I recently attended a local author event put together by Ahaana, a non-profit that encourages men and women in the South Asian community to speak openly about taboo subjects such as domestic violence, abuse, and abandonment. They increase awareness through community events like these.
I am usually nervous about public events, but the friendly audience put me at ease. I shared the stage with two amazing South Asian women. Davinder’s story and her courage were inspiring. Kelly is a legal powerhouse. I am looking forward to reading their books!
I chose to read some passages from Chapter Two: Queen Charu. Strong women come in many forms. Some of Charu’s struggles still resonate in the modern world. I wrote about her in an earlier blog post.
Writing is a solitary activity, so I cherished the questions after. It gave me a boost of energy. Susheela Narayanan from India Currents attended the event and featured it in the magazine. Thankful for her kind words.
As an author, I am grateful for the support of organizations like Ahaana. Please donate to their worthy causes.
While there was a Magadha kingdom in ancient India, my book is set in a fictional land of my imagination. Yes, I made my own map.
Magadha, an ancient empire in India, situated along the Ganges river valley, prospered between the 8th century BCE and the 4th century BCE. Gautama Buddha resided in the Magadha kingdom for many years.
My story, though, is set in a fictional land of Magadha and consists of three kingdoms—Malla, Padi, and Saral. This tale emulates the culture, laws, and religions of the 9th century CE to the 11th century CE in medieval India.
Why did I not use a real kingdom for my setting? I thought about it. Since I am writing about royal families and their battles and power struggles, a fictional land allowed me to tell the story I wanted to tell.
Malla kingdom is a composite of many kingdoms in India, including the Chola empire of Rajaraja I. Chola rulers used the symbol of a tiger as their royal emblem, and I borrowed that.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
Land of Magadha trilogy
Heir to Malla: Missing brother. Broken father. Rogue prince vying for her kingdom. Princess Meera is fighting for her land. Will she have to sacrifice her heart to save it?
Historical fiction allows us to experience the lives of humans of the past and to draw parallels to our present. As you read my books, you will see it resonate with many of our present-day situations. You can emphasize what these men and women went through and see where we have made progress and where we still have ways to go. My books magically teleport you to medieval India from the comforts of your couch. That is the power of fiction. Happy reading!
I love books with happy endings. They are like a warm blanket on a cold rainy day. But, in real life, our emotions come in waves. We are sad, happy, angry, jealous, all on the same day.
Even with my writing, I finished the final book in my trilogy with mixed emotions—glad to have completed the story to my satisfaction—at the same time, saddened to say goodbye to these characters.
My stories reflect that. I hope they bring you joy. Also, I hope they move you to tears. Read my books and fall in love with the characters.
Reading a story can allow us to find ourselves when we see our emotions reflected on the pages. A character’s journey can help you find courage for overcoming adversities in your life. Let my tales tug your heart.
Nivedita is a marketing consultant turned full-time mom who dreams up a lot more stories than she writes. She is currently trying to keep it all together – a house that cannot run itself, a toddler that runs everywhere by herself, and fragments of an erstwhile life. She lives in Bangalore. You can read her blog here.
Here is my conversation with her:
Hi Anna, it was so inspiring to go through your blog and read about your books! You have shown that it is possible to make something about the stories that are constantly jumping around in my head. I have so many questions for you! Here are some:
Q1. Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
I had many stories bubbling inside me, and I wanted to share them. Self-publishing gives me a lot of freedom with what stories I can tell. I write historical fiction loosely based on medieval India. If I had gone the traditional publishing route, these stories might have never seen the light of day.
Depending on your goals, you have to decide whether traditional publishing or self-publishing is the best option for you. Self-publishing is like a small business. The author is responsible for editing, cover, marketing, and more. This work might be daunting for some.
Some authors are interested in awards and recognition. For them, traditional publishing might be worth the wait.
Q2. How do you balance a career / paid work / full-time job with writing? As a related question, how do you manage your daily life – parenting, housekeeping, time to relax and unwind, and writing?
It is a struggle on some days 😂. I began writing only when my kids were older and more independent. At each stage in our life, we have to ask ourselves what is important to us right now. And find time to do it. It also means saying no to things that are not important. Time is a great equalizer. Every day, we all get the same 24 hours, nothing more or less. I write almost daily, even if only for a few minutes. It allows me to unwind from the stress of my everyday life.
Q3. Why did you choose to write historical fiction? What was your inspiration behind choosing medieval time?
I loved the stories I read about ancient Indian kingdoms, especially Chola and Pallava kingdoms in the south. A Tamil Author, Kalki’s books were a significant inspiration. I found it fascinating to think of someone born to rule. What their struggles and challenges would be. I also find it easier to explore themes like duty vs. self or women’s rights in this setting, far removed from today’s world.
Q4. What are the resources that were helpful for you while researching your novels?
I read several books on the craft of writing. I also read several historical fiction books. I studied the culture, food, and laws of the medieval period. Since my protagonists are royal siblings, I created a fictional land rather than set my story in a real kingdom. Though this is a work of fiction, I researched weapons, clothing, and spices to make sure they were in use during that time. For flowers and trees, I used old Tamil literature. For medicine, I used Ayurvedic text and several published articles for guidelines. Museum websites are a great place to research jewels and weapons. Internet is a treasure trove of information. From battle wounds to poisons, I have searched for some weird details.
Q5. Can you take me through your writing journey? Did the story pan out as three books from the start? Did you make an outline and flesh out the characters before writing the novel?
I wanted to write a series from the start. In my first story, I started writing without an outline. I stumbled and made a few mistakes along the way. For my next novels, I created a rough chapter by chapter outline. Though I deviated from the storyline in my final story, having this synopsis helped me.
Q6. This question is very specific to novel writing, mostly because of its length. How do you edit it? I struggle to remember details and edit a 2000 word short story.
I wish I had a photographic memory. I keep a glossary of all the characters and their physical features, relationships, etc. Plus, I have an outline of the book where I tracked how many days have passed, seasons, moon phases, etc. I have two beta readers who read my chapters and provided valuable feedback. All of this helps, plus I re-read the book a few times before sending it to my editor.
Q7. Having successfully self-published three books (and with more on the way, undoubtedly), what pointers would you offer unpublished authors like me who have novel-length stories that they want to publish? What are the things to look out for while self-publishing?
Writing, like any art form, is not an easy way to make a living. So first make sure there is a passion to write. Then determine what stories you want to tell. Pick one of them and write a two-page summary of this. Read a craft book on fiction writing. I have a few in my Goodreads profile. These help with creating engaging characters. Become friends with fellow writers to form a support group.
Then write consistently, whether it is every day or every week.
For publishing, I recommend finding an editor to edit the novel. And getting a good cover for the book. There are many Facebook groups (SPF Community, 20booksto50K) dedicated to self-published authors where you can ask for advice or just read past posts. I highly recommend joining a couple of these. Most important of all, every author’s journey is going to be unique. Set your goals and march towards them.
What a journey this has been. Meera and Jay have been with me for over five years, and they feel like my friends. Friends who rule kingdoms and fight in battles. I am blessed to be able to share this story with you.
In this trilogy set in medieval India, I have mostly explored the conflict of the heart. There are plenty of enemies for my protagonists, but the ones that need to be slain are the ones within.
Meera has always done what is right for her kingdom and family. Can she do something that is right for her?
Jay thought ruling a kingdom was a colossal burden to bear. But being a father proves to be more arduous.
I cannot wait to share this conclusion with you in 2022. Wish you a very happy and meaningful New Year.
How does a dutiful daughter find the balance between her own desires and the needs of her kingdom? Princess Meera has fallen in love with a noble warrior, Rish Vindhya. But, when her brother disappears, she must make the difficult choice to either follow her heart or protect her beloved land. Can Meera keep her kingdom safe, or is her brother’s disappearance in enemy territory just the beginning of greater troubles?
Meera had married to save her kingdom. And in time, she grows to love her generous husband and builds a family with him. Then forced on the run with Rish Vindhya, her old passions are rekindled. What will the dutiful wife do about a love that cannot be acknowledged nor denied? Especially when kingdoms are at stake?
I am writing the conclusion to my Land of Magadha trilogy. Though it is hard to say goodbye to these beloved characters, the story is approaching the ending I had envisioned from the beginning.
This is when I have the most fun. Writing my story. Making my characters fall in love, despair, or rage. I have a rough outline for the tale, but I have already taken some detours. Sometimes, my characters surprise me with their fear, jealousy, or tenderness.
A lady in my book club recommended Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I am embarrassed to say I had never heard of the author before. I read the book and loved it. It is based in 19th century China, and most of the story takes place in the women’s chamber. No voyages or epic journeys in this novel. Instead, it revolves around a woman’s life in that time and the protagonist’s friendship and family ties. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved the emotional tug of heart. Have you read any other Lisa See novels that you would recommend?
Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev – This is an Indian American twist to Jane Austen’s classic. I have read other books in the Rajes series, and the author keeps getting better with her flavors, characters, and tales.
And Then You Loved Me by Inglath Cooper – Great love story filled with family drama and sacrifices. Similar notes to Heir to Malla, though my book is set in medieval India. Isn’t that the marvelous thing about human nature that allows us to enjoy books set in different cultures and periods?
How many books do you write a year? That is a question many authors get. Or a variation of it, like, when is your next book coming out?
It took me five years to write my first book, Heir to Malla. I had stories running in my head. But it took time to take the images in my head and translate them to words on a page. I stumbled, made mistakes, changed my beginning.
My second book, War of the Three Kings, took a year to write and publish. I have learned how to plot a book chapter by chapter. With an outline, my task became easier. Words flowed naturally, and there were fewer revisions.
Along the way, I found my pace. One book a year is one I can consistently meet without sacrificing my family time or other commitments.
Some authors publish one book a month. Hats off to them. Others take three years to write their masterpiece. There is no right or wrong answer here.
As writers, it is vital to find a schedule that works for us without impacting our mental or physical health. And still, produce great books that bring joy or excitement or passion to our reader’s hearts.