In a chat with DT Next, author Meera J Pillai discusses her writing process and what readers can expect from the book. “Maya and the Sword of Gringak is a young adult fantasy fiction that explores the adventures of 16-year-old Maya. It is a three-part series, with this being the first installment. The story is set in an extraordinary parallel universe dwelling amid the human world. For young Maya, the world she had taken for granted is now beyond her wildest imagination. She navigates through the hurdles thrown at her with the help of her friends, family and the inner strength that she discovers on the way. The narrative is complete with romance, action, suspense, magical creatures and more than anything, finding power in oneself in exceptional situations,” says Meera.
A former journalist, Meera grew up reading Lewis Carroll, Enid Blyton, JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien, who introduced her to fantastic make-believe worlds that stayed with her even as an adult.
“I fell in love with the fantasy genre because of them and chose the subject thanks to their legacy. I developed this story from short night-time tales that I use to tell my son. Maya is a character that many young girls will identify themselves with and the epic journey she is on is something that we all crave. I decided to write it and as I kept at it, I knew there is something more here than just a ‘happily ever after’,” she adds.
Sharing her experience of writing her first book, Meera explains, “I love to write for sure but never thought of myself as an author. However, after having my son, I went through post-partum depression. It was a complicated period and made it extremely difficult to find a passion or hobby to keep myself occupied. It was when I discovered my love for writing stories. Ironically, I wrote Maya and the Sword of Gringak without the idea of getting it published. I never really had a writing process in place and it was more of a ‘go with the flow’ method! After I finished the first draft, I felt that there is something there worth sharing with the world and decided to take it forward. While the whole writing may have started from a dark place personally, it did evolve into something beautiful at the end.”
Meera always loved stories and the people around them, which is the main reason she got into journalism in the first place. “You meet different kinds of people and learn their unique stories that stay with you forever. Journalism makes you see the world and people in a whole different light. But as they say, journalism is ‘literature in a hurry’, the scope of exploring one’s creative side is limited. Writing the book fulfilled my need to expand my creative thinking through words. As a journalist, I looked at others’ stories and as an author, I created my own.”
The author promises that the book is a fantasy that will keep young readers hooked on it till the last word. She says that the protagonist, Maya, represents every Indian girl. “Her dark skin or her peer group standing doesn’t define her. It is her inborn ability to see good in people and try to work on herself that makes her who she is. She may be facing a rather mountainous task at hand but she stays true to herself and despite the doubtful moments, she strives to give her best, even if it comes with shortfalls. I think for readers, the main takeaway is that while society may see flaws in you, it is how you see yourself at the end of the day that matters,” she adds.
Meera is currently working on the second part of the book as she continues to explore Maya’s journey.