Tuesday, October 3, 2017

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Saiswaroopa Iyer, Author

Saiswaroopa Iyer, Author
Saiswaroopa Iyer’s novel, AVISHI has been described by reviewers as “Great fiction set in early days of Indian civilization” and “an out and out thriller” that is “gripping.” She writes her novels to remind us of our past and claims that “My characters drive me to write.” Although a novel set in the past, she researched the setting to assure accuracy from a “civilizational aspect.” She also believes the themes and story are universal even though set in India.

Formerly an analyst at a venture capital firm, Iyer today lives in London where she enjoys writing her novels. She enjoys traveling, especially to locations that are of historical interest. She is currently writing a sequel to her first novel, ABHAYA.

Q: What inspired you to write about and re-imagine Vishpala of the Rig Ved in your book AVISHI?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: I stumbled upon Vishpala, mentioned in the Rig Veda when I was searching for ancient women warriors of India. According to Rig Veda, Vishpala loses her leg in a nocturnal battle and is granted a metal leg by Ashvinas, the divine physicians. The hymn mentioning her is also the very first reference to prosthesis in world literature. A bit more of reading about the Rig Vedic society revealed a very egalitarian ancient civilization which I felt should stay fresh in the modern mind trying to find solutions for the various problems we face today. Avishi is a humble attempt in reimagining that world with an inspiringly strong woman at the helm.

Q: How do you make your characters credible? Why will your readers care about what happens to them?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: My characters drive me to write. They are driven by their goals which compels me to write about them, draw inspiration from them, seek answers from them and take up the challenges they pose me. I think this is the combination that makes them stay alive through the writing process and write their own story. I strongly believe that lively characters have their own way of making the readers root for them, hate them, love them and form that kinship with them as they progress through the book.

Q: How important was historical accuracy and setting to tell your story?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: Setting of the story requires a lot of accuracy from civilizational aspect. The tools, lifestyle, social constructs, etc matter a lot in the process of world creation. That does not mean that we don’t have creative liberty. But honest research into facts will also help in channelizing and deploying creative liberty effectively. For eg, I was able to imagine an ancient society where marital constructs were not yet defined only after an examination of evolution of wedlock as an institution.

Q:  Although your book is set in India, do you believe that the message and story are universal?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: Every message of Rig Veda (and the rest of Vedas too) is universal. I love India. But the very charm of India starting right from the dawn of civilization has been that the Indic thought keeps universal wellness ahead. While the civilizational aspects might seem intriguing to a western reader, I believe there is something for everyone to connect.

Q: Does the concept of hero versus villain apply to AVISHI? What are the characteristics of an effective villain?
Saiswaroopa Iyer: An interesting question. I believe any story that seeks to grip the reader attention needs these two poles.  What makes a hero and what makes a villain (and what makes the rest)? I believe it is the series of choices one makes through the course of their journey and how they face conflicts, deal with the intrigues of fate, make tough choices.

Q: Did you write AVISHI strictly to entertain or did you embed some key messages or themes to deliver to your readers?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: I wrote Avishi to mainly invoke the civilizational past, which I hope will help us in remembering the civilizational past and connecting to our strong willed ancestors. As for delivering messages, I leave it to my characters and my readers to gather their own meanings J

Q: One reviewer calls your book “gripping.” How do you create suspense to cause your readers to want to turn the pages?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: Thank you for going through the reviews! Pace and tautness is something that we writers learn in our own journey of writing. It comes from practice and self-critiquing asking ourselves every now and then, “does this sentence/paragraph/page prod the reader to go to the next?” or “Does this leave the reader with sufficient intrigue to get back?” I admit it is not easy. But doable and exciting!

Q: What caused you to switch careers from investment analyst to writing?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: Writing (Storytelling to be specific) was something I always had in mind. For many years my day job did not leave me enough bandwidth to pursue it full time. But my move to London a couple of years back made it amenable to me to pursue writing and also learn about publishing industry.

Q: What’s next?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: I am writing the sequel to my first novel ABHAYA, temporarily titled as Daughter of Mura. It is the story of a young girl who briefly appears in Abhaya but will have adventures of her own in the upcoming book. It would be a standalone novella but set in the ‘Abhaya universe’.

Q: Tell us about Saiswaroopa Iyer. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Saiswaroopa Iyer: Read and listen to lecture series on topics of my interest. I love travelling and visiting places of historical importance. I love to spend quality time with my family.

About Saiswaroopa Iyer

Formerly an analyst with a Venture capital firm, Saiswaroopa's interests include Startups, Economics, Carnatic Music, Philosophy, Politics, History and Literature of India. She won a state level gold medal from TTD in rendering Annamacharya Kritis. She holds an MBA from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.

Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of Rig Veda
But forgotten to the memory of India
The Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in 
search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement, but at a high cost.

Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?

If stories about ancient India, especially those with strong women characters interest you, then Avishi is a story you must read!


Twitter address  - @Sai_swaroopa


  1. Thanks for posting the interview Joyce :-)

  2. I would love to sit under a tree at a lake or river and share a bottle of wine.