Saturday, October 26, 2013

Author Interview: Vasant Davé

This Author Interview is a part of Making Connections Blog Tour for the book "Trade Winds to Meluhha" by Vasant  Davé.

I'm really very delightful to introduce Vasant Davé, author of pre-historic novel ‘Trade winds to Meluhha’, here on my blog for an interview.
I asked him a few questions about his book and here are the answers he gave for those questions.

Interview of Vasant Davé -->

Me: Hey Vasant, first of all welcome to Books Are My Best Friends. It's a pleasure to have you here. Before we start talking about your book, tell us something about yourself.

Vasant: Before the World War II, my parents emigrated from India to what then was British East Africa. Schooled in Kenya, I graduated in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bombay and served the Indian industry for 24 years. For another 8 years, I travelled widely in India conducting Industrial Market Research for corporate clients based in the U.K., Germany, Israel, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. I started writing 'Trade winds to Meluhha' after I retired from business, and completed it three-and-a-half years later.

Me: When did you first know that you wanted to be an author? Did you always want to be one?

Vasant: When I was 13, our school organized a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro and a couple of wild life sanctuaries in Kenya and Tanganyika (now Tanzania). I had maintained a diary during that tour. I loved reading it again and again, reliving the experience. Then I started adding dialogues, drawings and photographs. In a few months, it turned into a narrative spanning one and a half notebooks.
My class teacher came to know, and wanted to read it. He passed it on to the Headmaster, who called me to his office, patted me and gave a coupon from a local bookshop where I could buy books worth Shillings Twenty. It made me want to be an author.
As I grew up and realized that full-time writing wasn't a good career option in the India of 1970's, I shelved the idea. Only after retirement did I think about writing a novel.

Me: What were your major inspirations behind writing the book?

Vasant: In 2008, I read a novel which was topping book-charts in India. I discovered that there were certain limitations in the young author's style of narration, and told myself, "I would have done it differently."
I had travelled widely throughout India and visited many archaeological sites. I was enamoured by the town planning, water management, and maritime skills of our Bronze Age ancestors, and decided to present their achievements to the Indian youth and to the world at large. I felt I could do it best through the medium of fiction.

Me: How did you come up with the idea behind "Trade Winds to Meluhha"?

VasantOnce I visited the archaeological site of Lothal near Ahmedabad. It was a port during the time of Indus Valley Civilization, and evidence of its trade with Mesopotamia had been discovered. When I Googled 'Mesopotamia', I found something that made me sit up. In the year 2138 B.C., Total Solar and Total Lunar eclipses had occurred over Babylon. A thought flashed in my mind: "That's during the Indus Valley period!"
Out of the subconscious sprang two scenes, one from the Indian epic 'Mahabharata' and another from Rider Haggard's 'King Solomon's Mines' which I had read in high school. I told myself, "If a Solar eclipse could be used effectively in those stories, a Lunar eclipse happening just a fortnight after a Solar one could too be fictionalized in an interesting way."
That line of thoughts led me to developing a plot whereby I could connect the two ancient civilizations in a narrative form.

Me: Is any of the characters/incidents in your book influenced by real life people or circumstances?

Vasant: Yes, several. Consider the antagonist, Nergal. His character embodies some of my unpleasant experiences in personal and professional life. For instance, I fought a long court-case relating to Rent Act, and lost it on technical grounds. My tenant's foxy endeavours contributed in creating one aspect of Nergal's complex character.

Me: What was the biggest challenge while writing the book?

Vasant: It was to create an entertaining narrative based on a great civilization in which no evidence of a palace, a royal tomb, or a battlefield has been unearthed. Unlike other Bronze Age cultures such as Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, there was neither a 'royal' nor a 'mass violence' peg on which I could hang my story; and most book publishers seem to think that readers pick up a Historical Novel with that expectation.
I had to have common citizens as my man and woman protagonists. For my readers, I was required to create a believable experience of travelling back to time. That was the challenge.

Me: What were your feelings when you first saw the finished copy of your book?

Vasant'Trade winds to Meluhha' exists as an e-Book only, so that divine elation of seeing my creation in print, holding it in my hands and inhaling the smell of paper still eludes me. Nevertheless, the thought of having completed writing a novel gives a considerable sense of achievement.

Me: Are you completely satisfied with your writing or would you like to change something in your story, given a chance?

Vasant: I am satisfied with the plot, but I feel that there is still scope for improvement in the way I narrate it.
Since 'Trade winds to Meluhha' was published last year, I have made two revisions based upon suggestions of several professional reviewers. There are two advantages of e-Books: (1) the author can revise it whenever he wishes, and (2) the buyer can download the latest version from his favourite book-selling website without paying extra.

Me: Who are your target readers?

Vasant: My target readers come from two categories:
        -          'New Adults'. Both my protagonists belong to that age group.
        -           'History Buffs', who enjoy reading fiction based on the world's ancient cultures.

Me: When you're not writing what do you do to relax?

Vasant: I spend time with my six year old grandson. The child's little demands like telling him a story or cooking a favourite snack for him, and the sheer joy in his eyes when they are addressed, make me and my wife forget all our problems.

Me: If your book is adopted for a movie, which actors would you like to play the characters of your story?

Vasant: Skandar Keynes aged 22 to play Sam, and Vanessa Morgan aged 21 to play Velli. Skander has Turkish ancestry, somewhat nearer to Mesopotamia, and has acted in historical films. Vanessa possesses dark skin and straight hair like an Indus Valley statuette upon which Velli's character is based.

Me:Thank you again for your time. I'm really glad to be able to talk to you. :)

About the Book: 'Trade winds to Meluhha' is set in the Bronze Age. It narrates a young man SAMASIN's adventure in Mesopotamia and Indus Valley Civilization. He is charged with murder and escapes death through a rare astronomical event which is actually recorded in clay tablets excavated in ancient Babylon. He lands in Meluhha (Indus Valley) where besides the query he also finds wealth and love.
In 1977, Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame undertook a voyage in an 18 metre long reed-boat named 'Tigris'. He was convinced that such ships were capable of carrying up to 50 ton cargo and could therefore have been used as trade vessels. He sailed from Iraq (Mesopotamia) via Oman (Magan) to Pakistan (Indus Valley). To Vasant Davé, Heyerdahl's validation offered a remarkable setting for a narrative based on adventure and interaction between the two widely diverse cultures 4,000 years ago.
With a wide geographical spread from the present day Iraq to India, ultimately what is the plot?
In the year 2138 BC, Samasin worked as a stable boy with a wealthy Babylonian named NERGAL. One day he was falsely implicated in the murder of a foreign trader. Tipped off by Nergal's divorced wife ELLA about risk to his life, he fled to the distant land of Meluhha in search of SIWA SAQRA whose name the dying man had uttered. During the voyage, he met a beautiful damsel, VELLI. He fell in her love but was dismayed to find that she was still devoted to a person who had jilted her. He also met ANN, a Mesopotamian woman who concealed her identity because she was determined to search out a couple of faceless men for revenge.
On the way, Samasin learnt about a board etched with ten glyphs (actually excavated on the site of Dholavira) and with Ann's help deciphered them, leading to an adventure in the ravines of the Saraswathi. He faced a series of obstacles including a few which almost killed him. Then he found that they were manoeuvred. Finally when he met Siwa Saqra, he learnt that there was more to the murder in Babylon than met the eye.
Circumstances brought all the characters together in Babylon when with awe they discovered the stark reality about the trade between Meluhha and Mesopotamia.
Previous novels based on Indus Valley Civilization were 'Winter on the Plain of Ghosts', 'Immortals of Meluha' and 'Secret of the Nagas'. None took cognizance of the fact that the Indus Valley Civilization had had strong trade and cultural ties with Mesopotamia and probably with Egypt too. The engineer in Vasant Davé propelled him to create a plot that put history in its proper perspective.
Dr. Shereen Ratnagar scanned the manuscript and commented on the veracity and plausibility of the past situation as constructed in it. She is a renowned archaeologist and academician of Indus Valley and Mesopotamian cultures on which she has written several books including trade between the two ancient civilizations. A meeting with her cleared many misconceptions of the author and made it necessary to rewrite substantial portions. Vasant recounts how he wrote this pre-historic novel in a free e-booklet which is available on Goodreads.

About The Author: Vasant is an electrical engineer from the University of Bombay. Besides providing Industrial Market Research services in India, he has catered to clients in Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, the UK and the USA. His work called for extensive travelling throughout India.

Vasant conceived and wrote Trade winds to Meluhha after he retired from business. It took him three-and-a-half years. Earlier, his articles were published in Readers' Digest, Economic Times, Business India, Shankar's Weekly, Telematics India and Studio Systems.

The Author

Contact Information of the Author:

Other e-books by the author (both can be downloaded free at the respective links):

Also, there is a Giveaway of the e-book Trade Winds to Meluhha! To win a copy, enter in the following giveaway.

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The Blog Tour is hosted by Making Connections.

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