Celebrated writer Ashwin Sanghi doesn’t need any introduction. His Bharat series is not only popular with history buffs and mythology fans, but are bestsellers in their own right. His latest, The Magicians of Mazda, which released in May this year, became an instant hit, too. Bazaar India caught up with the author at the 'Sahitya Aaj Tak' Literature Festival, 2022 (#SahityaAajTak22), as he revealed how he does his research, gave five tips for writers-in-the-making, and took us through his writing routine.
Harper’s Bazaar (HB): What’s your favourite thriller of all time?
Ashwin Sanghi (AS): Hands down, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
HB: Which is that one book of yours that was the most challenging to write?
AS: Probably Keepers of the Kalachakra because of the fact that I’m not a scientist! I didn’t know the first thing about quantum theory—I had to teach it to myself.
HB: What does your research process look like?
AS: For Keepers of the Kalachakra, a lot of friends who are actually engineers and in the industry helped me, but over and above that, for every book in the Bharat series, the research process typically starts about a year before I begin writing. That one year could be spent reading multiple books and research papers, interviewing people, and visiting locations.
HB: Take us through your writer’s desk—what does it look like?
AS: I don’t have a writer’s desk. I sit in my living room where I have this little monitor arm—and that’s my desk.
HB: Do you like writing by day or by night?
AS: Most of my writing happens between five and nine in the morning. Those are my three or four sacred hours. My evenings are usually always dedicated to reading and researching.
HB: Most of your books are of the genres history, mystery, thrillers, and religion—what makes you come back to these themes again and again?
AS: I think, fundamentally, I’m excited wherever there are overlaps—be it between history and myth, between science and philosophy, or between anthropology and history. I get my adrenaline pumping the moment I find an overlap.
HB: How do you get out of a writer’s block?
AS: There’s nothing that whiskey doesn’t cure! But jokes apart, plan your writing better and then it will become effortless. A lot of people expect that the moment a blank piece of paper is in front of them the words will appear magically—it doesn’t happen like that for me. I plan, I plot, and I research, so that by the time I get down to eventually writing my novel, it’s effortless.
HB: What advice would you like to give budding writers?
AS: Write. Too many people think about writing but they don’t write. Second piece of advice is to not worry about what anyone else says—you’re always going to have critiques. Number three—try and find your voice, but there’s also no harm in getting inspired. Fourth—don’t lose the day job; it’s very difficult to write when you’re hungry. Fifth—if you do attain a modicum of success, then remember that every word that came to you was from Maa Sarawasti (Goddess Saraswati), so keep your feet on the ground.
Lead image: Ashwin Sanghi/Instagram