Chirdeep Malhotra . Updated: 3/16/2021 4:54:36 PM Books and Authors

Author Interview: Shaurya Arya-Kanojia

Shaurya Arya-Kanojia currently lives with his family in New Delhi. He is an editor at the Ayaskala literary magazine, and some of his works have been published in popular literary journals like Cabinet of Heed, Babel Tower Notice Board, and Speculate This. He has recently come out with the psychological thriller novella, “End of the Rope”, which was featured in the Pune Lit Fest. In a candid chat with Chirdeep Malhotra, he talks about his latest book, his writing journey, his favourite books and authors, and much more. Read on!

Please tell us more about Shaurya Arya-Kanojia as a person.

‘Forever caught between what he wants to do and what he should do’ – is what’s going to be engraved on my tombstone. But seriously, I’d like to believe I am more optimistic and positive than I give myself credit for. I like crisp, sunny winter afternoons, colourful wallpapers, adrak chai, listening to 40’s and 50’s swing music, and wearing shirts at least a size bigger. What I don’t like, and am not proficient in, is managing, well, anything, (I’ve always been terrible at making executive decisions) and multitasking (complicates things way too much).

Has writing always been a part of your life? Or did you chance upon it later on and then instantly fell in love with it?

I barely wrote, or even read, when I was in school and college. But I used to love going to the movies, or Torrent-ing them. I guess my fascination for storytelling developed from movie watching. When I did pick up reading after college (something I would change if I could go back in time), storytelling became more accessible to me; something I could see myself pursuing. I picked up a handful freelance writing jobs, writing articles and developing content for companies. Gradually, I started writing for myself, which included occasional blogging and writing stories/poetry. And a few years down the line, I wrote the story which would go on to become “End of the Rope”.

Please tell us more about your book “End of the Rope”.

If I have to label it, I’d say “End of the Rope” is a psychological thriller, a genre that I have a deep interest in. The story unravels in the form of a conversation between the two central protagonists who meet under, let’s say, unsuspecting and perhaps even ordinary circumstances. The real reason behind this not-so-chance encounter is what forms the backbone of the story. The story probes the lives of the two women in question, both of whom are desperately trying to keep up their appearances and masking their vulnerabilities. With each chapter, you get to dig a little deeper into their lives and are closer to knowing the purpose behind this encounter.

How did the idea of writing this book originate? When did you start writing this book and how long did it take you to finish it?

The idea of writing “End of the Rope”, as most ideas do, really came from an ordinary event. I remember sitting in a café, and a few tables ahead of me were two women conversing. They seemed like women who’d met after a long time – I wasn’t eavesdropping! – but something about watching them stayed with me. For a couple of days, I toyed with the idea of writing a story that would be told through an exchange between two women, trying to develop their backstories, working around why they would meet, etc. And, once I thought I had enough to begin with (which normally isn’t a lot; planning things beforehand isn’t something I’m the best at), I started writing it. I think it took me a couple of months to prepare the first draft.

What, according to you, is the recipe for a perfect psychological thriller?

The characters, for sure. And I think it applies across genres. The characters should be as fleshed out as possible. It’s their vulnerabilities, weaknesses and insecurities that make these characters – much like real people – relatable; which is what adds to their overall appeal. Another thing which I think is essential for a solid suspense thriller is the way a story paces itself. I like stories which provide a slow burn (take Robert Galbraith’s “Cormoran Strike” series for example) and tantalisingly draw the reader to the finish; like peeling an onion one layer at a time. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a satisfying finish. A good book is always judged by how it ends, and it’s the finish a reader would take with them long after they’ve read a book.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

I struggled with planning the story beforehand. Because, much like some of the things in my life, planning for anything doesn’t come naturally to me. Maybe it’s the thrill of taking things as they come, letting them surprise me (like attempting to bungee-jump without a proper harness to support you) or downright laziness; though I would like to believe it’s the former. On a couple of occasions while writing “End of the Rope”, I encountered certain roadblocks which, in hindsight, would have easily been sorted had I considered all possible difficulties and developed a plan of action beforehand. However, luckily, I was able to carve my way out of them effectively.

You are also a part of the editorial team of Ayaskala literary magazine. Can you tell us more about your work there?

To be honest, it’s a privilege being a part of Ayaskala. The magazine attempts to spread awareness about mental health through art, write ups (poetry, prose, CNF, etc.) and other means. I get to read and evaluate literary submissions, which, other than from an editorial perspective, has also taught me a lot of things that in an unquantifiable yet definitive way has helped me in my own writing as well. On a more personal level, though, the opportunity has introduced me to the literary magazine circuit, which is quite active on Twitter (something I was unaware of), and other writers. It’s quite refreshing, even enriching, to bounce around and exchange ideas with other like-minded people. The platform has opened up several avenues for me, and I’ve contributed and tested my skills in short and flash fiction; something I have come to realise is challenging and, because of it, a lot of fun.

Can you recommend five books from any genre, for our readers to add to their reading lists, that you particularly cherish?

This is going to be difficult. But I would definitely put “The Shining” and “11.22.63” at the top of the list. I have a massive literary crush on Stephen King. The way he is able to take an ordinary event and turn it into something more than itself and craft an excellent story around, it is beyond applaud-worthy. I was really taken by “Gone Girl” as well, especially because of its style of narration; told from two opposite points of view, which gives you a holistic perspective, leaving the reader to decide who’s wrong and who’s right. Also, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, which was one of the best detective thrillers I’ve read. Along similar lines has been the “Cormoran Strike” series which I admire because of its character development (you expect nothing short of from JK Rowling).

What are your other interests apart from writing?

I do like to eat. I’d be a millionaire had I not spent the kind of money I do on food. I like exploring new joints around the city – especially cafes. I like nicely done café interiors; they have a charm to them that’s both fascinating and indescribable. Also, big cricket fan. I used to play as a kid, something which I stopped over the years for reasons I don’t really care to remember. Life got in the way, as they say. Nevertheless, watching movies and shows still remains my most favoured interest. Nothing beats kicking back with a good show/movie at the end of the day and a box of pizza sitting next to you.

What are you working on next?

The next story in the pipeline is another suspense thriller novel (no surprises there), tentatively titled “Divided”. The story is about two people who’ve just escaped a tragedy and, with a relentless cop at their tail, are trying everything they can to fight their way out of the situation they find themselves in. I’d love to say more about it, but I would end up spoiling it. Currently, the novel has been taken on board by The Book Bakers, and we should hopefully hear good news some time soon.

There are many new writers and poets who are aspiring to get their work published. What would you say to them?

Keep at it. It’s good, even essential, to keep your eye on the prize, and work towards getting published. But, at the end of it, you’re a writer because you write. Whether your book gets published or not, or even liked by other people or not, is influenced by determinants – key of which is what’s trending in the market – many of which won’t be in your control. So, have faith in yourself, and keep writing. Even if your book isn’t widely recognised or becomes as commercial a success as we, as writers, would like our work to be, there’s joy in knowing we are creating something.

Can you share with our readers a motivational quote that keeps you going?

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” No other quote, at least among the ones I’ve read or know, puts things into perspective as simply and bluntly as this one does. But, of course, one needs to consider the context. Especially in the modern society where, because of our unceasing endeavour to always be productive and constructive, taking a break and doing nothing is often equated with worthlessness. Be that as it may, I conform with the underlying philosophy of the “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” quote: Whatever your craft, keep at it. Because if you’re not going forward, you’re going backwards.

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