Law student Paras Joshi wrote his first book at 16. Here’s how...
Here’s a copy for the Brunch team. I know it’s worthless right now, but wait a few years,” beams Paras Joshi. He is 21 and exceptionally earnest.
We met at Café Turtle in Khan Market. “At 12, I had written a short story, borrowed heavily from the Harry Potter series. It had a character called Kalazar Kai (like Salazar Slytherin) and a Governor of Magic. I knew I wanted to write when I grew up,” he said.
Joshi didn’t wait to grow up to write his first novel though. After class 10, he had just changed schools – from Bal Bharti, Gangaram Hospital Marg, to Modern School, Vasant Vihar. And he had an idea for a book.
It was going to be a collaborative effort between Joshi and his cousins. When they were younger, they’d make up stories. Eventually, however, it fizzled out. And Joshi worked on the book himself. He made flow charts, jotted down important points of the plot – “but let my characters decide their destiny.” So the book kept changing every time Joshi had a new idea, which was often.
The year was 2010 and everybody was reading Amish Tripathi’s Immortals of Meluha. Mytho-fiction had arrived in India. As is often the case with commercial fiction in India, it had a great plot, but less than sparkling prose. “I was reading Immortals of Meluha at the time, and I always read the acknowledgements of every novel. I read Anuj Bahri’s name and discovered that he was Amish’s agent and his first publisher, so I looked him up, found an email and submitted a few chapters.”
By January, Bahri had assigned him an editor “who was finishing Amish’s last book at the time”. Within a month, during the vacations between Class 11 and 12, Paras wrote his first draft.
A long wait Over the next three years, two editors quit, the novel went back and forth, and through some changes. Joshi was now a law student at IP University. Finally, last December, it was published. “When you write a novel at 16, and it gets published only when you turn 21, everybody knows about the book. By the end of it, I had no idea when it was going to be out, so I was relieved when it happened!”
The book, Equilibrium (first in the Aavaasya trilogy) is inspired by many fantasy and sci-fi books you may have read. “If you are writing fantasy, you will borrow elements from other books: we’ve all read Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire… but I was also influenced by the Mahabharat and the Ramayan. I took the concept of good vs evil from them – that good and evil are the flip sides of the same coin. And added the concept of cyclical time: this meeting now has happened before, it is happening right now and it will happen in the future. When these three time cycles converge, apocalypse sets in.”
It is a bit confusing, the plot. The protagonist is a 17-year-old orphan thief who can break open any lock and must break into a government vault. The dark forces are rising, set to destroy the “Equilibrium”... But picture a 16-year-old kid who wakes up to the idea of a book fully formed in his mind. More interesting still, is that he was enterprising enough to approach agents and actually tried to do something about the few chapters he had written. Joshi is now promoting the book in schools and colleges, updating his Facebook page and “doing everything I can to push the sales,” he says.
The plan of action
He’s 21 now – half a lawyer. “But I’m not studying law to be a lawyer,” he clarifies. “I love John Grisham’s books, and I want to write legal thrillers.” He already has an idea – “but I have to be sure of the legal details of criminal law. I’ll probably work on it over the summer.”
He’s almost certain that the book will do well. Or at least that his writing career will. “I met Amish at a book signing, and when Anuj introduced us, he said to me, maybe one day I’ll be standing in a line like this, to get your autograph,” Joshi grins.
At 16, when Joshi had just begun writing his book, he would daydream while typing furiously on his laptop. He had three recurring fantasies.
“There’s a bookshelf right next to my bed and I would imagine my book sitting prettily there,” he says. Fair enough, everybody wishes that. “My second fantasy was to be on the cover of HT.” We grin, break into laughter. And pause the interview for a few seconds to remind him of the cover shoot the following day.
“My third fantasy was to be a multi-millionaire author,” he says matter-of-factly.
Two out of three ain’t bad. But rich writers are a rare thing, I warn him. He seems unfazed. “I’m hoping that since my first two fantasies have come true, I’ll graduate to the third too!”
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From HT Brunch, February 22
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