Mumbai based Sukanya Venkatraghavan lives with her husband and a large congregation of cat and owl figurines collected from all over the world. Sukanya’s first brush with fantasy was as a film journalist in Mumbai, covering the glamourous world of Bollywood with publications like Filmfare and Marie-Claire. Having grown up listening to tales of Indian mythology and folklore narrated by her grandfather, as well as reading western classics, it was but natural that her progression to life as a writer would revolve around gods, apsaras, rakshasas and the like. Dark Things is her first novel.
Kulpreet Yadav (KY): Your debut novel Dark Things has received good reviews from the readers. Can you tell us why the story is so compelling and who have you written this novel primarily for: YAs or adults?
Sukanya Venkatraghavan (SV): While Dark Things features greater themes of identity, betrayal and free will, at the heart of the narrative is a love story or stories. I found myself fighting to accept the romance in the book initially but now that I have seen how people react to it, I guess that is most compelling about Ardra’s journey.
I wrote this story for anyone who loves books. I recently heard of a 90-year-old lady in Kerala who read Dark Things in two days so boxing it as just YA simply doesn’t work. I always say it is my job to write, to follow the breadcrumb trail laid out for me by my story and it is my publisher’s job to slot it in whatever genre they deem right. Having said that Dark Things is undoubtedly a work of fantasy.
KY: You have admitted that Hera, the evil goddess, is your favourite character in the book. Why this craving to like the antagonist?
SV: Hera was my favourite character to write. I can’t say I approve of the things she does. But I like her absolute unapologetic nature and conviction. She doesn’t give a damn and yet you see glimpses of her vulnerability. She was the most enjoyable character to create and bring to life. Also, we tend to root for the heroes. But that doesn’t mean we don’t secretly identify (in some way) with the antagonists.
KY: Your book, I have noticed, draws a lot from Indian myths and folktales. Your favourite characters from Indian myths and why?
SV: I grew up reading the Amar Chitra Katha and listening to stories by grandfather told me. My favourite characters would be Krishna, Karna, Hanuman, Garuda and Draupadi and Parashurama. I tend to like characters with deep flaws who are constantly challenged because of who they are and what they represent.
KY: The canvas of your story is much larger to be contained in one book and it is perhaps due to this reason that you have hurried through some scenes. Will you be writing a sequel, give more to the readers to chew?
SV: I never intended Dark Things to be a series but when I concluded the book I had a sneaky feeling it could have been two books (definitely not a trilogy). Having said that, I haven’t yet seriously considered a sequel. A spin-off with some of the characters perhaps, later on. A lot of my readers have requested a prequel, interestingly enough.
KY: Who are your favourite fantasy writers in India and abroad?
SV: JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, Laini Taylor to name a few. I feel fantasy is still a growing genre in India and there are some interesting books around. I am currently reading Shatrujeet Nath’s Guardians of the Halahala and I am looking forward to Krishna Udayasankar’s forthcoming book on Asvathama.
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