With ‘The Perfect Flaw,’ and ‘Butchers of Malevolence’, young writer Sailesh Mishra has two novels to his credit. Besides, he has penned several thriller stories that have captured the hearts of his audience. At the age of twenty, he has already authored four books. In an interview with Orissa POST, Sailesh talked about his writing success as well as the difficulties young authors face in India. Excerpts:
What inspired you to start writing?
To be honest, during schooldays my extracurricular interests were primarily debating and speaking. I took up writing more as a hobby, something which I did not take very seriously. I wrote diaries, essays, articles and even imaginary movie plots… a guilty pleasure. Then some of my schoolmates and seniors encouraged me to write more. A super senior of mine was a prominent poet in our area and had published a book on poetry as well. He inspired me to take up writing seriously. My maternal uncle, who passed away last year, was also an inspiration. They encouraged me and helped me reach where I am right now.
What difficulties did you face prior to your first publication?
Frankly speaking, being published without a bunch of money in hand and at the age of 18 is not easy. This generation is obsessed with over the top teenage stereotype romances and that is what most of the publishers want to bring out. Anything other than that — with the exceptions of mythological thrillers nowadays and contemporary poetry — are usually rejected. I published two anthologies before trying my hand at a novel. It required more planning than I had expected. While I was working on the novel, I started contacting several writers, publishers, professional editors from social media and others. Finally, a publisher from Delhi, Author Paradise, who published the two anthologies as well, offered me a deal I could not refuse. Thus, I had my first published novel, ‘The Perfect Flaw’. It stayed on the Kindle science fiction bestseller charts for more than ten weeks, which is more than I could have ever asked. Things were never the same again.
In today’s scenario, how easy or tough is it for a young amateur writer to get published? What tips would you give to someone who wants to get published?
Well, with utmost honesty, I must say that writing a book of around forty or fifty thousand words and editing it is not a piece of cake. Personally speaking, I did not spend much money to get my work published and I feel blessed that way. But yes, if you have got good stuff and you are confident enough, then try to bring your work to publication irrespective of the capital you possess. Because as the saying goes, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’
Tell us something about your publications.
My first published feature in an anthology named ‘The Iridescence’ starts off with a prostitute being brutally murdered by her client who turns out to be a psychologically unstable serial killer. Yes, that is how the tone of my works is sometimes. I am more of an Anurag Kashyap, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese guy than a Karan Johar guy. My first novel, ‘The Perfect Flaw’, is a teenage action thriller with a bit of science fiction. This book is for people of almost all ages. But my second book, ‘Butchers of Malevolence’, is an R rated thriller. It is fast paced, dramatic, unflinchingly brutal and sometimes downright disturbing. Coated with a dash of black humour and stylised violence, this book is laden with elements of all sub genres like survival, crime, murder mystery, family, psychological, political, contemporary, sci-fi and even dystopian thrillers. In short, it is not your typical bedtime story but one which would keep you awake at nights. This book focuses on the problems of the world including drug abuse, rapes and molestation, child trafficking, pollution, failed governments, evil corporations, harmful politics, greed and lust. I know people with short attention spans have issues reading books. I am one of them. So,my works have been crafted to appeal to such people as well. I am personally thankful to my publisher The Write Order who provided me enough freedom so that I did not have to compromise on the intensity of the content.
Do you prefer writing fiction to engineering?
Ah well (chuckles), my engineering college has played a vital role in whatever I am today. I always wanted to study literature but my twelfth grades were not good enough for which I failed to express my desire to study literature before my parents. Now, I love my chosen stream, computer science, and I feel my engineering background has helped me evolve as a story teller.
Who is your favourite author?
Well, this is a tough question. I have grown up reading Rabindranath Tagore, Ruskin Bond and Charles Dickens. Then I shifted to Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho and our very own Amish Tripathi. But the contemporary authors I was inspired by the most are Rick Riordan, David Baldacci and Ashwin Sanghi.
What is favourite genre?
My favourite genre is thrillers. I love contemporary fantasies as well, but thrillers would be the one I would grab wherever I go.
With great friends come loyal foes. What do you have to say to your critics?
Ah, I love this line! ‘With great friends come loyal foes.’ And this is true. Well, a film is as good as its villain. There are two kinds of critics, those who genuinely want us to improve and those who want to coat us in flour, breadcrumbs and fry us in hot oil. I personally thank both of them. Because they are not obstacles but just some mean mouthed signboards signalling me to avoid the real obstacles.
You started your own magazine. What prompted you to take this decision?
Well, the idea initially was to have somethinglike a blog and a friend wanted me to lead it. We took it forward by gathering a well-organised team. The name of the magazine is ‘ExaVaganza’ and the name of our team is the Vestige. We have a good number of people from all overIndia. We believe in the power of the youth to bring about change in the literary and social scenario of the country. Not just that, we also conduct events like open mics, comic book events and so on throughout Bhubaneswar. Plus, we are on our way to developing an application software to help writers.
Where do you see yourself as an author and as an individual in the next five years?
We are a generation with some of the most amazing talent. With the advent of social media and platforms like YouTube, nothing is hidden nowadays. I would like to contribute something worth remembering to this generation in the area of literature. It might be my books, it might be ExaVaganza.
Do you think there’s a gap in the Indian fiction scene?
Yes, there definitely is. I mean the audience is clearly divided and scattered. Nowadays, anything with a stereotyped cliched romantic plot becomes a potential bestseller no matter how mediocre. If you have something out of the box to offer, you should have a strong marketing campaign to back it up. Indie and local authors have often failed while some with one lucky hit in their writing career are enjoying celebrity status despite having nothing new to offer to the readers. This needs to change and it is up to us as readers to do that.
The books on your reading list currently?
‘The Spy’ by Paulo Coelho, ‘The Keepers of Kalachakra’ by Ashwin Sanghi, ‘Sita’ by Amish and Split Second by David Baldacci.
Would you like to try a different genre of writing in future?
I would like to write something in the fantasy genre, something less like Harry Potter and more like ‘Game of Thrones’. It’s high time an Indian author created something like that.
To whom do you owe your success?
I owe my success to my parents, Shyam Sundar Mishra and Utkalika Tripathy, who were with me as I spent my vacations working continuously through sleepless nights. I also owe my success to my friends who never stopped believing in me. My maternal uncle was my best friend who always stood by me. But most of all, I wish to dedicate my success to all those aspiring writers hoping to get a break. I would say to them, ‘If we don’t step up ourselves, nobody will.’
RASHMI REKHA DAS, OP