Amish Tripathi is author of the wildly successful Shiva Triology, of which two best-selling books are currently in print (the third is slated for release at the end of his year). A former banker, Tripathi was turned down by every publisher he pitched to, before finally deciding to self-publish. In this exclusive interview, the first time author tells us about his incredible journey, what it takes to become a successful writer, and how he feels about reality television!
Team MissMalini: Hi Amish! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. First up we’d love to know how you became an author? What gave you the idea to write your first book?
Amish Tripathi: Honestly, I never thought I’d be an author. I thought I’d live and die as a banker! Before my first book, The Immortals of Meluha, I’d written absolutely no fiction ever in my life. Not even a short story in school. My books started as a pure philosophy thesis which got converted into an adventure/thriller to convey the core philosophy. So the Shiva Trilogy is based on a fictional premise that Lord Shiva was a real historical man whose karma was so grand that people started thinking of him as a God. And through the adventure of the historical man called Shiva, I’m trying to convey my understanding of Lord Shiva’s philosophies.
TMM: You mentioned you approached a lot of publishers before deciding to publish your first book yourself, what was their reason for not publishing the book? And what was their reaction when they saw you did it on your own?
AT: There was a simple reason why I had to self-publish my first book. And the reason was that my book was rejected by every single publisher that it was sent to. One of them had actually told me that it looks like I’ve purposely written a book to alienate every possible readers segment! Because the religious content would alienate the youth (since, apparently, they aren’t interested in religion), the modern interpretation of religion would alienate the older people and the simple English would alienate the literary enthusiasts! So basically, I was told that my book couldn’t sell. But when I launched my book myself, to my surprise, it actually hit the bestseller lists within a week. The upshot was that many of the publishers who had rejected my book earlier came back to bid for it. Fate has been kind to me! :-)
AT: The Shiva Trilogy (of which 2 books, The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas have been released) is based on a fictional premise that Lord Shiva was a real historical man whose karma was so grand that people started thinking of him as a God. And through the adventure of the historical man called Shiva, his love story with Princess Sati, the wars that he fought etc, I’m trying to convey my understanding of Lord Shiva’s philosophies.
TMM: How much research did you have to do? Where did you get all the information?
AT: As far as the mythological information in my books is concerned, I learnt it the old fashioned way: through listening. My grandfather was a Pandit and a Sanskrit scholar in Benaras. Both my parents are very religious. So I learnt of our mythology and religious philosophies from my family. As far as the historical information is concerned, I’ve been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. And I especially like reading history books. You know the boring, archeological, research-driven books? Those kinds. I guess my boring reading habits came of use finally!
TMM: What was the last book you read and loved?
AT: ‘India: A Sacred Geography‘ by Diana Eck.
TMM: One book in your opinion that is terribly over-hyped?
AT: :-) You’re not going to get any controversial answers out of me!
TMM: One book that you loved that should have gotten more acclaim…
AT: The English version of Mrityunjay by Shivaji Sawant. It was originally written in Marathi and then translated into Hindi. This book is considered a classic by Marathi and Hindi readers. Regrettably, it has not got as much success and acclaim as it should have in the English language market.
TMM:What is the best line you’ve ever read in a book?
AT: I’m a voracious reader so my list of favourite lines from books keeps expanding! But I’ll tell you of a line that I read recently in ‘India: a sacred geography’, by Diana Eck. She says “… (India is a) land linked not by the power of kings and governments, but by the footsteps of pilgrims.” I think she’s spot on.
TMM: They say everyone has a book in them, do you think that’s true? What 3 skills must every author absolutely have?
AT: Absolutely. I believe that everyone has something to say and he/she must say it. We’re lucky to live in a free country like India where we have the freedom to state our points of view. 3 skills for an author? Firstly, he should be disciplined and dedicated to his story – which means that he should not compromise on his vision of the story for any reason at all. Secondly, he must be closely involved with the marketing of the book. An author cannot delegate the marketing of his book to people who may not be as passionate about the book as he would be. Thirdly, he should be lucky! But you can’t really control that. That’s up to God!
TMM: When I met you it was with Chetan Bhagat are you guys buddies? Do you ever talk books? Have you read much of his writing? :)
AT: Yes, Chetan and I do know each other. My wife and he have worked together. But to be honest, my wife knows him better than I do. I’ve only met him a few times. I’ve always found him to be a relaxed, friendly guy. And I have read a few of his books. I liked 2 States. I thought it’s a good message that all of us should think of ourselves as Indians first.
TMM: I have to ask because I’m both fixated and appalled at the same time, what do you think about reality TV? Do you watch any shows?
AT: Honestly, I haven’t watched too much reality TV. But from whatever little I’ve seen, it looks like these shows are scripted rather than extempore/real-life. Because I can’t imagine people behaving in real life as they seem to do on reality TV.