Dr. Niraj Srivastava is the author of the International Award Winning Novel 'Daggers of Treason' which is a historical fiction based on the life and reign of Emperor Khurram Shahjahan, the Grand Mughal. The book will carry you through the Imperial grandeur of the Mughal Courts, bursting with stories of treachery, love, vicious battlefields and the romantic trysts in between! Historical facts are carefully woven with plausible fiction, which makes you wonder (and reconsider) Mughal history!
Here's an interesting conversation with the author:
What should a historical fiction be like?
Well, historical fiction should have the following elements, as I see them -
a) They should cover an era preferably of a century ago, although even fifty years is now considered as historical fiction.
b) The historical timeleines and locations should be correct.
c) It should cover/integrate some well known historical character or event.
d) The fiction must be plausible, or it will fall under 'altrnative history.'
e) The historical fiber of that era/place has to be scrupulously followed.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be an author?
This realization struck me pretty late into my life! I still have to convince myself that all the words that I write are really mine! I had started my first novel ‘Daggers Of Treason’ as a single volume based on Khurram Shahjahan, but now my story has grown into four volumes with the amount of research done. Midway through the book, I became a Mughal myself. And then, I realized that my story must be told; so here I am, an author of historical possibilities!
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Historical fiction needs a lot of research, if you want to do justice with your work. So, my best sources are ancient texts on the Mughals, as well as historical monuments.Ideas come naturally – if you are conversant with your subject, then each character, wall or brick has a lost story to tell! It is just your ‘being’ which fashions how much of it you imbibe. I look at every brick with suspicion; it just might be hiding that scorpion which bit Shahjahan in the Jasmine Tower! (And lo! I have an idea from this!)
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I sing, and I yodel. If that doesn’t drive the boredom away, then I try and bake some mosquitoes in Tabasco sauce. Hey, please don’t call the animal rights activists now, because most of the insects disappear when I start to yodel – the punishment is more than they can bear! I also have panel discussions with witches and ghosts, on the current political scenario – They thank Merciful God that they were called before they had to endure such a gaggle of fools. Some of them are quite ancient, in fact – pre Independence!
But, seriously, I like to read and listen to old favourites like Neil Diamond, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel as well as Kishore Kumar.
In between, I also get some work done on my real estate business.
What is your inspiration for writing the book ‘Daggers Of Treason’?
As my first book ‘ A Ship Of Many Oars’ went into publication, I slept like a log for almost a week. Then one fine morning, as I was having tea with my wife, Smita, I just spoke aloud – ‘ Smita, I want to write on emperor Shahjahan. And, I shall not just focus on his magnificence, but will also follow his years of imprisonment by his own son. This man has so much to offer – he has seen the greatest vicissitudes of Life!’ And thus, was this book born.
Top 5 favourite authors:
5. Arthur Hailey
What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend on research before beginning a book?
Let me answer this in two parts :
My research is mostly done by visisting libraries all over the country for interesting texts on the Mughals. This obviously entails a lot of reading, taking notes, cross referencing etc. I have also built up a massive personal library of more than 15,000 titles, which includes about 150 rare books on the Mughals. My research also takes me to several ancient tforts and monuments, for which I travel by road, so as to get a feel of the terrain. I have travelled over old Mughal routes from Agra to Burhanpur, and from Deccan to the Subas of Illahabas, Chunar, Bihar and Bengal. I speak with learned historians who have such a treasure of information within them.
Now, the second part : I spend about six to eight months in research prior to beginning a book, with special emphasis on time/locales which are imperative to my fiction element. This makes my fiction ‘believable’. And then, research does not stop – I keep reading, writing, travelling, revising, inserting all the time. History is so vast, and so interesting. For this particular book, I have been studying and travelling for the last two years!
What was your hardest scene to write?
The last few chapters dealing with Akbar’s death. I had to weave in treachery, astrology and secret Mughal facts into the span of a few days at Akbar’s death bed.
What is the one thing about this book which differentiates it from other books of this genre?
It is historically correct, well researched, and the bonus is that it has believable fiction woven ito it. Unfortunately, some celebrated books by reputed authors celebrate Nur Jahan as ‘The Twentieth Wife’ when actually she was the twenty fifth wife of Jahangir. And the gullible readers swallow this fallacy!
What advice would you go give to aspiring authors?
I am an aspiring author myself! My only advice to myself is ‘ Keep dreaming and keep writing.’
How can readers discover more about you and your work?