Interview: Satyarth Nayak, bestselling author and DU alumnus

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A Delhi University pass out student, Satyarth Nayak’s book has been praised by the likes of Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi who called it ‘a fantastic blend of myth and imagination’ and ‘Intelligent, intriguing, intense’ respectively. Hindustan Times and The Hindu also have similar rave reviews for the book. The Emperor’s Riddle has topped several national bestsellers list and The Asian Age Top 10 Bestseller chart ranking #1 for four consecutive weeks and is also being considered for a thriller feature film.

Author Satyarth Nayak answers some of our questions regarding being a new age writer in India, the growing publishing industry of India and his experience as a DU alumnus.

1. Let’s begin with your journey of becoming the country’s bestselling author. Tell us something about from where you began.

A. I am a Delhi based author, script writer and a former Correspondent with CNN-IBN, Delhi. I love the thriller genre and always knew that my first book would invariably be a mystery novel. I call my book a freak act of nature. One fine evening after re-reading one of Dan Brown’s novels, I had this sudden curiosity to know if we have any similar esoteric mysteries or secrets in our Indian history and culture. It was a random search on the Net during which I stumbled across this beautiful story associated with one of our most iconic Indian Emperors. The man’s vision mesmerized me. The more I read about the Emperor’s fascinating deed thousands of years ago, the more I knew that I had to tell this story. That’s how this journey began and I am glad the book has become a bestselling thriller and praised by writers like Amish Tripathi & Ashwin Sanghi.

2. For those who are yet to read The Emperor’s Riddles, what would you describe it as? Tell us what it’s about.

A. The media is calling this a history meets mystery since they are both parallel tracks in the novel. The present day track has my main lead walking a trail of cryptic riddles scattered all over the country that they must solve one by one to reach the final enigma while the historical track involves the evolution of an Emperor. The legend used in the book involves a fascinating historical secret of one of our greatest and most celebrated Indian emperors. It’s also probably the first Indian thriller to use Buddhist iconography and mythology. If you love murder mysteries, myths and legends, intriguing investigation and that twist in the end, you will love my book. And there are plenty of riddles to solve. The path beckons…can you crack them all?

3. Being a new age writer, what do you have to say about the upcoming publishing industry and the growing concept of literary agencies?

A. The best thing about the Indian publishing industry today is that it has expanded massively to incorporate writers from every nook and corner of the country. Writing is no longer an elitist exercise. Today many Indian publishers are open to new talent and new writings. Self publishing and e-publishing have also emerged as new options to put your work out there for the world to read. Literary agencies in India are still in the fledgling stage but surely a viable option especially for debut writers. Agencies edit & polish your manuscript, pitch it to publishing houses and negotiate the best deals. However keep in mind that a genuine literary agency does not charge for any of these initial services and take their cut only when the book starts to make money.

4. Your works have been compared to the likes of Dan Brown. How does that feel? Tell us about the inspiration behind your writing.

A. As I told you the book happened because of Dan Brown so being compared to him is probably the ultimate compliment I can get. It feels wonderful to be put in the same category but I cannot allow that to make me complacent. It feels great to have made a successful debut but I still have miles to go and many more books to write. I have grown up reading and admiring the greats like Poe, Holmes, Christie, Wallace and Dan Brown. I have secretly wanted to emulate them and toy with the minds of the readers like they do.

5. You are a Delhi University pass out. What do you have to say about the kind of platforms DU gives to asppiring writers?

A. Yes, I graduated from Venky and did Masters in English Literature from Stephen’s. The fact that DU now offers a course in Creative Writing is such a welcome development. I wish I had that opportunity when I was a student. This will certainly go a long way in nurturing young and aspiring talent. Also the various college fests provide excellent writing competitions which are a fabulous platform for upcoming writers to test their skills.

6. Do you plan to write a sequel to The Emperor’s Riddle, or perhaps a screenplay?

A. There’s no sequel planned but one of my characters in The Emperor’s Riddles will embark upon another adventure in my next book. We do have an interest from Bollywood to convert the thriller into a film. Screen adaptation is always an exciting option though it will be a challenge to condense the book into a two hour format. The book will have to be modified accordingly and the screenplay is being written as we speak. Let’s see how it shapes up.

7. A lot of writers prefer sticking to the same genre of their bestselling works. Will you prefer writing thrillers like The Emperor’s Riddle or would you like to explore some other genres as well in the future?

A. Thriller is my favourite genre and as of now I intend to stick with it. There are quite a bunch of wicked ideas in my head that are clamouring to be turned into books. Having said that I also love history and am deliberating over a historical epic based on a fascinating character from Indian regional history. Cinema writing also interests me and I might do something in that direction as well.

8. With the increased exposure on social media, self publishing of the books, do you think it has become easier for writers to break into the market?

A. It has made life easier to some extent but it has also opened the floodgates for more and more writers clamouring for attention. With so many people writing and so many books getting published, you will have to be exceptional to stand out. Social media draws out more talent but also intensifies the competition.

9. Anything you’d like to say to your readers for the response they have given to your book? Any news regarding when they’d get to read something more from you?

A. I would obviously thank all my readers for their leap of faith in picking up the book of a debut author and bringing us this far. I now owe it to them to make sure that my next book is even better. My second book is also a mystery thriller but I am exploring mythical fantasy and sci-fi in this one. A cinema book based on one of the most iconic films of Bollywood is also on the cards.

10. Would you like to say something to aspiring writers in Delhi University?

A. I would advise them to write only when they get an idea that absolutely grabs them by the neck and makes them sit and write. Only when they have that one idea that makes them want to do nothing but write should they begin. It’s also imperative that debut authors promote their book as much as possible. The publishers will certainly do their bit but authors these days also need to spread the word about their book. Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads are excellent social networking tools to make readers aware of your books. And enjoy the process of writing. Unless you have fun writing, readers won’t have fun reading!

A first year student of English in Miranda House, Himanshi can be best described as someone who loves to read, write and sing. She worships Pink Floyd and Kurt Cobain. When not writing quirky lyrics and articles, she can be found singing on the top of her lungs. She wants to spend her life exploring her fixation with country music and Chevy trucks while travelling and writing about it, listening to any Beatles song in the background.

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