The first book of Ashok Banker’s much-awaited ‘MBA’ Series has just been released. The writer tells DNA what gets him up, what pulls him down and what keeps him going.
What got you started?
I was a precocious reader from an early age, reading books on my own from age five, devouring entire circulating libraries and encyclopaedias. By the age of 9, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing just this: reading and writing. Reading is the glacier that creates the river of writing.
What was your big breakthrough?
At the age of 14, I began getting published in various literary journals, first in India and then abroad. At 15, I self-published my first book, which was selected to represent Young India at the World Book Fair in Paris. I had several publications that year in newspapers, magazines, journals. Even my rejection letters from publications like TLS and Atlantic Review were very complimentary and encouraging (I never mentioned my age). I wrote, produced, directed and performed my first full-length play. I completed my first novel, and I somehow managed to graduate from high school.
Give us some myths about writing.
That writers need to be secluded from the world, go off to the Himalayas, have peace and quiet. All you need is to find peace within yourself, quiet the noise in your own head, and be a part of the great adventure of life, in all its dusty grimy glory. Writing is living and living is writing.
What’s the greatest threat to literature today?
In India, it’s Bollywood films, because they’re all bad without exception: Bollywood and, to an extent, Hindi television serials are possibly the worst examples of storytelling. They make it impossible for young Indians to discover and appreciate good storytelling.
What advice would you give a new writer?
Stop watching Bollywood films and commercial television. Read, read, read. Be active on social networks, play video games, text your friends, blog, and in everything you do, study how words are used effectively, how stories are told, and keep learning. But stay away from Bollywood films and TV.
Which other living writer do you most admire?
I’m in awe of Herman Wouk. I consider his novel Youngblood Hawke as the greatest novel about being a writer. He returned at the age of 97 years with a new novel, which includes Skype transcripts, texts, emails and is apparently a terrific read.
Name a book you wish you’d written.
Watership Down—the finest fantasy novel ever written and one of my all-time favourites.
What’s the best thing anyone ever told you?
I am embarrassed every day by the glowing praises from readers, fellow authors, even mediapersons and reviewers—over 38,000 such letters and emails have poured in since I began counting, and each one is an embarrassment of riches I consider myself so lucky to read.
What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said about you?
I honestly don’t remember. Life is too full of good things to focus on the bad.
Is there anything about your career you regret?
I don’t have a career. Just a life. Writing is only one part of living. It’s not even the most important part.