I am currently in the throes of plotting Book 3 of the Mehrunisa trilogy...
You’d be right to pause here, tilt your head in thought, and interject - Hey! But we’ve just started to hear about Book 1...
Book 1 of the trilogy, The Taj Conspiracy, is due for release: we unveil it at the Shanghai International Literary festival 2012 on 10 March and launch it in India in April. Since I planned it as a series around an unconventional female protagonist called Mehrunisa Khosa - a Mughal scholar and an art historian - I have spent several years in the spade work. Which means that when the work comes to you, dear reader, it is a polished product - a sophisticated thriller in a relatively unexplored genre in Indian fiction.
Book 2 is mostly written - yay! - which frees me up to begin plotting Book 3. And that’s where the “throes” I mentioned earlier come into the equation. Merriam-Webster defines said “throes” as PANG, SPASM as in death throes, throes of childbirth. Thank you Merriam, I shall take the latter.
The gestation of a book - conception and development especially in the mind - Merriam, again, is a nervy tingly itchy time for me. I find it difficult to sit, fidget a lot, pace a bit, frown, frown, frown and then hit the couch.
I don’t know how it works for other writers but I have found that the best ideas come to me when I have invested hours tunneling after them, quit in disgust, am occupied with another activity - jogging, hiking, cooking (cooking is especially good - all those aromas tend to unlock creativity-clogging valves!) - and suddenly I am aware that THE IDEA is in there.
It is an uncanny moment because the idea is sitting there, legs crossed, smug on a sofa with a grin on its face, as if it was always there - it just didn’t choose to show up, until now.
I don’t quibble, I don’t fight, I grab the idea and plant it in my palpably nascent new plot.
Which means I rush to grab a pen and jot it down in my notebook, or hastily tap it into Notes on my iphone/ipad, whichever is handy, or scrounge a napkin from my bag and scribble furiously. I have had ideas vaporize before - poof, like that - trust me.
In the sowing stage, I am an anxious gardener. I dig incessantly, prime the soil compulsively, weed aggressively, and plant slowly. When I had just started writing, this routine upset my disciplined MBA work ethos. I tried to make it more productive but only ended up frustrated.
With three books behind me, I have learnt to trust this capricious, uncontrollable, self-driven Muse of mine - I follow where it leads me.
And in time, the buds arrive.