Mumbai’s best-selling author (in Horror) has sold hundreds and thousands of copies of his first ever novel Maya’s New Husband which was written during NaNoWriMo 2014, and it was published in January 2015. And also it was the bestselling book on Amazon for more than 18 months. Moreover, the book is also going to be adapted for a major motion picture which is going to release very soon.
As I have shared the review of Maya’s New Husband yesterday whereby I talked about the concept of the book and why one must read it.
(I hope you must have read the review, if not then you can read here by clicking on the link)
Related: Book Review: Maya’s New Husband
Neil is a great writer/author and a very good friend of mine and when I thought of interviewing him for the blog, where we can get his perspective for many things we need to work on as a writer. It was very kind of him to agree to the interview and now we have Neil D’Silva with him sharing his thoughts on the given questions I asked him.
1) Hi, Neil! Could you please tell your readers a little bit about yourself?
Well, asking someone to describe himself is a great way to paint them into a corner, right? The moment I describe myself, I will be slotting myself into a pigeonhole, difficult to get out of.
Anyway, when people want to know, they want to know! I am a true-blue Mumbaiite (been here practically all my life) and a writer at heart. Maya’s New Husband started it all for me, and since then I have written three more books — The Evil Eye and the Charm, Bound in Love, and Pishacha. Apart from this, I was a teacher for close to two decades. At present, I am juggling a couple of more hats along with the writer’s hat. I am an editor for my company Pen Paper Coffee and also the Director of Zovie Media Ventures, a media entertainment company that’s going to unfurl its wings shortly.
And yes, I have a special penchant for writing horror. There, I have gone and pigeonholed myself now!
2) When did your journey of writing start and how?
I was literally born into books because an entire room in my house was covered from floor to ceiling with Dad’s books. I’d not really call him a bibliophile because I am not sure he read all those books. In any case, he loved collecting them.
Some of my most wonderful childhood memories are rummaging through his astounding book collection (quite a few tomes have fallen on my head through the years, literally hammering words into my brain).
The turning point came when I read Dracula and Frankenstein (abridged versions) back-to-back when I was in Grade 7. I loved them both for their gothic horror charm (though I did not know that term then). And somehow, the grain of creating such a world myself germinated within me.
In my summer hols, I would write books on loose pages and then bind them together. Then I’d give them to my friends. When I got those wonderful comments, I knew I had something in me.
Later in life, I freelanced from 2004 to about 2014. I ended it because writing for other people did not grab me anymore. (And I had made the money I wanted then, but shh!) My freelancing career gave me great confidence though.
I wrote my first novel, Maya’s New Husband, during NaNoWriMo 2014, and it was published in January 2015.
3) Why did you choose the horror genre specifically?
What else can you expect of someone who read Dracula in Grade 7? Sigh! But no, that was probably not all the influence. A little-known fact about me is that I was born on 31 October. Yes, Halloween. Maybe that’s the reason?
But then again, my brother was born around Christmas and he writes horror too. So, cannot make that connection really!
But seriously, I think it is because horror is the only genre that motivates me. I like to explore the deep psyche of the human mind. I want to go right in there and see what base emotions exist. Fear is the rawest emotion there is. You cannot put it on. You cannot force it. When it comes, it comes. And when it comes, you can do nothing to quell it. People with phobias live their entire lives with them. There’s no coming out of it. Maybe it’s this feeling that excites me – the ability to explore this fundamental demon that all of us have hidden within us.
4) How do you select your characters and are they all fictional or you take them from real life?
Trust me; no story is ever 100% fictional. At least, not the characters. An author is always looking for inspiration, consciously or subconsciously. When I create my characters, I color them with a lot of attributes of people that I have encountered in my life. I don’t base a character totally on any one person I know, but these attributes seep in nevertheless. It is not intentional, but it is the way an author’s mind works.
One of my favorite characters is Anuradha Bhargava from Maya’s New Husband. She shares a lot of characteristics with my own mother. Like her, she is also a homemaker but is fiercely independent and a highly courageous woman. Even her little idiosyncrasies, like the way she talks, remind me of my mother.
Again, this is not a conscious effort. It just happens. It is the way the character develops.
5) What was your first introduction to horror books or movies?
Books, I have already mentioned. With movies, it was probably the Ramsay Brothers’ movies first. Almost all of Indian horror fans grew up on their movies! I especially remember how much Dak Bangla had spooked me. I was just 12 when I watched it. I have similar memories of Purana Mandir too. Then there was a serial on DD named Aghori that used to air at 11:00 p.m. It was played by the actor Rajesh Vivek and was an absolutely terrifying show. Though I was extremely young, I was intensely affected by it.
But the turning point came when I watched The Silence of the Lambs. I may have been 17 or 18 then. It was bad print on late-night cable TV. I was terrified as well as fascinated by the movie. Cannot really explain how it impacted me.
It is not surprising that there are shades of both The Silence of the Lambs and Aghori in Maya’s New Husband.
6) Horror book or movie? What do you prefer and why?
I cannot really differentiate between the two mediums. Both of them have captivated me at times, albeit differently. Books allow me to imagine, whereas movies allow me to enter the director’s imagination. If done well, both can take us to another dimension, which is what we are really looking for.
Maybe I will know it better now. Maya’s New Husband is getting made into a movie with an Indo-Canadian production house. Maybe when the camera rolls, I will have a different opinion!
7) As a writer, what scares you the most?
To be very honest, the things I write scare me the most. Or, perhaps, I write only the things that scare me the most. Either way, that makes sense.
In fact, when I was writing the scenes of the cannibal rituals in Maya’s New Husband and the sequence with the witch-mothers in Pishacha, I was so absolutely terrified that I had to move away from my computer and take a walk. I was alone in my room when I wrote those scenes and they horrified me. I had a similar experience when I wrote the scene where the antagonist masturbates to Maya’s photograph in Maya’s New Husband. It affected me for days.
Apart from that, I have an irrational fear of cockroaches! And dead bodies scare me witless. It explains why I am so reluctant to attend funerals.
8) Which are your 5 most favorite horror books?
In no particular order, they would be:
The Shining – Stephen King
Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
Tell-tale Heart – a short story by Edgar Allan Poe
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Dead Man’s Hand – a short story I read long ago by an author whose name I have now forgotten.
9) Which are your 5 favorite non-horror books?
In no particular order, they would be:
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Godfather – Mario Puzo
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Kane and Abel – Jeffrey Archer
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
10) Why do you always focus on Indian horror characters? Is there any particular thought behind that?
Maybe because I am Indian?
I grew up reading a lot of Indian mythology. As a child, I used to devour Amar Chitra Kathas and have read The Mahabharata extensively. Apart from the core stories themselves, the characters fascinated me. I loved reading about the bhoots, the pishachas, the yakshas and yakshinis, the gandharvas, etc. As I grew up, I read more and more on them.
I feel we have a rich oeuvre of our Indian supernatural characters, but they have not been represented adequately. The way the Western world has gone gaga over vampires and werewolves, we haven’t. Japanese creatures are also famous worldwide, so much so that they have given rise to a brand of their own: J-horror. Korean horror has also become famous as K-horror. Well, why not make I-horror famous?
It is not just the Indian supernatural entities, but even the way we common Indian people behave that fascinates me. We have a set of actions and reactions that are our very own. We are markedly different from people around the world. I think that makes our stories richer. Maya’s New Husband works largely because Maya is a typically Indian woman who does not wish to leave her husband. If she were American, she’d have separated the next day itself and there’d have been no story at all!
11) Do you research real events or any documentaries to get ideas from?
I do a lot of research for my works, but most of it is confined to watching documentaries and reading books. I glean whatever points I can from them, and double-check their references and accuracy. At times, I reach out to people who have had similar experiences. But since I largely deal with fiction, and my version of characters, I take liberties. Like, Pishacha is based on the demon of Hindu mythology, but the characters I have given my Pishacha are largely my own.
12) What are you doing next?
I am busy with the sequel to Maya’s New Husband, which is titled Maya’s New Husband: The Birth of the Death. The book is in the final editing stage. There will be a third part too.
I have recently completed a collection of short stories which will be released in July 2017.
Apart from that, I am working on writing scripts for shows and movies. A show written by me, titled Funtime with Shiny and Sasha, has recently gone live on YouTube. It is presented by the channel KooKoo TV, a channel designed for kids.
I hope you must have enjoyed the interview, please let me know if you have any queries or questions you’d like me to add here. 🙂
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