We caught up with the delightfully charming novelist Komal Verma and chatted about master writers, American dramas and her debut fantasy novel, The Sword and the Scion.
To call Komal Verma merely a writer would be pretty inaccurate. A woman of many talents, Komal is a writer, director, accomplished video producer/editor, and much-read film reviewer. Recently we got talking about her up-coming novel, The Sword and the Scion, and couldn’t resist delving deep into the world she has created for the book. All that is to come, but first, we wanted to get to know the hand behind the pen. So, here is our tête-à-tête with Komal Verma.
Read the entire interview after the jump.
Let’s start with how you began your journey as a writer. How did you get into writing?
How I got into writing… Well, I don’t feel that there was a definitive moment when I got into it. It was just one of those things where, as a kid my favourite part of the day was writing stories or getting to read. Very early on I got it into my head that that would be my natural progression.
I think that the moment where I actually said to myself, I am going to be a writer… actually make it into a reality, I was about 13. I had just read an epic fantasy novel; A Cavern of Black Ice by J.V. Jones. It blew me away. The feeling I had when reading that book, I wanted to be able to recreate that and give it to other people.
What was the next step? Where did you start?
I bashed out a couple of chapters of a story, not yet a novel, and soon after I decided to devote the time to make it into the fully fledged novel I’m now wrapping up. In between then and now I’ve written mainly short stories. My focus is prose really, I’m less keen on writing poetry. It actually took me a while to come around to poetry. It was only in university, on a creative writing short course, that poetry opened itself up to me and from then on it didn’t seem such a bad thing to try.
So, let’s talk about the novel. Does it have a title? Working title?
The working title is ‘The Sword and the Scion’. What I like is that it is quite ambiguous. While it has the archetypal reference to a sword, it is ambiguous in the context of the story.
Tell us more about the story.
It’s a story about imbalance in the world. This leads the gods to send their sons and daughters to restore balance. That’s the really broad gist of it. It’s on the level of being very elemental, everything is split up into fire, earth, air and water. And then there’s the whole idea of incarnations and forms of the divine within the human context.
Can you say a little about that human context. What does it all boil down to?
It very much centres around the mortal realm. It’s very much like in Indian mythology wherein you have an avatar [or incarnation]. Like, Krishna was an incarnation of Vishnu. Or, say, you’re an incarnation of the fire god, you’re not the fire god, but a mortal form of him with certain supernatural elements about you.
Is the stance of mythology in the book particularly eastern?
Yes, it’s a very Eastern mythology.
When I fell in love with storytelling it was with Ancient Greek and Roman mythology and then in addition to that I had my upbringing in which I was exposed to Indian and Eastern mythology all the time. I perceive the book as bringing together the best of both Eastern and Western mythologies. While everything is influenced my Eastern mythology, there is a huge ode to the Homeric depiction of oracles and the immortals and all that. Though it is a lot less literal, it’s not as simple as a pantheon of gods existing in heaven.
So, at what stage is the novel now?
Last year I finished writing it by hand, now I’ve just got a few chapters to type up and then I’ll be there.
Do you do all your writing by hand?
No, I made the decision to hand write it last year as previously I was doing everything in such a piecemeal way that I had to change. I began confining myself to my desk with my pad and my pen. That way was certainly more conducive to getting whole sequences done without all the distractions of a computer and the internet.
What’s the next step? How do you see it being published?
Well, I definitely have a handful of publishers in mind, the ones that publish the [fantasy] genre. Self publishing is something that’s been floating around as well. Now I’m at the stage where I have to sit down and do a whole load of research to understand where best my publishing options lie, but in my head it still seems like it should be quite traditional. That’s how I always envisioned the book and I don’t want to compromise that.
Who in your mind are the masters of the fantasy genre?
Well, I couldn’t not say J.R.R. Tolkein, and I’m still clambering for another book that can give me what Lord of the Rings did. Obviously J.V. Jones is up there too. Also Terry Goodkind and Tad Williams.
After the novel, what’s next? Are you planning anything else for the near future?
I have a TV drama in the works that I’m fleshing out at the moment. It was one of those things that just hit me and I spent an entire weekend in that world as the characters showed themselves to me. So that’s being developed at the moment.
Can we have a hint of what that’s about?
My claim for it is quite lofty… It’s a cross between Dallas and Brothers and Sisters. That’s out there now so I can’t take it back. [laughs]
I grew up watching a lot of American dramas so I’m very glad that something I’m working on aligns with that love.
Is television an area you’d like to pursue further?
Yes, screenwriting has always been in mind for me. I also have a feature film that I’m working on; a kind of coming of age, surreallist piece.
Do you intend to have a directorial role in these projects?
I think so. I’m coming back to the whole idea of directing since university. That was quite daunting when I met all the other people who were very gung-ho about being directors while I came in very academically to film. I took a back seat and focused of assistant directing and producing, but now I’m coming back round to the idea of directing. I think I could launch into that quite well given my love of character. Getting involved with characters and their stories is really it for me.
Komal Verma resides in London where she casts a concerned eye over the latest filmic releases, avidly pores over forgotten mythological texts and fights for the abolition of improper uses of English.
If you’d like to ask Komal anything at all, jump over to her twitter page @komibear.