Mainak Dhar - Alice, Biters and an Apocalypse
Mainak Dhar wears many hats. He considers his most important job to be the best possible father and husband he can be. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, his ‘day job’ is in a leadership role with a major multinational firm. A self-described ‘cubicle dweller by day and writer by night’, when he’s not with his family or at work, he loves creating and sharing stories. He is the author of over a dozen books, some of which have been bestsellers in India and abroad including the bestselling Alice in Deadland series, 03:02 and Sniper’s Eye. His books have been translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, German and Portuguese, reaching millions of readers worldwide. He is also a passionate student of Karate, and holds a Black Belt. As our Author of the day, Dhar tells us all about his Alice in Deadland Trilogy.
Please give us a short introduction to what the Alice in Deadland Trilogy is about.
The series is about a fifteen year old girl called Alice who was born just after The Rising, a series of events that destroyed civilization as we know it, and left the human survivors at the mercy of seemingly undead 'Biters' and the mercenary forces of Zeus serving their shadowy masters. Alice grew up believing the 'accepted' story that the Biters were inhuman, irrational monsters and that humans were engaged in a 'war on terror' against them. As she follows a rabbit-eared Biter down a hole and learns more about them and what truly led to The Rising, she discovers a massive conspiracy at the heart of it, which challenges her notions of who the 'good guys' really are, and leads her to discover her destiny through a series of exciting adventures. At one level, it is a tale of adventure, but at another level, I hope it gives some food for thought on the nature of freedom and liberty, especially in the times we live in today.
The book became an Amazon bestseller in 2011. What surprised you most about readers' reactions to it?
I was surprised and grateful at how American readers welcomed and accepted me, who was at that time an unknown author without the backing of a big publishing house. It reinforced my faith that while we may be superficially different, and be from different cultures and backgrounds, stories and ideas can bring us together.
Alice in Deadland has been optioned for film rights by a major US studio. Please tell us more about this.
I am very excited to have my work reach more people. The Alice in Deadland series is under development in the US, and I have recently sold rights for two of my novels in India to be developed into web series (03:02 and Sniper’s Eye). As for ‘when’, I’ve long learned that things move at their own pace in the entertainment business and by the time a series or movie is developed, scripted, produced, sold to a channel partner- it can be a very long journey. So, I’m not thinking much about that- just happy that people see the potential in my stories to reach new audiences in new media, and am getting on with what I can control and enjoy most- writing.
Tell us more about Alice. What makes her tick?
Alice, like many of my characters, shares one common thing with me- they are doing something and define themselves by that narrow definition, but they then discover that they are destined to do and be something else altogether and make a much broader difference to others than just living for themselves. Alice thought her life was defined by defending her own settlement and thought her purpose was to kill Biters, but learns that her destiny is to serve millions of others and bridge the divide between humans and Biters versus hating them. I can empathise with that. A few years ago, when I was younger and stupider, I narrowly defined the purpose of my life as being successful and having a great corporate career. I now realise that is just a means to an end- my purpose is to be the best husband and father I can be, and to play a role in making a positive difference to others around me- through my work at office, and through the stories I tell.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have no secret skills! I’m just an ordinary guy, trying to do the best he can in all the roles he has to play. The most important role I play is to be the best husband and father I can be for my family. So, I try and spend as much time with my family as I can. I have a full time job in the corporate sector, and that takes up a lot of my time and energy. Outside of family, my job and my writing, I do try and keep myself in shape and I run every day, am also a keen student and practitioner of Karate, and hold a Black Belt.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I don't remember how it began, but even my earliest memories are of me wanting to write. I had a bunch of poems written and filed away, and when I was in Grade 7, I read an interview by Stephen King where he said that the moment anyone paid you for your writing, you were a professional writer. That gave me the courage to staple my poems together with solutions to the next term's Maths textbook and sell the 'book' to my classmates at fifty cents a pop. I made $12.50 in 'royalties' and came home and announced to my Mom that I was now a writer. That's probably the moment when the dream of being a published author was born.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Connecting with people through my words and ideas. Every time I hear from a reader who has enjoyed my work or who empathises with the themes I’ve tried to convey, I feel successful as a writer. My work has been translated into many languages, and its fascinating when I hear from someone who has read my work in Portuguese, German or Japanese and realise that ideas and stories can connect and unite us beyond boundaries.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
With a demanding, full time job and a family I love to (and want to) spend quality time with, it's critical that I have a routine to fit my writing in with the rest of my life. I ideate while I run in the morning and write 20-30 minutes every morning after my run. It helps that I wake up very early (5AM)- so by the time I need to be ready for my ‘day job’, I’ve got my ‘me time’ in (fitness and writing) without taking away from the time I need to devote to my family and work. Also, I do a fair bit of traveling as part of my job, and I get a lot of writing done in concentrated bursts on flights, hotels and airports whenever I travel.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished the sequel to Sniper’s Eye, a thriller which was published in 2018. It should be available in the coming couple of months. After a short break, have started on Book III of the trilogy.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website is www.mainakdhar.com and here’s where I am on social media- Twitter @mainakdhar