Among the prominent Indian writers on mythology today is Anuja Chandramouli, who has created quite a buzz with her prolific writing. Shortly three of her books will be out in a span of less than a fortnight. No mean task, that! A yoga practitioner and a classical dancer, this mother of two does an admirable balancing act. In an interview with Medha Dutta, she talks of doing research the old-fashioned way, fighting writer’s block, and more.
You are prolific with your writing.
Sure, I am driven but mostly though the ‘prolific’ factor can be attributed to the fact that I am one of those painfully introverted creatures with absolutely no social life. I spend way too much time hunched over a laptop, hopped up on caffeine and junk food.
Tell us about your three forthcoming works.
I wrote a book on Kartikeya. It just happened. I told myself that I was done with mythology but clearly mythology was not done with me. It turned out to be one hell of an experience.
Prithviraj Chauhan is one of my favourite heroes. I have been crushing on him ever since I read his story in a third grade textbook. Gathering together the fragments of his extraordinary life was a lot of work but even more fun and it turned out to be a real labour of love. As far as I am concerned, in victory or defeat, he remains the quintessential hero.
Padmavati was one of the most challenging projects I have ever worked on, on account of her towering sacrifice and Goddess-like lustre. She is a truly inspiring figure and it was such a privilege to be able to tell her story.
How do you research for your books?
I do my research the old-fashioned way—nose to the grindstone, reading and rereading every ancient and dusty old tome I can get my hands on, taking copious notes by hand and filling in the gaps via references, and brilliant shots in the dark which may or not amount to something concrete. I absolutely adore the process.
Why do you think people are drawn to mythology?
Mythology is a fascinating genre and it can be a curiously liberating and exhilarating journey since there is so much room for reinvention and reinterpreting. History, on the other hand, is a more dicey business and you get the kicks which a tight rope walker or an average adrenaline junkie thrives on. Either way though, people are drawn to history as well as mythology because they get to be part of an ancient and glorious tradition of storytelling that binds us together despite petty differences and serves as the lifeblood of this glorious land.
Any other genre you would like to explore?
Horror is a genre I am determined to pursue.
Do you follow a strict writing schedule?
I like to think of my schedule as flexible though iron discipline does come into play. Most evenings are reserved for writing, and I may work late into the night. Usually, I start at a leisurely pace, gradually allowing the momentum to build, devoting more and more hours as required. Sometimes as the story heats up, I find myself in no man’s land where I am too tired to write and way too wired to sleep.
Have you ever been hit by writer’s block?
All the time! Mostly, I power through or distract myself with things unrelated to writing till the muse lures me back. The only sure solution though is dogged persistence.
What is the biggest challenge for writers today?
There are more writers than readers. And it can be dealt with only by perfecting your craft till you can tell a story that is truly irresistible.
In between writing, how do you like to relax?
It is fun to hang out with my daughters or watch Hollywood blockbusters galore with the husband. I have also taken up yoga and classical dance.