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'Work Keeps Lakshmi Smiling, Writing Keeps Saraswati In Good Humour'

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Why this book? And why should a reader pick up The Krishna Key?
I am fascinated by connections  —  those between historical events, mythological stories and theological beliefs. I have attempted to connect the dots but via the medium of a fast-paced thriller. If you like fiction that sounds like fact — or fact that sounds like fiction — this is a book that you must read.

Why the inclination towards history and mythology? What were the influences in your life that inspired you to write these stories?
In fact, my inclination is not towards history or mythology, rather it is towards the overlap between history and mythology. Ask me to retell the Mahabharata and I would be bored stiff. Ask me to weave a tale that suggests that Krishna was a real historical figure or that the Brahamastra was a nuclear device, and you get me excited. My first adrenaline rush came from a visit to the Rozabal shrine in Srinagar. The folklore around the tomb was that the person buried there was none other than Jesus Christ himself. The fascination with the story resulted in 18 months of research and my first novel — The Rozabal Line. After that, I was addicted to the genre.
How difficult was it to put the book together? What was the kind of research you had to undertake?
The research was at several levels for The Krishna Key. First, I wanted to examine historical material that could tell us that Krishna existed, not merely as a mythological character, but as a historical one. Second, I wanted to examine the events of the Mahabharata in order to interpret them in a contemporary frame of reference. Finally, I needed to study archaeological evidence in relation to Dwarka. I ended up reading over 50 books — including the Mahabharata, Harivamsha, and Kalki Purana — besides more than a 100 research papers and spent several weeks on travel. After having collected over 500 pieces of historical material, it was very difficult to decide which ones would make it into the book. I eventually used only 200. That’s the nature of thriller writing, you can never compromise pace or plot even if you have very interesting material.
Tell us a bit about your writing habits... When and where do you write?
I write early mornings on weekdays and then put in a regular eight-hour day at the office. I use my Saturdays to gain writing momentum and leave Sundays entirely for family time. During the year I take four weeks off to write so that I may complete whatever happens to be my current project. Work keeps Lakshmi smiling and my writing keeps Saraswati in good humour… what more could I possibly ask for?
Where all did this book take you? 
Oh, it took me to several places — Somnath, Dwarka, Agra and Mathura, among others. I wasn’t able to visit all the places that are mentioned in the story but I did try to cover as many as possible. Who knows, one day these places could constitute the route map for a 'Krishna Key' tour?
Do you think management graduates are better writers  —  in terms of strategising the plot, the system of inculcating the writing habit, meeting deadlines. Well, does the discipline help your ability to write?
I don’t agree with that view. There are many writers who are very organised and methodical but those qualities are no guarantee of output or quality. Similarly, there are writers who work in a disorderly manner accompanied by bouts of infinite eccentricity but they still manage to produce terrific work. There is no formula for creativity. On the contrary, sometime a very disciplined and methodical approach also stifles the creative process.

The Krishna Key
By Ashwin Sanghi
Price:Rs 250
How did you find a publisher for your first book and subsequent releases. Tell us about your experience of self-publishing your first book...
At times, I felt that The Rozabal Line saga was a never-ending one. I began to think about writing the novel from 1999 onwards but never got around to it. I started seriously reading up on the subject from 2002 onwards but it was 2005 by the time that I actually started writing it. 
I completed it 18 months later and then spent a year trying to find a publisher. I was unsuccessful in my quest and out of sheer frustration decided to self-publish the novel so that it would become available on international book retail sites such as Amazon, WH Smith and Barnes & Noble. My problem, however, was that the book was unavailable to Indian audiences. I began sending out my book to Indian distributors hoping that they would agree to supply my stock to Indian bookstores but I soon realised that they were not interested in promoting anything other than books by established authors. 
Luckily for me, my book got noticed by Westland and they decided to publish an Indian edition on the condition that I was willing to spend another nine months editing it. I agreed. The book was introduced to the market in 2008 and went on to remain a bestseller for several months. The rest is history…
Most authors today have blogs, book websites, twitter IDs and FB accounts where they talk about the book. In the current scenario, what do you think is the role of the author beyond writing books?
The author is the best brand ambassador for his own work. If an author invests a couple of years writing a book, then it’s only common sense that he should invest a couple of months in making sure that it is noticed by his potential target audience. Beyond that, there are many writers who see themselves as shapers of public opinion on various issues but I neither have the inclination nor the time for that.
What’s your energy drink?
Strong coffee in the morning and a peg of whiskey in the evening keep me going! They fuel my frenzy and madness while I am working on a new project. The real fuel though is adrenaline and that seems to get pumped up the moment I have a juicy story to tell.
What makes a book a really good read or a bestseller?
Hah! If I knew that one, I’d write a bestseller about how to become a bestseller. At the end of the day, I try to focus on simply telling a good story. I then leave the results in the hands of my readers. By my yardstick, a book should grip you from the first few pages and keep you immersed until you emerge feeling entertained, educated and enlightened.

What's the hardest thing about being a writer?
Choosing which stories to write. I have hundreds of ideas in my head but am unable to figure out how to narrow down my choices. My situation is almost like that of the kid in the candy store!
What are you reading now? E-book or paper format?
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling on my Kindle.

So, what’s next?
A business thriller that kicks off with a historical event in 1946. It’s a departure from my usual obsession for ancient history.
(Compiled by Sanjitha Rao Chaini)