Interview with Aditya Ram, Author of The Newtonian Prophecy
Ravi: Tell me About Yourself?
Aditya: I’m a 29-year-old MBA alumnus from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune. By the day, I am a young business leader working for a global FMCG company and by night I transform into a historical fiction author. I love balancing both worlds as I believe it brings the best out of me. I treat it as an opportunity to develop both sides of my brain by balancing my analytical abilities at my day-time profession and my creativity in writing. My first book – The Newtonian Prophecy, a historical conspiracy thriller centered around Sir Isaac Newton, has been published recently and has been receiving much love from readers.
I am an engineer turned MBA. I love reading topics and watching documentaries related to ancient mysteries and myths. I was born and brought up in Bangalore and currently am based out of Mumbai. I live with my wife, Mridula, who has been instrumental in my growth as an author.
Ravi: Tell me about your recent book to our Ravi Reads Blog Readers?
Aditya: “The Newtonian Prophecy” is my debut novel. It is a 490-page historical conspiracy thriller that revolves around the titular character Sir Isaac Newton. It is an action-packed thriller filled with strange assassinations, scientific riddles, mathematical puzzles, strange symbols and religious codes from the Bible. It moves across multiple timelines - the present day 21st century and the 17th century Newton era.
It has been my attempt to present a different perspective on religious facts and theological beliefs to readers, that I have interspersed liberally to bring a stronger context and flavor to the overall fictional narrative. I have spent years of research in trying to unearth a few ancient mysteries and connect the dots that would provide logical conclusions to the set of events described in the book.
Ravi: Where do you get your ideas?
Aditya: I love exploring ancient mysteries pertaining to religion and history. So, firstly I finalize what is the ancient mystery or conspiracy that I want to explore in further detail and then make that the center of the spider web. I then explore more facts that connect all the dots through a fictional narrative, setting context to unravel the mystery or conspiracy. Building the fictional narrative can be challenging because I want my characters to live and breathe the same mystery that I am unraveling as an author. So, I explore each character in great detail, building a character development path as to where I eventually want to lead them to, in the plot.
Ravi: Where do you write?
Aditya: I have this amazing white table that I have had since the age of 3. My father got it for me when I was in Pre- KG, and ever since I had been very good with academics. Eventually, this became a sort of sentimental and superstitious attachment. (smiles) So yes, I use that table for all my work, even today.
Ravi: The Best piece of writing advice?
Aditya: Research! Research! Research! The biggest and most important factor that would contribute to the success of your book is the research you put into it. More so, if you are writing about real personalities or real places, you might want to first understand all the nuances very carefully before you start writing. I believe writing is only 30% of your book. Research is 70%. Get your facts, ambience, setting and context right before you start penning it down. I think you need to read as much as you can before you write. The more you research, the more you perfect what you intend to project to your readers. If you make sure that the reader found something in your book that he did not know till date, you have won half the battle.
Having said that, the writing needs to create a vivid description of the scene in the mind of the reader. If it is still vague or the reader finds it hard to believe, you get some negative points. You might have done great research, but you need an equally luring narrative to draw the reader. So, don’t forget to blend your imagination well with your research.
Ravi: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Aditya: It certainly energizes me enormously. I think my busy corporate lifestyle tests my analytical abilities to a large extent, and creative writing comes as a natural balancing act to that lifestyle. I would not call it a state of refuge, but it is definitely something that brings a spark in me. When I think of the punch moments or dialogues in a scene that I imagine, it really brings an evil smile on my face. (laughs)
Ravi: What’s your favorite short story?
Aditya Ram: Amongst the many short stories that I have read, I believe Akbar and Birbal and stories on Tenali Raman have been my favorite. I have always enjoyed stories that are intellectual and make me think. There are stories that involve you and make you solve the riddles and I think it is that involvement that I enjoy the most. I started reading them when I was a child and I still enjoy them even as I got older.
Ravi: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Aditya: Years. Like I said, for me, it is not just about writing words. I research extensively because I write on matters that some of them might find controversial. So, before people point fingers at you, you better have the facts in place to defend them. I don’t feel a hurry to toss my book out there in the market. I want to bring the perfect version of my book to readers so that they can have their breath-taking awe moments.
Ravi: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Aditya: I think I should have had the courage to write more and publish my works when I was a kid. I was very shy with my writing and kept them closed in carton boxes. I had written my first book (which was around 40 pages) at the age of 10. It was called “Planter Cluster”, about the ghost of a King who wanted revenge. At the age of 11 and 12, I wrote a trilogy called “The Ultimate Lord” – Part 1, 2 and 3. It was a story about two scientists who built a time machine to explore the future but due to a computation error get thrown into the past, instead. There, they defend an ancient kingdom from being torn apart by a family feud.
I think if I had had the confidence at that time to publish my works, I could have taken to professional writing much sooner. So, yes. I would like to go back in time and have taken writing more seriously.
Ravi: What is your favorite childhood book?
Aditya: My favorite childhood book was “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas. It was an exceptional story of patience, courage, survival, and revenge. What drew me to the story most was the life of the protagonist Edmond Dantes, and all the hardships that he had to go through before he transforms into The Count of Monte Cristo. Once he finds Cardinal Spada’s treasures, he could have done anything with it but still proceeds to have his revenge against his enemies who had ruined his life. It just went on to show that though he had all the money with him, his priorities were clear. Revenge.
Ravi: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Aditya: Very interesting question, this, because it is a kind of a trap setter (laughs). If I had to give up something, I think it would be time spent on social media. To be very honest, I was out of all social media (Insta/Twitter/Facebook) for over a year. I was only active on LinkedIn. I believe staying away really improved my research, descriptive style of writing and reasoning abilities as I did not get defocused by scrolling aimlessly on social media. The time out really helped me explore myself to the fullest and I feel I am a very different person today. Now that I have my first book published, I would have to go back to social media invariably to promote my book and to connect with my readers. The one thing I do not want to do is take my readers for granted. Hence, I think I need to learn to manage my time on social media to engage better with my readers and at the same time, not lose focus on my new-found enlightened state (smiles).
Ravi: What was your hardest scene to write?
Aditya: I think the hardest scene to write in The Newtonian Prophecy was about how the protagonist - John Raymond, a mathematician, solves a complex scientific puzzle to rescue a set of hostages. The challenge was to get the scientific concepts absolutely right, apply it to the tense hostage situation and simultaneously keep the explanation simple so that the readers are able to understand, relate to and enjoy the science.
Ravi: Do you Google yourself?
Aditya: No, I certainly do not (smiles). I don’t feel the need to do that, at least for now. I do spend a lot of time in front of the mirror (laughs) but certainly not the kind of guy who would create this level of self-indulgence.
Ravi: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Aditya: Well, I do not intentionally hide any secrets in my book. I try to describe everything as clearly as possible and want the reader to go through the narrative in the way I want them to be taken through. However, with the reviews that I have received, I could see multiple interpretations of a few scenarios and I absolutely loved the fact that people have put their own thoughts and imagination into this. They felt there were secrets that they had discovered and wanted to cross-check with me whether I had left them intentionally. I was very happy to see this because it is exactly the sort of involvement you want from your reader. It was thought-provoking for them even after they had completed reading the book.
Ravi: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Aditya: Of course, I read every review of my book and analyze them very carefully. It is always great to have good reviews. It shows that your content got the intended result. However, a bad review is also a good review if it constructively describes what I could have done better as an author. If it is just a personal rebuke without any relevant explanation pertaining to the book, I just discard it from my mind. I think at the end of the day you are going to have both types of reviews. All you got to do is keep your head on your shoulders and continue to work hard.
Ravi: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Aditya: All of Dan Brown and Ashwin Sanghi’s works. I think I was definitely inspired by Dan Brown’s style of writing where he blended religious and mythological facts into nail-biting fictional thrillers. To the uninitiated reader, it can become very misty to understand the difference between fact and fiction. This is when I realized that fiction can be made more interesting when you add a lot of real elements to it.
Ravi: What did you edit out of this book?
Aditya: I think I removed a lot, to be honest. (laughs) I had explored a lot of facts related to Jesus Christ and Christianity that pertained to Isaac Newton’s religious beliefs and inclinations. I wanted to explain all the facts to the reader, in line with the plot but it might have slowed the narrative down slightly. Even after all the cutting, it is still 490 pages, so I guess that’s okay (smiles).
Ravi: How many hours a day do you write?
Aditya: It depends. I usually spend two to three hours every night after working hours to spend time on my concept. I might even spend the entire time on research without writing a word. So, yes if you look at time spent on my novels it would be around two to three hours a day on weekdays and maybe around four hours a day on weekends.
Ravi: How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Aditya: If by full–time writer you mean one who works extensively on writing for a living then I am not one among them. Having said that, I would not call myself a part-time writer because I don’t write just out of a hobby. I work on my novels every single day and treat it as another profession. I love balancing both professions. I have never felt the need to quit my corporate life to pursue writing, nor has my writing affected by corporate performance. I believe both lives compliment each other very well. Completely relying on one of the two professions may create a void in my life.
Ravi: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Aditya: I do a lot of primary research and secondary research. I visit libraries to explore religious and historical facts, some of it that may not be mentioned on the Internet. I may even spend a year or two on research without writing a word. I do not consider that as a slow down to my entire process. I believe that strong research sets the context for your writing. It clears a lot of thoughts that you may have misinterpreted and hence you have a clearer vision of what and how to write.
Ravi: What’s the best way to market your books?
Aditya: Reach out to as many professional book reviewers and Book blogs and websites that have high network traffic to review your work. Yes, social media plays a very important role in your own personal brand building as an author but getting your work reviewed on top websites helps reach your target audiences faster. Reviews are a very important way to get your work validated, which would influence other potential readers to pick your book. More than a self-proclamation act, it would be better if others speak about your work.
Ravi: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Aditya: I have been working on my next novel for nearly about a year now. It is a thriller themed around a Nazi conspiracy during World War 2 and beyond. It is very loosely a prequel or spin-off to the events of The Newtonian Prophecy and there are a lot of subtle connections between the two books. As far as how many half-finished books I have, I take one book at a time because it takes months, maybe years of research. (laughs) So, yes, that is the only book that I am currently working on. It should be out sometime next year hopefully.
Ravi: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Aditya: I think it has opened my mind to the genre more significantly and really pushed my confidence up about my own writing. Now, I can definitely say that I will write more books in the future. As far as the approach to writing is concerned, I think I am far more organized now in terms of how I want to outline my research, have sharp chapter outlines, etc. I was a lot more haphazard when I had started writing my first book with reference to these pre-requisites, but I think now the approach is definitely far more organized and is working wonders for me.
Ravi: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Aditya: There are a lot of authors I follow, including debut authors. However, in the current scenario, I do not know anyone personally yet. I would love to meet, connect and exchange notes on writing and learn more from their experiences. (smiles).
Ravi: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Aditya: I believe there are two aspects to this question. Yes, from a content standpoint I think you must be original, no doubts about that. No one wants to read something that is a copy of another book and hence the story needs to be unique. However, from a genre perspective, as an author, you have that flexibility to analyze your target audience. You want to explore a genre that has already connected well with the readers and you have an audience readily waiting for that class of books. If you create a completely new genre of books it might be a challenge because you don’t have any market research to validate the commercial viability of the genre that you have created. Exploring already successful genres increases the probability of commercial success.
Ravi: What advice do you have for writers?
Aditya: Learn to accept criticism and rejection. It is very easy to get bogged down because someone wrote a bad review or did not like your work. It is completely fine and not the end of the world. Some of your own friends may not want to pick up your book and one should learn to accept that. Even God cannot please everyone, so it is completely okay if someone is not pleased with your work. Use the criticism constructively to try and better your work and hopefully the bad review will turn into a good review someday. Nothing better than that, right? Also, in terms of rejection, if there is a rejection at one door, knock the next one, but keep knocking.
Thanks to Aditya Ram for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to email me at the address on my contact page.