Monday 11 June 2018

Author Interview: Rahul Rai

Rahul Rai, an IIT graduate has recently authored a book called The Myth of Hastinapur. The book is based on the greatest epic of all times, Mahabharata. The well articulated book is based on great research and depicts good story telling. We recently had an interview with him. Have a look at what we discussed. Also, visit here to read our review of his debut book.

Where do you belong to? Our readers want to know about your education and family.
I am an IIT alumnus and after my graduation, I have been working as a data scientist for more than 10 years. My hometown is Lucknow where my parents live now while I am located out of Gurugram. My father is a retired civil servant while my mother is a housewife.

Tell us about your book
The Myth of Hastinapur is based on one of the greatest epic in the world, Mahabharata. It contains stories around different incidents which eventually culminated into war while the end chapters’ deal with guilt, remorse and reminiscences of few main actors in the war. Each of these stories can be read independently though they follow a sequential order to maintain the continuity of the tale.

What is your writing journey like, where and when did you start? Are you a writer by choice or by chance?
Since childhood, I have loved telling stories to people around me. I had a blog (now defunct) of my own where I used to share my stories with my near-ones. But I lacked discipline of writing a book. It was around 3-4 years ago that I decided to follow a more organised approach towards writing which helped me come up with The Myth of Hastinapur. I would like to keep on writing more in future so would like to classify myself as a writer by choice.

As a new author, what is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? Least favorite?
I consider myself as a very picky learner. Even in my professional career, I don’t like things which are a black box about which I don’t have much knowledge. I try to decipher them till I am able to break their code. I was able to complete this book around October last year but I took a lot of time in understanding the publishing process. From editing, illustrations, book cover, ISBN assignment, online distribution etc., I found everything exciting considering they were quite novel to me.

Needless to say, a lot of people helped me through the process. I liked your review which talked about how The Myth of Hastinapur seems to be edited well. I am highly indebted to Alka Ranjan for this. She painstakingly took up the task of editing which was not limited to just looking for grammatical errors and sentence correction, which in themselves are hugely demanding tasks, but also provided me with great ideas about the overall flow of the stories and suggestions to improve upon certain scenes.

Like editing, each of the different processes were a learning experience for me and I enjoyed them all be it learning from Vikas’s thought process when he was sketching illustrations or co-ordinating with Abhilash when he was trying to create the cover of the book.

Are you an avid reader as well? What kind of books do you read? What is your frequency of reading?
Yes, I am. I really love reading fiction. Paul Auster, Vladimir Nabokov (you need a dictionary along with his books), Haruki Murakami are few of my favorites. The Book Thief, One flew over cuckoo’s nest, The Bridge on the river Kwai, Mrityunjai are few of my favorite books.

Which is your favorite book and why?
It would be difficult to point to a particular favorite as there are so many but would like to talk about the ‘The Book Thief’. It is based on the 2nd world war and revolves around a German family. Very few protagonists come closer to the endearing portrayal of characters like in the book thief. This book in its pages brings to life each and every human emotion and I would recommend everyone to read it.

Do you pursue any other profession apart from writing? How do you manage everything?
Yes, I am a Data Scientist by profession. I think everyone tries to find time for their hobby which is writing in my case. I like writing. It helps me at many different levels and has definitely helped me to grow. So, it is not that difficult to find time for it. The Myth of Hastinapur was written when I was enjoying my holidays or when I was engaged at a client location or when I was travelling. I tried to find time for it whenever I was free from my other priorities.

How do you overcome writer’s block?
There is only one way (at least for me) to do it; to keep on writing. ‘Tears of Rudra’ was one of the stories with which I struggled. I think I spent almost 15-20 days thinking about how few of its last pages needed to pan out where each day started with writing a paragraph and ended with deleting it. And it was only after a fortnight that I started making some progress. So, as a writer, I think you should keep on pushing yourself to write good content.

How long did you take to finish this book? What was the process like?
It took me almost a year to finish this book though few of the stories like ‘Yudhishthira’s Dilemma’, ‘Wrath of Draupadi’ took shape couple of years back. Writing is not always enjoyable even if you have written tonnes of stories, novels etc. It requires a lot of patience and self-motivation. Like any other activity which someone wants to get good at, writing requires one to give his undivided attention and remain focussed.

What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?
Each step was a challenge considering it was a totally new venture for me. I followed a sequential approach to each of the steps (editing, cover design etc.) as I was a bit busy on personal front but it helped me gaining deeper understanding of the whole process. Considering the amount of time I have invested and the information and knowledge I have gained about the whole process, I think I am ready now to establish a publishing house J though I intend to remain a writer.

What kind of research have you done for the book?
My research is mostly internet based. But for The Myth of Hastinapur, I had my repository of knowledge ready about Mahabharata, Puranas, Ramayana which I had studied in my childhood. But internet helped me refresh my memory. Also, I tried to remain as close to the facts as possible. 

My whole idea was to while remaining closer to the incidents as written in Mahabharata to humanise the whole façade and make it more realistic with a belief that each one of us has the capacity to become Yudhishthira, Draupadi, Arjuna or even a Krishna. Needless to say, each one of us can become like Duryodhana or Shakuni as well and should remain aware of this fact.

Do you have any blog or website the readers can visit?
I am present on Facebook and made a recent profile on Goodreads.


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