Chirdeep Malhotra . Updated: 12/16/2021 7:23:24 PM Books and Authors

Author Interview: Sapan Saxena

Sapan Saxena is a contemporary fiction writer and a Software Engineer who is currently based out of New Hampshire, US. He did his graduation from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad in the year 2004 and he was involved in literary activities and picked up courses which would help him continue his tryst with creative writing and reading. He has given motivation talks at various panels and international schools to inspire and cultivate the zeal to write and read books among students and young minds. He has recently come out with the book “The Tenth Riddle”, where he has has tried to explore the concept of sacred feminism with the context of a murder mystery. 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!

Could you describe your latest book “The Tenth Riddle”? How did the idea for it take shape?

“The Tenth Riddle” is a very special book for me. It is a murder mystery backed by the core theme of the sacred feminism, the Adishakti. It is full of various historical and mythological capsules that add spice to the book.
I got the idea once when we were expecting our daughter and I was on a walk with my wife. It occurred to me that not many Indian books have explored the genre of Hindu goddesses and then a very interesting storyline shaped up in my mind. I started researching into the same and “The Tenth Riddle” is the result of that walk.

What are some of the themes that you have delved into in the narrative of this book?

The plot of the book revolves around signs and symbols of Adishakti and her ten forms called the Mahavidyas. So, Hindu mythology and specially Adishakti as the prime Goddess has been discussed in detail. Historical kingdoms of the Kushans and Guptas also find a prominent place in the narrative. Apart from that, it’s a murder mystery and my protagonists excel in the science of deduction, so a lot of lateral thinking has also been used to solve various pieces of the puzzle.

Can you tell us more about your writing process? How did you go about creating three-dimensional characters and mapping out an engaging plot for this book?

I write my books how I write my software. The entire project outline is finalized first, all the major characters, all major scenes, outline of every chapter is thought deep and frozen on paper. Then when I start writing, I just have to focus on building my characters and giving them meaningful lines.
My characters are very rooted and realistic. They might be anyone you know and are very believable. All the help they get in their cases comes from their jobs, or their lives, or their education. The protagonist who is an author never even throws one punch, while the one who is an IB officer doesn’t understand symbols, but when it is explained to him, he is quick to connect those. Having realistic characters and then building your scenes from the ground up is one of the best tools you have in your box to writing good and engaging books.

What kind of research did writing this book entail?

Most of the research went into three verticals. The first being Adishakti, so I studied Ling Puran, Shiv Puran, some part of Vedas, Kalika Puran among others to understand her phenomenon. The next went into historical kingdoms of Kushans and Guptas and to understand their culture, their achievements, their rise and their fall and then creating space for them in the narrative so that they don’t look forced.
The third vertical was legal terms and terminologies. I had to study and learn a lot of legal terms and also analyze many loopholes present in current laws which could be then exploited by my antagonists.

What were some of the challenges while writing this book?

The biggest challenge perhaps was lack of time. I and my wife were expecting our daughter around the same time, and between visits to the doctor and taking care of her, my son and my job, I was always on the move. My wife Suruchi helped me a lot during this phase.

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

The element of surprise. Catch your readers unaware. Shock them. Make them focus on some smaller part of the riddle and make it easy to be solved. Once they believe they have full control of your plot, surprise them with something they had not been paying attention to but was always present between the pages. That to me is the recipe for a perfect mystery thriller.

How has the pandemic altered your reading and writing schedules?

It has helped a bit, to be honest, because working from home means lesser travel time. Also I can spend more time with my family which helps me relax a bit as well, which helps me read and write more.

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

“Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown, “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, “The Immortals of Meluha” by Amish Tripathi, “Maya and the Sword of Gringak” by Meera J Pillai, and “The Legend Of Lachit Borphukan” by Nilutpal Gohain.

What are you working on next? Any new literary projects that our readers should look out for?

I am working on a few projects simultaneously, one being a mythological fiction which is not my comfort zone, but I am trying hard to achieve success in that genre because it’s very exciting. Another project I am working on is about time travel in Hindu mythology.

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

I will share one of my own from my book “UNNS - The Captivation” – “If your intent is right, why waste time thinking about consequences.”

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