I have not read to and with my kids in many years but this is one that we could have definitely read together. The first two books in this series are set in an alternate universe, an earth-like planet Syzegis in a distant galaxy. This modern fantasy is a coming of age saga of Nujran, the Prince of Typgar and in the best traditions of Indian mythology, it has a little bit of everything – adventure, friendship, magic, romance, betrayal, loss, philosophy, ethical dilemmas with some guru-shishya relationships thrown in as well.
Krishna Sudhir is not your typical first time writer. A Bay Area physician and cardiologist by training, he is the author of over 180 publications in the medical field. In his first attempt at writing a book, he has taken the best things from stories he has read – Mahabharat, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings to name a few, and made it his own with a unique twist. Sudhir has conjured up some cool futuristic technology mixed with his medical knowledge to propel the story between the real and the fantastic.
Read it with your kids or by yourself. You will recognize many themes from our ancient puranas to the present day political situation. His use of vocabulary as a canvas to paint this alternative universe is brilliant while he challenges the reader to question many norms we take for granted. And if that is not enough, try to figure out the anagrams tossed into the book. Hint: Amsibh is Bhisma!
I interviewed Krishna Sudhir to learn more about the books and how he came to write them.
Tell us about your books. Catch us up, without giving away the punchline of course.
Nujran and the Corpse in the Quadrangle is the second in the Prince of Typgar series, a sequel to Nujran and the Monks of Meirar. The stories are set on the planet Syzegis, in a distant galaxy. In the first book, Nujran is a spoiled prince, who leads a comfortable life at the palace. Enter Maestro Amsibh, a gifted teacher with extraordinary qualities, and the prince’s transformation begins. Nujran travels with Amsibh, and experiences romance, conflict, friendship, betrayal, and loss.
Having published the first book, I felt there was more of Nujran’s story that needed to be told, and I wanted to have readers go along with him on all of his new adventures as he begins college. We begin the second book, Nujran and the Corpse in the Quadrangle on the campus of the University of Western Foalinaarc, where a body has just been discovered. Who is this girl, and why is she dead? There’s drama in plenty with fugitives on the run, turbulence on the university campus, fresh intrigue, a new romance, a strange kidnapping, an escape from prison, and a rescue mission where things don’t quite go as planned.
Who is the target audience for your books? What has the reception been so far?
While the books are targeted to teenagers and young adults, I’ve had readers from ages 8 to 85! It’s hard to predict who is most likely to enjoy a good fantasy fiction tale. The novels seem to appeal to readers with an interest in young adult (YA) fiction, sci-fi, or magical realism. An alternate universe, with multi-ethnic characters, many with unusual abilities, likely attracts fans of the Marvel and DC Entertainment films and comic books. The reception so far has been excellent; the stories resonate particularly with people of Indian heritage, both those living in India as well as abroad. Plus, I hope young readers from various immigrant and diverse backgrounds who don’t see their culture widely represented in YA novels will enjoy that aspect as well.
Can you give us hints about some secret anagrams that you have snuck into your books?
The names of many of my characters are anagrams or derivations of names in mythology and literature. For instance, Nujran is an anagram (plus an extra letter) of Arjun from the Mahabharata. Pholtorimes, a detective is a fused anagram of two favorite detectives, Holmes and Poirot. The names of many places are designed to remind you of locations on planet Earth. For example, Foalinaarc is an anagram (with a vowel switch) of California. Nadii is an anagram of India. I’ll let you guess the others!
Why did you self-publish your books? Can you tell us what you have learned about doing that and the wider publishing world?
The publishing industry is not kind to first-time authors. Additionally, as a physician, with a full time job in the Medical Device industry, I didn’t have a lot of time to go back and forth with agents, traditional publishing houses, and so on. The self-publishing route makes this process a lot easier; I worked with Notion Press in Chennai, who then made the book available on Amazon, Google books, iBooks, and other sites, both in paperback as well as e-book options. Furthermore, one ends up owning the copyright, with a lot more control over format, cover design, advertising, etc. In retrospect, the self-publishing approach saved me a lot of time, uncertainty and angst, and I would certainly recommend this approach to fellow writers.
Sudhir, you are a cardiologist by training. What made you delve into writing books?
I’ve always wanted to write, but a career in medicine and cardiology took me down a different path. I’ve published quite a bit in the medical literature…a few years ago, I thought I would try my hand at fiction. As an Indian-American writer, I wanted to bring a unique perspective to storytelling, drawing from my love of Indian mythology, the Arabian Nights and other classic literature in the diversity space. The ideas for the books came from multiple directions. Raising two boys (who are now 26 and 24), I read a lot of young adult fiction. We perused the Harry Potter novels together, a delightful shared experience. When they were younger, I learned to spin a lot of yarns, mainly as bedtime stories. And going further back in time, there was my own childhood and early adult fascination with the Indian epics—magnificent tales of princes and warriors woven into stories.
As for how I found the time to write, here’s the scoop: the entire first novel was written on long trans-continental United Airlines flights, something I had to do a lot of in my working life pre-COVID. The cabin of an airplane is an unusual, but perfect place to lose yourself in a new universe through writing! Most of the second novel was also written at 35,000 feet, before quarantine and shelter-in-place restrictions kept me home for the tail end of the process.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers out there?
Writing is hard, but is wonderfully relaxing at the same time! We all have great stories to tell, so why not write and share these stories with the world? One can pursue a dream at any age, whatever that dream might be. In my case, having a stable career was the perfect backdrop to working on the novels, because then writing is for fun!
And when you write, don’t edit while creating new content. Write first, then edit later. Let the thoughts flow and write them as they come, then go back and re-shape the manuscript as many times as you need to.
Who are some of your favorite writers? What inspiration do you draw from them?
I enjoyed reading all the Harry Potter novels with my sons. That said, my favorite books are (1) One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2) Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie (3) The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. Marquez’s novels introduced me to magical realism, Rushdie draws on his Indian heritage, and Bulgakov was a medical doctor who wrote one of the most phantasmagoric masterpieces of the 20th century. As I have no formal training as a writer, reading is a great way not just to be inspired, but also to learn how the best authors approach their craft.
What are you reading right now? What are you watching right now?
I’m re-reading Crime and Punishment, by the great Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky (I first read it as a teenager). On TV I’m currently watching the detective dramas Midsomer Murders and Death in Paradise, Nordic Noir mysteries like the Valhalla Murders and Deadwind, and a futuristic sci-fi comedy-drama called Upload. On a separate note, I enjoy culinary exploration, and appreciate cooking shows like the Bombay Chef and the Great British Baking Show,
What are your plans going forward?
The series is planned as a trilogy, so there’s one more novel after this one. I hope to release it in mid-late 2021. Nujran’s adventures will continue,and hopefully my readers will stay with me through the end of the series. Once I finish the Prince of Typgar trilogy, I want to write detective fiction. That was my favorite genre growing up, and continues to be my favorite type of TV drama. Or I might start a new fantasy fiction series…let’s see where life takes me!
The first two books of the trilogy are available on Amazon:
Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking, and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.
Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents