WKND Interview: Amish on being an author and brand manager

Dubai - Amish talks about why his books resonate among the young and why authors need to be storytellers first.


Anamika Chatterjee

Published: Thu 17 Dec 2020, 11:02 PM

Last updated: Fri 18 Dec 2020, 10:38 AM

His books have sold 5.5 million copies and have been translated in multiple languages. Clearly, Amish’s novels, that often draw heavily from ancient Indian mythology, have struck a chord. Interestingly, many of his readers are young millennials who, we often simplistically assume, don’t have attention spans for novels. In an interview with WKND, Amish talks about why his books resonate among the young and why authors need to be storytellers first.

We often assume the young don’t read. The sales of your books have punctured that notion. What is it about your books that attract a young readership?

When I began writing, I wasn’t really thinking in terms of who is going to read my books. Now I am aware that most readers of my books are youth. People from all communities read them, and I think what appeals to them — and it’s a hindsight vision — is that they want to listen to a liberal message. But they want to hear it from their own, not from Western or Westernised voices that often tend to talk down on us.

Where do you draw the line between the material that’s already there and fiction?

At least some part of the story has to draw from what’s out there. One just has to do a lot of research, keep that information at the back of the mind and then let a story emerge. I also factor in plausibility in my plots and hence there aren’t too many elements of fantasy.

Recently, there has been a conversation on how fiction often tends to become historical truths for a certain audience. Given the popularity of your books, do you fear the same could happen?

I don’t think it will. And there is no false humility in this, but my books aren’t that good, so how can they be accepted as truths? They are a small contribution to a rich and ancient culture, which predates Bronze Age. There is no way what I write can be mistaken for historical truths.

How do you choose a story and the protagonists?

If an author sees himself as a brand, he will consider which subjects are doing well in the market, and will write accordingly. An author, in my view, cannot be a brand manager. If one sees oneself as an author, s/he should think in terms of what stories inspire them. What inspires me are stories from ancient cultures — the Shiva trilogy, the Ramachandra series and the story of King Suheldev. I heard the latter at a seminar in Goa five years ago. He is a historical figure who lived 1,000 years ago. He was the king of a small principality called Sravasti, and when it was invaded, he fought back with an army comprising members of all castes. It was so inspiring and, by god’s grace, the book did very well.

Your efforts at contemporising the language in your books has received criticism. Is it a conscious choice to keep your language informal?

My stand is very clear and I’ve stuck to that. I have released eight books till now, the ninth one is just going to release in a month. That’s a non-fiction book. In terms of language, I have stuck to a certain approach because language is a means to an end; it’s not an end in itself. Valmikiji would write very long sentences. His turn of phrase was so beautiful that even Sanskrit poets who wrote centuries after him would copy that style. Vedvyasji, on the other hand, was all about efficiency of language because he believed that language is a means to an end, it’s the philosophy that needs to be conveyed. I am more of a follower of Vedvyasji’s school of thought. Make the language clear, make it simple, direct. I want to convey thoughts and make it easy to understand.

Your books are very visual. And that is why they’ve also inspired the television series, etc. When can we expect a full-fledged film based on your books?

I’ve started my own production company to work on a movie based on Legend of Suheldev: The King Who Saved India. In fact, we are working on the script right now. The movie should be out hopefully in a year and a half to two years.

Khaleej Times has launched an online bookstore, Busy Reading Books. How can such initiatives, in your opinion, encourage reading habits?

What has happened with the pandemic is that the world has moved dramatically towards online. Behavioural changes that would have happened 20 years later have happened within a year. My mother who wouldn’t touch her mobile phone has now got used to it. Like it or not, this is the future. My books have not suffered on online sales, so I am not complaining. So, I am delighted to see Khaleej Times have its own online store.


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