Criticspace: Welcome to Criticspace Journals, Shreyan. First of all, I would like to know how you decided about the concept that you will write the novel based on two different worlds or we should say planets?
Shreyan Laha: Thank you. Science fiction has always been an underutilised genre in Indian literature and hence I wanted to explore more of it. Having read books of Richard Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and H G Wells in all these years, I believe this genre has a bright future in India given the low contribution we have. I always wanted to write something based on a different realm altogether. However, hard science fiction won’t always work. I tried to build a base to my science fiction career with this novel. As you know, this one is part sci-fi (the happenings in planet of Isthenope) and part young adult (happenings on Earth). I tried to experiment and see whether the young adult or romance lovers, which is in magnanimous proportions when it comes to India’s readership base, likes it or not. So far so good! I’ve earned close to 70 reviews and most of them are encouraging and this gives me more to foray into the kind of science-fiction which you get from the authors I’ve mentioned!
Criticspace: How did you decide about the title of this book, “Not Worth Living For”? Please define it.
Shreyan Laha: There are aspects to it. The first one is, nihilism. Before I started off writing this book, I had just finished reading Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. Hence, given a plot I tried to connect it to a title which is not quite appealing and is dark in nature, focusing upon the nihilist nature of a man to carry on with his life. If I were to write this book, I’m sure it would have had a different title altogether. Second thing is: psyche of readers. We are a romance loving nation. People love things with which they find a certain connect, mostly in form of magic realism. This is why we see high budget movies earn well despite having a common and predictable plot. Hence, I decided to put things which connect to the audience or which they understand. A person having an access to Chetan Bhagat book at Rs 100 wouldn’t buy my Rs 175 book ideally but if I do form a connect with the audience by rousing their curiosity about space and that next to nothing has been done by Indian authors in this genre, they’ll definitely pick my novel even if its available for Rs 1000.
Criticspace: So far you have been receiving positive responses from the readers. Most of the book critics and bloggers have appreciated the work. How does it feel to you when you get such appreciations?
Shreyan Laha: I’m overwhelmed. 70 reviews was something I had least expected. I was actually aiming for 30. Rome wasn’t built in a day and given my casual demeanour when it comes to promotion, I believe things will take time.
Criticspace: I am really impressed with the entire concept. Please let us know when you started writing it and how much time it took you to complete it.
Shreyan Laha: I started writing in January 2018 and finished it by March 2018. This was published on May and hence, there was no looking back.
Criticspace: This is your third novel if I am right. Please let us know about your journey of writing so far. Like many other authors, do you also feel that writing matures with the development of time?
Shreyan Laha: True. This is because we mature with time. In fact when I read my first book ‘The Adventures Beyond Existence’, I often feel I should have written slightly better. My journey of writing goes back to 2009 when I wrote an op-ed article for an Eastern newspaper daily, The Telegraph. Since then, I tried my hands on poems, short stories, and finally a novel in 2014. Surprisingly, ‘The Adventures Beyond Existence’ earned me a Rajiv Gandhi Youth Literary Award. ‘Never Again’ was my second book. Though it involves a lot of research, I obtained my MBA degree after that and felt that such research was again, superficial. It is well received by students in different schools of Odisha, since it is published by a publishing house in Cuttack. However, that gave me a great deal of insight as to how to deal with the marketing aspect, finding new readers and niches-and a whole lot of things.
Criticspace: Your previous books, ‘The Adventures Beyond Existence’ and ‘Never Again’ are much in the same genre as this one. So can you define your love this specific genre?
Shreyan Laha: No, they aren’t. The Adventures Beyond Existence’ is a paranormal romance while ‘Never Again’ is a conspiracy thriller.
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Criticspace: The readers might be interested to know about your taste in literature. What kind of books do you like? Apart from novels, do you also like to write motivational books or other genres?
Shreyan Laha: No. I absolutely detest motivational books. Normally, I stick to science fiction. As I mentioned, Heinlein, Asimov, Wells are the go-to authors for my inspiration. ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ is my all-time favourite. Apart from that Lee Child’s books provide an insight into how to build about fast paced thrillers which wouldn’t bore your readers. Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series was also my favourite since my initial writing years. Talking about educational ones, there is a person whose book I read recently. It’s a really expensive one too! Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences by Gad Saad. A lot of things provide a fresh perspective of how our evolution impacts the decisions of people.
Criticspace: In this suspense thriller, you have connected two different stories and have properly managed to keep the suspense until the end. How did you manage to do that? It might be the most difficult task throughout the writing, I guess.
Shreyan Laha: The answer lies in chalking the plot and building the chapters in reverse order. Instead of A leads to B, I started off with the chapter outlines with B, leading to A.
Criticspace: How do you define the character of Shweta? I personally like this character in the novel. Please tell us something more about the character.
Sujata Laha: While characterising girls, most people have the idea that she must be someone subdued and demure while on the other hand, they feel they should be fiercely independent and know-it-all. Ideal situations do not exist and a whole lot of fantasizing goes on while describing women. To be honest, even I tried to fantasize to a certain extent and failed. Hence, I decided to keep Shweta as a character who tries to live her life and learn new things in a completely new realm which is superior to that of Earth. I tried to keep her as inquisitive as I could.
Criticspace: How you look Indian way of writing in the 21st century? What changes do you see in the modern way of writing? Do you feel it has been changed by the time?
Shreyan Laha: I have had an experience of 10 years and I have to say the ecosystem of authors, poets, readers, publishers, event managers, book promoters-everything has exploded. We have to thank the bad books and literary slump for this outburst. During 50s and 60s, societal change was preferred as a much desirable topic, during 70s, it was about nature and life in urban India. In the 80s and 90s, it was about the societal downfall, introspection and radical freedom. From 2000 onwards, there was no such undertaking. Besides, as India’s literacy rate skyrocketed between 1981 and 2001, a wide numbers of authors popped up. Some undeserving people sold their books more and this trigerred an emotional jerk in people who could actually write books. This pushed the drive for a more mature ecosystem of writing. We still have few areas where we do not find many authors. And this is one amazing aspect for our future.
Thanks a lot for the answers, Shreyan. It was a pleasure talking with you. Wish you great success and future!