Q1. How did you come up with the idea of penning down a political thriller?
Nilay Shah: Initially, it wasn’t politics that I had intended to focus on. In the early stages of the development of this novel, I had come up with a theory of economics – the Law of Inconsonance. Then I realised how undeniably economics or any other theory is interlinked with politics. So, in order to get the story to where it was supposed to go, politics had to take charge of the narrative.
Q2. Where did you get the idea of opting for an imaginary land of Kashwarg?
Nilay Shah: I was on vacation to Kashmir in March 2013, when, while interacting with our taxi driver about his views on the prevalent situation in the state, it struck my mind how apt the conflict of the valley was for the Law of Inconsonance to be tried upon. Everyone seems to have his/her own opinion regarding the fate of Kashmir. This ambiguity in the air let me correlate the Law with the situation, and thus, came into existence Kashwarg, a land loosely inspired from Kashmir.
Q3. How far do you think the book correlates with the current political scenario of our country?
Nilay Shah: I would say, the book presents a slightly emphasized version of the current political scenario in India. While the history of Kashwarg and its relation with Siran are quite in line with the reality, the story, as it unfolds, keeps drifting away to form its own setup. Despite being fictitious, their significance is very much real.
Q4. You’ve discussed social issues in your book, drugs and terrorism, power games and religion, which according to you should be the prime focus in the real world?
Nilay Shah: Religion. Unless fed with due care in one’s mind, it alone can lead to a whole lot of critical social issues that would otherwise not have existed. Doesn’t that make it an obvious candidate?
Q5. Is Atmaj an anti-hero?
Nilay Shah: I would leave that to the readers’ judgement. As an author, I think I am not allowed to decide whether my characters’ actions were morally acceptable or not. All I can do is to go with the flow and let the characters shape their own thought processes and decisions.
Q6. Who is your favourite character in the novel?
Nilay Shah: It would be a tough competition between Adil and Alvira. But, I would give my vote to Adil, who comes with a promise of great strength – both physical and mental. And, in a tale that talks about conflict, these are the characters who reflect it at its best.
Q7. Is there a special motive behind fast forwarding the setting of the novel to the future?
Nilay Shah: The narrative of ‘A Life to Die For’ takes shape across two generations, and between the timeline, Preksha grows up before stepping out into the real world. Those eighteen years witness great changes, even if it doesn’t appear at first sight. While Kashwarg in 2016 resembles today’s Kashmir to a great extent, the second timeline of the year 2034 sees the troubled valley further broken down in conflict.
Q8. Your women characters have been portrayed as a catalyst. What is your opinion regarding that?
Nilay Shah:Honestly, there isn’t much of gender sensibility syrup that has deliberately gone into writing this novel, except for the feminist touch to Preksha’s plot. I let the story take its own turn, and it somehow resulted in the most crucial turns in the novel being initiated by the actions of the female characters.
Q9. Your characters typically wear the shades of grey. Is it the ‘shadow of loneliness’ that make them so?
Nilay Shah:One of the primary questions the characters of the novel keep trying to find an answer to is, ‘What makes one a hero? And what, a villain?’ You can’t classify anybody into just good or bad. All of them have shares of good and evil. They all make mistakes, unforgivable mistakes. Therefore, none of them deserves either white or black. Grey is what reflects their inner selves.
Q10. You’ve captured the world of distress. What inspired you to go for such a dark thriller instead of a light, entertaining read?
Nilay Shah:A Life To Die For. Isn’t such a life an amusing idea? At the same time, it’s a paradox. The story tries to find the purest form of bliss, but there’s no bliss without suffering. The characters constantly strive to find that ideal life, but for that, they have to go through learning and unlearning a lot. It’s a painful process. Therefore, adding a dark tone to this tale was essential to reach that final conclusion that both the characters and the readers are waiting for.
Q11. There is a twist at every turn of the page, tell us how you laid the structure of the book?
Nilay Shah:All I knew at the beginning was the climax, the very last paragraph of the novel that I had to take my story to. Except for three major events and the climax, I was determined not to be biased about any event or character, no matter how important they were. This helped me build up the required suspense and tension. The trick is to not give away too many hints at a time. To make the story exciting, the complexities brew up going back and forth in time and changing gears between the emotional turmoil in the characters and the chaos in the outer world.
Q12. The novel is kept open-ended. What does it promise to the readers?
Nilay Shah:The conclusion is left open to the readers’ perceptions. A Life To Die For is in itself a promising idea, and the open end clearly suggests that amidst the chaos, every character, in or outside the book, must carve out their own way to the desired bliss.
Q13. If you are asked to define the theme of your own book, how would you like to do it?
Nilay Shah:It’s partly a political thriller, with the backdrop of a conflict-torn state. But at its heart, it is largely an emotionally captivating story about human relations, about finding the meaning of one’s feelings and striving towards happiness. It dives deep into the darkest side of the mind to fetch out the light that is needed. It is a thriller taken a step ahead of its kind – a small signboard that shows the way to a life worth dying for.
Q14. Your message to your readers?
Nilay Shah:Well, as a new author, I know I carry my limitations in convincing people to buy and read my book, more so when it doesn’t fall in any of the widely celebrated genres. Not until you are assured of its worth. Of course, I am not the right person to judge its worth. It’s only you who can. But I can assure you one thing: this story is not anything usual that you would come across daily. For that very reason, I am sure that it won’t disappoint you. I hope I get to hear from you soon!