An Interview With Ashwin Sanghi: Bestselling Author Of The Rozabal Line, Chanakya”s Chant And The Krishna Key

“Rejection is part of the process of getting published. Whenever you feel dejected, just remember that Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 140 times”’s Shivangi Singh got a chance to interview best selling author Ashwin Sanghi who is an entrepreneur by profession but writing historical fiction in the thriller genre is his passion and hobby. His second book Chanakya’s Chant, has remained on AC Nielsen’s India Top-10 for over 18 months.

1. You are an entrepreneur as well as a well-received author. How do you juggle the two hats? Do you plan to turn a full-time writer any time soon?

I currently work five days a week, full time. I use travel trips, weekends and early mornings of workdays to write. Besides work and writing, the only other thing that I have time for is my family. The two worlds of business and writing are radically different, except for the fact that I have been able to use some of my business skills in the marketing of my books. I prefer to maintain walls between my parallel lives though. Many people ask me why I haven’t given up my business life for my writing career. My gut instinct tells me that I enjoy writing because I see it as something that’s radically different from my business avatar. The day that I give up business, I may possibly begin to view writing as my work rather than as my passion. I am terrified that the creative juices will stop flowing in such event. It is in my interest to make both my worlds coexist peacefully.

2. Coming from an educational background of Economics and Business, what inspired you to write? Tell us about your journey into the world of writing.

My maternal grandfather was a voracious reader and poet who would send me a book each week to read. At the end of the week I had to send him a one-page letter about why I liked or disliked each book. Up until 2005, I had remained a voracious reader without having any idea that there was a writer lurking inside of me. In that year I visited Rozabal–a shrine in the heart of Srinagar, which carries the legend that the person buried there is none other than Jesus Christ himself. I was fascinated by the story and began reading and researching everything that I could lay my hands on. Twelve months and fifty-seven books later I had multiple theories swimming in my head. My wife casually suggested that I should try weaving the disparate threads into a single cohesive whole and that gentle nudge got me started on The Rozabal Line.

3. Your bestseller “Chanakya Chant” is being adapted into a film. What will be your expectations from the movie? To which extent would you be involved in the project?

You need to address this question to UTV who bought the film rights to the title from me. UTV is in the process of finalizing a screenplay as well as the final casting. I am not involved in any part of the activity. I am one of those people who work on a novel for 18-24 months and after finishing it moves on to another project that can absorb my creative energy. I get bored with an existing story idea. I’m happy that there is a great team at UTV that’s putting the film together and I’m certain that they’ll do justice to the book. Beyond that it would be unfair of me to make any premature announcements.

4. For your book “The Krishna Key”, critics are of the opinion that “the obsession with mythology has gone too far”. What do you have to say for this? How do you deal with criticism in general?

I rarely bother about the views of self-appointed critics. The only views that I always listen to are the views of my readers and fans. The vast majority of my readers have loved the premise of the book. The problem, however, is that one can never create a work that will appeal to everyone. No matter how good your work, you will always find someone who didn’t appreciate it. That’s the very nature of a creative pursuit. I don’t discount readers’ opinions when they criticise, in fact, I listen to them very closely. But the ultimate decision on whether I wish to incorporate their advice into my next work is entirely mine and I would never give up that liberty. The day that the direction of your work is determined by assorted opinions you cease to be yourself.

5. In your book “The Krishna Key”, you seem to have made many assumptions. What do you have to say for “horse not being indigenous, landscape in Rigveda being more close to central Asia and Indian origins are supposed to be dark and not fair”?

The Aryan invasion theory that has been fed to generations of Indian students in history classes is the biggest lie ever propounded. For the longest time, we were told that the Vedas and the Upanishads were not products of the Indus Valley Civilization. We were told that the Sarasvati was a mythical river that never existed. Well, you know what, satellite mapping has now showed us that the ‘mythical’ Sarasvati was real and that it flowed from Rajasthan into the Rann of Kutch. We also know that the Sarasvati is mentioned repeatedly in the Vedas. This tells us that the Vedas and Upanishads were products of the Sarasvati civilization. We now also know that 2000 of the 2600 so-called Indus valley sites were actually along the banks of the Sarasvati. The drying up of the Sarasvati would have resulted in migrations eastwards–towards the Ganges basin–and westwards towards the Tigris-Euphrates basin. The connections are there if one looks at it with a fresh approach and open mind.

6. What, in your opinion, is the secret of your success? What message would you like to give to aspiring authors in India, especially those juggling between a regular office life and writing?

I was rejected repeatedly by the publishing industry. I had to self-publish my first novel, The Rozabal Line. How does someone who is viewed as ‘unpublishable’ suddenly become a bestseller? It is my belief that the only thing separating many good writers from success is the stubborn and thick-skinned approach of getting up after every failure and rejection. Rejection is part of the process of getting published. Whenever you feel dejected, just remember that Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 140 times, Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times, Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected 12 times. Remember one more thing: Strength is not about lifting weights in the gym. It’s about lifting yourself up when you are knocked down by life. For those who are juggling between office and writing, please remember that I have been juggling between the three W’s of my life for over the past seven years–Work, Writing and Wife!

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Ashwin Sanghi’s first novel, The Rozabal Line was self-published in 2007 under his pseudonym, Shawn Haigins. The theological thriller based upon the theory that Jesus died in Kashmir was subsequently published by Westland in 2008 in India under his own name and went on to become a national bestseller, remaining on national bestseller lists for several months.

Ashwin’s second novel, Chanakya’s Chant, a political thriller with roots in ancient Mauryan history, shot into almost every bestseller list in India within a few weeks of launch. The novel went on to win the Crossword-Vodafone Popular Choice Award and UTV acquired the movie rights to the book. The novel has remained on AC Nielsen’s India Top-10 for over 18 months.

Ashwin’s third offering, The Krishna Key, a fast-paced and riveting thriller that explores the ancient secrets of the Vedic age and the Mahabharata. It was released in August 2012 and shot to #1 on the A.C. Nielsen all-India fiction rankings within the first week of its release.

Ashwin is an entrepreneur by profession but writing historical fiction in the thriller genre is his passion and hobby. Ashwin was educated at Cathedral & John Connon School, Mumbai, and St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He holds a masters degree from Yale and is working towards a Ph.D. in Creative Writing. Ashwin lives in Mumbai with his wife, Anushika, and his son, Raghuvir.[/box]

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