After the success of Simoqin Prophecies, Samit Basu launched his second book The Manticore’s Secret. He spoke to Rishi Majumder

Photographer: Mukesh Panchal

So where did the idea for the fantasy series come from?

A month into an MBA course at IIM, I was very depressed when my sister sent me loads of fantasy books to escape. Reading these had me wondering why the good guys who’re asked to come over to the dark side never go over. What would happen if they did?

And when did you leave MBA?

I left a month into my course, one morning at 2 am, in the middle of an MBA assignment, once I’d figured out how my book would end.

And how’s your second book distinct from the first?

It’s darker, more grown-up. I hesitated using a lot of ‘tricks’ with Simoqin Prophecies, because I thought it’d be a bit much. The second time round, I was more confident. Especially tackling parts where there were voices in characters’ minds, throughout. On the other hand, I was also more conscious of what the readers would expect of me, as the first book had gotten nice reviews.

Your work is descriptive, and the characters go through an intense ‘inward journey’ too.

Yes. I also feel I’ve grown as an author with the second book. So I confidently wrote passages filled with description. Also, the third book will have a lot of elaborate war scenes, so I have to get used to writing like that. When it comes to characters, what I dislike about many fantasy writers is that their characters don’t change, for all the heroic deeds they accomplish.

Your first book had a lot of Bengali references. The Manticore’s … has fewer.

Yes, I got a lot of flak for that and it’s very unfair! I had as many Japanese or Egyptian references as Bengali. It’s just that people didn’t understand those. They thought, “Here’s a Bengali writer. So he’s just using Bengali references.” Anyway, people read more references than there actually are. I’ve been accused of parodying writers I haven’t even read!

Could you touch upon your creative journey?

This was one area where I was very organised. I did a lot of reading — various mythologies from Indian to Greek to Egyptian to Japanese and fantasy writers — then I worked out my mythology plots (right up to detailed twists) and characters. Then I wrote the first book. I wanted it to be a stand-alone novel as well as something which had opportunities for a sequel. Once I’d created my world, I could write 50 books after that. The problem was, and is, holding it in!

There are various social or political comments that could be drawn from the novels though they’re fun. Especially The Manticore’s…

Yeah, I don’t have any agenda as such. But with this one I had fun going a little deeper. I strike a balance between talking about serious issues and fun.

Fantasy must be great in terms of ideas. There’s no restriction…

Well, fantasy has to have a real world to refer to. Take The Life Of Pi or Alice In Wonderland. You often have to write gritty realworld writing a fantasy novel. But yes, a realistic novel will have a particular scope, depending on the issue it deals with.

And next?
I am focusing on the third of the trilogy now. After that I plan to do a graphic novel. I am really excited about that!

samit basu

This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/tjqu


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