D Kalyanaraman dives deep into Indian mythology to create a mix of demons, folklore and mystery in his book Sorcerer of Mandala. He roped in son Raghava KK to create the illustrations and the result is pure magic. KitaabWorld interviewed him about his inspirations.
How did you begin writing?
Firstly, I was a voracious reader; at one point, reading everything that came my way. When I was older, I became far choosier, exhausting works by authors that I liked, title by title. The natural progression of such reading was the desire to write.
My mother was a writer. She used to contribute to various magazines. From the age of ten onwards, I was her official proof reader before the material went out for submission. I was the editor of my school and college magazines and later, despite being a busy entrepreneur, I was able to produce some plays.
What to you is the mark of good book?
I guess it’s a bit of an individual choice. For me, at the minimum, the book should draw the reader in and shouldn’t let go until she finishes.
What inspired you to write a fantasy novel? Any favorite books or authors in this genre?
Growing up, I was brought up on a rich diet of Indian stories-- epics, mythologies, adventure stories, folk tales, hagiographies. A little later I read the English writer Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber and I was fascinated. I read many books of the ‘sword and sorcery’ type -- but many of them were set in medieval worlds. I longed to create a world in which the sorcery primarily followed the Indian mythos, which is primarily what I did in the Sorcerer of Mandala.
I wouldn’t want to put a sub-genre label on the Sorcerer of Mandala because there are elements of low and epic fantasies. There is also a confluence of many of my interests-- Magic, Spirituality, Indian mythology even mathematics and physics.
I have many authors that I like among fantasy writers: to mention a few, Henry Kuttner, Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman.
What inspires you to tell these stories that are so rooted in Indian history and texts?
Indian culture is replete with rich stories. There are stories from The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, story collections like the Katharsaritasagara, Panchatantra stories, epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, ancient Tamil literature such as the Sangam literature and Periya Puranam, oral traditions in proverbs, riddles, lullabies, ballads, games, performing arts that integrate, for instance the Katha Kalakshepa , hagiographies, analogies and allegories used in Hindu philosophy, Indian history and pre-history, stories of Vikramaditya, Madanakamaraja and so on. With such rich sources, it was really difficult for me to look elsewhere for inspiration.
Could you describe the process of collaborating with Raghava on the artwork?
My original design brief to Raghava was -- ‘Hey, can you make it look like a Josh Kirby cover for a Terry Pratchett novel?’ On reflection, I thought better of it and said it must bear the Raghava stamp.
Raghava read through the book and he loved many of the characters. He then proposed that for the cover we have something collagey and textured populated with the characters. I agreed.
I made a description of the characters, including their physical appearance and personal characteristics, eccentricities and foibles. He then drew them. I simply loved the characters he had drawn. The only change I asked Raghava to make was to make Ponni left-handed; he had drawn her with the bow in the left hand. (I had forgotten to add that she was left-handed in my description to him)
After that, it was a question of rearranging them to make an impactful cover.
The black-and-white illustrations were all done over skype over several days, with my suggesting the chapter icon and Raghava drawing it on the spot. Rarely would Raghava draw something that I didn’t like and when I pointed it out, Raghava would change it.
D Kalyanaraman loves magic, monsters, dark predictions, mysteries, mythology, folklore, puzzles, birds that talk, animals with attitude, and his family — though not necessarily in that order. Kalyan believes that he is one of the best qualified to write for young adults, as he has been one longer than anyone he knows. He lives and writes in Bangalore, India, with his wife. He can be reached on Twitter at @kalyanaramand.
Raghava KK, named by CNN as one of the 10 most remarkable people of 2010, is a multidisciplinary artist whose work is shown in galleries and museums around the world. After he quit formal education at the age of 17 to start his career as a newspaper cartoonist, he is today considered one of India’s most successful young artists.
Raghava applies his artistic practice outside the gallery space. He is actively involved in a radical education initiative, NuVu Studios, to an offshoot of Harvard and MIT, to redefine creativity in education. He has lectured at several universities and art institutions, including NYU, Carnegie Mellon, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, etc. He serves on the NuVu advisory and has also advised the INK Conference, Singularity University, Innoz, Startup Village, Nytric, and Banto. He lives and works in New York and India. Find out more about Raghava at raghavakk.com
Get Sorcerer of Mandala here.