[We recently reviewed Olivier‘s novel ‘Warrior’. Here we, the very starstruck ones, catch up with him to talk about life and all that.]
Q. Congratulations on your first book! It was genuinely a pleasure to read it. How did this idea of mixing fantasy and science come to you? Also, why did you look at the combination of these two for your first book?
I’ve always had a fascination for fantasy as well as for science fiction. There’s been a very generalised separation of the two genres, aligning fantasy with the past (medieval/dark age associations) and science fiction with the future (space travel etc.). For me the two are part of the same continuum. For homo erectus the science of controlling fire would have appeared like magic to his predecessor homo habilis – but a neanderthal in, say, downtown Tokyo would consider our technological advancements magic from his point of view! Arthur C. Clarke famously said ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. So combining magic and science in my writing is interesting and dramatic because of this generalised separation. ‘Warrior’ features several combinations of seeming contrasts, and this comes from my personal concept and experience of life, that life encompasses drama and comedy, science and magic, the physical as well as the spiritual.
Q. Each character in the book has been given much thought. How was the process of chalking out the characters?
The creation of the characters was a combination of craft and creativity. Each character fulfills a purpose or need in the story/structure (craft), but the personality of the character is something I invent from fun as much as what fits the purpose/need (creativity). There’s no fun in a character that simply fulfills a structural need: a guard opening a door for the hero is dull storytelling; but if the guard fumbles for his sword, making the hero whip out his knife to the guard’s throat, and forces the guard to slowly open the door to let him through… then you’ve got at least basic drama.
Q. My favorite part of the book was definitely the ‘Ship of the Multiverse’. What was the inspiration behind it?
I first encountered the idea of a multiverse in the work of Michael Moorcock, and soon found out it wasn’t just a fictional concept but actually exists in modern physics and is in fact supported by people like Stephen Hawking. The notion of a multiverse is, of course, really exciting for an author because of the infinite possibilities. The reason why I used the multiverse concept in ‘Warrior’ is because it seemed to fit so well with what I knew about ancient Indian thought. Then I began looking for a way to most dramatically and interestingly portray the multiverse concept. A ship sailing to other universes was particularly evocative, again mixing an ancient human technology with a cutting-edge concept in modern physics and quantum physics.
Q. The book deals with a variety of themes – love, death, brotherhood, parenthood, friendship… Which, for you is the most poignant theme of the book?
For me the most poignant theme of the book is the father-son dynamic between Saam and his father Shiva. Saam has so many and such varied emotions about his father – how he handles that during the course of ‘Warrior’ is the key element of the story.
Q. Now, after the book has been published, would you change anything in the book? If so, what?
No, nothing at all – I feel ‘Warrior’ is complete.
Q. We know that you juggle numerous hats – actor, screenwriter, and author. Which hat is your most preferred?
Each hat has a different appeal, actually, and gives me a different satisfaction. Writing fiction is private and timeless, with no restriction on the mind, and is a deep art. Acting, on the other hand, is by definition public, subject to production considerations of time, space, and money, and is an ephemeral art. Also these are, for me, different facets of a single craft, storytelling. When I write I act out the story in my mind, and when I act I construct my performance like I’m writing it.
Q. How different is the process of writing from screenwriting for you?
It’s very different in approach mainly because of the structure. Writing fiction is an open-ended endeavour, with no limits on your imagination or your writing. Screenwriting, however, has to comply with specific production parameters, like budget, when and where you can physically shoot, etc. And, of course, the screenplay is only a tool to help make the final product, the film. That, I would say, is the most important shift in mindset. When I write a screenplay I’m writing at the service of the film we’re trying to make. When I write a novel I’m writing just for myself.
Q. How easy or difficult was it to get this first book published?
It was a fairly straightforward process, actually. I sent in the novel to several top publishers, and was fortunate enough to get offers from two of them within a week of each other.
Q. What are the next projects in the pipeline – writing and otherwise?
Right now my focus is on ‘Warrior’, naturally, so I’ve committed most of my time to that. I’m looking for a producer, actually, for a feature film script I’ve written. It’s the first screenplay I’ve written for myself as the main character, which will be an exciting dynamic to play with. It’s a really fun comedy, and interestingly could be an Indian or an international film. So the producer could also be Indian or international.
Q. If you could give any advice to budding authors, what would it be?
Know what you’re writing and why you’re writing it. For me the key is authenticity, to write what I know I like. For example, if an aspiring writer reads fiction but decides to write non-fiction because he or she thinks that’s what sells, I think there’s a mistake in there. Write what you truly want to write about, write freely, and write confidently.
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: