Paul’s Fantasy Writings has the privilege of hosting an interview with author Mainak Dhar, the best-selling author of the Alice In Deadland series, 03:02 and Sniper’s Eye, among many other novels. Recently, I got in touch with Mainak and he generously agreed to be interviewed.
Where do you live and have you always lived there?
I currently live in Mumbai, but I have lived in many different places in my life. As a kid, I lived in five different cities in India and Canada for over four years. Similarly, once I began working, I spent time in Singapore and Bangkok for a total of almost fifteen years. Living in different places and experiencing different cultures has made me appreciate just how similar we all are despite superficial differences.
You have written 17 books. If there is one, which is the one that you are most proud of?
Mainak: (*smiles*.) That’s a bit like asking a parent which of their kids is their favourite.
This blogger: (*chuckles*.) Yes, I see that. That’s a good analogy.
Mainak continues: Each book has its own special story encompassing what I was feeling at the time, as well as the memories associated with it. Perhaps the book I am most proud of is one I actually have not written – it’s my son’s first novel, written when he was ten years old. It’s a fantasy novel called Secret Tails-Shungilandian History for Humans. Seeing him discover his passion and then have the dedication and commitment to see it through at that age made me proud; to know that I had a small part to play in inspiring him makes me proud, doubly so. Moreover, I believe that pride should never come from what you have achieved. Rather, from making a positive difference to someone else through what you have done.
This blogger: Wow! I feel warm and fuzzy reading that, and I am not even a parent! You must be so proud and happy seeing your son find his passions and interests. I also really like what you say about pride. It shows the quality of your character, Mainak.
I have seen on IMBD that your Alice In Deadland trilogy is going to be made into a TV series. You must be excited for that. Are you going to be involved in the production of the series and when do you think it will be released?
I am very excited to have my work reach more people. The Alice in Deadland series is under development in the US. I have also recently sold rights for two of my novels in India – one to be developed into a web-series (03:02) and another into a motion picture (Sniper’s Eye).
With a full-time day job and a family (plus my writing on top), I don’t think I’ll be very actively involved in the production. As for the ‘when’, I learned long ago that things move at their own pace in the entertainment business. By the time a series or a movie is developed, scripted, produced and sold to a channel partner… it can be a very long journey. So, I’m not thinking much about that. I am just happy that people see the potential in my stories to reach new audiences in new media. I am merely getting on with what I can control and with what I enjoy most – writing.
This blogger: That is a very level-headed mindset for such exciting projects ahead. I, for one, hope that they come out soon in their respective mediums, and that they are adapted in a way that does your novels justice.
In two of my blog pieces, I discuss how to create an engaging villain or antagonist. What do you like to see most in villains, and which of your villains have embodied those characteristics?
The best way to create a ‘villain’ is to take that tag away when you create a character. When you think of a character as a ‘villain’, the danger is that you create a uni-dimensional ogre, who is a caricature – not a believable character.
Real people aren’t uni-dimensional. Sometimes, the most ruthless people are the ones who are the politest; serial killers can be charming; professional secret agents don’t ‘look the part’ i.e. most spies are not James Bond. Rather, they are respectable-looking, middle class office-goers. So, the secret to creating a strong antagonist is to breathe more into the character other than the purely ‘villainous’ part. For example, what’s his/her story? What has made them have antipathy towards the protagonist? Do they have any redeeming features? Also, a ruthless mass murderer can be a good father to his own children. I try and do that with my antagonists.
Moreover, in the world we live in today, we need to acknowledge that the definition of who is a ‘good guy’ and a ‘villain’ is often shaped by media narratives and driven by political agendas. Simplistic views of the ‘other’ beamed across TV screens and political rallies make it easier and more convenient to hate and dehumanise those we consider ‘outsiders’ or ‘villains.’
Really, we need to seek to understand other points of view. In my recent novel, Sniper’s Eye, the protagonist actually gets to understand the supposed antagonist (the sniper) better. Once they get to know why they are trying to kill each other, they actually realise that their notions of who is the ‘good guy’ is flawed. This is because they are both being played by someone to serve an agenda.
Of all the characters you have created, which is the one who is most like you? And why?
Many of my characters share one thing in common with me: they are doing something, and they define themselves by that narrow definition; but then they discover that they’re destined to do something else – and be someone else – altogether to make a much broader difference to others than just living for themselves.
In my recent thrillers 03:02 and Sniper’s Eye, I have characters who are doing a ‘normal’ office job and focused on keeping their heads down. That is until they are thrown into extreme circumstances. Then, they learn who they’re really meant to be and must rise to fulfil their purpose to protect others.
For example, Alice thought her life was defined by defending her own settlement; that her purpose was just to kill Biters. Subsequently, she learns that her destiny is to serve millions of others and to bridge the divide between humans and Biters, instead of hating them. I can empathise with that. A few years ago, when I was younger and stupider, I narrowly defined the purpose of my life as being successful and having a great corporate career. Now, I realise that that is just a means to an end; that my purpose is to be the best husband and father I can be. Plus, I try to make a positive difference to others around me through my work at the office and through my stories.
This blogger: First, I think the characteristic you’ve given many of your characters is a wonderful trait, and true for many people in this world. Therefore, it is no surprise that your characters go on journeys and change because of their experiences.
Second, I genuinely respect how you have come to see the purpose of your life. Even if you were once ‘younger and stupider’ than you are now, something tells me that you were always intelligent and a joy to be around. Additionally, through your stories, you have brought entertainment and happiness to hundreds of thousands of people. That is quite a feat, and a testament to you as a person.
If you could give your younger self some advice about the writing process, what would it be?
Keep writing; don’t wait for inspiration to strike. I lost a lot of time waiting for the ‘next big idea.’ I now know that writing is a muscle like any other – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. So, if you don’t have an idea for the ‘next big novel,’ write an article, a poem, a blog post, a review – anything – just write every day.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Honestly, I have found my anti-Kryptonite – my family. Whenever I feel down about something, or have self-doubt, I spend time with or remind myself of the two people in the world who love me for who I am, who believe in me, and who count on me. That gets me back into the groove very fast.
This blogger: That is beautiful, Mainak. Truly beautiful. I have never come across the term ‘anti-Kryptonite’ before. But a family seems like the perfect anti-Kryptonite, I must say. Please God, one day, I will have a family. I will remember this term when I need it most, and I will use it to spur me on. What’s more, I will have you to thank for it.
How has writing changed you?
It has made me learn more about myself and about the people around me. Also, I think over time it has made me more balanced as a person.
Have your family and friends read any of your books? If so, what do they think of them and how do you feel when they talk about them with you?
The first person to hear all my ideas is my wife. We have been together for over 14 years. As it happens, she doesn’t like action thrillers. So, having to put up with listening to all my ideas, which involve varying degrees of mayhem, is a reason she deserves a medal (among many others).
My wife is my sounding board and my first critic. My son is now at an age when he’s started reading my work – he just read Alice in Deadland. That was a special moment for me as it was the first time he read one of my books. Furthermore, In my recent novels (03:02 and Sniper’s Eye), my protagonist has my son’s name (Aaditya). When he’s ready to read those in a few years’ time, it will be fun for him to see his namesake in the thick of the action.
This blogger: First, your wife sounds like an amazing woman – the sort we all need for a life partner. That she is willing to discuss your ideas with her, even though she doesn’t like the thriller genre, shows that you have a wonderful marriage. Equally, if I may say so, she is lucky to have you for a husband.
Second, watching your son read your Alice In Deadland series must have been an incredibly heart-swelling moment. (I hope he enjoyed it.) Also, it’s very cool that you’ve given the protagonist in 03:02 and Sniper’s Eye your son’s name. It will be fascinating to find out what he thinks of his namesake when he is old enough to read those books.
In your most recent book, Sniper’s Eye, what would you like readers to gain or learn from the story?
The charming and kind-hearted Mainak Dhar (not to mention best selling author) in his home in Mumbai, at ease with himself as he smiles for the camera.
The inspiration for Sniper’s Eye came from the world around us. We see conflicts in many parts of the world where young people are fighting (and killing themselves) in the name of religion or patriotism. Yet, they never really thinking about the purposes they’re serving.
Sniper’s Eye tries to put two individuals together, who on the face of it are enemies, and get them to discover that perhaps they need to work together. That way, they can fight those who are actually creating the conflicts in which they and their loved ones are mere pawns. As I write in the book, we live in a world where the young and the poor fight and die in wars started by the old and the rich.
What is your next book called and when will it be released?
My next book is the sequel to Sniper’s Eye. It should be released very soon; hopefully, within the next three months.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
The most important role I play is to be the best husband and father I can be for my family. So, I try and spend as much time as I can with them. I have a full-time job in the corporate sector, and that takes up a lot of my time and energy. Outside of family, my job and my writing, I try and keep myself in shape. I run every day and I’m also a keen student and practitioner of Karate, where I hold a Black Belt.
This blogger: You do a lot and you seem to excel in everything you do. Keep it up for as long as you can.
End of Interview
That concludes our interview with author Mainak Dhar. I would like to thank him for his time, and to say that it has been wonderful and fascinating getting to know him. I wish him all the best for his future writings, his career in the corporate sector, his family, and his other ventures.
Mainak has written many novels that can be purchased at Amazon. For those who would like to read his brilliant Alice In Deadland series before the TV show comes out, click here. Furthermore, for those who would like to take a look at his thrillers, 03:02 and/or Sniper’s Eye, click here and here.
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