A bilingual author, Venketesh Ramakrishnan writes in Tamil and English. His passion for history and love for ancient Tamil literature comes forth in all his novels. He has written three novels in Tamil – Kaveri Maindan (a sequel to Ponniyin Selvan), Kanchi Tharagai (sequel to Sivagamiyin Sabhadham) and Thillaiyil Oru Kollaikaran. His first historical fiction in English, Gods, Kinds and Slaves – A Siege of Madurai, is set during the Mohammadan invasion of Malik Kafur and the subsequent fall of the ancient Pandya empire. Published by Hachette India, the book has garnered rave reviews and has hit the bestseller charts in many outlets.
As a historical author, Venketesh Ramakrishnan had many lessons to share –
What started your journey as an author?
I wrote my first poem in my 4th standard. It was simple poem, where every couple of lines rhymed. (Recently, I met my English teacher who told me that poem inspired a lot of discussion in the staff room with most teachers saying, ‘I couldn’t have written it.’) Luckily I never knew that it had inspired much discussion, as I kept on writing. Nature, birds and animals were my first subjects and then as I grew, girls who caught my fancy.
Share the lessons that you have learned while publishing your book
Patience and persistence is worth more than ‘that brilliant story’ you have in your mind. I have always felt that if you have a story inside you, just go ahead and write it. You need to write irrespective of whether it gets published or not. We need to remember Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime and yet painted 899 more.
Have you always been interested in history?
Passionately. I am interested in anything old.
What are the most profound life lessons that you have learned from your research in history?
I have learnt that people have different facets – good and bad and invariably only one face has been popularised. I have also realized that this is true about the people you live with.
One character that you admire the most in history and the lessons you have learned from him/her?
I have always admired Mahatma Gandhi. His fight of the ‘right versus might’ is the most valuable lesson that I learned. The concept is almost too good to be true. It could be fiction if we haven’t lived in his times
Please share lessons that you have learnt from each of these things
Doing historical research
Having the right attitude is important for historical research. You must have the urge to learn new details and to unearth interesting information.
Plot and story
This might seem strange to many but I have found that most often, the story is waiting to be told. I always feel the historical characters chose me to tell their side of the story
Finding a publisher
That’s the toughest part. Most writers fall on the wayside trying to find one. Very often too less a number of people get to decide what a larger audience should read.
I have learned that bad reviews rattle me but then good reviews make you rest on your laurels.
Promoting the book
Very awkward situation for me. To me writing represents creativity and trying to peddle it, seems so out of routine. I wish I could hide behind a pseudonym and yet sell books.
What inspires you to write?
That’s a tough question. Writing is an integral part of my day. Very rarely a day passes where I am not writing something.
Your latest book is all about the ancient Pandya Kingdom. Please share any life lessons that you have learned during the course of your research.
There are many lessons to be learnt there. The Pandyas were in the peak of their power with almost no foes in the horizon. But yet they fell, one day. Larger empires like the Macedonian, Roman and the British fell eventually too. The impermanence of many things in life, is what I learnt from the Pandyas.
Name(s) of the author(s) who you admire the most. And the life lessons that you have learned from them.
My all-time favourite authors are Ken Follet and Wilbur Smith. I also like Goscinny, Albert Uderzo and Herge. Off late I have come to love the work of a history writer called Alex von Tunzelmann
If it were possible to travel by time, what lessons would you tell your younger self?
Lot of things. Success comes late and even then it’s a relative term. All my life, I wanted to impress my mother that I could do something big, in line with my skills. My first novel came out a decade after she died.
I will probably tell myself, “You will have to shut your ears to the people who keep crowing that you are useless.” I would tell my younger self to believe in my strength and not to feel let down by other people’s perceptions.
Links of your blog, social profiles, & books
Visit https://www.facebook.com/r.venketesh for author updates and excerpts from my new work.
Your contact details, if you wish to share.
You can write to me at – firstname.lastname@example.org