Here’s an Exclusive interview with Ravi Shankar Etteth- the author of the bestselling books ‘The Brahmin’ and ‘The book of Shiva’- with exclusive details about his upcoming projects.
Short Details about the author-
Ravi Shankar Etteth is the author of 5 novels: The Tiger by the River (2002), The Village of the Widows (2003), The Gold of Their Regrets (2009), The Book of Shiva(2016) and The Brahmin (2018). He has been a graphic designer, political cartoonist and editor of magazines and newspapers. He currently lives in Delhi and works as a consulting editor with The New Indian Express Group.
Some personal questions-
Q. Did you like writing stories from childhood?
Not particularly. I wrote some short stories in Malayalam when I was in college. They were published in the prominent literary magazines of Kerala. Then I moved to Delhi and got lost in the bustle of making a living.
Q.Do you like reading a lot of books?
Yes, I do.
Q.Which is your favourite book?
Difficult to say. There are so many I’ve loved. The Iliad is one. So is the Mahabharata. Books by Romain Rolland, Carlos Ruis Zafon, Sandor Marai, Jo Nesbo – the list goes on.
Q.Do you like books of a specific genre or you like reading books of every taste?
I like history and crime fiction the most. Literary fiction selectively. Waiting to read Warlight by Michael Ondaantje.
Q.Who was your favourite childhood author?
Again tough question. RK Narayan, Biggles, James Barry, Grimm brothers, Hand Christian Anderson, the Panchatantra..where do I stop?
Q.Who is your favourite author now?
Undoubtedly Zafon. And Philip Kerr.
Q.Which book are you reading in present?
I’m reading two simultaneously.Skin in the Game Book by Nassim Nicholas Tale and Greeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr
Q.Which was the last movie you watched? Do you watch a lot of movies or only some?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Yes, I watch a lot of movies,
Q.What would you say about the young writers in India? Are they doing good in this field?
There are many fantastic writers.
Questions about the book ‘The Brahmin’-
Q.What inspired you to write this book?
I was reading up on Ashoka for a newspaper column and got the shock of my life. I didn’t realise he had such a brutal and sadistic personality. A true psychopath like most kings. And I love historical thrillers. So I thought why not on a book with Ashoka in it? I hate the jumping between now and then, so I stuck to the Maurya period. For a man of Ashoka’s personality, I imagined his spymaster to be a strong, mysterious man, not subservient but loyal. And I’ve always had a great admiration for Ravan, who I perceive as a tragic figure who lost because of a single human failing – love. A combination of all these factors gave me a nebulous idea about an enigmatic, nameless secret service chief and a vague plot that expanded as I write.
Q.Was it a sudden Idea that forced you to write this book or you had been planning it for some time?
It grew over time. The vague contours of an idea and characters form in my mind when I am subconsciously ready to write a book. I don’t even consciously think of writing then. Suddenly one day, I get the first para and then I begin work. That’s how I write.
Q.What was the reaction of your Family Members and Friends when you told them about your project?
Didn’t tell anyone particularly.
Q.Did you get the required support?
My editors Somak Ghosal from Harpers and later, Kartika who heads Westland, yes,
Q.Did you travel or read a lot for writing this book?
Read up a lot.
Q.How did you feel while writing this book? Did you enjoyed it or it puzzled you a little?
Enjoyed it thoroughly. I always enjoy writing books, they are full of surprises for myself. I suddenly pause for a moment as a scene develops or a good line pops up and say, “Hey where did that come from?” I suppose my subconscious has a lot to answer for when I die and go up tp fiction heaven – or hell as the case may be.
Q.How would you like to describe the character of Brahmin?
An enigmatic, intelligent, tenacious, terrifying, loyal and ferocious warrior who is his own man.
Q.How would you like to describe the character of Ashoka?
Cruel, rapacious and cunning. He is a complex character. But loyal in his own way.
Q.What is the best thing in the character of Brahmin in your eyes?
Q.What would you say about the other characters of your book? How would you like to describe them?
I like Queen Asandhimitra the most. She is beautiful, imperious and a strong character who is a perfect foil to Ashoka’s power hungry and cruel nature. Hao is a relentless and intelligent woman, tragic yet talented, who refuses to lose. She is also strangely vulnerable. Mur fascinates me, a beautiful spy who becomes her own victim. Antochlius is a side show, but then, he developed into a brave young man – loyal and pragmatic. Suma and Radhagupta symbolise the dark side of power where conspiracies, assassinations and power games are common and hubris is the nemesis.
Q.Do you love reading history or it is just for writing your books?
Oh I simply love history. Alice Albinia’s Empire of the Indus, Audrey Truschke’s Aurangazeb: The Man and the Myth, The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped by Paul Strathern and War and God by Kwasi Karteng are some of the history books I’ve enjoyed reading lately.
Q.As a reader, how many points will you give your book out of 10?
Questions about the upcoming projects-
Q. Are you working on any other project now?
Q. when shall we expect it to release?
Hopefully next year.
Q.What is the story of that book? Can you give a brief Idea to the readers?
I’m working on two. One is a sequel to The Brahmin. The other is a novel based in upper class and nouveau riche Delhi.
Q.Of which genre is it?
The second one is literary fiction as social satire
A last Question-
Q.What message you would like to give to the readers?
Have a good time when you read. Don’t get offended easily; political correctness is destroying sensibilities – look at what happened to America; all that hypersensitivity ended up with a lout like Donald Trump. There are too many books and life is too short to read all of them. And when you’re traveling and you come across something or someplace that you recognize feel happy and have a drink to celebrate.
Thanks for the interview!
Have a good day and keep reading!