Looking back, looking ahead

2018 Writing Plans (and Dreams)

Before I can share my plans for 2018, I have to recap what was an extraordinary year for me as a writer, to put things in perspective. (Hey, I write multi-volume fantasy series running to thousands of pages, what did you expect?) :)

2017 was a watershed year for me. After having lived in India all my life, in 2015 I decided I needed to start over professionally. I applied for a passport and made my first trip abroad, to the United States. It was love at first flight. Some months later, I packed up my life and moved permanently to the US. This was possible because our kids were grown up (22 and 26 at that time) and on their own paths and because I have literally no close family in India. (Am an only child, my parents and grand-parents were all dead and I have no first cousins either.) The first 18 months were really hard because I was starting from scratch professionally, writing books totally unlike anything I’d written before, approaching a completely different set of publishers in a market with very different standards and expectations. My wife, who was shuttling back and forth between India the US (she works freelance in India designing curriculum for pre-schools and has a successful career of her own, although we depend entirely on my income to support the family), was very supportive but I could see her growing anxious. Hell, I was anxious too!


Then in March 2017, I had one amazing breakthrough after another. It was like a cupboard door had been opened and stuff kept spilling out. I got an offer for my epic fantasy Burning Throne series from a major publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It was a solid offer from a big-name publisher and they were very excited and enthusiastic about the book. It was a dream come true. Though I’d had considerable success in India and published 60 books which had sold over 3 million copies in 21 languages and 71 countries, this was going to be my debut in the US. I was over the moon.


But that was only the beginning!


The same month, I was inundated with a deluge of offers from literary agents wanting to represent my Young Adult fantasy proposal, The Rise Trilogy. I had to sift through over two dozen offers from top agents to finally pick my current agent, the excellent John M. Cusick of Folio Literary. I signed with John on Monday, March 27. On Tuesday morning he sent me his edits on the Rise Trilogy proposal. I incorporated them all immediately and emailed it back the same day. On Wednesday March 29, at 2.30 pm, he sent out the Rise Trilogy proposal to 22 top editors at imprints that published YA fantasy. On Thursday morning around 10.30 am, we had our first offer. It was in six-figures. That’s hundreds of thousands of US dollars! By Thursday afternoon, we had two more offers and at least five other editors calling John to say they were putting together their offers. By Friday morning, John was connecting me via telephone calls to three of the biggest names in New York publishing, each of whom pitched their imprints and publishing houses to me, selling me on why I should sign with them! It was head-spinning. On Friday, John and I mutually agreed to reject the three separate six-figure offers we’d received and go to auction. The first editor came back the same day and requested time until Monday to come back with a bigger offer. Monday first thing, she came back with a seven-figure offer for just North American English-language book publishing rights. John also heard from almost a dozen other editors who said they were willing to go to auction, understanding that the base would be seven-figures. After sleeping on it overnight, I told John I was willing to accept the first editor’s seven-figure offer and forego the auction. While the possibility of earning millions more was tempting, I felt that I’d already achieved (or exceeded) my dream by getting paid over a million dollars already, and besides, the publisher was the world’s biggest. On Tuesday, April 4, we accepted the offer from Krista Marino of Random House. The good news didn’t stop there. Over the next few weeks, we sold multiple rights in foreign countries for hefty sums, and had several offers for film rights from major studios. The rights sales continue even now, and the film deal is still under negotiation.


So as you can see, 2017 became a pretty big year for me, career-wise and personally. It’s tough to top it, but I plan to do so in 2018. Here’s what I have lined up:


I’ve finished the first book of the Rise Trilogy, RISE AS ONE, which is currently in editing, and have first drafts of the sequels STAND AS ONE and RULE AS ONE. I will be revising them and submitting both to my publisher in 2018, and as my readers tell me, I tend to get better with each book in a series, so my goal is to make each book stronger and more thrilling than the one before.


I finished the first book of the Burning Throne series, UPON A BURNING THRONE, and that’s currently in editing too. I have a first draft of the sequel THE BLIND KING’S WRATH and will be revising that and submitting it in 2018. These are big books, over 300,000 words each, so my goal will simply be to make it even better than the first book.


I recently finished the first book of a middle grade fantasy series, PAX GANDHI, SORCEROR SUPREME. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m aiming to revise it to perfection and submit it to publishers sometime in 2018. US market segmentation and reading categories are very precisely segmented and middle grade is NOT the same as Young Adult, so this is a totally different market with completely different expectations and rules. To put it simply, Young Adult is Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, while Middle Grade is Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl. So, again, I’m venturing into unknown territory and yet again, I’m breaking boundaries with People of Color as protagonists and issues of race, gender, and social justice, while delivering a thrilling, pulse-racing fantasy adventure. Fingers crossed!


I’ve been working on a very serious literary thriller titled (tentatively) BOY GIRL LOST FOUND which I hope to finish finally in 2018. It’s much too soon to think about submitting it. I’ll be happy if I can get a draft that comes even close to the standard I have in my mind, which is pretty high.


I have very compelling urges to write two or perhaps three YA problem novels featuring Indian origin teenagers facing issues of racism, child trafficking, bigotry, and I hope to make some progress on one or more, but probably not actually get to a draft. But long-term gestation is important and any progress is progress.


I have a draft of a very ambitious epic fantasy tentatively titled THE MORGOL which I hope to develop further in 2018, maybe even complete. But it’s very ambitious, as I said, and I’ll be happy with just pushing it further by any distance.


THE BROKEN GODS is a second Middle Grade fantasy adventure series featuring a set of immigrant kids with mythological powers from their individual cultures who face discrimination and even abuse from the very people they risk their lives to protect. Again, I’ll be happy with any progress, as I hope to write a draft in 2019, and development over time is essential to reaching that point.


And then there’s a top-secret TV Series that I’m developing with a major star and top producer for a big-name streaming platform that I can’t say anything about. I’m the Creator-Producer-Writer of the show and my main focus is writing the scripts and helping ensure that the show is true to the spirit of the book, while being it’s own thing. There’s not as much work involved right now, but if it gets greenlit, it will demand a lot of attention, but hey, I love writing!


Did I mention, I’m also starting my MFA (Master’s in Fine Art) degree course in Writing for Children and Young Adults in 2018? Well, I am. I intend to specialise in Picture Books and Chapter Books for early readers. It’s a two year low-residency degree course, which means I only have to attend two fortnight-long sessions of classes each year, but assignments are due every week for the entire course, so it’ll keep me on my toes.


That’s it for now. But there’s always room for new stories and space for more ideas. Even at 54, I can’t wait to get out of bed each morning at sunrise and get to work. I’m so passionate about writing (and reading) that I don’t even need coffee or tea (or caffeine in any form) because I’m already charged up. When you love what you do as I do, every day is an adventure.