Wednesday, 21 March 2018

An Interview with Rahul Apte || Author of The Talion Tale

Author of The Talion Tale, Rahul Apte joins us on The Helly Blog for a candid interview session!

What should the reader expect while picking up "The Talion Tale"? 

A racy, edge of the seat espionage thriller which will take the reader on a roller coaster ride from the killing fields of war torn Afghanistan to the treacherous crime infested bylanes of old Lahore.  

 Will it be right to categorise "The Talion Tale" in the thriller genre?

That’s actually a very pertinent question and honestly one that I have often personally struggled with. By its very treatment and setting, The Talion Tale comes across as an espionage thriller at first glance, but upon delving a little deeper many readers have realized that there is more to it than the mere chills and thrills of a spy story. In fact, all throughout the book, especially in the first half, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to bring up to speed, those readers who may be uninitiated in the history of the sub-continent.

I often flatter myself with an analogy – any Ayn Rand fan would probably remember quite vividly, Francisco’s money speech in Atlas Shrugged or Howard Roark’s rousing self defence in the Fountain Head. I dare say, just like these monologues which represented the soul of Ayn Rand’s exposition of objectivism and individualism, chapter 13 of my book essentially forms the core of my book. It explains, in fair bit of detail, the reasons why the assassination of terror masterminds through surgical strikes inside Pakistan is the only logical, economical and moral choice left to us.      

I believe it is because of its analytical rigor that the book has found favor with a large number of people in the highest echelons of India’s security establishment, including a former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s intelligence agency.

Coming back to the question, The Talion Tale is many things to many people. For readers simply looking for their dose of adrenaline, it a gripping thriller, for those who like to question and delve deeper into issues like state sponsored terrorism originating in Pakistan, it is an entertaining primer.

 How long did it take you to pen down the novel? 

The actual process of writing took about 3 years, but the plot had been cooking inside me for almost 2 years before I started writing. I also tend to forget almost a decade of frenzied reading of the history and geo-politics of the sub continent, something that has shaped by leanings and helped me arrive at conclusions.

 Were you conscious about the fact that the book will someday be published while penning it down?

While I was writing the book, I tried to focus solely on writing it as best as I could have. I cannot say that this vexing question of getting or not getting published, never entered my mind, but for the most part, I was able to keep it at bay. After finishing the first draft, I sent the MSP to a couple of literary agents and though in the end I did not go with any of them, their initial response was enough to tell me that there was light at the end of the tunnel.  

Are there any books that influenced your style, plot or characterisation?

I spent four years at IIT, devouring novels by Forsyth and Ludlum and I assume that some of that influence would have naturally seeped into the way I express myself. But I believe where I differ is that unlike the mostly fictional settings that these authors set their novels in, I like to set my novels in real settings that are known to all of us or settings that have had a great deal of impact on us. The Talion Tale for instance was set in the backdrop of 26/11 and its repercussions. In this sense, I am greatly inspired by Tolstoy who was a master in using great historical events and personalities as foundation for his works like War & Peace, in which his perspicacious examination of the mysteries of human nature, virtues and vices, is so seamlessly blended with Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. I hope to learn from his works, the art of intertwining important issues of our time with engaging fictional plots, so that I can reach out to as many readers as possible, including those readers who typically do not engage with traditional non-fiction topics like geo-politics.  

I bet that being set in Afghanistan, the book required a lot of research. How did you go about it?
There were essentially two parts to the research that went into the book – the first being my understanding of the Indo-pak dynamics and the second being the research into the settings used. The first came easily to me, thanks to my extensive reading over the last two decades.

The research into the physical setting in Pakistan and Afghanistan came through browsing of hundreds of war reports sent mostly by western journalists in the wake of 9/11. Each such report gave me a little bit of a hint about the existing conditions in the areas mentioned. No doubt, documentaries covering strife torn areas of Af-pak helped as well.

 Is there anyone else apart from you whose input has significant impact on the book?

At the concept level, the idea as well as its execution was all mine. A lot of people chipped in later with their inputs regarding the style of writing, characterization etc.

Tell us about your struggles while getting published.

AlI I can tell you that it was not a pleasant experience. The problem with most publishers is not that they turn your book down eventually, the problem is that they do not even respond in the first place. The waiting and the uncertainty is never ending and makes one feel worth less at times.

How was your family/ friend's reaction to "The Talion Tale"?

Well most readers in the category of friends and family were generally appreciative. But then one can never rely on friends and family for a totally objective opinion. Over a period of time, reviews from neutral readers have made me more confident about the worth of my creation.  

Have you planned for any other books to be written in near future?

My next book is already in the works. This one will focus on the triangular relationship between Tibet, China and India and am sure the issue being raised will turn a lot of heads, not just in the Tibetan exile community in India but in China as well. Thanks to the reception of my first book, I have gained access to the highest echelons of the Tibetan Government in exile and in the Indian security establishment, including the RAW and IB. I hope to do justice to all the insights that the men in these organizations have volunteered to share with me.  

Lastly, Why did you name your book "The Talion Tale?"

The answer to this question is as common as the oft-repeated question itself. I urge the readers to read the book and find out for themselves. Once you have read it, I am sure it will come across as quite self evident

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Grab a copy of The Talion Take by clicking here

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