional writing skill. He is a national bestseller and also worked on different genres starting from mythology to spy thriller.
I was lucky to get the chance to interview this amazing author who shared his journey as an author with me. Continue reading to know more about him.
1. Welcome to the platform of Indiacafe24. Mr. Shatrujeet Nath, please share a brief about you, your education, and your family.
A. Thanks for having me here. What can I say about myself…? Well, I am a single child. My dad was in the armed forces, and as a consequence, I happened to spend most of my childhood and adolescence in different parts of India – from Shillong to Tripura to Kashmir to Kerala. I did my graduation from Kerala and started working in advertising as a copywriter. That was my first job in a long career in writing, the first time I was paid to write. I didn’t stay in advertising long though. I moved from advertising to journalism, and that’s really where my career as a writer flourished for the first time. Now I focus on writing fiction. Apart from writing my own books, I also write and develop stories for web shows and films.
2. Writing is an art. How was this art form introduced in your life? Can you remember that moment?
A. I have been reading books from as far back as I can remember. It started with Enid Blyton and the classics like Treasure Island, Around the World in 80 Days and The Three Musketeers, then went on the Hardy Boys, then Alistair MacLean and Desmond Bagley. Anyway, the point is that I read a lot and that was my introduction to the art form. But the truth is I never really cared for writing, even though my mother tried her best to get me to write essays and short stories. I just didn’t understand writing. Then, when I was 17, I represented my college in a university-level essay writing competition. I don’t even know who had put my name down, why I was picked and all that, but I ended up participating and winning the first prize for my college. That was probably the first time I actually looked at writing with some seriousness. Then, one of my close friends from college, who was a copywriter himself, pointed out that I could look at advertising as a career option. I admired this guy, so I followed in his footsteps and ended up writing for the rest of my life.
3. You started your journey with a spy thriller and then moved to Mythology fantasy. For which genre you loved writing the most?
A. The genres I like reading the most are fantasy, historical fiction, crime thrillers, spy thrillers and horror. So it stands to reason that these are the genres that I will enjoy the most writing. Of these, I have written mytho-fantasies and spy thrillers. The two are quite different, but both have been enjoyable for their own reasons. Writing thrillers are fun because everything is about pace and suspense. Fantasy on the other hand involves a lot of world-building, which is fascinating. Fantasy also is about scale, and creating stories across a very large canvas. But what I love most about fantasy is creating cool beasts and monsters. Having said all that, I do intend writing books in the historical fiction, crime thriller and horror genres as well.
4. You are a national bestseller for your mythology series. What is the experience of being one such celebrated author of the industry?
A. It always feels nice to have lots of people reading and loving your work. Every writer thrives on the praise and adulation he or she receives from the reading public. Creating an original mythological fantasy around a lesser-known character like Vikramaditya and having people read and love the four Vikramaditya books feels wonderful. I mean the books are not about a popular god or goddess, but people have loved reading them. Similarly, my latest series is about Bharat, the brother of Rama, another fringe character from the Ramayana. But I have been able to bring his story front and centre, and those who have read it love it. This love is a validation of one’s talents and the hard work one has put in.
5. You have expertise in writing both short stories and novels… But which one among the two is your favorite?
A. I actually haven’t written all that many short stories, unless you count my years in journalism, where I used to routinely write features that were 2,000-4,000 words in length. But those weren’t fiction. I have written maybe three or four pieces of short fiction, of which only two fit the requirements of short stories. So it is novels that I am more familiar with, and feel comfortable writing. My books are all invariably more than one-lakh words in length, with the last Vikramaditya Veergatha book going over 1,50,000 words. I love writing novels, and given that I have not written short fiction all that much, it’s plain that I enjoy writing novels over short stories.
6. As we know that you are a journalist… Can we say that being a journalist you got the advantage of in-depth research for penning your books?
A. Thoroughness in research and thoroughness in understanding the story that’s being written are things journalism teaches you very well. If you are writing a journalistic piece on say a protest against a dam, as a journalist you are expected to understand not just the issue, but every point of view linked to the issue, as well as the secondary issues that feed into and spin from the main issue. For this you must do thorough research, and you must be able to look at the matter objectively from 360-degrees. I think my 10 years in journalism has helped me do this well in fiction too. But most importantly, journalism teaches you how to identify a great story that will excite readers, and that is the skill that is most crucial when it comes to writing fiction as well – which story will hook the readers’ interest and keep them engaged and interested.
7. Can you give us a brief, as to what encouraged you to work with a typical genre like mythology after the spy thriller ” The Karachi Deception”? Any story behind this?
A. Like I have said, I like reading quite a few genres and I want to write stories across those genres. When I completed The Karachi Deception and started looking for a new story to tell, the story that I was most excited to write about – and the story that I thought readers would love – was the one about Vikramaditya and his navratnas protecting the Halahala from the devas and the asuras and saving the universe from destruction. This was the idea that was most clearly defined in my head, so I decided to write it. Once I had finished writing the four Vikramaditya books, I actually planned to write a horror / psychological thriller set in today’s world. This was going to be a single, standalone book like The Karachi Deception. I had even started work on it, but then the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown. Now this book needed a sizeable amount of research, which wasn’t possible in the middle of a lockdown. So I put that idea aside and started the Warlord of Ayodhya, which was totally in my control. For me it is always the story that comes first. The genre is secondary.
8. How did the spy thriller plot come into your mind? Do you know any spies in real life?
A. I do not know any spies in real life, though I once remember meeting one of my father colleagues in Tripura, who I later learnt was in cross-border intelligence. That is probably the closest I have come to seeing a spy, though a really good spy is one who is so nicely blended in that even his or her best friends don’t know they are spies. So in that sense, maybe we’ve all met great spies – it’s just that we never realized they were spies. Which brings me to my pet theory about the world’s greatest spy, James Bond. In my opinion, James Bond is actually the lousiest and most useless spy any nation can have. Why? Because the moment he walks into a room, all eyes are on him, and if that’s not bad enough, he goes around saying ‘My name is Bond, James Bond’. No spy in real life would ever do that. The best spies in fiction are seen in the books written by John le Carré. They are grey, insignificant men who go unnoticed and do their work with success because they are so anonymous. The le Carré spy is the prototype I was going for when I wrote The Karachi Deception.
The book’s plot actually springs from a pet conspiracy theory I have. I had that theory from the early 2000s, but it was just a theory until 2009. That was the year I quit journalism to write fiction, and I decided to take that conspiracy theory I had developed and spin it into a story. That story ended up as my first book.
9. As an author what’s your opinion about the growth of Indian authors in the international book market?
A. It is good that we have started making inroads into the international market, but I think the number of Indian authors known internationally is still very small. It’s still only those authors who write ‘literary fiction’ who’re feted internationally, while those who write mass-market commercial fiction are popular only within India, or among Indian readers abroad. But that too will change, I guess. What I would really like to see happen is the growth of Indian authors in the Indian book market. I still see a lot of Indian readers viewing Indian authors as being inferior… unless these authors are Indian expats based out of the US or the UK, and whose writings have been praised by the Western press, Western publishers and non-Indian readers. I think that bias has to go. We have talented writers and storytellers here. If we find more readers here, we’d be more than happy.
10. How do you decide your target readers when you plan the plot of your book?
A. I don’t decide my target readers. It is impossible for me to do that. At the most I can say this is a mythological fantasy, so my target readers would be those who like mythology and fantasy. I don’t target young adults, but I have many readers of the Vikramaditya series who are young adults. I have readers as young as 13 or 14 years, and I have readers in their 60s and 70s. Just a week ago, a reader of mine messaged me on Instagram to say that her grandmother read all four Vikramaditya books and loved them. This reader has also loved the books and is probably 20 or 22. So grandmother and granddaughter have both loved my books. All I can say is they are both my target audience.
11. Writing, be it of any form, needs inspiration… who is your inspiration?
A. The story has to be your greatest source of inspiration. If your story is good and unique and exciting, you will be inspired to come back to it every morning to write some more, to give it form, to breathe life into it. The story is the reason we’re writers. Without story, there is no inspiration, there are no writers. There are only sad people sitting at their writing desks, waiting for a story to strike them blind with its brilliance.
12. Is there any scope or possibility that in near future we will get to read more works of yours in the thriller genre?
A. I’m hoping you would. As I said, I was working on a psychological thriller when the pandemic struck. That is a book I hope to write and complete once I am done writing the Warlord of Ayodhya series. I am also toying with an idea for a crime thriller series. Let’s see if that happens.
13. Who is the best critique of your work?
A. Ravi Balakrishnan, one of my friends and ex-colleagues in journalism. He’s one of my default beta readers, and the guy I bank on to tell me what’s working and what isn’t in my books. Another is my friend and literary champion Sidharth Jain, the founder of The Story Ink, India’s biggest book-to-screen adaptation company. He has a knack of figuring out problems in plot and articulating it in a way that I can do something to fix it. It’s not easy finding readers who can articulate problems with the book nicely, so I’m happy I have these guys in my life.
14. What are the other passions in your life?
A. I am hardly passionate about anything. I think when we become passionate about something, we run the risk of losing our objectivity. I am not saying everyone who is passionate about things is not objective, but I have seen many instances of passionate people being driven blind by their passion for whatever they’re passionate about. They cease to see faults and problems in the objects of their passion. So I prefer to embrace the moment and juice everything I can out of it rather than go after a passion.
15. Any Suggestions for budding authors?
A. Some days, the muse will not show up. Those days, specifically, the writer must.
16. Define Shatrujeet Nath, as an author in one line.
A. I think it is my work that should define me, my readers who should to define me, my friends who should define me. How I define myself is immaterial.
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