We did not know much about this brilliant, “new-age” author, Aditya Sudarshan, apart from the fact that he has penned two books – A Nice Quiet Holiday and Show Me A Hero; written a play, Sensible People, and several short stories and television scripts. He also writes literary criticism for The Literary Review and other publications. Having reviewed his second novel – Show Me A Hero recently, we managed an interview with the tall, dark and handsome young man.
Describe Aditya Sudarshan in three words
An ordinary guy.
From law to writing, what triggered the break-through?
It wasn’t a breakthrough so much as a gradual process, of realizing where my interests lay. I used to write on the side during law school (I wrote my first novel in my final year) and then also during the nine months that I was practicing law. By then, I knew that I was quite deeply invested in fiction writing, that I had a feel for it, and it was important that I should focus on it. And after I got my first novel accepted for publication it gave me the confidence to make the actual career shift.
Most young “new-age” authors steer the safe route by choosing contemporary fiction and write clichéd stories, but your novels – A Nice Quiet Holiday and Show Me A Hero are both murder mysteries. What tempted you to start off with this genre?
When I began writing, I didn’t think much about the question of genre- I just wrote what attracted me at the time. I find suspense and mystery very effective as moods- as the colouring of a story. And I also like exposition- to be able to deliberately engage with strange and striking human behaviour, and try and explain the secrets of it. Crime fiction (at least traditionally) encourages not just raising questions, but also answering them- or trying to. That’s the sort of challenge I enjoy.
Which of the two novels was easier to write?
I would guess the first novel, A Nice Quiet Holiday, because it is less complex than the second and I wrote it more instinctively. I think first novels tend to be more fluent in the writing (maybe not in the reading.)
Any aversions from the critics that you faced for any of your books?
There have been positive and negative reviews, but the truth is that most critics haven’t engaged with either book enough to talk in terms of either acceptance or aversion. This is nothing to do with my writing in particular either- it’s a general malaise. Our English fiction critics are pretty poor at handling ideas. Unless they have guidance from elsewhere- which they won’t, for a home-grown, non-big-ticket book- they don’t seem to consider it their job to engage with the substance of a story. Instead, they concentrate on language, ‘literary-ness’, sentence construction, style- and invariably these things hi-jack the more basic and in my view more fundamental issue of what a book is saying. Perhaps this stems from the perennial doubts about the ‘correct’ use of English and the validity of English writing in India- but whatever be the reason, it’s a crippling state of affairs. You can’t get anywhere if you are forever wondering whether the right foot goes first or the left.
What’s your take on the current literary scene in India?
I can speak about Indian English fiction. The scene is poor. There are the ‘youth novels’, the lad-lit and the chick-lit, which are commercially successful, but are written by authors who aren’t really writers and read by an audience that doesn’t really read. But that’s all fine- that’s not what makes the scene poor. What makes it poor is that among the set of people who do genuinely love books and writing- and who use English as a first language- there is a tremendous lack of confidence. This is the community which should be expressing itself, talking to itself, creating a deep body of work- but unfortunately, an intellectual dependence on the West and a general sense of self-loathing have prevented that from happening. It’s a sure sign of weakness when you are always clamouring for the ‘next big thing’- instead of putting your head down, introspecting, and just doing the actual work.
Name one book (or author) that has had the most impact on you?
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays.
What next do we see from your desk?
At the moment I’m writing a play. Plays are difficult to publish, but hopefully it can get produced.
From law to writing murder mysteries to plays to televeision scripts; Aditya seems to be well versed with the art of capturing the attention of his audience. We surely look forward to reading more of his work. And a chance to watch the plays.
To know more about Aditya, check out his blogs/reviews.