About The Author
GOURAV MOHANTY-Author, Lawyer, Stand Up Comedian, Pretend Swordfighter, Recovering Burgers Addict. As evident, his life has many tabs open.
Though he was doing well as a lawyer in Mumbai, he is now pursuing the infinitely more unattainable dream of being the first ‘epic-grimdark fantasy novelist’ of India. A connoisseur of mythologies and momos, he has earned numerous scholarships in his time at law school, one of which took him to the castles of Europe. Ever since, he has been drawn to conjuring a world where Vedic India meets Medieval Renaissance.
Sons of Darkness is Gourav’s first novel. Give it a shot for the poor author owes considerable gold to goblins.
Q) Tell us about the idea behind the book?
After reading A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), I eagerly began hunting for a fantasy series written by an Indian author in some misguided patriotic drive. You would imagine that for a country that gave birth to fantasy as a genre through its Puranas and Vedas, our shelves would be lined up with native bestsellers but I was surprised to come up short in my search. While Abercrombie, Erickson, Lawrence and other fantasy greats kept me satiated for the years to come, I always hungered to read about a world built on the foundations of ancient India.
In this context, the lesser known characters of Mahabharata had always fascinated me. I often day-dreamed of an alternate dimension, a What If scenario of picturing the devotional Mahabharata in a cynical and ultraviolent world. I wondered how amazing it would be to go into the psychology of those bow-touting ‘heroes’ and explore the dark motivations that drove them. Toni Morrison said that if you can’t find the book you want to read, then write it. And so, Sons of Darkness turned those dreams onto parchment.
Q) How much time did it take in the process of writing?
I had to balance writing with very hectic 15 hour work shifts at a law firm in Bombay. I reckon it took me 4 years to finally see a completed manuscript that I deemed submission-friendly.
Q) What did the process of writing this book teach you?
For me, the book is the living proof of the power of manifestation and accumulated efforts. I never had the time to stick to Stephen King’s suggested 2000 words per day, and to be honest, I never wrote with ‘publication’ as a goal. I just wanted to tell a story, I wanted to explore and share the world which I had created in my mind.
I enjoyed the story that had coalesced from the mists of my imagination. So, I stayed with it. And through gentle persistence over the years – sometimes a page per day, sometimes 7 pages per day – a silly chapter on a sword-fight had mutated into the Sons of Darkness. It felt like a miracle but I heard the echo of every prayer behind it.
Q) What inspired you to write this book?
I think I can safely thank George R.R. Martin for inspiring me to write (my dream is to thank him in person in full Padawan style). And the unexplainable vacuum that I discovered in the fantasy genre in India. Fantasy genre has the biggest fanatics around the world, and I could not understand why India had not caught on to the genre.
The other inspiration was to write a book that did not project ancient India again as a village stuck in the Age of Wheel and obsessed with wooden arrows. I mean, c’mon. Our myths boast of non-linear time, flying machines, fetal incubation, test-tube babies and cloning. That Age cannot be viewed from the lens of mud-huts. No. I wanted to read a book that had murder trials, Machiavellian politics, swords, morningstars, battle-axes and war-hammers, castles, siege engines, ports and temples, all festering in a vibrant civilization whose underbelly seethes with magic, murder and mayhem. So, I wrote it.
Q) A book that had an impact on you, which helped you in writing this one?
In terms of inspiration, I think everyone writes, unconsciously or not, from the sources they loved, and this book ended up being my creative smorgasbord of Palace of Illusions, Song of Achilles and A Song of Ice and Fire. I am not saying Sons of Darkness will necessarily read like those books. But geopolitical dramas mixed with brutally cruel choices is something I loved about all of those works, and I really hope that’s reflected in the writing.
Q) Your favorite chapter from the book?
That is a tough one. I really enjoyed writing the swayamvar scene and the absolute mayhem that broke out there. The rapid shifting between POVs of characters felt very cinematic to me.
Q) Tell us about your plans? Planning a new book?
As of now, the ambitious plan is to have a five-book series with a few spin offs here and there in the Vedaverse. The second book in the series, The Raag of Rta, is called ‘Dance Of Shadows’ and is halfway complete.
Q) A lesson one can learn from the book?
You should laugh every moment you live, for you’ll find it decidedly difficult afterwards.
Q) How your life changed after the book was published?
Oh, it has been a fantastic ride so far. Being a lawyer, my life so far had been full of challenging cases, exciting arguments and late night drafting. But the circle was limited to fellow lawyers and the occasional CA. Being an author has allowed me to connect with people from all walks of life who have enjoyed my book – especially the international audience who have been so generous in their reviews and love of Sons of Darkness. And I won’t lie – I like this taste of fame and intend to marinate in it for as long as the Fates shine on me.
Q) What made you choose the cover and the title of the book?
All credit to the beautiful mind of Micaela Alcaino from UK. I had fallen in love with Micaela’s designs on IG and was insistent on engaging her. And I am so glad she liked the book’s premise and agreed to play Michelangelo. The only suggestions I gave her were in the form of potential themes the cover could reflect-which I’m happy to say, she has incorporated with style.
Eclipse – I wanted a symbolism for darkness that is ‘active’, and thought Eclipse was the perfect candidate. The fact that it also plays a clever pun on the word Sons (Suns) Of Darkness quenched my Pratchett/Wodehouse leaning
Warrior – The other suggestion I had was putting the character of Satyabhama, a war-chief and the third wife to a senator in the book, on the cover. This was to create a gender balance with the word ‘Sons’ in the title because women really are the story movers in the book. The Wolf and the Fire-well that is something I do not want to spoil for the readers but I promise you once you are done reading the book; the symbolism behind it will hit you like a trainwreck.
Asymmetry: What I love most about the cover however is how it throws symmetry to the wind. No centrally positioned object or mirrored themes. The cover has that kind of good tension where everything is not predictable, and the whacky angle of the wolf cross-positioned with Satyabhama makes it dazzling.
As for the title, Sons of Darkness basically refers to (a) all characters in Mahabharata who never got their ‘screen time’ and remained shrouded in darkness, and who finally get the limelight in my book, and (b) Son of Darkness, the prophesized hero of the book who turns into a not-so-much-of-a-hero.
Q) What is a literary success for you?
For me, it is about awing someone who reads my work. It is about giving them the escape from the humdrum of daily life so they can fly on the wings of Icarus in the world I have created. There is nothing more satisfying than a DM telling me how much they loved a particular scene or a character. But it has only been 2 months since the release of my book. So, I’m sure later on, an award or two, or a million copies sold might not hurt (winks).
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