My third guest author this week is Mira Prabhu whose writing is as vibrant and colourful as her subject matter, the glittering mythology of the Indian subcontinent.
J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.
M: Whip the Wild God…the fecund seed of this novel was sown in my consciousness in the Manhattan winter of 1992, not long after I had summoned up the guts to walk out on my mate of fourteen years. Fear was my constant companion during those days—for unlike the savvy American and European women friends I had come to admire through my freelance work on Wall Street and Manhattan law firms, I had been born into a conservative Indian community where these same traits, so valued in the liberal streets of New York, had been severely frowned upon in me.
I had moved metaphorical mountains to make our marriage work, but the gulf had only widened, and I felt myself choking, emotionally, creatively and spiritually. Divorce was my last resort; still, my leaving him was viewed as a heinous act by my own family. Even as my husband swallowed up my material assets, my in-laws turned openly hostile. All I had to keep the wolf at bay was a rented apartment and a freelance job in a posh law firm.
Friends came to my rescue. One handed me a copy of Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels. “If you bring forth what is within you,” the mystical Christ stated two thousand years ago, “what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” These uncompromising words echoed in my mind as I faced a frightening future. I knew I had to channel all the potent energy surging within me—energy that could easily turn into a tornado of self-destruction if I did not learn ways to channel it constructively.
Six months later, at a picturesque ashram nestled high up in the Catskills, I met a yogi who introduced me to the esoteric philosophy of Tantra. (One definition of Tantra is the explosion of consciousness; tantric tools used properly possess the power to lead the genuine seeker to unite their male and female halves into a blissful organic whole; one can do this either alone, or with a partner, depending on one’s predilections). Tantra enthralled both the hedonist and the ascetic in me. As I delved into it, the idea of writing a story began to form in my mind’s eye: it would be a saga that would involve several elements close to my heart: my growing love for classic eastern philosophy, which included the gorgeous philosophy of tantra; my passion for telling a ripping good story; my community’s unusual history—some scholars trace our origins back to the fabled Indus or Saraswati River Civilization where Tantra was said to be practiced; last but not least, my urgent need to describe the suffering of an unusually gifted and beautiful girl imprisoned in a brutal patriarchal social system whose greatest yearning is to be free.
The title for my novel I got from a little known myth I discovered in a slim book called The Brilliant Function of Pain by Milton Ward: when the Wild God Rudra-Shiva (known as the Destroyer in the Indian trinity) truly loves a soul who has strayed into hedonism, he whips it hard; it is the agony inflicted by his divine whip that forces one to re-examine the nature of reality and to seek permanent enlightenment. Et voila, Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India was born.
Meera_Prabhu_CV_V7 This is a full cover pic btw. WordPress is keeping it secret—you have to click on the link to see it.
Now here’s a summary I wrote for Amazon.com:
Whip of the Wild God catapults you on a wild ride into 1839 BCE India….Ishvari, an angry and spirited girl plucked out of rural poverty to be meticulously groomed by tantric monks, is elected to serve as spiritual consort to Takshak, powerful monarch of Melukhha. Her tumultuous journey–from terrified peasant to glamorous High Tantrika of Melukhha–hurls her into the abyss of addiction. As she sinks into depravity, Ishvari violates the ancient Melukhhan code of honor, infuriating Rudra-Shiva, the Wild God, and calling forth Takshak’s sadistic revenge. And yet, as Ishvari flees for her life, now a notorious fugitive with a gold price on her head, the fire wisdom teachings she has grasped intellectually as a girl finally blaze into roaring life….here is a magnificent metaphysical saga you will find impossible to put down!
J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get? Have they been helpful in promoting/marketing your work?
M: Let me give you a round-about answer…unable to bear my doubt and confusion after I left my husband, a friend sent me to a Vedic Astrologer whose predictions literally saved my life. One of the many things James Kelleher said, and that later came true, was that I was on the verge of writing a great novel—a saga that would take me five years to complete—for the first time! He added that the literary agent I would work with would be enthusiastic about selling it, but would fail—because the stars were against this happening. The novel would not leave me until I was thoroughly satisfied with it, he said; his only advice to me was to persevere, no matter what, for it was my dharma (spiritual duty) to complete it.
Sure enough, I did take five years to get the first manuscript ready! A fantastic query letter attracted a slew of Manhattan agents. The one I chose to represent me loved Whip, but as much as she tried, and despite attention from major New York Publishing houses, she could not set the seal on a contract. So, in 2013, with the help and guidance of friends who urged me on and took over critical pieces of the work such as painting the cover, printing 500 copies for circulating to friends and relatives, and uploading on to the best sites, Whip of the Wild God finally went live.
J: Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?
M: That was a problem only in the early days, when my literary agent sent Whip out to major New York based publishing houses; many were blown away by the story, but few had the faintest inkling of eastern philosophy and thought it belonged in the fantasy genre. I was horrified! To the knowledgeable Indian, kundalini, moksha, yoga, the mahavidyas (great skills) are all real—but to the educated mainstream westerner, with no real submersion in yoga or mysticism, the world I had created in Whip was pure fantasy. Fortunately the astonishing spread of eastern concepts throughout the modern world has erased this problem. Today while Whip falls squarely in the category of Spiritual/Metaphysical Fiction, my second novel, Krishna’s Counsel, a work-in-progress piece set in 1960s south India and later in Manhattan, falls into the genre of Metaphysical Crime Fiction. To my great good fortune, Mishi Bellamy, a cherished friend and supremely gifted artist, offered to design the cover of Krishna’s Counsel—here’s a pre-final version of her work for your prior-to-publication delectation.
J: How do you tackle promotion?
M: At the millennium, when the internet took off like a rocket and changed our planet for all time, I had already flown from Manhattan to the Himalayas to begin my esoteric travels. Email was a rarity at the time; if you could send one single email in an hour, you were lucky! As a result, I missed out on becoming a cyber-techie. So, when years later it finally clicked within me that my Manhattan-based literary agent would never find the right publisher for Whip because the “stars were against it”, and I decided to self-publish, my inadequate skills in the cyber area and my general disconnect from the mainstream world rendered the process a bitch!
Again I received enormous help: One friend offered me potent injections of emotional support as I struggled to acquire the requisite knowledge for the project; a gifted artist I met at a local Ashram painted the wild blue god on the cover; my main creative supporter uploaded the novel on to various sites and helped me launch a blog to promote Whip; we called it “the metaphysical and mundane musings of a maverick female scribe”! This blog has taken off—I must say because both of us pour loving effort into it—and our current reach is approximately 4000+. All of this in 6 months or so (I took 6 months off from regular posting in order to work on my second novel). And all sorts of wonderful folks stopped me from pulling my hair out in chunks when things went south. However, while I would like to continue with the blog, I am hoping in time to attract a publisher for my second book—like most serious writers, I would rather focus on spinning out my novels than in self-promotion.
J: If you were to direct the public towards your novels, whose fans would you solicit?
M: Let me quote the last paragraph of U.K.’s Prediction Magazine’s review of Whip of the Wild God, which appeared in June 19, 2013 (incidentally Whip was awarded Prediction’s July Book of the Month):
The real gleam of Mira Prabhu’s novel is in its fascinating exploration of yoga, Tantra, kundalini, Advaita and other ancient Eastern teachings. These pearls of true wisdom are sewn into the fabric of this bristling adventure with such skill that you wonder how this vivid tale can also be such a seminal spiritual tome? This is the sexy big sister to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and the Eastern answer to Elizabeth Haich’s Initiation. Everyone really does need to read this book!
I believe that any reader who loves Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, or Elizabeth Haich’s Initiation, in fact anyone who enjoys a good story studded with spiritual gems that leaves a lingering taste in the mouth…. would also enjoy Whip. Basically Whip is a woman’s book—especially a woman who has chosen the path less travelled, the inner road to freedom and joy, and who begins to encounter the suffering that such a choice most certainly exacts as payment. It is a book that will inspire and encourage you to keep going, even when it feels there is only darkness around.
In the generous words of Jen Wilson:
Whip of the Wild God is a magical novel, an exquisite work that lacks nothing, a wild ride into ancient India—enriching, heartening and inspiring. Richly sprinkled with spiritual gems, this is a lyrical saga which throws a clear light on the ancient practices of yoga, tantra and atma vichara (Self-investigation). And yet it will also drag you through the depths of despair, force you to confront your own darkness, enrage you with the heartless cruelty of man and the bitter fight for survival—then drench out the flames with love, truth and mercy. God, how I love this book!
J: Is there anything else, advice, experiences, anecdotes you’d like to add, Mira?
M: Whip travelled with me around the globe and nearly died with me on at least two occasions—meaning I almost died, and Whip would have died with me. (Check out: The Spider & The Blue-Throated God on my blog: miraprabhu.wordpress.com–direct link: http://wp.me/p3rcfD-c4). My journeying was spiritually-driven—I sought the perfect teaching that would liberate me from permanently from suffering. My hunger for wisdom drove me from classical hatha yoga, to Zen, to Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, and Sant Math (The Path of the Mystic) before I finally came to rest in the living cradle of Advaita-Vedanta. During this span of time, my novel too morphed. I finally completed Whip twenty years after I began it—in the shadow of Arunachala, the ancient hill considered by millions to be the God Shiva incarnate.
There were many times during those two decades that I gave up on Whip. The initial excitement of having won a wonderful Manhattan literary agent over to my side began to wear off when one deal after another dissolved into thin air. But every time I shelved Whip, someone who had read an early draft would ring or email me and ask: Hey Mira, what happened to that fabulous book you were writing? One friend actually called me from London to tell me that while he was meditating, a voice had instructed him to contact me in America and urge me to finish the novel. At the time I was living and working at an Ashram in West Virginia (USA) and had given up my literary ambitions. I listened to my friend: the next day I called my literary agent in Manhattan and woke up our sleeping relationship. And magic like this happened all the time. Today I feel this book has little to do with me as a single entity—indeed, so many helped visible and invisible forces have given it shape and form that the only credit I can take is that I was a more or less willing conduit for her birth.
J: Now I’m going to ask you to sell us your book, tell the reader why you are passionate about it, why you love your characters.
M: My characters are based on people I either knew well in actual life, or created through my constant and inveterate study of human nature and its multitudinous quirks. My protagonist Ishvari, though far more beautiful than I ever was, is fashioned in my general mold—hypersensitive and imaginative, moody to the max, creative, vulnerable, unforgiving of bullies and the corrupt, stubborn as hell, a risk-taker unable to take the consequences of her wild actions, equally hedonist and ascetic. And yet, at her highest level of consciousness, she yearns only for the end of all human suffering, and for the permanent bliss and peace of enlightenment, not just for herself, but for all beings (this is in essence the Boddhisattva Vow of Mahayana Buddhism). Ishvari’s two main gurus Hariaksa and Atisa are the kind of gurus I too have had; Maharaja Takshak, her cruel twisted lover, is the Indian stereotype of a powerful man gone wrong; High Priestess Inanna is the kind of supremely brave and laughing woman I still want to be; Sumangali is based on my own lovely mother who found it hard to stand up for herself despite her incredible faith in the Divine; Pundarika the mendicant was the pure one who fell so low by making one critical mistake; Kharanshu is the incorruptible sage of my dreams.
Why do I write? Writing keeps me sane: if I don’t plug my boundless creative energy into an engrossing piece of work, my monkey mind drives me nuts! I love words and the power they have to convey nuance, feeling, thought and concept. I love the idea of weaving fantastic engrossing sagas from a single idea that ignites the imagination. Most of all, I am in awe when a reader tells me my work has positively influenced his or her inner life.
Today Whip careens through the world at her own sweet pace. My only regular promotion is through my blog, which I launched around the same time that this novel went live. I get great reviews, and folks write to me from all over the planet, telling me how much they enjoyed it. Almost every one of them says Whip would make a fantastic movie; if you think so too, let me know!
As for me, since leaving New York at the eve of the millennium, I have traversed the globe, spending years in Dharamsala in the foothills of the Himalayas, in Rishikesh on the banks of the River Ganga, and travelling back and forth to America and Europe. I now live in the deep south of India where I focus on what I always wanted to spend my precious life energy upon: spiritual and creative work.
Here’s where you can find a copy of Whip of the Wild God:
In Print format:
In e-book format:
Note: A direct search on Google.com for “Whip of the Wild God” will generate these sites.
FB WWG page: https://www.facebook.com/WhipoftheWildGod
FB Author page: https://www.facebook.com/miraprabhuauthor
FB direct address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog address: miraprabhu.wordpress.com
Web-link to all WWG reviews: http://miraprabhu.wordpress.com/category/reviews.
You can find sample chapters of Whip via my blog (miraprabhu.wordpress.com)—and I do hope you read them! While you’re at it, FOLLOW my blog—and we can stay in touch. Meanwhile, I am working on Krishna’s Counsel, a novel in the genre of metaphysical crime fiction; and once Krishna’s Counsel is ready for the world to enjoy, I plan to work on Copper Moon Over Pataliputra, also set in ancient India, which will perhaps be my most challenging piece of work—so wish me well and keep those fingers crossed!
Just for the record, here’s the tentative back cover text of Krishna’s Counsel:
Krishna’s Counsel sweeps you back to sleepy south India in the 1960s, right into the tumultuous life of Pia, a rebellious and brilliant teenager whose world disintegrates under the brutal sword-thrust of an eerie death. It is the loving gift of a magnificent view of eastern philosophy—particularly a poignant scene in the Bhagavad Gita, when Lord Krishna advises the quailing warrior Prince Arjuna to pick up his great bow Gandiva and rout the corrupt foe, regardless of the consequences—that saves her from certain self-annihilation.
Many years later, now a gorgeous woman living in frenetic New York City, Pia is tracked down and coaxed to return to India to deal with an insistent throng of old ghosts. Then horror strikes again—and she is compelled by supernatural agents to heed the timeless advice of Lord Krishna as she finds herself on the trail of a charming psychopath who will stop at nothing to kill her….
I would absolutely love to hear from you! You can connect with me through my blog—the metaphysical and mundane musings of a maverick female scribe—at http://miraprabhu.wordpress.com.
Thank you, Jane Dougherty, for the generous platform you provide to indie authors! I for one deeply appreciate it.
Thank you, Mira for that tantalising peek into your fascinating world of mysticism and adventure.