Usha Narayanan is a gold medalist with a master’s degree in English literature. She has had an eventful career in advertising, media and the corporate world, as creative director, features writer, web editor and communications manager. Her debut novel, The Madras Mangler, a suspense thriller, received excellent reviews. Her Pradyumna: Son of Krishna is a bestseller. Her Love, Lies and Layoffs is a rom-com published by HarperCollins. More at www.ushanarayanan.com
Nalini Priyadarshni: I read your first novel Madras Mangler and have been a fan ever since. It was such a well written murder mystery that one would expect you to follow with more thrillers but you have been experimenting with your creative abilities ― from thriller to mythological to romcom. Though as a reader I am not complaining, it would be interesting to know why this shift in genre after such successful books.
Usha Narayanan: I begin writing when an idea catches my imagination or when I visualize a character whose story seems worthy of being told. The genre becomes a corollary to the nature of the story. What is important is the telling of an absorbing tale with a fast-moving storyline. When I begin to flesh out my characters, I have even had to rewrite it completely as the characters begin to speak to me! That was how The Madras Mangler morphed from chick lit to a spine-chilling thriller.
Nalini Priyadarshni: Which genre did you enjoy more and why?
Usha Narayanan: Each genre was rewarding in its own way. The Madras Mangler was an intellectual exercise that helped me figure out the grammar of a page-turner. This facilitated the writing of Pradyumna: Son of Krishna as well. Love, Lies and Layoffs forced me to write with a lighter hand, as it focused on contemporary office life and all that came with it ― fun and romance as well as power games and politics. The most challenging, yet most enjoyable genre was that of epic fantasy which I delved into with Pradyumna. The challenge lay in researching and then recreating a rich, bygone world where colossal figures strode the earth. The reward was in discovering forgotten stories from our epics and eliciting the wisdom of our ancients.
Nalini Priyadarshni: Since you always have a surprise for your readers up your sleeves may I ask what we should expect next?
Usha Narayanan: The next is, of course, the sequel to Pradyumna, scheduled for release by Penguin in mid-2016. Pradyumna has been very well received by readers, featuring consistently on bestseller lists and capturing attention in other countries as well. This of course means that the onus is on me to ensure that the sequel is even bigger and better than Book One. The last few months have been rather hectic with the back to back release of Pradyumna and my romcom Love, Lies and Layoffs. After finalizing the text and cover of the books, there was the excitement of the release, then events and promotions, followed by interactions with readers and reviewers, answering interviews, etc. This has left me rather exhausted, as you can imagine. So, I might just take a deep breath once I complete my sequel and commune with myself before taking up my next project.
Nalini Priyadarshni: As much as we enjoy your stories, we are interested in knowing the author who cooks them, too. How would you describe yourself?
Usha Narayanan: I am a friendly, optimistic person who likes to think that people are good until they prove otherwise. I plunge wholeheartedly into my work, sparing no effort to master the skills required. This focus underlies whatever success I have achieved in varied fields ― advertising, radio, corporate communications, and now as an author. I have a never-say-die spirit and do not hesitate to speak up for what is right.
Today, I’m living my dream–writing for myself and my readers!
Nalini Priyadarshni: What do you do when you are not writing?
Usha Narayanan: I read voraciously ― everything from thrillers to romances and fantasies. I watch movies that are fresh and entertaining. I also like to travel, especially to cities steeped in history such as Melbourne, London, Budapest and Prague. Recently, I have begun travelling within India, discovering the glories of our civilization that goes back many thousands of years. A recent trip to the Pancha Dwarakas, or five cities associated with Lord Krishna, helped me explore Pradyumna’s world and the culture and faith of our people.
Nalini Priyadarshni: Who is your favorite Indian author under 40?
Usha Narayanan: Nikita Singh. She’s got style and spirit and it will be interesting to see how her craft shapes up in the future.
Nalini Priyadarshni: Which of your three books do you consider your best book & why?
Usha Narayanan: Pradyumna: Son of Krishna was the toughest to write and hence nearest to my heart. It is wonderful when readers mention different aspects of the book as their particular favourites and tell me that they cannot wait to read the sequel.