Geetanjali Mukherjee

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Advice To New Graduates

It's that time of year when everyone is full of advice to those graduating, whether from high school or college, about the best way to plan their next steps. I never really saw myself as wanting to give advice to graduates, I didn't even submit a speech when I graduated from graduate school. However, in the past few years I have learnt a few things about feeling uncertain, scared and not knowing what next steps to take. 

If you have just graduated from school or college, or are otherwise at a loose end in life, evaluating your next moves and feeling a bit overwhelmed, this advice is for you. 

1. It's Not The End of School, But The Beginning
If you think graduation means you don't need to learn anymore, think again. You may not choose to go to graduate school, or need to pass professional exams, but all of you will need to keep learning. The world is changing rapidly, and now more than ever, keeping current with new skills and technology, as well as being aware of new developments in your field, will make the difference between being relevant in your job or not (or even between having a job or not). 

If you choose to be self-employed or start your own business, the list of new things that you have to learn will increase exponentially. As a writer, I thought I would have to polish my writing and editing skills, but I didn't anticipate having to learn about business, marketing, design and master new technology. There will be a lot to learn, but the good news is that you can find the methods and materials that help you learn best. If you want to get a new perspective on learning, I have written an entire book about it.

2. Get Your Nose In A Book (or Dozen)
Connecting back to the first point, this is an excellent time to get back to reading, but for pleasure. Sure pick up those mysteries and thrillers, but while you're at the bookstore or library, wander over to the non-fiction aisles and browse for something that catches your eye. Read about something that piques your curiosity, whether it is history or astronomy, political science or viral marketing. There are many well-written books on a wide variety of subjects, that will give you a new perspective, teach you something interesting, or help you to expand the list of areas you might want to explore. At the very least, it will give you something to talk about at your next interview. 

In the years since I finished graduate school, I have gained an interest in a wide range of subjects, and opened up many more opportunities than I previously had, mainly because I read 70-100 books each year. 

3. Make Something
You may not know what you want to do with your life, and it can all seem very daunting. You are probably bombarded with advice, maybe you have a temporary job that isn't great, and you are wondering how to connect what you learned with the jobs you can get. These are all questions you need to (and will) figure the answers to, but for now - just put your energy to making something. Anything. Something concrete. 

Write a play, a book, a song. Code an app. Make a collage. Paint, design, sew. Take pictures or create a video. Create some flyers for your friend's band. Whatever you know how to do. Turn your ideas into something real. 

It will be something you can add to your portfolio, if that's what you want. But most importantly, it will give you something to direct that nervous energy towards, something to help you build your self-esteem, something to do while you figure out what you're really going to do. Maybe it will be something that was fun to do for a while, and then you move on. Maybe you discover that this is what you are meant to do. Maybe you learn a new skill and can find a way to leverage that in your new job. The point is - you're better off doing something than thinking (read worrying) or going on social media (to see what everyone else is doing better). 

4. Find Someone To Help
Not all of us can take off and join Doctors without Borders or work to save the tiger, but we forget that there is a big space between saving the world, and doing nothing. If you adopt the mindset of being useful, you can look around and find a dozen ways to make someone's day. 

An ancient proverb says that when you light a lamp for someone else, it lights your own way. I have found that getting through tough times have been made easier when I stopped focusing on how much I was suffering, and looked around at those around me. If you really care to look, chances are someone is lonely, unhappy, scared, or needs encouragement. Give someone the gift of really caring, buy them a cup of coffee, really listen to them, send someone an encouraging message, remember to wish someone you haven't seen in a long time on their birthday. Offer to help your struggling colleague (even if you hate the job and don't think you are treated fairly). Smile at your grumpy customers even if they are lousy tippers. Put a lot of positivity and helpfulness out into the universe, and it will come back to you in an unexpected way. This more than anything else is the biggest lesson I have learned recently.

5. Be Like The Oak Tree (and The Bamboo)
The most important piece of advice I can give - don't get swayed too easily by comparing yourself with others. Maybe you haven't quite found your path. Maybe things are harder for you, or taking longer than for others. It's easy to be unduly influenced by both praise and criticism. Instead, forge a strong character, and grow deep roots like the mighty oak.

And if indeed it seems that while you are figuring things out, or working on yourself while your peers effortlessly find their rightful places, remember the bamboo - it seems to have completely stopped growing, to be stunted in its growth while other plants keep growing steadily. But under the surface, its consolidating and strengthening - and then suddenly it experiences a huge growth spurt. 

It's human nature to want to fit in, to be liked by others, to avoid pain. But those who succeed in the long run are emotionally strong and can weather heavy winds and the occasional storm. 

I believe that you can't go wrong with these 5 tips. All the best and congratulations!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Jackie Leduc

Today's author interview is with another young writer Jackie Leduc, who writes fantasy fiction.

1.           When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was six years old. I started my first novel when I was twelve.

2.           What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
Both of my stories are fantasy/fiction. It follows the lives of supernatural beings called wicked eyes and their fight against an evil entity called the Deathmaster. My first book The Demonic Eyes raises awareness for bullying and suicide. Both of my titles The Demonic Eyes and Bloody Nightmares are independently published by Page Publishing.

3.         What led to your love for literature? Any favorite books / teachers / writing mentors?
When I was three years old my mother took me to the library every week. I grew up without television for a long time. Therefore I spent most of my time playing and reading books. I fell so in love with books that by the time I turned six I said I wanted to become an author.

4.           What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
I write half by hand half by computer. When I am in a public place and come up with ideas I quickly write them down. At home I usually write on my computer. I kind of outline as I write the story. I usually have ideas of where I want this event in a story but I don't think that you should keep a strict outline. If you are not surprised as the author by what happens when you write a story then your readers won't be either.

5.           What's your editing process?
For my editing process I take off six-eight weeks of writing to focus more on marketing and reading. When you take the time off your brain rewires to think like the reader and less like the writer. When you are writing a story for a long of period of time everything you write sounds good to you because you are so used to it. Take the time off and trust me you will see a huge difference in editing your manuscript. First I edit events, if I want them in, change them, or take them out. Then I edit sentence structure and word choice. Finally I edit the grammatical and spelling errors.

6.           Any favorite apps / software / technology for writing?
For writing I use Microsoft Word and Pages.

7.           Any favorite apps / software / websites for marketing and promotion?
For marketing I use Canva and Pages to make advertisements. It's important to have social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I feel Twitter gives me the best response. I also love GoodReads because there are many amazing people willing to interview independent authors. I am going to try BookTweeter for the first time this week.

8.           What did you find most / least useful in learning to write?
For writing I think a large portion of knowing how to write comes from reading. You get to analyze the text. What do I like about this writer's writing style? What don't I like? It is important to read books in the genre you write. You should also read books on the craft. I would suggest "On Writing" by Stephen King.

9.           Who or what inspires you? Where / how do you get your book ideas?
I get my book ideas solely from my imagination.

10.       When in the day do you usually write? For how long?
I feel more creative during the morning or at night when I am about to fall asleep. For the second scenario I keep a pad and pen by my bed.

11.       Do you have a writing routine / schedule? Any specific rituals?
I really don't have a routine. I just write every day and I always have a cup of coffee.

12.      Where do you feel most inspired to write?
I usually get most of my ideas when taking a walk. Going to a quiet place is a good place to write.

13.       Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.
I don't really have a 'writing spot'. I usually sit in my living room or kitchen. I can write pretty much wherever.

14.      Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
Yes! I usually cannot write without music. Music fuels my imagination. I usually listen to Heavy Metal or Hard Rock. My favorite band would be Metallica.

15.      Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?
When I get writer's block I focus on different forms of art such as reading, music or watching movies in the genre. Sometimes focusing on different forms of art gets my imagination flowing.

16.      What do you do when not writing (job / school)? 
I currently go to high school. When I'm bored with the teacher's lesson I write in my notebook. Writing is my number one priority.

17.      How do you make the time to write?
Many people ask me this question because I'm either in school or having an event such as comic conventions where I sell my books and then there is marketing. My response is: basically don't have a social life.

18.      How much research do you do? What kind?
I don't usually conduct research since my books are fiction, but for my most recent book it is set in a haunted real-life setting. Therefore I had to research the historical past of this place.

19.      How much marketing do you do? Which platforms are you most active on? 
I am marketing 24/7 when I am not writing or at school. My thought is that every hour you spend writing you should spend two marketing. Yet you do not want to bombard your social media with just advertising because people become disinterested. Explore different sites and methods. It is important to get interviews on television, radio, and blogs. Those will be your most successful. If you do not like talking to others you will not be successful.

20.      What's the most fun aspect of marketing? The most challenging?
I enjoy making marketing material because then I look at it and say "Wow did I make that?" I also enjoy interviews the most out of all marketing. I think when it comes to social media marketing it is the hardest because everyone is just resulted to 'likes'. People aren't really looking for products they are just looking for who can follow me. So it is important to show your personality so it gets people to follow you. When they follow you and see your advertisements more they get interested. It is also very challenging when there are so many other authors. The book market is huge so it is most important to show your personality and talk to the people who follow you. Also support other authors!

21.      What project are you working on now?
Right now I am working on getting my children's book, Freckle Stars, published. I am also writing the third book in my series.

22.      What books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

I like to read fantasy, horror, and young adult books. I also love thrillers. For me a book has to be unpredictable. In this day and age when there are so many books out there sometimes that is hard to accomplish. Right now I am reading Ratarra by M W Schwartz. 


Aside from writing, Jackie Leduc, a sixteen year old author, spends her time, volunteering in her community, marketing on the internet, reading, attending school, and conversing with fellow readers at comic conventions. She has a tight schedule but always finds room to envelope herself into the imaginary world now brought to your hands. She lives in a small town in Massachusetts with her mom, two cats, and two dogs. Aside from writing she plans on having a career in marketing. 


Bloody Nightmares

When Blade Forges, a young man of eighteen, becomes aware of his prophecy. The Deathmaster, a evil entity from his childhood nightmares, comes to life with the intention of destroying the world around him. It is Blade's journey to solve clues and fight the memories of his childhood which only brings him down. He receives i from the military and the Maxxes, a family of criminals. The only way to defeat the evil entity is to collect the three Xayvourouses (magical daggers) and to discover the source(s) of his weakness. The only problem is that he doesn't know where to begin. As Blade becomes lost in his deteriorating world and inner mind, you, the Reader, might as well get trapped too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Julie Anderson

Today, my interview is with Julie Anderson, an author from England.

1.      When did you first start writing?

I wrote my first ‘novel’ while I was still at school. It was a couple of hundred pages of drivel, an appalling rip-off of lots of ‘school stories’ which I had read at that point. My English teacher waded through it and was encouraging ( while suggesting that I might think about writing something different ). It got thrown into the rubbish bin long ago, to avoid embarrassment later. But I went on to study English Literature. In later life, as a civil servant I wrote as part of my job, Press Releases, Ministerial briefings and government reports ( only some of which could be regarded as fiction ).

I continued to write stories for friends, in letters and for my god-children. Then, to exercise my imagination, I started writing longer tales. I enjoyed the creation of characters and places and the possibility of engaging with ideas in an accessible and readily understood way. I enjoy the word-smithing element too, of getting a phrase or description just right. Now I can’t stop.

2.        What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?

My first book was a collection of short stories entitled ‘The Village; A Year in Twelve Tales’ published by The Story Bazaar (my own imprint) in April 2015 as a paperback and ‘e’ book. It chronicles the life of a modern English village over the course of one calendar year. The twelve, inter-linked stories portray a wide cast of disparate characters, as four generations of the Marshall family negotiate the hazards of living, while, around them babies are born, plots are hatched, matches are made and marriages founder and death, both anticipated and unlooked for, pays a call.  As Thornton Wilder said, ‘The life of a village against the life of the stars’.

Since then I’ve been working on a novel for young adults entitled ‘Reconquista’, set in 13th century Spain that is out now. This is a is an adventure story set in 13th century Al Andalus ( Spain ). I began to write it, ten or more years ago, as a serial story for my nephew and god-son. We have a home in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and it is a place full of history. My nephew was about to visit there for the first time. I wanted to engage him in the history and romance of the place, so I write an adventure story, delivering ‘episodes’ on a gradual basis. He’s twenty one now and the story which I wrote for him has changed out of all recognition.

The book opens on 9th October 1264 as King Alfonso X of Castile & Leon is about to take the city of Jerez after a five month siege. Within the city, fourteen year old Nathan, his older cousin, Rebecca and their friend, Atta, don’t know what will become of them and their families. Everything they have always known is challenged and friends and family will be scattered far and wide.  Each of them also has to grow up and learn some lessons about themselves before they can come together once again. It’s a classic ‘journey’ story.

3.        What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?

So far, I’ve been unfocussed, but I’m learning that this is a convoluted and disorganized way to work. I wrote a couple of articles on my website about the lessons which I have learned about the process of writing. I could have saved myself a lot of time, effort and money if I had been more organized about writing when I began.

4.        How much research do you do? What kind?

I do a lot of research, especially given that I am currently writing a series of historical novels. Not just about the background – the ongoing campaign by the Christian north to re-take the southlands from the Muslim south. This is, in itself, full of stories of real heroes, El Cid, for example, but the truth is often more interesting than the legend. So, even though this is presented as a religious war, in fact, lots of towns and cities changed sides, depending on circumstances rather than religion. El Cid himself fought for Muslim cities as well as for the Christians and, sometimes, on his own account.

I’ve had to think about what 13th century daily life was like. In terms of food for example. I wrote a blog about it. In terms of general research I also write a blog about researching.

Writing historical fiction can be fraught with potential pitfalls. Especially when even professional historians cannot agree.

5.        When in the day do you usually write? For how long?

Having retired from salaried employment I write full-time. For four weekdays out of five I begin work at around 9.30 and continue until about 6.30 ( with necessary breaks ). Depending upon what stage I am at with a work and how I am doing against ( usually self-imposed ) deadlines, I often also work/blog/do publishing work on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Of course, I do other things connected with publishing, go to meetings, visit fairs and exhibitions etc.. At the moment I’ve been heavily engaged in organizing the Clapham Literary Festival which will take place from 4th – 8th May this year.

6.        Do you now, or did you ever have any day jobs? Did they add to or detract from your writing?

I was a teacher of English Literature, but then moved into the British Civil Service and had a twenty-seven year career doing some amazingly interesting jobs in several government departments in Whitehall and in various other agencies, like the Commission for Equality & Human Rights. I wrote a lot as part of my work, but no fiction (despite what some might suggest).

7.        What project are you working on now?

Right now I’m doing publicity for ‘Reconquista’ and helping to organize a Literary Festival in Clapham, South London, where I live.  This will run over five days and three venues in Clapham Old Town and High Street from 3rd – 8th May. We’re just finalizing the programme now, we’ve got some big name authors (who happen to live locally, so are willing to give their time for free).  And I am launching ‘Reconquista’ at the festival. It’s all very exciting.

My next project will be a sequel to ‘Reconquista’. It’s already in out-line. A sequel is necessary because not all the loose ends are tied up at the end of the previous book. I didn’t plan it this way. Indeed, Book 3 in the series is already in a rough draft, but I found that I couldn’t conclude the story in about 400 pages, so I decided to split it into two books. Its working title if ‘Convivencia’, which means ‘living together’ and it’s about what happens after the heroes’ home city is conquered.

8.        Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.

At home in South London I write in our study at a Victorian desk (though using a modern laptop), surrounded by mahogany book cases. When it’s warm I write outside in our garden under the hawthorn tree. 

But my favourite place to work is in the gardens of the Alcazar in Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucia, Spain. This twelfth century castle has lovely ‘arab’ gardens, with fountains ad rills of water amid olive and citrus trees and flowers. It is very evocative and makes it easy to imagine living at that time.

There are usually some tourists looking around, but they leave me alone.  The people who run the castle are quite happy to let me in to work, though I’m sometimes a bit worried that they will forget that I’m there and I’ll end up locked in for the night (I often lose all track of time). Only last visit I was working away when one of the security guards found me – all the office staff had gone home!

9.        What books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

I read a lot and usually have a fiction book and a non-fiction book going at any one time. I read new books, of all kinds (though not erotica or the latest fads, like vampire novels) and I re-read favourites and classics.

At the moment I am reading ‘Nightwalking’ by Matthew Beaumont and ‘I Can’t Begin to Tell You’ by Elizabeth Buchan, because I am being the ‘interlocutor’ in their discussion about landscape and the imagination at the Literary festival. Both live in Clapham and their books feature the area.

Before then I read Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy – ‘Quicksilver’, ‘The Confusion’ and ‘The System of the World’. They are amusing and erudite books about late sixteenth and early seventeenth century England. I’ve also been dipping into the Aubrey/Maturin sea-faring historical novels by Patrick O’Brien, because part of ‘Reconquista’ is set on a ship

10.      Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?

I haven’t so far. Sometimes I am at a loss for a subject to blog about, but then I just go into central London to see something, an exhibition, an historic monument or an event and write about that. There is so much that is free and available to a Londoner.

11.      How much marketing do you do? Which platforms are you most active on? 

I promote my books and other Story Bazaar authors (though there are other Story Bazar authors to be published this year, they haven’t been yet). I have made lots of mistakes and am still making them. I wrote about this on my website too.

I am on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t use them as much as other people – before I set up The Story Bazaar I didn’t use either of them, so I’m not a natural ‘social media’ user.  I did use LinkedIn and Pinterest and I still use those.  I get some interest from all these platforms.

12.      What's the most fun aspect of marketing? The most challenging?

Actually understanding how best to promote a book is the most demanding and intriguing.  No-one really knows what to do to guarantee success, as far as I can see, there are no simple rules or answers. What works for one doesn’t work for another.

Mastering new technology is challenging too. But then that’s part of the whole deal for me – learning new skills. So, while it can be frustrating sometimes, it’s also what I want to do.


Julie Anderson is a writer and publisher. She was born in the English midlands, spending much of her childhood in a semi-rural village. Yet she has lived in South London with her husband and cats for most of her adult life. There they enjoy the cultural life of the city and eating out with their friends.  Occasionally they visit their Andalucian retreat.

Her first publication was ‘The Village; A Year in Twelve Tales’ a collection of short stories. She has since edited and published a compendium of web-site articles, blog-posts (by herself and others) and short fiction which has appeared on her website at The book is called ‘The Story Bazaar 2015’ and it is the first of the annual Story Bazaar compendia.

Her new publication is an adventure story set in 13th century Spain entitled ‘Reconquista’ for ‘middle graders’ and above.

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It is 9th October 1264. Outside the city an army awaits the signal to attack.

Within the city walls, fourteen year old Nathan, his older cousin, Rebecca and their friend, Atta, face an uncertain future. On this fateful day, the city they have always known is about to be torn apart. Friends and family will be scattered far and wide. Each of them has a fateful decision to make. Each has a journey to undertake. 

In war-torn Al Andalus King and Emir vie for supremacy. Bandits and pirates roam land and sea in their wake, as our heroes set out on their desperate journeys to find freedom and safety. If they are to succeed, they must first face down their fears and decide what sort of people they want to be. All of them have to grow up. Not all of them will make it home.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Guest Post: From Real Inspiration to Unique Fiction - Creating Characters Based on People You Know

Today I have a guest post from co-authors (and brothers) Shiva Thejus and Vishnu Tanay on their inspiration for characters in their novel The Unconquerable Heart.

The story of ‘The Unconquerable Heart’ was originally conceived by me, Shiva Thejus, twelve years ago. I’m the original film junkie in our family. Ours is a business family and my bro was always more into family business and not into film stuff. Being the younger of the two, I was not burdened with family business issues and had all the time to pursue my interests.
The initial seed to the story was very small and in fact just a one-liner. One of my good friends, who also happens to be a film junkie, woke me up from an after- noon slumber, abruptly (I happened to be holidaying at his guest house). I cursed the compulsive yapper for disturbing my good sleep.
‘Macha… I have an idea!’ (Don’t be alarmed. ‘Macha’ in Tamil language means ‘buddy.’) He said enthusiastically peering out of his extra loaded-myopic glasses. He wears one of those over-thickened glasses that freaks anyone. But, he sure he is one helluva genius, in his own right. ‘What da useless blob! Why did you wake me?’ I groaned restlessly.
‘Listen! Listen! I have an idea…!’ he kept blabbering without a full-stop. ‘A boy is born deaf and dumb in a small village, and he is raised by his elder brother to become a Heavy Weight Boxing champion…! Howz the idea?’ he asked me, looking at me earnestly, even as I buried my head stiffly into my pillow and cursed him incessantly, murmuring to myself.
‘Ok, Get lost! Let me sleep you psycho!’ I shooed him away. Dejected, he went away without saying anymore. Not even one good line of appreciation for a good thought! But surely, you will find his name etched first, in the friends section of our dedication page. Buy, our book and know his name, if you’re interested. I ain’t telling it loud here. Some benefit I should get, for telling you all this. Don’t you think so?
I always wanted to be a ‘STAR’ not just any actor and I never really tried to approach any film producers or directors for roles. I wanted to make my own films. I always dreamt big and it’s an inborn thing. I have had this other bug in my brain – a creative bug and twin of the first bug, the film junkie one. This one was more malicious than the first, and it latched itself very tightly, somewhere behind my cerebrum, and it constantly egged me to write my own stories. So, there I shot off, expanding that one line thought into a full-fledged story, with all the twists and turns. My initial aim was to make it suit for a ‘Tamil movie.’ Of all Indian ethnicities, Only Tamilians make and watch the most radical movies. So, I chose Tamil.
Over, the course of the next few days, after I returned home, I shut myself in my room and started punching my thoughts into my laptop. Occasionally, I shared my thoughts with my big brother, Sri Vishnu Tanay. He always loved watching films, but he was never inclined to be part of films. He was a discerning movie-goer by nature, and he always dissected movies after he watched them and gave me logical reasons on how things should have been in a particular movie. We used to discuss a lot of movies and naturally, I shared my initial thoughts and asked for his advice. He said it was brilliant and egged me to finish the story. One valuable input he gave was about the female lead, he asked me to make her a useful part of the story, instead of just making her a bimbette, like what the majority Indian commercial movies did till then. He even suggested that I make her a journalist, so she would form an essential part of the story. And, there with that suggestion, I finished the story in a fortnight. The finished product was roughly about 80 pages in word doc and I was highly satisfied with myself.
I, originally titled it ‘RISE of the LEGEND.’ It was a hero-centric subject, with other characters just playing out their roles as part of the story. My original perception of the protagonist, Munna, (Yes, Only Munna and not ‘Munna Kaalika’. The ‘Kaalika’ tag came in when my brother got himself attached to refurbishing the project.) was of a strong-headed individual with highly opinionated thoughts. If he fixed his mind on anything, he would just go for it. No matter what!
Here goes, the original story, ‘RISE of the LEGEND,’ as conceived by me 12 years ago.
Munna, the protagonist, born deaf and dumb and raised by his doting brother and sis-in-law, in a remote village in South India, eventually journeys to Kolkata, along with his childhood friend, for livelihood, befriends a female journalist. And, when she is being victimized, in front of him, on account of her daring coverage of drug operations, he intervenes to save her from the local goons, but is eventually humiliated very badly at the hands of the drug lord. Munna, with his self-esteem hurt, eventually self- teaches himself on how to fight back and finally succeeds in scaring the shit out of the drug lord, who embarrasses him.
He then returns back to his village. Upon his return, Munna’s doting brother learns of Munna’s tryst in Kolkata with the drug lord, through Munna’s friend, and decides that his brother is a born fighter, destined for greater recognition. He eventually sells everything he has and takes his brother to Mumbai to train with an ex-professional boxer who had to retire from boxing due to a bike accident.
The ex-boxer spots talent in Munna, sees himself in him and trains him to the best of his abilities, but is faced with the odds of lacking the proper clout to get him a shot at the title, as, one influential promoter, who’s determined to make his own son, the heavyweight champion, forms impediments in Munna’s path.
Now enters the female journalist (the same one from Munna’s past), who also incidentally happens to be the ex-boxer’s sister. She exposes the promoter’s double game through media-trumpeting and helps Munna, in securing a shot at the heavyweight boxing title. And, with the ex-boxer’s able guidance, Munna eventually becomes the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.
Now, over to my big bro…
Sri Vishnu Tanay (Co-author) speaks…
My lil bro’s script was as amateurish as it could be with just around 80 pages and was meant exclusively for the Indian celluloid.
The entire script was raw and completely one-sided, i.e from the stand point of just the protagonist alone, and it lacked a ‘soul.’ But it seemed to be a perfect commercial pot-boiler for the Indian movie market, where commercial cinema was the norm. But, my bro always dreamt big. He journeyed to the ‘Land of the Dreams’ and secured an appointment with a big Hollywood star, (I’ll just call him Mr. S for now. Can’t reveal his name folks, Confidentiality issues.) in 2011. My bro narrated the script to him, and he immediately fell in love with it. He said that it was ‘Oscar material.’ Though, we wanted to change the protagonist’s ethnicity to Hispanic, (to suit Hollywood) Mr. S insisted that we keep the protagonist Indian, and said, if we so desired, we could change the protagonist’s brother’s ethnicity to Hispanic and make him a step brother instead. That time, my bro offered Mr. S, the role of the coach and also asked him to direct the film. Unfortunately, our family business back in India was going through a rough patch and I had to rush my bro back for some issues and couldn’t shape up his Hollywood dreams then.
This is where, I stepped in. Back in India, My bro had moved to writing newer scripts and he left this one in the can. But, for me, I really didn’t understand how an average, commercial Indian story could be an ‘Oscar Winner’ as envisaged by Mr. S. Either my brother was grossly lying to me, or definitely Mr. S, a stalwart, saw something in it which neither me nor my bro had seen. Sometime later, for a few days, I noticed films that won the Oscars and arrived at the conclusion that there was either a message in those films or they had ‘touching human emotions.’ Then, I thought, why not combine the both of them, and make it a ‘DEFINITE OSCAR WINNER.’ This was all back in 2012, when in spare time, I thought of ways of changing the script to make it a ‘DEFINITE OSCAR WINNER.’ Then, one day, I accidentally happened to read about ‘Quentin Tarantino’ and an article on his cult movie, ‘Pulp Fiction,’ which, I don’t even remember how I chanced upon. I was strangely attracted to his non-linear style of story-telling. I have never seen that movie till date though, but I’ve read the ‘Wikipedia’ article on that film 3, 4 times that day and suddenly everything started to fall in place for me, on how to refurbish ‘our gold in the bin.’
I concluded that the story had to be told from, the point of view of, each of the main characters to make it a more compelling watch. Then, while I had that afternoon’s nap, the new sequence to the story flashed in my mind almost suddenly, and I immediately put keystrokes to laptop. I, myself, was amazed at how quickly and finely the story shaped out in just one afternoon, after reading an article on ‘Pulp Fiction.’ That afternoon, I wrote 5 pages illustrating a brief of the actual screenplay, to be followed in re-shaping the story. I illustrated, to myself, in simple words, how the story would proceed through the eyes of the Five main protagonists. It was no more a straight story with one central character. It was a story with Five central characters, with a non-linear approach and a constant revisiting of their past events and their travails, through their own eyes. With that, the title needed to be changed too and I named it, ‘The Unconquerable Heart,’ and why not? When the story talks of the travails faced by the characters and their eventual triumph through severe perseverance. There had to be no better title than ‘The Unconquerable Heart.’
Once, I was done, I told my bro that I have a new idea for the script and that I’m gonna make the protagonist’s brother a Eunuch (An Indian word for the MTF transsexual). He was shocked at first, (not that he’s a gay hater, but he disliked changing the original line – we both sincerely are emotional to every human’s feelings) and he vehemently denied the idea. But I told him, if we were ever to win an Oscar for this script then we had to make it deliver a message or else we had no such chance. He calmed down and saw light in my argument. Though, I wrote the entire screenplay in just one afternoon, I was not free enough to dedicatedly sit down and write the entire novel. I managed to scramble some forty pages, in all, in the next thirty days hence and stopped writing altogether. I had to take care of family business and really couldn’t allot it time.
My bro, kept up with his efforts of breaking into ‘Bollywood.’ We wanted to make our own movies and sometime in 2014, we were almost close to securing a very big name from ‘Bollywood’ and even spent a bomb on piecing that project together (A different script altogether). But for reasons, only known to the star, we had been negotiating with, he backed out in the last minute and our entire investment in that project went to the dogs. With all these set-backs, in 2015 first half, I took a break from family business, sat down dedicatedly, and finished the ‘Final draft’ for ‘The Unconquerable Heart’ in just about 75 days. In those 75 days, I researched a lot on topics like LGBT, Nazism, Racism, Misogyny, and Bigotry. While the first four elements dealt with prejudice concerning particular groups, the last one – ‘Bigotry’ was a Universal characteristic encompassing all sets of prejudice. There is a bigot in each and everyone of us, I realised. I wanted to shape my story from the point of view of the most abused groups.
Already, my protagonist’s brother/mother, Kaalika, a Colombian settled in Kolkata, (Her ethnicity was an inspiration from Mr. S’s advice) was a MTF transgender, and she had a story of her travails, (I made her travails as poignant as they could be. As, a mother’s devotion to her children is limitless, and she would endure the harshest possible situations, if need be, to see her children through. No human would disagree on a mother’s magnanimity. And, that’s precisely what the stealer of our story, Kaalika Devi’s character is all about.) and her natural love for her adopted son. I wanted her partner to be a FTM transsexual, who faced his fair share of indiscrimination, and thus the character Hazeem, a natural philosopher and a social activist with a firm resolve to change the world’s perceptions towards ‘Gender Identity Disorder,’ (GID) was born. He wants a platform from where he could sound the shrillest trumpet, blowing ages-old conformist attitudes, and he eventually finds the protagonist, Munna Kaalika, to be exactly that apt-platform and back him with all his vigour. He would stop at nothing until he sees Munna win the Heavy weight Boxing Title.
And even before, Hazeem, I had Sylvia all shaped up. Infact Sylvia’s character opens the story in a non-linear fashion (courtesy of my knowledge of ‘Pulp Fiction.’) Sylvia – the compulsive lover who would sacrifice anything for her lover, Munna, because of her self-indebtedness to him, for having been saved by him, from being raped by the evil drug lord of Kolkata, is a very strong individual in her own right. I made her a Jewish woman, as I wanted to highlight the vicious roots of Nazism, (read as hatred of other ethnicities) and the biggest genocide in modern Human history, through a direct confrontation of a ‘Jewish woman’ with the ‘Villain of the Story,’ Tretan Bliecher – Billionaire boxing promoter, Nazi sympathiser and a sworn Jewish hater. Her perseverance to endure utmost physical pain in a BDSM dungeon at the hands of a ‘Nazi,’ and her eventual triumph in securing what she yearns for is all reminiscent of the ‘Holocaust’ and the eventual perseverance of the Jewish community to emerge as a force of reckoning, on the American soil.
As for the main protagonist, Munna Kaalika himself, I added an extra dimension to his already short-changed life. I gave him traits of Autism. But whether he really is autistic or not, I left it for the reader’s imagination. What I added to him, is much more than just the impairment. I added pure-raw devotion to his loved ones, most of it towards his mother. He no more acts for, or on behalf of, himself. He is not self-guided. All his thoughts, emotions and actions are guided by his utmost love for his mother. He is a total dependant on his mother and would burn down hell itself, if his mother is threatened. His devotion towards his mother is what makes him stand out. We both are mama’s boys and surely identify ourselves with Munna’s character. That’s where the inspiration for his character comes from.
Last, but not the least, the story as per the new sequence had to conclude through the eyes of the Fifth protagonist, the ex-boxer (the role which we offered to Mr. S) But, after all these changes to the other protagonists, the ex-boxer’s character of just having an unfulfilled ambition, of achieving the heavyweight title, which he wants to fulfil through his disciple seemed a tad beaten. I had to think radical for him, to bring him at par with the other characters’ emotional depths. And, more so, because his story was being told in the climax. So, while writing the script (not the novel, the Final Draft script was the first), I was a little worried, but then when I came to his part, it suddenly dawned upon me that I could make him a victim of ‘racial-prejudice’ and at the hands of his own step-brother – One so wicked, that he would violate his step-mother, though he very well knew that she was his late father’s mistress!! How deep could that racial hatred be, to violate a step-mother, who cared for him? And, how deep could the pangs of emotion of a victim, who’d experienced such prejudice be? So came, Ethan Chapman, half Afro and half German, who’s pining to teach his evil step-brother, Tretan Bliecher, a lesson on morality and restore his mother’s forsaken inviolability. The epitome of his devotion to his mother’s cause, makes the climax most endearing.
Apart from these five characters, there is one character, which I personally love the most – The character of ‘The Big Sister.’ The Big Sister is a ‘Eunuch elder’ who shelters Kaalika Devi and helps to raise Munna Kaalika. Single-handedly, she gathers the sympathy of the entire Hijra (Eunuch) clan for Munna’s cause and plays an instrumental role in shaping his outlook and his fighting techniques. She is a wall. Period. A wall so strong that thousands of prejudiced souls from the Sonagachi area (the biggest brothel area in all of Asia), vouch by her and live by her principles. Her character is enigmatic, and down to earth. She is an inspiration of our very own four elder mothers, who stood by our mother, their lil sister, throughout our financial problems. You will find the names of our elder mothers in the Dedication Page of our book.

The story is a mutual effort, and we both brothers shared views, throughout the ordeal of shaping it to perfection. With the Script in place, the novel was a breeze. But, even that took, us brothers, almost 75 more days. (Novels are simply cumbersome compared to writing scripts!) Now, my lil brother, is single-handedly faced with the herculean task of materialising this mammoth story into celluloid drama. Definitely, it’s a breath taking saga, but marketing is a different ball game altogether, and only he is best suited for that turf!

Shiva Thejus is an Indian author, screenwriter and actor best known for his role in the movie Prince Vaali in 2011. A graduate from Madras University, Shiva was a professional screenwriter at JHT Entertainment in Mumbai for over a decade before he wrote his first novel, The Unconquerable Heart, with his brother Vishnu Tanay in 2016. Now living in Los Angeles, California, Shiva is looking forward to writing and staring in many more movies.

The Unconquerable Heart is a tale of downtrodden characters who have been dealt a bad hand in life by no fault of their own. The protagonist, Munna, an autistic boxer who cannot hear nor speak yet has a masterful understanding of the emotions of those around him, trains to become the champ and get a shot at the Heavyweight Championship of the World belt. His trainers are Ethan, a washed up drunk who was ejected from professional boxing after being falsely accused of cheating, and Hazeem, a post-op transgender social activist.

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