"Mohan was born in a small village of Bihar adjacent to the river Baghmati. He grew up to be the Bihar ICSE topper and went to graduate from IIT Delhi and IIM Lucknow. His love for Indian as well as world history, culture and human stories led him to explore evolution of societies and revolutionary movements across the world. The only village boy in his MBA class at IIM Lucknow, he has fortunately experienced firsthand two different Indias with their similarities and differences.
He has been a regular contributor to print media through articles on Education sector, where he has worked for four years. He has been associated with Manisha Mandir, Lucknow a home for destitute girls and has also been awarded twice by the Governors of Uttar Pradesh for his social services. With a reading habit bordering on crazy, Mohan delved deeper into Indian history - post and pre Independence.
He now wants to present the story of India to a curious new generation with a fresh and interesting perspective through inspiring tales of young and ambitious individuals. "
Author Interview #3: Mohan Prasad
Posted on June 24, 2015
Mohan Prasad is the author of the book “Legacy“. He was born in a small village of Bihar adjacent to the river Baghmati. He grew up to be the Bihar ICSE topper and went to graduate from IIT Delhi and IIM Lucknow. His love for Indian as well as world history, culture and human stories led him to explore evolution of societies and revolutionary movements across the world. The only village boy in his MBA class at IIM Lucknow, he has fortunately experienced firsthand two different India(s) with their similarities and differences.
He has been a regular contributor to print media through articles on Education sector, where he has worked for four years. He has been associated with Manisha Mandir, Lucknow – a home for destitute girls – and has also been awarded twice by the Governors of Uttar Pradesh for his social services. With a reading habit bordering on crazy, Mohan delved deeper into Indian history – post and pre Independence. He now wants to present the story of India to a curious new generation with a fresh and interesting perspective through inspiring tales of young and ambitious individuals.
Let’s get to know him more-
Tell us something about your book “Legacy”
Legacy is an inspiring and exciting story of India, as she stumbles again and again since independence, but always gets up to move on. The protagonists, Darshan and Anita, lend the readers their eyes to witness the unfolding of the story, and their lives to live vicariously in those chaotic decades.
India overcomes upheavals like the Emergency, the Naxal movement, the anti Sikh riots and the demolition of the Babri Masjid, carrying along her crores of children, their dreams and their hopes. The adventurous and exciting love story of the protagonists, waving between delight and agony, is woven in this tale of an electrical circuit called society. It’s a unique period epic delving into how and what has become of India in the 21st century.
When did you start writing?
I started writing Legacy in late 2012. I took a break from my corporate career on my brother’s advice and got into reading and writing full time. I even shifted cities to keep me off distractions and sadly had to cut off myself from friends and relatives to be able to focus better. Also, the stories in my head, be it from my village or from some period/event in Indian history that most of us are not acquainted with, made me write this. At times I feel the characters wanted to come out and tell their stories to the world, and they just used me as their medium. The day they overpowered me, I had to quit my job and pick up the metaphorical pen. Besides, anyone with an interesting love story of his own would want to indulge in writing some romantic words as well.
What is the purpose of your writing?
I am writing historical fiction (Legacy as well as coming books) to present the story of India to a curious and energetic new generation with a fresh perspective in an engaging manner. Most of us don’t go through History books properly because they become quite boring at times. Moreover, text books at times try to follow the political agenda and often play safe. They don’t touch on controversial topics or events, and even if they do, they just graze over.
What inspired you to bring forth this idea as a book?
For quite some time, I have nurtured this urge to present to the younger generation a glimpse of the turbulent, yet decisive times in the recent history of India. Legacy does just that. I had heard stories how my uncle’s (An IITian and IAS officer) studies got affected due to Emergency; one of my uncles getting arrested as well. I had heard some firsthand account of Sikh riots. I have seen the floods in Bihar etc, which all compelled me to put it all out to the young generation in an engaging story that they can relate to. History books can be boring, but historical fiction is quite loved. I had completed the book before the rise of the AAP, and now I can see a lot that the protagonist talks about the politics of the country being done by this new party.
What made you choose history as your subject for the novel?
I love history. I have read hundreds of books on various cultures, their histories and evolutions, evolution of societies and revolutionary movements across the world. I like human stories and love to find out how people have reacted to various types of situations across history and across geography. Thus when I wanted to write, historical fiction was the obvious choice, which allows for narrating history yet the flexibility as well as creative license for inserting new characters and their personal stories. Besides, Indian civilization, one of the greatest ever has such a rich history and culture that it needs hundreds of writers like me to be told to its people. Legacy is just an effort in that direction.
Which of your works have been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your works?
I used to write only short stories till MBA and had not got them published. There, one of my colleagues Veena Vudatala suggested me to write a novel. I did not want to get into writing typical love stories for young adults. That is why I decided to quit my job and focus on research for my books and wrote Legacy first and started work on others. Some of my articles related to the education sector have been published in the past couple of years in national dailies.
So how was this journey of becoming a published author? Give some insights of your efforts on getting your work published.
For Legacy, I approached many publishers as well as agents one after the other as I knew almost no one in the industry. I tried to approach my seniors who had written books before, but was not able to find a solution. I think by the time Leadstart showed an interest in the book, I would have met around 20 rejections (including all the major English language publishers in India).
Have you self-published your work or followed the traditional approach?
I did not want to get into self-publishing for Legacy even though some of my seniors were founders of self-publishing companies because this was my first book. A traditional publishing house would have given me a wider reach. Since the publishing cycle can be very long, as publishers have a backlog of books, I had to wait for almost 2 years since the first draft of the book got completed and the time it was finally published.
Which approach is better according to you and why?
Both approaches have their own merits and demerits. When you self-publish, you have a pretty short cycle. As soon as you have completed the book, you can get into publishing. (A small window for editing, proofreading etc is required) However, the reach of the book can be limited. Also for the first time authors, it may take time to build your credibility in the market. However, going with a traditional publisher provides a kind of hand-holding for the entire process, from editing and cover designing to publishing and marketing. Moreover, for debutante authors it gives credibility and provides a wider reach to their work, even at the cost of the timelines getting expanded. That’s why I tried for this for Legacy.
What is your take on book publishing as you see the current scenario?
It is not very easy to find a traditional publisher willing to work with you, but if your content is good, it is mostly a matter of time, as I found with Legacy. Publishing in English in India is still mostly direct (Submit to editors). Agents rarely necessarily play a role. That’s why there are only a few. Some lucky authors find a tradition and reputed publisher, but many have to go through the self-publishing route and try to sell their books through their network mostly.
What are your forthcoming writings?
After Legacy, I am working on my second book which is related to Indian Independence movement fictionalized with a very interesting perspective as well as novel characterization. It centers around two pivotal moments in the Indian Independence struggle. I am going to delve into historical fiction for a while. I have researched content for 4-5 books and have plots ready for them. Need to add flesh and blood to the skeleton in the coming years.
What are the four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
1. Research has to be comprehensive.
2. Language has to be very simple.
3. Style has to be smooth and narrative.
4. Humor should be an integral part of it.
I have taken care to keep these in mind while writing Legacy, and am taking care for my other books as well.
What is your favorite genre and why?
Historical fiction of course, and that’s why I wrote Legacy. It teaches us history in an engaging manner. Moreover, it provides us with interesting perspectives that History text books are not at a liberty to do. It helps us travel through time to live the lives of ordinary men and women under varied circumstances, and gives us a glimpse into our forefathers’ lives and thinking.
What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?
It has to be humankind in general (That holds true for writing Legacy as well). We have lived through some amazing periods of discovery, destruction, knowledge, ignorance, chaos as well as order. We have created civilizations and destroyed some. We have created amazing pieces of art and architecture while wasting our time at trivial pursuits as well often. We have created religion and we have created crime. We have created love as well as hatred. There are so many aspects to human nature and story that it becomes the biggest inspiration for most people to create stories of their own.
What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge regards writing Legacy was obviously quitting my job and going on a break when I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to write and I did not have much savings. Overall in my short life till now, the biggest challenge would have been to overcome my background to reach wherever I am. I come from a small village and my parents are not much educated. So I had to take every small and big decision regards my academics and career myself (And at times for my younger brother as well), and sometimes I did feel stressed out. But I have crossed that phase and am at a point of my life where everyday seems more blissful than the previous one.
If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
It has to be Mahatma Gandhi, on the day India got Independence. I want to know what all was going through his heart and his head. His life’s mission was getting accomplished yet many of his fellowmen were murdering each other in cold blood in the name of religion. He was so sad that he did not even attend the celebrations, but was far away trying to defuse some communal riots. Legacy is inspired by a lot of such moments and events that I would have liked to be a part of.
Any message for our readers?
As the protagonist Legacy says in the last lines of the book, “Search for truth. Human beings cannot undertake a nobler end eavor. This is the sum total of human existence. The closer we are to it in our respective fields, the more satisfied we are. At the same time, don’t resist from getting into the depth and pulling facts out, if those in the open are not 100 per cent true.”
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