I met Ratan via email after he read another author's interview on this blog. Ratan reached out for his own interview and I'm so glad he did.
This story is one that needed to be told. Not only does it peak my interest, but I will learn about a culture that I know little about. And what an easy and unexpected way to learn about another culture, through a love story.
Thank you Ratan for your dedication, and all of your research that went into this book.
Below are the questions I asked him:
1. What is the definition of a chowk in Delhi?
Chowk is a town square‚ (aka Trafalgar Square‚), a prominent place or street in a city. Chandni Chowk, referred to in the novel, literally means Moonlit Street. It's situated in the heart of old walled-city of Delhi and along with the adjacent 300-year old Red Fort and the Jumna River flowing along its walls, it forms an important locale for my story. I have nostalgic memories of these areas as I lived there in my younger days.
2. How much research did you do for this book? And what was the most interesting thing you came across?
Ah! It took me over two years of research. It was accomplished in two phases: At the concept stage-in government archives, libraries, historical museums and over the internet.
After I'd worked out the plot, characters and locales, I supplemented the research by visiting the heritage sites of British India and the exact places where the characters were imagined to have lived. That's how I was able to add the flavour of the period into my novel.
During the research I found several interesting things. One related to a news report in the December 16, 1911 edition of The New York Times with the headline--LONDON HEARD THAT GEORGE V. WAS SLAIN. However, it turned out to be a false alarm.
I also came across various technological improvements that took place during the period of novel. You‚ll find the timeline of some such developments viz. Kerosene fed street lamps giving way to electric lamps and horse carriages being replaced by trams in the first decade of twentieth century. In fact the novel is dotted all along with references to such innovations.
3. Any epiphanies during your long walks on Lothian Road? Or any of the other locales you visited during the making of this book?
Yes, lots of them. When I visited Kashmiri Gate (one of the fourteen gates in the walled city of Delhi) On Lothian Road and saw the cannon marks on the gate, the events of British General Nicholson's assault on Delhi during the first Indian War of independence in 1857 flashed before my eyes.
There were others too. On the banks of legendary Jumna River in Delhi, I imagined the female protagonist Eileen, daughter of a British officer, having mysterious dreams of boating.
4. Do you see this novel becoming a movie? If so, who would play your main characters?
What I can say is that it has all the ingredients of a movie script, particularly a fast paced roller-coaster romance story with spectacular events of the coronation celebration of King George V in Delhi in December 1912, ravages of catastrophic World War I
(and the chilling trench warfare in Belgium and other European theatres of war), explosive political conflicts, intrigues in the palaces of princes and a suspenseful story with a thrilling end.
I'm not sure of the star cast... perhaps, a younger actress like Kristen Stewart would be right for the character of Eileen.
5. Describe your novel in 5 words.
A cross-cultural historical romance novel
6. Why did this novel have to be written?
I'm glad you asked this question. As you know, most of the novels on British India like A passage to India by E.M. Forster, The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott or The Far Pavilions by M.M.Kaye, were written by western authors. Obviously, they represented a
certain point of view.
I was longing to write a novel on British raj with an Indian perspective, adding to it the authentic flavour
of emotions, culture, language and traditions as were prevalent a hundred years ago in British India.
7. What is the funniest question a reader has asked you?
Whether I had the British actress Vivian Leigh (Gone with the wind) in mind while conceptualizing the character of Eileen. Of course, I didn't have her in mind and it was just my imagination.
8. Did you ever want to quit writing? If yes, what or who kept you going?
No. On the contrary, excepting occasional writer's blocks, I was fired with an urge to continue with the writing and finish the novel.
The inspiration continues and currently I'm working on two novels, one of which is a sequel to Wings of Freedom. I also feel encouraged by the pre-publishing praise by published authors as well as favourable customer reviews (4 and 5 star) and blog site reviews.
9. In the US, the publishing world is changing. What's going on in India? Do most authors still use houses or are they self-publishing?
Presently, it's mostly the traditional publishing. But, with the expected arrival of kindle India, the scene may change and there may be more of authors opting for self publishing.
10. Do you see this novel being a tool used in colleges?
A similar question came up in various forums of social networking websites, and there has been a general consensus that historical novels have immense educational value as they not only encourage critical thinking about events of the past in contrast with a plain reading of history, but also enrich the students‚ mind about other social science subjects like anthropology, archaeology, political science and
I take the liberty of giving an excerpt from a pre-publishing review on authonomy.com that will support this view:
"Wings of Freedom is a compelling historical account. I like your extensive footnotes which help guide the reader and make this work so educational. I didn‚t know much about the history of India prior to
reading this book. You succeed in taking the reader back in time and you describe the setting so vividly that it makes it easy to imagine the events which unfold."
11. What books are you reading right now?
It's the year of Titanic. Currently I‚m reading A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. There are more on my TBR list.
12. Did you use a professional editor before submitting your work?
Yes, I did. I consider that an editor can play an important role by giving an unbiased feedback on the manuscript as also in checking whether standard techniques of writing fiction have been followed.
For example, my editor was a stickler for maintaining single POVs in a particular segment and we had quite a few arguments on that.
13. What are you working on right now?
One is a sequel to Wings of Freedom, covering the post World War I years from 1918-1947, with the backdrop of accelerated freedom struggle against British rule leading to Indian independence as also
the happenings of World War II. Another is a paranormal fiction having a blend of historical and contemporary and is set in various locations in the US, Scandinavia and India.
15. What one lesson have you learned from writing this love story?
I realized that writing steamy, explicit or erotic romantic scenes is not in my comfort zone. I prefer to write love scenes‚ rather than sex scenes.
In my novel there are quite a few subtle‚ and passionate‚ romance scenes but all within the boundaries of love scenes.
16. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
The comments and reviews of your blog readers can go a long way, not only in spreading the word and promoting my current novel but also in improving my future writing.
17. Who is your number one cheerleader? The person who helps you obtain your dreams and goals?
It's not one but many cheerleaders...I mean the readers providing good comments and reviews keep my morale consistently high.