Sumana Khan was born and raised in Bangalore and pursued a career in IT for a little over a decade. She currently lives in the UK where she’s pursuing her PhD in Psychology. The Revenge of Kaivalya was her debut novel, a supernatural thriller. In 2015, Sumana self-published Encounters, a collection of paranormal novelettes/short stories. She blogs at http://kaapizone.blogspot.com; she can be reached via http://www.sumanakhan.com.
Could you inform the readers a little bit more about your work?
Satyavati is set in a small fictional village near Mysore in the early seventies. It charts the journey of the eponymous protagonist; a young woman who suddenly lands the opportunity to pursue higher education in college. Coming from a poor family, Satyavati is deemed unmarriageable on account of her dark complexion. As the eldest of three sisters, Satyavati is considered an obstruction in the path of her prettier siblings. Therefore, it is decided she’d go to college and earn a degree, which will guarantee her a government job. At least then she’d have some use; she would be able to hoist the financial burden of marrying off her two sisters and taking care of her parents. After all, it was clear in everyone’s mind – Satyavati would remain single the rest of her life. However, when Satyavati meets her lecturer Chidananda, he sparks a fire in her – a fire of self-discovery that shapes her destiny. With her new-found sense of identity, Satyavati rises above her dismal circumstances to achieve her dreams.
Please tell us something about your early years and major influences on you. What inspires you still?
I can’t remember a time without books. Right from childhood – any vacation – be it summer holidays or Christmas break – it meant only one thing. Piles of books borrowed from the local library. Building a nest of pillows and forgetting the world. I think every book I’ve enjoyed has influenced me in some way or the other. However, when I think of “major” influences – it has to be the Bronte sisters, especially Charlotte, and Stephen King. Even today, any good piece of writing, irrespective of genre; any good movie; a song, a poem or even a great piece of art inspires me to write better.
What difference does writing make to your life?
I think writing has grounded me in more ways than I can imagine (or maybe it’s just age!) – writing is definitely meditative. You are engaged in an alternate world – you are god of the moment; you give birth to characters and decide their fate. You are all powerful. It’s fun and it’s weird. I don’t think I enjoy any other activity as much as I enjoy the act of writing.
Is there a preferred time of the day when you get your writing done?
I do prefer to write early in the morning. The day gets crowded with other commitments and distractions. But I make it a point to write something in the morning to keep the ball rolling. I find that when you write the first thing in the morning, the ideas are seeded and even if you are busy with other things the rest of the day, your writing germinates. I’m more disciplined when I’m working on a manuscript though – I treat it like any other job and dedicate more number of hours.
Do you write one particular genre or different genres? Which one is your favorite?
I write horror and psychological thrillers. Perhaps because these are genres I enjoy reading as well.
What made you write this particular story?
For one, this was a draft festering for many years. It finally found voice this year. I did not want to write a cliched girl-meets-boy love story. I was more interested in how the mere ability to love can inspire us to transcend many shortcomings of life. So, I was thinking of a protagonist from disadvantaged circumstances; someone who had nothing to lose materially but everything to lose if injected with self-awareness about dignity and equality. I eclipsed it with the Emergency to draw a perspective. At the same time, I wanted to write an uplifting love story – something that made you feel warm and good (I hope readers feel good after reading Satyavati).
Did you face any challenge while writing this piece?
Satyavati grapples with issues that I identify with as a woman…so I had to be vigilant to keep the author out of the text. Also, it’s tempting to go filmy, especially whilst writing romance; I hope I’ve reigned that in.
Can you suggest some books for our readers that you think are must reads?
Stephen King’s Under the Dome. Although I think IT ranks as his best (I like it better than The Shining), Under the Dome is a mammoth of a read, and one must read it for its sheer canvas and beauty of imagination.
Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney. It’s a stunning piece of work – it hovers on gothic horror, never tipping over but leaves you cold. The narration is atmospheric and seductive. It’s a story that percolates your system slowly and rather permanently.
How was your experience with the Juggernaut Writing Platform?
I’d entered Satyavati for the Juggernaut short story contest and was informed it had made it to the shortlist. I was pleased but thought this story will remain in my drafts folder permanently. Satyavati is the odd one out; it is not my genre. So, when Juggernaut asked me if I’d be interested to upload it on the Writing Platform, I was more than happy. The process is simple and user-friendly. More importantly, it is a great way to make one’s writing accessible to many readers.