About Chandrayan Gupta
Chandrayan Gupta is an author of four psychological crime thriller novels and the recipient of five Top Writer tags on the internationally reputed publishing platform Medium, where he has published 300+ articles on topics ranging from mental health to writing. His fourth novel, Motherson, has been critically acclaimed.
LiFT: Tell us about your book, the journey of writing it and its content.
Chandrayan: Motherson is a psychological thriller about a teenager who suspects his mother might be a serial killer. But for every piece of evidence he uncovers, his mother offers an innocent explanation. Is his mother truly a serial killer? Or is he suffering from schizophrenia? Motherson revolves around that central question, but it is more than a murder mystery. It is an exploration of the boundaries of a mother-son relationship, whether there are any boundaries, whether there should be. When readers are first introduced to Abhik and Lipi, their relationship is strained. She is distant and cold. And the book explores what happens to a boy who, despite craving it, is denied his mother’s love. It also touches upon mental illness, specifically depression and schizophrenia. Without spoiling anything, Abhik and Lipi are both grappling with mental illness, and their perception of the world is clouded because of it.
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of family. These are people one would ordinarily either dislike or nor care for too much, but since they spend so much time together an ineffable bond develops. Family is the only kind of relationship, in my experience anyway, which transcends compatibility. One might despise their mother, disapprove of their likes and habits, and they might stand for completely opposite ideals, yet the underlying love never dies. Family is the only kind of relationship where love and hate exist in equal measure. One might love their mother to death yet not be able to stand her presence for longer than ten minutes. And I am a huge admirer of ambiguity, of authors like Karen Cleveland, whose debut novel, Need to Know, directly inspired Motherson’s plot. Although they belong to different genres – Need to Know is more of a spy novel and does not revolve around a mother-son relationship – they have in common the device of ambiguity. Lipi could be a serial killer, she could not be a serial killer. I’ve attempted to create something which readers think about. They can form their own opinions. And while the story does resolve – ambiguity without closure is frustrating – the reader can still interpret events their way. So these concepts merged to create Motherson.
By the way, nothing about what I said about family applies to my own. I gave the example of the mother because Motherson is about that relationship. Thankfully none of the characters in Motherson were inspired by anybody I know.
LiFT: Why you chose this title?
Chandrayan: I could craft the most elaborate plot you have ever come across and produce 100,000 words on it through months of concentrated effort. But I’m terrible with names. Ghastly. I wish I had some poignant story behind the title, but Motherson is called Motherson because it’s about a mother and her son.
LiFT: When did you realize that you want to be a writer and what’s your inspiration behind it?
Chandrayan: I wanted to be a writer as soon as I read my first novel when I was four. It was an Enid Blyton novel, one of the Famous Five books, and I remember I used to stare at the covers for long stretches and imagine a book with my name on the front. I don’t know why, but I need to write. Every day. I need to create. And it’s always been that way. I used to write short stories when I was ten. They were awful, absolute trash, but the desire was always there. I wanted to one day become worthy of having my name on the cover of a book. So I kept reading and writing and honing my skills.
LiFT: Where do you see yourself ten years down the line in the world of literature?
Chandrayan: Hopefully as an internationally recognized author, a surefire mark of quality. I have dreams of becoming beloved and respected for my skills as a writer. Only time will tell whether those dreams will be fulfilled, but I don’t think I could settle for anything less than excellence. I often lack the motivation to make myself a cup of tea, but when it comes to writing, I want to be the best of the best. Which I am currently nowhere close to being.
LiFT: How much do you think marketing or quality of a book is necessary to promote a particular book and increase its readers?
Chandrayan: I’ve read books published by the top, most reputed publishers which made me want to throw up, but which were bestsellers simply because they were marketed effectively. On the other end of the spectrum I’ve read books with no hype and virtually no sales which ended up being among my favorites. I think in the short run marketing is more important. You could write the best novel ever, but if nobody knew about or bought it, it wouldn’t matter. But in the long run quality is more important. A book could have all the hype in the world, but if the reader reads it and is not impressed, they will never buy from that author again. Marketing and quality are each important in their own way.
LiFT: What is the message you want to spread among folks with your writings?
Chandrayan: That they aren’t alone. I want to thrill and amaze them, of course. I want to create stories with twists that leave readers floored. But ultimately, I want them to connect to the characters. Radha Bose and Aditya Gokhale are my two greatest creations, and it’s extremely gratifying each time a reader tells me they feel they could run into them in real life and not be surprised. My books tackle mental illness a lot, because I myself suffer from depression and anxiety. My first three novels, even more than Motherson, talk about mental illness and other supposedly taboo subjects that impact us every day and yet are rarely discussed. In that respect, Motherson might be my most technically sound novel, but the first three are my purest. I know what it’s like to be an outcast, a loner who seeks comfort in books. I want to give my readers that comfort by creating realistic characters who suffer from everything real people suffer from and by tackling subjects which mainstream writers usually shy away from.
LiFT: What do you do apart from writing?
Chandrayan: I recently obtained a dual degree in law and business management. Apart from that I sometimes paint, I sometimes cook. I’m an avid gamer and currently in my, oh I don’t know, fourth playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077? Steam tells me I’ve poured some 750 hours into that game. But Phantom Liberty has been released, so play we must. I’m always listening to music. Usually heavy metal, like Slipknot, Bring Me the Horizon, and Arch Enemy, but I listen to mellow, country, and independent music as well, depending on my mood. Above all, I read. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I read like a maniac. I’ve easily read over 300 books in my life, conservative estimate, I’ve officially run out of space in my already spacious bookshelf, and I’ve completed this year’s Goodreads Reading Challenge with three months to spare. I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. There was a time when I powered through 600-page books in three days, but with so much else going on now, I can read only 20-25 books a year. So far in 2023 I’ve read 20. Let’s see how many more I can read until January.
LiFT: What are the activities you resort to when you face a writer’s block?
Chandrayan: This will probably sound like a lie, but I’ve never faced writer’s block. I’ve never been unable to plot a story or write however much I’ve wanted to in a day. I’ve never not been able to write. To me it’s as natural as breathing. That’s not to say I never will face writer’s block. I just haven’t yet.
LiFT: What if your story will be adopted as a movie? Whom would you want to work as a director or actors in it?
Chandrayan: I have to take a hard pass on this one. Bollywood has some of the best actors in the world, but I have never modeled my characters after anybody, and I don’t have anybody in mind who I’d want to portray Radha, Aditya, Lipi, or Abhik. It’s hard to explain, but seeing them on a screen would ruin the magic for me.
LiFT: Are you working on your next book? If yes, please tell us something about it.
Chandrayan: Yes, I took a two-year break after Motherson, but now I’m writing the follow-up to Too Far Gone, my third novel. My first three novels feature Aditya Gokhale and Radha Bose. He’s, well, he starts out as a teenager, he’s not one anymore, and she’s a private investigator. Both suffer from mental illness, and the first three books are about them solving complex cases while helping each other through their issues and growing ever closer. I took a break from them with Motherson, but now I’m writing the fourth entry in the series, which will end with a fifth and final entry.
LiFT: What are your suggestions to the budding writers/poets so that they could improve their writing skills?
Chandrayan: One, I’ve noticed some people inject a lot of “masala” and one-liners into their stories simply because it’s a novel. Nobody really talks like that. Radha and Aditya have resonated with readers only because they’re realistic. They’re flawed. They talk like you and I. They don’t go around shooting revolvers while swilling martinis and smoking cigars. That kind of writing comes across forced.
Two, although a minimum adherence is necessary, don’t feel the need to follow every grammatical rule in the book. The flow of a paragraph is far more important than the integrity of each individual sentence. To this day I’ve never touched a grammar workbook, I’ve never studied grammar. I used to sleep through grammar classes in school and go into the exams completely unprepared, but it was always obvious what the answers were. English has a certain feel. And I always topped the English exams. So read. Although I’ve never studied grammar I’ve been reading novels since I was four. I’ve learned practically, and while that might take longer, after a certain point you’ll just know what’s right and what works.
And three, at the core of every writer is a tiny but powerful voice that screams: “Whatever you write is complete filth. You’re a failure and nobody will ever read, far less enjoy, your work.” Easier said than done, but ignore that voice, take the leap, send your manuscripts for evaluation, self-publish, whatever you need to do, do it. That voice is your enemy. It’s wrong, and it’s your enemy.