BENGALURU: Author and marketing professional Aditya Iyengar’s new book, Bhumika, offers an interesting take on the life of Sita. While spending her last days in an ashram, she wonders how life would have played out had she not married Ram. She soon finds out when Sage Vishwamitra arrives and shows her who she might have been had she not met Rama. In an alternate reality, Sita gets to see how her life would have played out as Bhumika, a queen who defies convention. Excerpts from an interview:
What was your trigger for writing the book Bhumika?
I read Volga’s wonderful novel on Sita called The Liberation of Sita. It unlocked so many worlds and ideas for me. Bhumika came from that. A re-imagining of Sita’s life if she never married Rama, and an examination of what constitutes ‘choice’.
Have any of your books been inspired by regional books?
Definitely, though through translations. The Liberation of Sita was originally written in Telugu. I had the good fortune to pick up an English translation of the same.
Do you go back to your old writings? How does it feel to re-read what you had written sometime back?
I never go back to my old writings. Maybe because I already know how all the stories end!
Have you always seen yourself as a writer? What has been your inspiration as a writer?
I enjoyed writing from when I was a child. It was only in my twenties that I decided I wanted to write novels. The works of a lot of writers have inspired me – Arun Kolatkar’s poetry, Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold, Volga, and so many others have been influential in helping me develop my aesthetic.
What is the process you undergo while writing?
I try writing in the mornings before I go to office. I normally work half the day on both Saturdays and Sundays. I create a broad writing schedule and try hard to stick to my timelines though it is not always possible. Since I don’t write full-time, I think my experiences with ‘writer’s block’ are not as severe as those who need to crank out words every day. I’ve never had a serious problem with the ‘block’.
How difficult or easy is it to get published? Have you had to modify the content of any of your books for it to get published?
It can be a little challenging if you don’t know anyone in the publishing world. I had to cold call/mail agents till I found my first one who was able to sell my debut novel to Rupa. It gets easier after the first book. I’ve been blessed with wonderful editors who have never asked me to modify my content drastically. Most times, whenever they have asked for changes, I’ve found myself agreeing with their feedback.
Who’s your first reader? And who are your biggest critics?
My mother and brother are both my first readers and my biggest critics. My agent Kanishka Gupta is also formidable with his critique, and so are the editors at my publisher, Hachette. So if I can get through these three rounds, I know I have a fairly decent book.
Do you think marketing plays an integral role in the success of books?
Yes, definitely. Marketing plays a huge role and if one can mobilise budgets and resources towards promotions, it can make a huge difference to book sales.
With the digitisation of books, have you moved to reading books onscreen?
I’ve shifted to the screen for fiction. I think the sheer volume of fiction I read necessitated the switch. My bookshelves were running out of space. I still read most of my non-fiction as physical books though. Physical books are the most wonderful of addictions, and I still need to get my fix every now and then.