Kaffeinated Konversations interviews The Master of Horror, Neil D’Silva about his first book Maya’s New Husband and Pishacha as well as two ebooks and other short stories. As Neil unravels himself and muses about his experiences with his first book in this detailed interview… we are not responsible for the sudden chills that you feel 😉
Our deepest fear is not the darkness. It is the unknown within our mind that shakes us up.
THE BOOK (Maya’s New Husband)
KK: How long have you been writing?
ND: I began writing novels in 2014, or to be more specific, the NaNoWriMo 2014. So, it is close to three years now that I am writing novels. Before that, I did freelance writing from 2004-12, and translated movies from Hindi to English (professionally) when I was just 12 years old.
KK: What kind(s) of writing do you do?
ND: As a freelance writer, I have written a lot of stuff. I have written website content, brochures, marketing journals, theses and reports, quizzes, articles for marketing purposes, and so on. But now, I write only for myself. I have two full-length novels out now, Maya’s New Husband and Pishacha, and two short story collections, The Evil Eye and the Charm and Bound in Love. In addition to these, I write short stories for my website and blogs, which you can find here.
KK: How did you become involved with the “subject or theme” of your book?
ND: Call me weird, but I have always loved to explore dark subjects revolving around human characters, like you and me. The idea of Maya’s New Husband came to me out of my observation of newly-married couples. I wondered, “How much do these people really know about each other? What if one of them is hiding a deep, dark secret that can endanger the other person?” That was where it all began.
KK: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
ND: Horror has always fascinated me, even as a child when I picked Dracula and Frankenstein in preference to Enid Blytons. I then read Agatha Christies from cover to cover and marvelled at the way the stories were created. Naturally, when I took the pen to write myself, these influences poured out.
KK: What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
ND: Our entire culture is sustained by a thread, and that thread is literature. Everything you see around you — mythology, religion, science, philosophy — everything is gleaned from the relevant literature in that field. In the days that we did not know the art of writing, we passed on stories orally. The value that writing, reading, and storytelling have on a culture is that they build the culture! It does not get any bigger than that.
KK: How does your book relate to your spiritual practice/beliefs?
ND: I am not much of a spiritual person and I am still discovering my beliefs. It will definitely be a lifelong process for me. As such, I do not wish to claim that my books relate to any spiritual practice or beliefs. They are pure works of fiction.
KK: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
ND: I had only one goal — to get as many people to read it as possible. That is always my ultimate goal with any book. So far, I am quite happy with the kind of readership I am getting. They are intelligent readers who are looking for something interesting to read.
KK: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
ND: I can share one anecdote here. Well after Maya’s New Husband was released online as an eBook, I met a person. She is an avid traveler, the backpacker kind. As we chatted, she told me about how she has seen various facets of aghori life. That piqued my interest further and the conversation flowed. One of the incidents she mentioned impressed me so much that I included it in the book and released a second edition! It does not affect the story but it is a wonderful backdrop element that sets the tone of the scene.
KK: What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
ND: Among the secondhand references, I checked on a lot of documentaries and reading resources in libraries and online about the aghori way of life. My lifelong interest in these ascetics also helped me. It is difficult for me to conduct firsthand research because my books are about little-known subjects like occult practices. Most of my writing is a figment of my imagination based on known references.
KK: What do you think most characterizes your writing?
ND: There is a wide variety of topics I intend to write on. Even within the horror genre, there are several subgenres that I have to explore. However, one thing that probably sets me apart is that I like to explore human relationships. In my tales, the horror element is a peripheral catalyst. What’s more important to me is how it impacts my characters, and that’s what I intend to explore in all my works.
KK: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
ND: Writing in itself is a difficult process. However, what I will always remember is the writing of certain scenes in Maya’s New Husband that still cause me to shudder. I wrote this book at nights, after my family slept. Some of the capture and killing scenes in the psychopath’s sanctuary spooked me to bits. At times, I had to give up writing, turn off the computer, and surrender myself to the comfy confines of my blanket.
KK: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
ND: I have to confess, the gory bits! Writing that was a challenge and I was myself grossed out at times by the things I wrote. It was enjoyable because it was a challenge, not because of the content. Every writer worth their salt loves challenges.
KK: Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those.
ND: Maya’s New Husband is in English but it has a few Hindi words. But I have provided a glossary at the end of the book for those not familiar with Hindi. The rest of the language is quite simple for an average Indian reader to understand.
KK: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
ND: I would like to point out the aghoris who form the crux of the story of Maya’s New Husband. Aghoris are quite a misrepresented lot. Their leanings towards divinity are difficult to understand. My protagonist, Bhaskar Sadachari, thinks that he has understood the aghori culture, but he really has not. In fact, that is the main reason for his psychopathic behaviour.
KK: Are there misconceptions that people have about your book? If so, explain.
ND: One of the misconceptions I faced early on is that people tend to think all Indian horror books are supernatural horror. The general understanding is that all Indian horror has bhoots and chudails. Blame the Ramsays for that! They were surprised to know it is psychological horror, especially because it is from an Indian author.
KK: What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t so?
ND: I partly answered this above. The average Indian horror reader thinks horror is only supernatural. It is most definitely not. There are dozens of other horror genres which are not explored in Indian literature. Even terror is a kind of horror, and it is the undercurrent of terror throughout Maya’s New Husband that makes it what it is.
KK: What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they need to know?
ND: They don’t know that horror is used in several other popular works of literature without actually labelling it as horror. You will find a lot of horror in our myths and mythology too. Horror is not always subversive; most times it is quite a thrilling read because it stimulates all our senses.
KK: What inspires you?
ND: Books from other authors inspire me. The shows I watch inspire me. Movies inspire me. Tales I hear from people around me inspire me. Well, the label on a medicine bottle inspires me. A good author seeks inspiration from anything and everything.
KK: Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
ND: I have to credit my father for that, without a doubt. My father was the greatest bibliophile I ever knew. The one thing he’d always bring home, even if he was short of money, was books. We had a whole room filled from the top to the bottom with his books. During lonely afternoons, I would browse through his books — which included all kinds of content — and just immerse myself into those worlds. Slowly, somewhere, I graduated from travelling in those worlds to creating new worlds of my own.
KK: How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
ND: Everything that has happened in my life so far — good and bad — has shaped me to what I am. For my serious writing career though, I need to credit my wife Anita. If she had not insisted that I write and then persisted as I wrote, I would never have written my novel. Even when I gave up a lucrative coaching class to pursue my writing career, she was my pillar of support and still is.
KK: Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
ND: My earliest influences were gothic horror writers such as Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. Edgar Allan Poe continues to be a big influence. Somewhere when I was a teenager, I discovered Stephen King’s haunting worlds and still continue to discover them. I also enjoy the works of Clive Barker and Thomas Harris.
KK: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
ND: The most useful thing is that you have to just write. At first. Do not worry about how it turns out. As the cliché goes, the worst thing you write is better than the best thing you never wrote. The least useful thing is a lot of “advice” that keeps coming my way. I don’t regard such advice much and that’s the reason I don’t even remember it right now to write it here!
KK: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
ND: I am the soul of a writer who is born in a man’s body. I hope that answers your question.
KK: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
ND: I was a teacher for two decades. I had a coaching institute in Mumbai where I taught English and other subjects to high-school students. This gave me very good insight on human tendencies and how everyone is so different from each other.
Currently, I have an editing services company named Pen Paper Coffee and have recently registered a film production company named Zovie Media Ventures LLP.
KK: How do you find or make time to write?
ND: Despite my other obligations, I do ensure that I write for at least 4-6 hours a day. My best times are early in the morning before the rest of the family wakes up and after dinner till bedtime. On days that I am lucky, I am able to write more in the afternoons and evenings as well.
KK: What is your role in the writing community?
ND: As the founder of For Writers By Authors (FWBA), one of India’s largest Facebook communities for writers, I often find myself mentoring and guiding new authors who are looking to hone their craft and find a toehold in the writing world. At the same time, my community is also a place where I learn new things from people who are more knowledgeable than I am. With Litventure, an annual litfest that I founded in 2015, I hope to create better readers.
KK: What do you like to read in your free time?
ND: I am a voracious reader. In any given months, I endeavor to read 4 books – an award-winning book, a book from my genre (horror), a light read, and a book by an author friend. This month of January 2017, I am reading The God of Small Things, Cujo, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime, and Birds of Prey.
KK: What projects are you working on at the present?
ND: I am writing the sequel to Maya’s New Husband, which is titled Maya’s New Husband 2: The Birth of the Death. I am creating short stories for HACK, a collection that I hope to release soon. I am also in the process of writing Littleglass, a full-length novel.
Apart from my writing, I am quite engrossed with the filming activities of my company Zovie Media Ventures. Our plan is to acquire stories from authors and translate them into film.
KK: What do your plans for future projects include?
ND: I will be sending out Maya’s New Husband 2: The Birth of the Death to my previous publishers, BruteGorilla (for paperback) and Readify (for digital publishing). I will probably self-publish HACK as I need to keep the rights of these stories to myself for my future plans. I will send out Littleglass to traditional publishers sometime in October.
KK: What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
ND: That’s difficult! People have asked me hundreds of questions about Maya’s New Husband that I think we have exhausted that pool already.
KK: For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?
ND: At the Prologue, of course! However, to get the feel of the book, they could read the sample on Amazon or on my website.
KK: How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
ND: Print books will always be my first love because I was born in a world where we had only print books. I have a huge collection of them which I am quite possessive about. However, I am not averse to reading on digital platforms either. I read a lot on my Kindle and am trying to read on my phone as well. Currently, I read equally on both platforms.
KK: What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
ND: These are two things that are not going anywhere. The day they go, the world as we know it will perish.
KK: What process did you go through to get your book published?
ND: I have been highly fortunate in this regard. I self-published the first three of my books — Maya’s New Husband, The Evil Eye and the Charm, and Bound in Love — and traditional publishers came my way. The only thing I did was create a good social media visibility for them. My fourth book — Pishacha — was optioned with a traditional publisher even before I started writing it.
KK: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
ND: I have been told that Maya’s New Husband is quite a unique story, the like of which has never been attempted by an Indian author. It has psychological horror and gore, but I think the one thing that makes it different is the relationship between Maya and Bhaskar that I have explored through the tale.
KK: Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
ND: I like to write intuitively. I build my characters and then allow them to take the story forward. My characters are real. For me, they live and breathe. I just give them existence. In real life, sometimes people behave in illogical and irrational ways. My stories showcase such illogical behavior as well.
KK: What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
ND: My primary place of promotion is social media and my website. I have an active author page on Facebook which I use to engage with my readers. I am also fortunate enough to be invited to several physical events where I get an opportunity to talk about my books. It does detract from my writing time, but I am not complaining. Few things are better for an author than a chance to discuss his creations with readers.
KK: Something about MNH2 that you want to share with your fans and ignite their curiosity.
ND: MNH2 takes the story of Maya forward. Keeping up with the title Maya’s New Husband, Maya will meet another husband candidate in this one. There will be horror again but in a very different way from the first book. Maya is more sensible now to commit the same mistakes again, but danger can come in shocking ways.
KK: Something about Pishacha that makes the readers pick up the book (ebook currently)?
ND: Pishacha is one of my favorite works so far. The story starts slow but soon things happen and the story gains momentum, even reaching epic proportions. At the core, it is a story of rebirth between a human and a non-human entity. If I were to categorize it, I would put it in ‘paranormal-romance’, but the story also has several shades of being a mythological or historical fantasy.
*Kaffeinated Konversations did a Review of Pishacha and it can be read here.
KK: Horror and Love are opposing aspects, how easy or difficult was it for you to blend it in the book, Pishacha?
ND: I wouldn’t say horror and love are opposite aspects. I’d rather say they have probably not been put together in many books so far. That was my initial challenge with Pishacha, actually, but I need such challenges to motivate me. If you think about it, all love is scary. There is the fear of the unknown that pervades through every relationship. I just gave it a supernatural face. That’s how it worked.
KK: Since this is a blended book. How many well known authors you know have tried this?
ND: In India, I am not aware of any. But paranormal romance is a big thing in the US.
KK: Thanks a lot for giving us your valuable time for this lengthy interview. We are glad to know about the author who has so many facets rather than just “Master of Horror”. All the best to you for your future endeavors!
ND: Thanks for the wonderful questions. 🙂
Connect to Neil D’Silva on:
Buy his books from Amazon
Neil D’Silva is a Mumbai-based author of Indian fiction. He has released three solo books so far, two of them traditionally-published and one self-published, and is looking forward to release his fourth book traditionally in 2017. His name also appears in two
anthologies and is the winner of several literary competitions.
He is a known name in India’s literary world. The online writers’ community he founded on Facebook, named For Writers, By Authors, now has over 17000 members, included several celebrated authors from India’s literary world. This community also spearheads the annual literary event Litventure, which is a brainchild of Neil D’Silva. He is also the co-founder of Pen Paper Coffee, an editing services company. Currently, he is on the verge of launching a film production company that aims to adapt Indian literature into film.
He was the principal and a teacher at an educational institute in Mumbai named Disha Educentre from 1998 to 2016.