A Conversation With Anurag Anand

BLW: Let’s welcome the renowned Indian author Anurag Anand to Book Lover’s World.

Anurag Anand was born in Patna. After obtaining his primary education from Kurseong in Darjeeling District, he moved to Delhi. He completed his schooling from Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, New Delhi in 1996. Thereafter he did is B. A. (Hons) in Economics from Delhi University before pursuing his PGDBM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) from Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, Delhi (2000 -2002). He is a marketing professional with experience across sectors like pharmaceuticals, fast-moving consumer goods and financial services. His love for the reading started with his near addiction to comic books during his initial years.

Anand’s writing career began with the book Pillars of Success (2004), a self-help book that owes its genesis to his association during his college days with the Delhi based NGO, UNES. As a part of the Youth Development Program of UNES, he delivered lectures on aspects of personality development to school students across the country and it is the learnings from these interactions that he summarised in his first book. Since then he has written eight titles in with nine published titles in the self-help, general fiction and historical fiction genres.

Anurag Anand: Thank you for having me here. It is indeed a pleasure to be amidst Book Lovers and answering some particularly intriguing questions pertaining to my works.

BLW: Firstly, congratulations on the success of your ninth book Birth of The Bastard Prince – The Legend Of Amrapali. Tell us a little about yourself.

Anurag Anand:Thanks once again!

Once I held the first printed copy of my book in my hands, I knew that this vocation was going to stick for a while. There was no looking back for me thereafter.

The written word has fascinated me for as long back as I can remember and during my childhood I was often reprimanded for spending more time with comic or story books than I should have. It was only natural then that I seized the first possible opportunity to write a book that came my way. I was 24 years old then and the outcome was my first published work, Pillars of Success (Self-help). Once I held the first printed copy of my book in my hands, I knew that this vocation was going to stick for a while. There was no looking back for me thereafter.

On the personal front I am an gregarious and fun-loving person who likes to spend time with friends, meet new people and drop his hair down every once in a while. In fact the contrast my personality presents to the stereotypical image of an author is such that my friends continue to express surprise over my literary pursuits till this day. My day job is with a beverage major in Gurgaon and I stay in the city with my wife and three year old daughter.

BLW: We know that you are one awesome versatile writer. Tell us about your book Birth of The Bastard Prince – The Legend Of Amrapali, what it means to you, and how did you conceive the idea of writing a sequel to the bestseller – The Legend of Amrapali? How long did it take to write this book?

Anurag Anand: Birth of the Bastard Prince is a sequel to my earlier book, The Legend of Amrapali. As the name suggests, the two books deal with the life story of Amrapali – the yesteryear courtesan from the kingdom of Vaishali. While The Legend of Amrapali traces her ascent to the morally depraved yet coveted pedestal of the ‘Nagarvadhu’ or the city’s bride, Birth of the Bastard Prince delves into the later years of her life. From her romantic liaisons with the neighbouring king Bimbisara and the political machinations that saw her being pronounced a traitor of her motherland to her eventual attainment of nirvana under the aegis of Gautama Buddha, the book tells a story that many have found gripping. And I can only be thankful to my readers for that. Also, for those who haven’t read the prequel yet, I have summarized its story adequately in Birth of the Bastard Prince for the book to serve as a standalone read as well.

When I started working on the plot for The Legend of Amrapali, plugging scattered pieces of recorded facts and folklore with a liberal dose of fiction, I realized that the story was likely to end up as a thick, heavy book. This was in direct contrast to my objective of taking Amrapali’s story to the masses as the length of the book would have proved prohibitive for money. Hence, right at the onset I had decided to split the story into two books. It took me about a year to write The Legend of Amrapali and another eight months to script Birth of the Bastard Prince.

BLW: Birth of The Bastard Prince & The Legend Of Amrapali, are written with a contemporary flavour, a fantasy fiction! We would like to know the home work you did to write this book.

Anurag Anand: I wouldn’t term the books as fantasy fiction. In fact they would perhaps be better classified as works of historical fiction.

I had heard tales and snippets from Amrapali’s life during my growing up years, though, none comprehensive enough to qualify as her complete story. The intrigue this resulted in was further heightened when I couldn’t find any comprehensive life-account of her. The recorded facts about her life were abysmal, primarily residing as anecdotes in Buddhist scriptures. It was then that I decided to construct her story around these facts, relying heavily on the threads or folklore and my own imaginings. Hence, while I can’t claim complete factual accuracy of the narrative, it most definitely revolves around history.

The research that went into writing The Legend of Amrapali was extensive. From visiting the historical ruins or Vaishali and the ASI museum which displays artefacts from the era that Amrapali lived, to reading nearly every piece of literature that touched upon the subject, the effort required was actually humongous. However, the toil was placated somewhat by the enthralment that the exercise held in store for me. Today I am glad that I opted to write on this subject as it has left me better informed about the glories of our shared past.

BLW: From Self Help to Historical Fiction, you write different styles and genres. Would you be sticking to one preferred style and genre in future?

Anurag Anand: No, I don’t think I will ever be in a position to commit to a particular genre unwaveringly. A major reason behind my writing is that I derive immense satisfaction from it, and hence, I write what I feel like writing. While I am working on a particular manuscript, I like to immerse myself in it, not permitting my thoughts to waver into what I will be working on next. I guess it’s the financial security offered by my day job that allows me the discretion of putting my own desires over market-based factors like the need to be identified with a particular genre or style of writing. And I am only too happy to make full use of this discretion I have been blessed with.

BLW: When do you write the most? Is there a favorite place at your home or office where you write the most? Any props that you feel lucky to keep with you when writing?

Anurag Anand: I am not particularly superstitious when it comes to writing. From airport lounges to train compartments, I have had the experience of penning my words in a diverse range of places. When I am working on a story, I find myself subconsciously thinking about it at all times. And if I happen across an interesting turn of phrase or an exciting quote, I try to record it at the soonest, irrespective of the time of the day or the surroundings.

BLW: What are your inspirations? Do you like writing a historical fiction or a general fiction story?

Anurag Anand: I am inspired by the world around me – my family, my friends and even my acquaintances who lend my world its true colours. It is also highly motivating when my readers, after reading my works, take the pains of contacting me and sharing their feedback. This is perhaps the most compelling driving force behind my writing.

I find historical fiction
… a far more enriching…
genre to write in.

Historical fiction and contemporary fiction are just as diverse when it comes to writing as they are when one is reading them. While historical fiction allows the author to delve in the past and recreate characters or situations that readers might be, albeit vaguely, familiar with, contemporary fiction provides a platform to carve a story out of the world that the author resides in. However, despite the extra rigour it entails, I personally find historical fiction a far more enriching genre to write in. The feeling of having added your two bits to something that has already carved its place within the pages of history is truly satiating.

BLW: What books have inspired or influenced you as a writer?

Anurag Anand: As a writer I try and prevent myself from being influenced by other’s writings. I believe that each author has a unique style of writing and he or she is best served by sticking to it. Of course one can look at honing or polishing one’s natural style, but the quest to ape someone else can often prove disastrous.

BLW: We would be happy to know about any future projects that you are currently working on?

Anurag Anand: I have often been approached by aspiring authors seeking tips or guidance about writing or publishing their works, and this is the basis for the project I am currently working on. Tentatively titled – Scripting your Dream Bestseller – this book will serve as a step by step guide for aspiring authors to write, publish and market their works. I am relying on my own observations as well as insights from my author friends to make it a practical and relevant read for those desirous of experimenting with writing. All going well the book should hit the stands by early next year.

BLW: What other secret skills do you have?

Anurag Anand: Oh, I am a highly skilled man… I can touch my left earlobe with my write elbow, I can make paper planes that fly on infinite trajectories and other such. Well, that was just a pathetic attempt at humour – now you know why I refrain from experimenting in the comedy genre!

On a serious note, if you meant to quiz me on my interests other than writing, I do nurse a few. Traveling, playing (basketball & cricket), reading or simply hanging out with friends are some of my favoured pastimes. It is altogether a different matter that I am hardly ever able to find time to do justice to any of them.

BLW: To be a good writer, one should be a good reader. We know you enjoy reading books? What are the best books you have ever read? Name any five.

Anurag Anand: It is difficult to pick only five out of all the books that I have ever read and the list is likely to favour those that I have read more recently. But let me make an attempt anyway. So, my five favourite books, not necessarily in the order or preference, are:-

  1. Animal’s People – Indra Sinha
  2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  3. Freedom from the known – J Krishnamurti
  4. Madhushala – Harivansh Rai Bachchan
  5. Everything that P G Wodehouse has ever written

BLW: What advice would you give to all those aspiring authors who consider you as an ideal?

Anurag Anand: Well, the space here might prove inadequate for that, I have a book full of such advice coming out you see. However, I will say that if there is something that you really want to do, the best approach is to get on with it instead of intellectualizing over the right approach or process. Once you begin, you always have the option of taking corrective measures if you commit a mistake along the way. However, if you allow your uncertainties to restrain you, there is no telling if and when you will finally manage to take off.

BLW: Message for the book lovers in this world!

Anurag Anand: If you are in love with books, you have certainly found the right companion(s) for yourself. Books won’t hurt or abandon you, they will remain by your side when you want them the most and, what’s more, they will continue to enrich you right through your life.

Thank you so much for your time. It’s our pleasure to chat with you…

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