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Interview with Abhijeeth Hiliyana

He is an engineer by profession and a storyteller by passion. His works mainly deal with Indian mythology and history. His dream is to bring forth stories set in rich Indian myths and history.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
 I almost committed to a Ph.D. in computer science before I realized my passion lay elsewhere.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
My next novel will be the conclusion of my Vijayanagara trilogy. Based on the life of Ramaraya, the son-in-law of Krishnadevaraya. The novel is finished and is with my agent at this moment.

Q.3 When did you decide to write the Krishna Deva Raya series?
I have always been fascinated with the history of the Vijayanagara empire and Krishnadevaraya from my young days. Of course, my first exposure to the great emperor was through the stories of Tenali Ramakrishna. 

But that was a small part of the life of Krishnadevaraya, and I wanted to read a book that would depict his life story. When I discovered there were very few books based on his life, I decided to write the books myself.

Q.4 What drew you to the historical fiction genre?
I am a prolific reader, and while fantasy and sci-fi are my first passion, history is a close second. I love the works of Conn Iggulden, Simon Scarrow, and Bernard Cromwell, to name a few. I had, till now, written only fantasy novels, but I decided to write about the life of Krishnadevaraya, the greatest emperor of Vijayanagara.

Q.5 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have written four books till now. A high fantasy novel based on Indian Mythology known as Age of Apostasy: Knife Edge. An alternative history novel set in the Maratha empire called Gardi Rebirth. Finally, the two historical fiction novels are based on the life of Krishandevaraya.

Q.6 Which character(s) in this book spoke to you the most?
I think for me, it’s the two protagonists, Krishnadevaraya and his love interest, Chinna Devi, who both brought a unique perspective to book.

Q.7 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?
The history of the time period. The politics and struggles for supremacy and how Krishnadevaraya and his family finally rose to power.

Q.8 What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
The research, I spent nearly two years trying to understand the culture, the politics, etc.

Q.9 Is there a type of character in general you think is overdone in the historical fiction genre?
Two things come to find.

1. Depiction of a hero to be an over-the-top fighter. Able to mow down thousands of enemies single-handedly.

2. Trying to show modern sensibilities in the characters, i.e., depicting a society closer to our own than reality.

Q.10 What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
As a writer, the best advice I have received is to write daily.

Q.11 Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
My family, especially my wife, has always been a pillar of strength. My literary agent and my publisher, Hachette.

Q.12 How do you select the name of your characters?
With this novel, it was easy as I was working with actual historical personalities.

Q.13 Tell us about your writing process while you’re working?
I usually write for half an hour every morning despite my mood and then continue to write more if I am in the flow.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
Writing for half an hour is one of the first things I do waking up every morning.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
They are incredibly supportive, from acting as my readers to providing me with ideas. They also help me to brainstorm new ideas.

Q.16 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good and bad ones?
Yes, I always read the reviews. Like everyone, I feel thrilled reading good reviews. The bad reviews, especially the ones which give feedback on the story or the writing style, are something I read in detail. As a writer, I feel it is one way to improve our craft.

Q.17 Who designed your book covers? How do you select him/her?
The book covers were designed at Hachette.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
This is a tough one. There are so many people I wish to meet, but I guess if it has to be only one person, then I would like to meet the protagonist of my novel Krishnadevaraya. I would love to know how he managed to forge one of the greatest empires of India.

Q.19 What books have most influenced your life?
Again, it’s a tough question. There are so many books. As an author, I think my most significant influence is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which I read in my college. It greatly influenced me, especially the sheer scale of world-building and characters. It was one of my main inspirations for starting my own writing journey.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
I guess like a great many writers, I have had my share of ups and downs. I have loved the feeling of being accepted by a publisher and then my novel being released. To the struggles while marketing them. On the whole, it’s a great adventure, and I love it immensely.

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