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Interview with Prana Natarajan

Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself?
A. I am a strategy professional for a living. But I seek introduction as an author, a poet, and a storyteller.

Q.2 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
A. I have thus far authored three books- Three Halves, #MeToo Brutus, and Trinity by the Horns. Though #MeToo Brutus is my most topical work with a message to the society, my personal favorite is Three Halves. This book took me two years to finish writing. I let the characters develop and the plot firm up by giving it the time. It has been unanimously appreciated by all the readers for both character depth and the last few chapters of twists and turns.

Q.3 What is the modus-operandi of your writing process?
A. I put my thoughts together on Google Keep to capture the idea and execution. Then I develop it on Google sheets (very nerdy, I know) because I can always move the plot points back and forth. Then once I believe I have a good outline; I start writing in Google Docs. Then based on the flow, I change the outline too. I prefer to write during breaks, commute, in the mornings, etc.

Q.4 What’s the name of your upcoming book or latest release?
A. Yes, my most recent one is available as a Kindle-only version. It is called Trinity by the Horns. It's a blend of sci-fi with mythology.

Q.5 How did you come up with the title of this book?
A. The term Trinity has always had a religious or spiritual ring to it. The phrase Taking the Bull by its Horns also is a way of saying that a person is taking up a highly challenging task. Trinity by the Horns is an allegorical retelling, with the context of Gods running a space exploration start-up, creating AI-enabled bots that have initiated life on a planet.

Q.6 Wow, that’s an interesting and intriguing plot. What motivated you write Trinity by the Horns, a mix of mythology with sci-fi?
A. We often tend to look to the west for superheroes. No doubt that Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Mystique are interesting. But our own mythology has a lot of superheroes - male and female - that don't get their due. Trinity by the Horns is a retelling of a few excerpts from the Hindu mythology to make it an interesting read in today's world of startups, robotics and artificial intelligence.

Q.7 Among all the protagonists of your three titles, who's your favorite and why?
A. I love Shakti from Trinity by the Horns. She displays the essential attributes of the ideal corporate czar. She is adept at the resource utilization, be it man or machine, isn't hesitant to ask for help despite being ahead of her game and is far-sighted to deliver results that were above expectations of her stakeholders.

Q.8 What about the supporting characters? Who do think is dearest to you?
A. I've always believed that the hero of any story is good only if the villain gives a tough fight. With that in mind, I think AK Bhatt from Three Halves are my favorite. He knows he isn’t preferred by many yet he’s unapologetic about his ways. He follows the rules per his advantage but he is a go-getter and a stickler for protocol. Such traits may not be ideal but I've seen them help people in the cut-throat corporate world.

Q.9 Both Three Halves and Trinity by the Horns have some comic elements, but on the contrary, #MeToo Brutus is very serious. What inspired you to explore this serious issue?
A. Our society is suffering from an epidemic of abuse. I doubt if we’ll know any woman who hasn’t faced any form of harassment throughout her life. Many incidences go unreported owing to, ‘what will people say!!! Additionally, it isn’t just about rape that’s questionable. Catcalling or Pay Gaps among genders are examples of abuse too. 

Unfortunately, we easily forget such instances as we forget to drink water sometimes. My friends and family members have often opened up about the injustice that they’ve faced. Through #MeToo Brutus I’ve tried to highlight the multiple forms of abuse that countless, nameless, faceless women experience regularly. I chose to write about this issue because I personally feel that unless we talk about and fight it, this will continue to haunt the women in our society.

Q.10 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
A. Feedback and reviews are the most powerful tool of the end consumers of any product. As an author, I unquestionably seek reviews from my readers to gauge what they liked and what they didn’t. I read all my books’ reviews that I see on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and Goodreads. 

Good reviews give me a sense of relief. Bad reviews motivate me to write better. If and when I do get the chance, I usually ask the reviewer what s/he didn't like much about the book. Also, I've received honest feedback from my beta readers, which helps me in more ways than I can say.

Q.11 Do you also face writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
A. I think writer's block is like a child who does not want to do homework. Sometimes one needs to coax the child or be strict. I do some similar things. I either relax and do something that I like (coax myself) or I move away from that section and focus on another aspect of the story so that I stop myself from working on that aspect and return to it later.

For example, it took me two years to complete writing Three Halves. There were times when I wasn't sure about certain specifics about a character. At times I was frustrated or unsure. I stopped and channelized my energy into doing something else. On one such occasion, I ended up drafting a poem, which I tweaked to present it as the one written by Aisha for Samir.

Q.12 What do you consider to be your best accomplishment so far?
A. With Trinity by the Horns, I have three titles to my credit within six months. While this is a great accomplishment by itself, #MeToo Brutus was written in a record time of 45 days. Another feather in my cap is that I had sent copies of my #MeToo Brutus to Honorable Lt Gov Kiran Bedi, and she has graced the book with a foreword that will be included in the upcoming edition.

Q.13 Most fiction authors that I've come across specialize in a sub-genre (ex. Mythology, young romance, family drama, etc.). What is your niche?
A. Ensuring variety is what I believe is my niche. MeToo Brutus is halfway a story about women’s issues and then it becomes a vigilante story with a strong social message in the end. Three Halves is a novel that starts out as a love-triangle in-the-making and gradually transforms into a more intriguing plot. Trinity by the Horns is a sci-fi novel with names and snippets inspired by Hindu mythology. I suppose my niche is about involving strong women characters in all the plots. To me, the world or life, as such, is incomplete without a woman. Most women are strong, more than we realize. So, why not have them represented in our stories, too!

Q.14 Have any of your characters, across the three books, been chalked out on the basis of someone you know?
A. I prefer not to base my characters entirely on people I know in real life. In some cases, of course, I rewrite certain instances I have experienced as long as it blends well with the plot. Characters such as Sunny and Narad (Trinity by the Horns), A K Bhatt (Three Halves) and Hira (MeToo Brutus) is based on my observation of real-life incidents and experiences.

Q.15 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A. I will quote what another artist said: "Don't let your art have to beg for validation". While it sounds simple, it's a very deep thought.

Q.16 In your opinion, what is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
A. The unending problem of piracy. As it is bookshops are dying, publishers are operating at lower profits and new authors are coming up every day, all to cater to the same set of audiences. When piracy makes the books cheaper, it hampers the profits for everyone, causing revenue leakage.

Q.17 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. I'd love to meet fashion designer Ritu Kumar and thank her for re-introducing the mantra #NaariTumShaktiHo, which resonates very well with all my three novels.

Q.18 What is your favorite book by other authors and why?
A. I'm a huge fan of the book Arms and the Man. It was very inspiring. Bernard Shaw is an amazing author and playwright who has inspired me to conceive all my ideas as realistic as I could so that if it were to be staged as a play, it should invite applause.

Q.19 What advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
A. Please chalk out a good outline. A well-articulated outline is by itself the first draft. It’ll save you the additional effort required in giving quick fixes or reworking on months' worth of creative effort.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A. Compared to the great writers of our times, I feel my journey has just started. With each step that I’m taking, I’m adding something new to my treasure of experiences. Each of my books is different from one another and as I continue, I look forward to sharing more figments of my imagination with a wider audience.

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