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The teen art of gobbledygook

Q&A: GUPTARA & GUPTARA

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The half-Indian, half-British Guptara twins, Suresh and Jyoti, finished the first draft of Conspiracy of Calaspia at the age of 11 and have been working on the Insanity series ever since. The 17-year-old, Switzerland-based brothers saw their fantasy novel release last week in Delhi.
 
You completed the first draft when you were just 11. Were you already into the fantasy genre by that age?
 
We learned to read and write at the age of three and cannot remember not being in the middle of reading something. So yes, and we had also long dived into Middle Earth and Narnia by the age of 11.
 
How do two people write a book together?
 
We had been telling each other stories, it developed from that. There came the time when we had to write them down. We plotted the stories, drew up the world and fleshed out its characters together.
 
Sometimes we'd both sit at the computer, dictating the lines to each other; or one of us would bang out a chapter before the other reviewed it. Since the whole book has been rewritten so many times, and edited by both of us, I doubt there is a line that hasn't been fiddled with by the two of us.
 
Was it difficult to find a publisher?
 
At first, yes. Hence the many rewrites. We're glad Calaspia was not published when we were 11, or 13, or even 15. It forced us to rethink and rewrite; it was a challenge of patience and perseverance.
 
Now that we have a foothold, our agency, Red Ink, is finding a lot of interest by foreign publishers for translations. We already have deals on the table for Germany and Italy. But the initial phase is hard for any unknown writer. We must have been rejected at least 15 times between the ages of 11 and 16.
 
How long will the Insanity series be?
 
There will be between six and eight books, depending on how much of the back story we reveal in the next few instalments. The Insanity series is split into sub-series, which work their way backwards rather than forwards chronologically. We are well into book two and plan to write one a year.
 
Tolkien's shadow is so vast that almost any new work of epic fantasy seems somewhat derivative of Lord of the Rings, Silmarilion etc. Do you find the genre jaded?
 
It is definitely jaded because so many people are doing what has already been done. Some of the most popular fantasy writers are simply giving fantasy fans more of the same.
 
But however crowded the pitch, there is always room for innovation. We try to take a fresh perspective wherever we can. Some passages which are reminiscent of Tolkien are more a parody, a nod in his or some other author's direction without being serious.
 
We try to work with appearance and reality, shell and substance, both with the plot and characters. Even so, book one is only the beginning, and we promise the Insanity series will unfold to reveal lots more.
 
Any favourite writers outside fantasy/science-fiction? Do you plan to write in other genres in the distant future?
 
Jyoti is working separately on several books, some set in the present day and age, others in the future, though more immediate. Neither of us are fans of science fiction, though there are stories of this genre we have enjoyed.
 
As for writers, more modern writers include J K Rowling, whose gift for creating atmosphere we covet; Terry Pratchett, the comic genius; and Stephen Lawhead, a master of children's stories, fantasy, mythic history and historic fiction.
 
Early influences include the Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and Biggles by W E Johns. Recently we have made a point to read as widely as possible.
 
With so much writing in addition to your school work, do you guys find time for a social life?
 
Suresh is at boarding school in the UK, which forces us to work hard during his holidays. We don't really have time for a social life "" who does? "" but we make the time. We are always interacting with each other, our publishers and agents.
 
And we get to talk with journalists! Book signings are ironic: you interact with people who will share something very personal with you, through your writing, which is the product of thousands of hours of solitude!

 
 

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