After having two novels rejected by publishers, author Sharath Komarraju struck a deal with his debut novel, Murder in Amaravati, which is now in stores. Murder in Amaravati – an unpardonable thriller brings to life well-delineated characters, those that one can find in every village. Over all these characters lurks the ghost of Padmavati, the beautiful young woman whose body is found in the sanctum of the Kali Temple. This book is a classic thriller where every character has an alibi, and everyone is a suspect till proved innocent.
Sharath Komarraju who is only 26 years old spent most of his childhood and early youth in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. When he was sixteen he moved to New Zealand and returned to India after 3 years.He started writing seriously when he was twenty-two. Until then he had strictly been a reader. There had been occasional blog posts, online reviews, letters to friends and all such informal forms of writing. He tests software for IBM in the day and by night he morphs into a writer. He likes writing and reading in that order. He also enjoys movies, music, sports and company of good people. In addition to writing long fiction he also writes short stories for a bi-monthly called Reading Hour.
Tell us something about your book? Why should one read your book this weekend?
The name of my first novel is Murder in Amaravati. It is a murder mystery set in a village in Andhra Pradesh called Amaravati, which sits on the banks of River Krishna. It follows the classic murder mystery template – a person gets killed at the very start, there are a bunch of suspects with motives to kill; and it falls on the detective to piece the clues together and put together a solution at the end.
Why should you read my book? This question is impossible to answer without sounding arrogant, but I will try. People who have read my book so far have had largely positive things to say about it. They have said that the writing is easy to read without being juvenile; they have said the characters come out well; and they have said the plot is well-woven.
So good writing, good characters and good plot are the reasons – with the caveat that it is entirely possible that you might not share those opinions; in which case do feel free to write to me and vent your feelings. I empathise with the horrors of reading a bad book, even if it is mine.
What prompted you to start writing this book?
As I said before, I was fresh out of university and I was looking for a hobby. Writing was the only thing I could start straight away and pursue on my own. Almost every other hobby required either costly equipment or people sharing your interests. (For example, photography requires a camera and a tripod. Movie-making requires people. Art requires a lot of special stationery). I had a laptop with MS Word on it. I thought I had enough to start writing. So I did.
Did you have a target readership in mind?
No, I do not have a target readership in mind when I write. I write books about people that I enjoy writing about, with the hope that there will be enough people out there just like me, who will enjoy reading about them. So in that sense you could say my target readership is everyone who has the same reading tastes (and tastes in people) as I do.
How did you come up with the title?
The focal point of the story is a murder that happens in a village called Amaravati. So I called it ‘Murder in Amaravati’. No frills there.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I already have many mentors. Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King – all of these writers have been mentoring me for years (albeit without their knowledge). All the writers I admire are by default my mentors.
What do you feel about the impact of English fiction on the youth of today?
Human beings are story-telling animals. That is our oldest tradition. No matter what the language, if a story is well-told, we like to hear it. So in that regard I don’t think the impact of ‘English fiction on the youth of today’ is any different to the effect that literature of all languages all over the world has been having on people of all ages in societies from times immemorial. People read because they want to be transported to a world where they can live life through the actions and thoughts of someone else. This applies to fiction of all languages (not just English) and to people of all ages (not just the youth).
What do you have to say about the boom in cheap, low-cost paperbacks, some selling at less than Rs 100?
All’s fair in a free market. If low-cost paperbacks are consistently making money for their publishers and for their authors, and if they’re keeping their readers happy, who am I to say anything about it? It will just be one man’s opinion.
Do you think 2012 will see Indian authors outsell foreign ones, as even foreign publishers are shifting focus to publishing commercial Indian authors?
I suppose you could say nothing is impossible, but I am highly, highly doubtful that this will happen in 2012. Even a cursory comparison of the relative sizes of the publishing markets will bear this out. It may happen sometime in the next twenty years provided enough good Indian writers come through. From a personal point of view, I hope it does happen sooner rather than later.
Do you think 2012 will be a watershed year for e-books?
A person who runs a publishing company might be able to answer this better. I am as ignorant about this as the next man.
According to you, what is the biggest problem that writers face in the industry?
I have not faced any. Once you become a published writer, you live a charmed life. Writing itself is a terribly rewarding experience, and the fact that somebody else is paying you to do it is a great bonus. What is to complain about such a happy state of affairs? Of course, the road to becoming a published writer could be a long one. But that is true of getting established in any career – without exception. Why should writing be any different?
This whole trend of adapting books of Indian authors into films has been on the rise, would you like to see your book being made into a film? Whom would you like to see playing the main protagonist in the film?
I don’t think my book will translate well onto the (Indian) screen. It does not have a ‘heroic’ protagonist. It does not have a heroine. The only beautiful person in the whole cast dies before the novel begins. It does not have a romance and it is set in a village which has no electricity. No sane Bollywood producer would touch it with a mile-length pole. But that’s okay. I write books. If I’d wanted movies made out of my work I would have written screenplays instead.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Be disciplined. Respect your craft and fellow craftsmen. Strive to improve.
What are your future projects?
I have three more books under contract with Westland Books. Two of them are murder mysteries and one is a horror. They’re currently at different stages of the editing process and should come out, at different times, over the next year and a half. Writing-wise, I am in the middle of a novel.
Volume 2 Issue 3