“A fantastic blend of myth, imagination and mystery. A great read” Says Amish Tripathi about his book. As his book hit the stand, it became an instant bestseller. I am talking about the author of the national bestseller The Emperor’s Riddles, Satyarth Nayak. In a candid chat with Timid Fingers this journalist turned author talks about what made him drop journalism, about his agent Red Ink, publishing process in India, about his debut book and a lot more…
Timid Fingers: First I would like to congratulate you. How does it feel to see your debut book climb the best-selling list so fast?
Satyarth Nayak: It feels fantastic. Today when I walk into a bookstore and see the book on the Bestseller shelf or see it topping the Bestseller chart on Amazon or Asian Age, it’s a big high. The fact that the book has gone into reprint gives me a huge sense of relief that all the hard work has paid off and people have accepted me as a writer.
Timid Fingers: Is journalism that boring or writing thriller more interesting than journalism that you left journalism to put all your time in creative writing?
Satyarth Nayak: Journalism can never be boring. I had great fun for five years as a CNN-IBN Correspondent. I quit my job to actually get into film direction which was a natural extension of my work as a television reporter. I had absolutely no inkling that this story idea will ambush me out of nowhere. That’s why I call this book a random act of nature.
TF: Why such a genre for your debut book? I mean is it for the platform created by Amish or Ashwin or you always wanted to write about it?
Satyarth: I have always been fascinated with thrillers and mysteries. I have grown up devouring Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and Edgar Allan Poe etc. So I always knew that if I ever wrote a book, it will be a thriller. This idea of History meets Mystery is more a result of reading Dan Brown and Irving Wallace and perhaps a secret desire to emulate them. It’s really surprising that only a few Indian writers are exploring the thriller genre. We need a lot more good mystery writing to come out from India.
TF: Tell us something about your book. How much amount of research did you need to complete a 398 pages book full of surprise elements?
Satyarth: The book as I said is a History meets Mystery. The main track is a murder mystery while the background story traces the evolution of a celebrated Emperor of ancient India and his secret that affects the present. The book takes you on a trail of riddles that must be solved one by one to reach the final stunning enigma. Besides elements of sci-fi, history, forensics and myths, the book also deals with Buddhist philosophy and iconography. With so much history in the book, it needed a fair bit of research so that I could recreate the bygone era and characters faithfully.
TF: All of your characters are unique in their own way, which character is more close to your heart or while creating which character you enjoyed the most?
Satyarth: I enjoyed creating them all. As you said, they all are unique in their own way, so they are all my favourites. Someone told me she enjoyed Alia, the journalist the most and that maybe because I was a Correspondent myself. Perhaps art imitated life in this case.
TF: Is there anything that inspired you to write a murder mystery with a mythological character in the center?
Satyarth: I would not call the character mythological. It’s more historical. What inspired me is the Emperor’s fascinating legend and his powerful secret. An enigma that is believed to have remained alive for thousands of years. An enigma even Gods would kill for. The moment I discovered the legend, I knew I had to weave a story around it and share it with everyone. That’s how the journey began. Also I love riddles and the chance to create cryptic riddles to tickle the brains of my readers absolutely drew me in.
TF: Maximum publishing houses now a day, accepting manuscripts direct from authors and you have hired Red Ink as your agent, so can you explain the role of an agent in Indian Publishing Industry?
|Satyarth Nayak & Amish with their common agent|
Satyarth: It’s true that unlike the West where publishers will not touch your manuscript unless you are represented by a literary agent, the situation in India is much more informal and an author can deal directly with publishing houses. A literary agent however makes the sailing smoother especially for debut authors like me who have no idea about the publishing industry. They know the pulse of the market and pitch your book to those publishers where they feel it has the best chances of getting accepted. Many have editorial teams who will also go through your manuscript and improve it further. Agents also help you decode publisher offers and contracts making sure you get the best deal possible. Finally in case you don’t get a publisher, many agents also self publish the book. However make sure you approach only the genuine literary agents like Red Ink.
TF: How was your experience working with Amaryllis?
Satyarth: It was awesome. They have a close knit team and interacting with them was extremely informal and rewarding. I am highly grateful to my editor Rashmi Menon for showing such maternal love for my book throughout. Also grateful to Manoj for being the looming presence. I love how they have created the final product. Best thing about Amaryllis has been their outstanding distribution process making sure that the book is available at maximum stores and online sites across India. That has been a big factor in the success of the book.
TF: For those aspiring or debut authors who are about to submit their manuscript, can you brief them how important is it to get a good publisher for your debut work?
Satyarth: It goes without saying that a good publisher is extremely crucial. Especially if you are a debut author, the right publisher can do wonders for your magnum opus. They will get it edited properly and proof read impeccably. They will create a fabulous cover design and make sure the book is well distributed across channels. They will also help you promote your book well. Most debut authors go for big publishers and while that has advantages, a smaller publisher can actually be more focussed and give you greater attention. Make sure you take an informed decision before putting your years of hard work into a publisher’s hands. See how excited they are about your book and then go ahead.
TF: So, as you have dropped journalism and have already written a best-seller, when is the second one coming?
Satyarth: Research is on for the next one. It will be a thriller again but this time I am trying to explore fantasy and the paranormal. Let’s see how far I succeed. Would definitely not want to disappoint my readers.
TF: A successful journalist or a best-selling author, which Satyarth you like more and why?
Satyarth: Have quit journalism for now so definitely a best-selling author. And would like to remain that for a few years to come. Essentially both entail the same virtues - good writing, honest research and great presentation.
TF: Wish you all the best for your future endeavours. Few words for your readers and for Timid Fingers blog...
Satyarth: I want to thank all my readers for taking the plunge and picking up the book of a debut author like me. Thank you for loving and supporting my book. And a big thank you to Timid Fingers and Purnendu Chatterjee for not only giving the book a splendid and positive review but also giving me this wonderful opportunity to share my journey. Timid Fingers has featured some of the best books and authors and it’s quite a privilege to be one of them.