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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Exclusive Cover Reveal Q&A: Sons Of Darkness by Gourav Mohanty (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Pre-order Sons Of Darkness over HERE
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Today I’m super thrilled to present this exclusive cover reveal. Gourav Mohanty is an Indian author who is making his debut with Sons Of Darkness. A dark fantasy story that combines Indian mythology, the legends of Mahabharta in a violent and realistic world. Gourav was super kind to speak to us about his exciting debut and give us the opportunity to reveal the fantabulous cover. Read ahead to know more about the book, the world it is set in and what inspired Gourav to write India’s first dark, epic fantasy foray

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Gourav. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what lead you down the writerly path?

GM: Thank you for having me, FBC. I am a lawyer by profession who moonlights as a stand-up comic and now, writer, in India. A connoisseur of mythologies and momos, I enjoy embarrassing myself on a sketchbook as well as on dance videos. As evident, I have a lot of tabs open.

I think I can safely thank George R.R. Martin for inspiring me to write (my dream is to thank him in person in full Padawan style). After reading ASOIAF, I eagerly began hunting for a fantasy series written by an Indian author in some misguided patriotic drive. You would imagine that for a country that gave birth to fantasy as a genre through its Puranas and Vedas, our shelves would be lined up with native bestsellers but I was surprised to come up short in my search. While Abercrombie, Erickson, Lawrence and other fantasy greats kept me satiated for the years to come, I always hungered to read about a world built on the foundations of ancient India. 

Toni Morrison said that if you can’t find the book you want to read, then write it. I started out by writing a sword-fight scene in my final year of law school. Granted, it had a circulation of only two but luckily these two were rather biased friends of mine who egged me on. And most importantly, I enjoyed the story that had coalesced from the mists of my imagination. So, I stayed with it. My writing improved, a little through osmosis from other books, a little through Sanderson’s free online classes on YouTube but mostly through repetition. And over the course of next four years, a silly chapter on a sword-fight had mutated into the Sons of Darkness.

Q] Can you tell us about your path to publication? How did you came to be with your publisher?

GM: It felt nothing short of an Arthurian Quest. Epic-fantasy is a nascent genre in India. Additionally, apart from the genre-unfamiliarity, publishers in India are still very uncomfortable with the devil of “word count”. At 200k words, Sons of Darkness is well below the epic-fantasy word count average (Eye of the World was 384k words). But in response to my query emails, I was asked by three publishers and two agents to split my manuscript into three parts! Being a debut author in an unexplored genre (in India) did not arm me with enough ammunition to break through this deadlock.

It was around this time, Leadstart showed interest in my manuscript (the response came 6 months after I had sent the first query email). I met my future Editor and her team in their offices, and we instantly hit it off. The entire team was psyched about the potential of Sons of Darkness, and their faith in it lent me much needed validation (I had been seeking a publisher for almost 2 years by now).

Q] Please tell us about the inception of Sons of Darkness? What was your inspiration for this dark fantasy story?

GM: The origin story of Sons of Darkness has to be nestled in a What If scenario I created about picturing the devotional Mahabharata in a cynical and ultraviolent place. I wondered how amazing it would be to go into the psychology of those bow-touting ‘heroes’ and explore the dark realism behind all those kingdom politics.
Coupled with the desire to turn a mythic story grimdark was a yearning to offer a worthy Indian player in a fictional World Tournament of Fantasy Books. The concept of India has always been associated with a Gandhian sense of righteousness, purity and self-sacrifice, and somehow this has seeped into our mytho-fantasy books, which keep churning out good vs evil tropes. That is what I suppose I wanted to change. Dark Epic Fantasy was Indian literature’s last unexplored genre, and I wanted Sons of Darkness to be its sizzling, scintillating debutante. 
In terms of inspiration, I think everyone writes, unconsciously or not, from the sources they loved, and this book ended up being my creative smorgasbord of Malazan, Song of Achilles, First Law and ASOIAF. I am not saying Sons of Darkness will necessarily read like those books. But geopolitical dramas mixed with brutally cruel choices is something I loved about all of those works, and I really hope that's reflected in the writing.

Q] The artwork for SONS OF DARKNESS is mesmerizing. What were your main pointers for your cover artist as you both went through the process of finalizing it? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it?

GM: All credit to the beautiful mind of Micaela Alcaino from UK. I had fallen in love with Micaela’s designs on IG and was insistent on engaging her. And I am so glad she liked the book’s premise and agreed to play Michelangelo. The only suggestions I gave her were in the form of potential themes the cover could reflect-which I’m happy to say, she has incorporated with style.

Eclipse - I wanted a symbolism for darkness that is ‘active’, and thought Eclipse was the perfect candidate. The fact that it also plays a clever pun on the word Sons (Suns) Of Darkness quenched my Pratchett/Wodehouse leanings.

- The other suggestion I had was of putting the character of Satyabhama, a war-chief and the third wife to a senator in the book, on the cover. This was to create a gender balance with the word ‘Sons’ in the title because women really are the story movers in the book. The Wolf and the Fire-well that is something I do not want to spoil for the readers but I promise you once you are done reading the book; the symbolism behind it will hit you like a trainwreck.

Asymmetry: What I love most about the cover however is how it throws symmetry to the wind. No centrally positioned object or mirrored themes. The cover has that kind of good tension where everything is not predictable, and the whacky angle of the wolf cross-positioned with Satyabhama makes it dazzling.

Q] This book combines a dark fantasy world with the mytho-epic settings of the Mahabharata including its characters. Why did you go down such a unique route?

GM: While I wanted to bring the adult fantasy genre to Indian shores, I also wished to pull off a Madeline Miller in exporting our beautiful mythology to a global audience. So, I created a hybrid world where I took beloved Mahabharata characters along with a few of my own, and tossed them into a parallel dimension that was pervasively bleak and nihilistic.

Using the ancient world described in the Mahabharata also aided me in crafting an immersive worldbuilding experience in the form of Aryavrat with a cocktail of real and fictional geography, linguistics, cultures, history and social structures. Hopefully when you read it, Sons Of Darkness will feel like just a fragment of a world (I’m toying with the word Vedaverse) that already existed and will exist long after the series comes to an end.
Q] With SONS OF DARKNESS being the first book of a series? What can you reveal about your plans for the series (number of books)? How’s the writing going with the second volume?

GM: As of now, the ambitious plan is to have a five-book series with a few spin offs here and there in the Vedaverse. The second book is called ‘Dance Of Shadows’ and is halfway complete. At the moment however, since Sons Of Darkness is going to be out in June 2022, it feels like a milestone on the road that I need to cross before I can relax on the wheel to juggle work and writing again.

Q] Can you share something about the book that isn’t mentioned in the blurb and why should fans should be excited for this new story?

GM: The Magic System! It is going to be peeled off slowly like a gift wrapper in the hands of Monica (Ft. Friends) but let me reveal that it is going to be premised on chakras in a human body, and their activation using yoga and mandalas. Yoga is India’s gift to the world, and I am hoping the yogic-magic system will be my ‘certified fresh’ contribution to the grand lore of fantasy that will give readers something new to devour.
The other charming aspect of the book is that it does not project ancient India again as a village stuck in the Age of Wheel and obsessed with wooden arrows. I mean, c’mon. Our myths boast of non-linear time, flying machines, foetal incubation, test-tube babies and cloning. That Age cannot be viewed from the lens of mud-huts. No. There will be swords, morningstars, battle-axes and war-hammers, castles, siege engines, ports and temples, all festering in a vibrant civilization whose underbelly seethes with magic, murder and mayhem.  In a way, I hope Sons Of Darkness will do to fantasy from the context of India what Poppy War achieved from the context of China.

Q] For someone who has not read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write?

GM: If you liked The Legend of Korra, the Ramayana or even Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, but always wished it were a little darker and more fucked-up, you might like this. It will demand your attention, and then reward it when you see the seeds scattered in your reading journey germinate into Jack’s beanstalks by the end of it. There are political machinations, torture sessions, assassination attempts, sieges, sacrifices duels, battles, weddings and even a murder trial.

Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

GM: Please buy the book for I owe gold to some nasty dwarves.  


Pre-order Sons Of Darkness over HERE


Bled dry by violent confrontations with the Magadhan Empire, the Mathuran Republic simmers on the brink of oblivion. The Republic’s Leaders, Krishna and Satyabhama, have put their plans in motion within and beyond its blood-soaked borders, to protect it from annihilation. But they will soon discover that neither gold nor alliances last forever.

They are, however, not the only players in this game.

Mati, Pirate-Princess of Kalinga, must mend her ways if she is to be a good wife. But old habits die hard, especially when one habitually uses murder to settle scores. Karna, the gifted son of a lowborn charioteer, hopes to bury his brutal past, but finds that life is not generous in offering second chances. The crippled hero-turned-torturer Shakuni struggles in the maze of daggers, that is politics, leaving little time for him to plot the revenge he craves.

Alongside a cast of sinister queens, naive kings, pious assassins and predatory priests, these dubious heroes will converge where the Son of Darkness is prophesied to rise and break the World, even as forgotten Gods prepare to play their hand.



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