Growing up in a middle-class South Indian household in New Delhi meant she got inclined towards academics early on. Literature became the focus of her studies in college and university. She later realised her ambition of making it into the civil services. Today, Harini Srinivasan runs a consulting services company in the publishing industry, and her second book, The Curse of Anuganga – a historical crime thriller set around 403 CE – is garnering rave reviews. Edited excerpts:
Where did you get the idea for The Curse of Anuganga?
It germinated from a writing exercise as a part of a Facebook group of writers of historical detective fiction that I had participated in. The idea was to pick a particular time period in Indian history and weave a short detective story within that. I chose the Gupta period because it is so under explored.
Why do you think historical fiction is gaining ground these days?
That’s because it allows a reader to step into the past – either the recent, remembered past or the completely forgotten and unknown – and relive the world. A story set in the past interests most readers as it allows them to learn about a long-bygone era. Historical fiction has always been a popular genre among writers. It is more in the limelight now – especially the sub-genre that deals with mythology and its reinterpretation in the Indian context.
What is the most important part of a book?
Readability. A book has to catch the attention of the reader and hold it through. Great plots/book ideas fail simply because the writer doesn’t manage to capture the reader’s attention.
Is writing energising or exhausting? How do you overcome writer’s block?
It is both, at different times, but the satisfaction of seeing a story unfold is unmatched. Yes, there are days when it is difficult to even write one page, however the key is to be consistent and write regularly.
Who is your favourite author and why?
There are many. I have enjoyed reading Kalki’s classics, Ponniyin Selvan and Sivakamiyin Sabatham, Sunil Bandopadhyaya’s First Light, some of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series, books by Hilary Mantel and Kate Morton – who does the juxtaposition between past and present brilliantly. Among Indian writers and historical detective fiction, there’s Madhulika Liddle (the Muzaffar Jang series), the Maharaja Mysteries by Arjun Raj Gaind and now Sujata Massey’s Pervin Mistry series.
However, if I were to pick one, it would be Kate Morton. She does a fabulous job of recreating the time period she chooses for her books. As a reader, one is completely transported to another world, which becomes alive and believable.
You have been an editor of publications at Publication Division, written for kids, blogged on classic Hindi films and now authored a novel. Which role has been most challenging?
Writing for kids because it is difficult to please children and satisfy their innate curiosity and imagination.
How is it to work independently as opposed to a government setup?
Both have their own charms and challenges. Working in a government setup gave me the chance to meet so many dedicated and talented people from whom I learnt a lot. Working independently offers more flexibility and more time for other pursuits.
What if your creative work doesn’t get good reviews?
Since I put in a lot of effort and I am human, it would definitely rankle me (smiles). However, I would make an effort to understand what is lacking and identify aspects of improvement.
Harini Srinivasan’s favourite authors
She enjoys reading Kalki’s classics, Ponniyin Selvan and Sivakamiyin Sabatham, Sunil Bandopadhyaya’s First Light, some of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series, books by Hilary Mantel and Kate Morton. Among Indian writers and historical detective fiction, there’s Madhulika Liddle and the Maharaja Mysteries by Arjun Raj Gaind.
The Curse of Anuganga
Author: Harini Srinivasan