Shiva Kumar 2.0
Shiva Kumar, a Manhasset, NY resident, grew up in a traditional Tamil family, where the epics, mythologies, and fables of Hindu life enveloped him like the humid dawn of a steamy Madras day. As a teenager in America, Kumar absorbed the sci-fi classics of Le Guin, Herbert, Heinlein, Asimov, Zelazny, Donaldson, and Tolkien but it took four decades before he would revisit the stories of his childhood from a science fiction perspective. Kumar has been a filmmaker for over three decades and his work has been broadcast on PBS, ABC, BBC, Canal Plus, and other networks worldwide. As an actor, Kumar has appeared on numerous TV shows including Quantico, Madame Secretary, Law & Order, SVU, All the Queen’s Men, Uncoupled, Billions, and Succession.
Click the link to access Shiva Kumar's 1st interview.
A New Reality Release Date 11/14/23
Congratulations on the completion and upcoming release of your second book in the fantasy/sci-fi Lanka Chronicles trilogy, A New Reality. It’s nice to have you back for a second interview. Please share a quick summary of where Book 1, An Awakening left off and how you lead the reader into Book 2, A New Reality.
Lanka prophecy warns that war is inevitable. Can Dharma prevail? Our exiled heroes have crash-landed onto an Earth-like planet, believed to be Lanka. Dharma, Loki, and Arya discover that none of their modern technology or weapons function. Arya finds herself able to channel power from the living soul of the planet. Did the Trishul and the missing three hundred crash here a century ago? Were the trio drawn to this planet by design? What happened to Arya?
Maya log A0353 – Earth Calendar, July 25, 2294
Why do I feel compelled to pursue these memories? I don’t honestly know. Is it possible that I, a synthetic and artificial creation want to believe there is something greater, something inexplicable, something beyond us all that animates the universe? I now believe a faithful retelling of events will impact my destiny in ways I cannot predict, so I follow the path.
In the continuation of this fascinating reimagining of the classic Indian epic, The Ramayana, our heroes find themselves drawn into a war prophesized centuries ago.
The concept of the brothers Dharma and Loki using the powers of the planet Lanka to awaken some of their 23rd-century technology is an interesting twist. Should readers expect to find that technology blending once again with mythology from the ancient texts of The Ramayana, along with the splash of quantum physics that was present in your debut novel, An Awakening? Are any new advances in technology unearthed?
Years ago, I read a short story by Michael Moorcock called ‘Behold the Man’. It was a SF retelling of the Jesus story where a Jewish grad student of Ancient Languages uses a time machine to travel back to find the real Jesus. He is so disillusioned by what he finds that he sort of becomes the Jesus of legend using modern psychology and technology to perform all the miracles attributed to Jesus. I say this to describe how I tried to provide reasonable scientific explanations for many of the miracles the hero, Rama performed in the Ramayana because of course he was a god.
In my story our heroes are normal humans from the 23rd century who land on a planet that has a core power that the beings of this planet call Prana. Prana is the Sanskrit word for life breath. Prana can be used to heal or to corrupt. This power can be seen as magic or as any form of energy all planets have. Arya’s high sensitivity to Prana was foreshadowed in Book 1 when she was trapped underwater beneath the pyramids of Egypt and hears the song of Mother Earth. Arya vibrates at a higher frequency than others so can hear the song of the planet. Quantum physics suggests that at the core of all matter is a common particle and it is the different vibrations of this particle that forms all matter in the universe.
This idea of matter vibrating at a particular frequency gave me the idea of seeing a plant having a chorus or a harmony that is a ceaseless and perfect note. When corruption enters, the eternal sound becomes disharmonious or out of tune. The indigenous peoples of this planet see this harmony in colors. Each race has a different color aura. The humans see this harmony through sound and data. Dharma as a modern human comes to recognize that the universe in made up of data and like a computer program, when an anomaly enters it corrupts the code. He uses this understanding to reawaken some of the inert modern devices on his starship but that will be revealed in greater detail in Book 3.
What role does Maya 1, the sentient spaceship, play in the unraveling of Dharma’s past and the regrets he struggles with in Book 1, An Awakening? Is Maya 1 able to piece together aspects of Dharma’s past to, A, help fill in the gaps in his memory and B, help her understand her purpose?
In Book 1 Maya 1 recognizes that the older Dharma’s voyage back to Lanka 30 years later is also a journey for her to understand her purpose. She probes Dharma’s memories to find out what happened on Lanka 3 decades ago. She also deciphers the Elgar-Voynich coded poem and realizes there are multiple strands of narrative woven into the code. Someone on Lanka wanted to tell the entire story, so the 2 additional strands are told from the records of the old lost ship The Trishul and the diaries kept by the Vanara species of the planet Lanka.
In the beginning of Book 2 – A New Reality, Maya 1 states for the record that she will narrate the tale in its entirety because it is necessary before she can understand what role she plays in this cosmic drama. As a result, most of Book 2 is a revelation of what happened on Lanka 30 years earlier. Maya 1 only makes an occasional entry but narrates the story as it is revealed to her.
Aspiring authors sometimes struggle with pacing and plot, so learning from other authors about how they handle those things is vital. Dharma’s wife, Arya, is being held captive in A New Reality. To help Wordy’s readers, many of whom are aspiring authors, please explain briefly how the plot point of her imprisonment helps move the story forward.
Since The Lanka Chronicles is a reimagining of the Ramayana, the major plot points of the Ramayana remain in this retelling. Rama’s wife, Sita is kidnapped and so Dharma’s wife Arya is also kidnapped and her unique access to Prana is clamped with a containment Matrix, a sort of powerful code that cuts off her ability to channel Prana. Arya is a powerful and inventive modern woman and does not sit and pine for her husband but actively looks for ways to escape her imprisonment and a method to break the containment code. We cut back and forth between Arya’s predicament and Dharma building an army by entering into alliances with the many species of Lanka. We learn a lot more about the Asura society led by Iraivan, whose ship The Trishul crashed on Lanka over a century ago. The Asura find ways to corrupt the life force of the planet and call it Ajeeva. Prana is in the very blood of the native species of Lanka and the Asura distill it and turn it into Ajeeva which they use to fuel their dark technology.
What do you hope readers will relate to most in A New Reality? Will they take away any updated lessons spoken about in the original Ramayana’s?
The Ramayana is a seminal epic from India. It is probably the most popular story told in South Asia. During the Indian festival of Dusshera, The Ramayana is told by bards and storytellers over a ten-day period using puppets, effigies, actors, and multiple staging effects. One of the abiding origins of our festival Diwali is that it is the celebration of Rama’s triumphant return home after rescuing his wife Sita from the Rakshasa King, Ravana. Rama is acknowledged by most Indians as the avatar of Lord Vishnu who has come to earth to teach mankind how to live a righteous life. So, he is seen as the ideal man and his wife as the ideal woman.
The updated lessons that I hope my trilogy will reveal are ones about our fallible, uncertain, questing, and striving human nature. Gods have the luxury of being perfect. Humans do not. Most of us muddle through life trying to do our best but even when we aspire to be good, moral, loving, and kind we falter. Our egos, prejudices, fears, and petty nature are obstacles to becoming our best selves. As we get older, we reflect and try to understand our motivations better. We try and recognize our weaknesses and failures and try to be better versions of ourselves. By trying to humanize the heroes of the Ramayana, and using the AI spaceship, Maya 1 as a narrator, muse, and reflector, I hope a modern readership will relate to this story, fall in love with these human characters with flaws and recognize the grandeur and scope of this seminal epic from India.
Switching gears, choosing to be an indie author is both exciting and terrifying to many aspiring authors. Did you find the process any easier with the second in the series?
Yes, I definitely found writing, formatting, and self-publishing Book 2 much easier than Book 1. Book 2 – A New Reality has a cast of characters and a pronunciation guide as well as a glossary in the back. I have included the interview we did for Book 1 as well. Small things such as alternating between authors name and book title on the top of each page, making sure the page numbers are in the same spot at the bottom of each page, confirming that the outside, inside, top, and bottom margins are consistent because the margins interact with the size of your font and the number of pages in your book. I used Times Roman at 11-point, and I separated paras with a 5-point space. While that is not considered ideal paperback formatting, I found it easier to read. I didn’t want the reader to feel cramped as they read my book. I also added a small line under every chapter head, a graphic design element when I changed a character’s POV and a different design element at the end of every chapter. I found all these small elements gave the book a more professional look.
In our first interview, you discussed how beneficial beta readers, and an editor were to the process of completing your first novel. Did you seek beta readers and an editor this time around?
Quite a few of my most enthusiastic readers of Book 1 indicated they would be happy to beta read book 2 and it was very helpful. 5 beta readers provided me great feedback and helped me fix a few dangling plot points, adding better descriptions of certain scenes, issues of consistency, spelling errors, and much more. I did not hire an editor for book 2 but did hire a proofreader just to make sure all my I’s were dotted, and my T’s crossed.
Marketing is a huge aspect that indie authors must tackle both ahead of publication and once they’ve published their novel. Please impart to Wordy’s readers some of the marketing techniques you employed to get Book 1 – An Awakening into the hands of readers and what you have planned for the launch of Book 2 – A New Reality.
For most authors, marketing is the most difficult part of the writing journey. There are some who either have a large existing network, understand the algorithm of social media or work in highly read genres such as romance or paranormal, and can connect with a sizable audience. But for most authors this is not the case. If you are self-published, you must do all the work of promoting yourself and that is hard. Also, with FB and IG you can only post so much before you feel like you are boring people with your pitch. Tik Tok is the new frontier, but I have found it also has very specific algorithms and if you are not conversant with how it works or the demographics of your viewer, your post goes nowhere.
Having said that, I am trying them all. I post on IG, FB, Linked In, Twitter (X), and Tik Tok. I have tried to reach different viewers with different types of posts, from simple stills of the books to videos talking about the Ramayana and how my Books are a reimagining of it.
For book 2 I have done something I didn’t do with Book 1. I have hired a freelance publicist who came recommended to me by an author friend of mine, Toni Ann Johnson. Alyssia Gonzales of ACG Book Publicity has helped me get my authors website up and running, shivakumarauthor.com She has helped me re-write the copy that potential readers see on Amazon when they look up my book, came up with new tags and keyword to help drive traffic to the site, and A+ content that helps keep viewer attention, I am told. We have also distilled the feedback from my beta readers and created advance reviews for Book 2 all if which is way more than I did for book 1. I guess time will tell but it was a good feeling to collaborate with another person in this very isolating process.
What would you say to aspiring authors who may be afraid to take the indie plunge?
I am going to repeat what I said when we did this interview for book 1 because it is still relevant.
The reality of the publishing industry is sobering. There is so much being written by so many people every day that trying to find an agent, and then an editor, then a publishing house is quite daunting, especially if you are a debut author with an unfamiliar title. Also, most agents want reasonable certainty that they can sell your book to a publishing house. They all want the next whatever is the flavor of the month because they can sell that. Going indie is tough but it is organic and slow, and you build an audience who connect with your specific work. And who knows, if the first book is a success, agents will find you.
Any creative endeavor requires discipline. Making films is an all-consuming, creative, technical, and financial undertaking. Being an actor takes tremendous commitment, confidence, resilience, and humility. But being a writer is the hardest because unlike the other two, until you are ready to show your work and get feedback, you are toiling all alone. It is isolating and terrifying but as I said before also tremendously gratifying. You get to play God in your small world. You fall in love with your characters and after a while, it seems like they are writing themselves. Once you find their voice, they tell you what they want to be.
There have been some 14-hour days where I have felt like a conduit for some divine energy that is pouring out through me and filling the screen with words. I can’t seem to write fast enough. That is what makes writing such a passionate art. But do it because you want to write, not to become famous or to make money, though if that happens, awesome! Write because it gives you joy.
Can you share 3 important things aspiring authors need to know about taking the indie route?
I published both my books through Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Their template is quite easy to follow and there are so many YouTube video tutorials on every aspect of the process. Each step of the process can be viewed as either a fun exercise or a pain in the ass. You first write the book, edit it, proofread it, then you choose a cover designer, add title, front copy, and back copy, you learn the ins and outs of formatting your book, the size, the font, the margins, the gutter, pagination etc. then you hit publish! It does seem daunting at first but as I said, Book 2 was a lot easier to publish than book 1.
When can readers, who loved An Awakening, and who will no doubt devour, A New Reality, expect Book 3 in the trilogy to be released?
Book 3 was written at the same time as Books 1 and 2. I am now editing Book 3 of The Lanka Chronicles titled Path of Destiny. I hope to release it around May of 2024.
Readers would love a little tidbit about Book 3 Path of Destiny. And . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . go!
Chapter Ten- A Bridge Too Far from Path of Destiny, Book 3 of The Lanka Chronicles.
X – A BRIDGE TOO FAR
Arya was halfway through her daily run. She continued to divide her day into manageable compartments, - exercise, meditation, reading, trying to break her containment matrix, eating, and sleeping. Ever since Malina and Hanu-man had escaped, she had been left alone. She had not seen Indra-jit since their last scary encounter. Iraivan had not shown up recently. Even Tri-jata, Daya and Taraka were now shadowy presences who flirted furtively by. They delivered her meals, replaced her bedding and towels, and cleaned up but did not stay to talk. Arya did not try and engage them in anyway.
As she ran, she replayed her few and fleeting moments with Hanu-man, as she often did. She envisioned his kind eyes, his honest and solid presence, his keen intellect, his obvious and abiding affection for Dharma and Loki.
She missed her Dhara so much. They had been apart for so long that their time together seemed like a mirage. They had been madly in love, they had built a life together on Prithvi, they married under the stars with Val-miki and Jata-yu present, they made love in the grotto behind the waterfall. Or did they? Was it all a dream?
She wondered what happened after Malina and Hanu-man had rescued Vi. Did they get away? Were they able to cross the ocean? Did they meet Dharma and Loki? Are they really leading an army to Lanka?
Indra-jit had mentioned that Dharma had gathered an army. How had he accomplished that? Hanu-man said that the Kish-kinda Vanara, the Hriksha and the remaining Gridhra had joined forces and were now on their way to Lanka. How were they going to cross the ocean?
Arya was frustrated with her lack of answers. She chafed at her inability to do anything to help them. She had finished her run and now went into an hour of deep calisthenics. She stretched and loosened up her muscles. She went into deep squats, followed by splits and headstands. She did as many pull-ups as she could, hanging from a tree limb. She followed up with several crab push-ups followed by dips. She finished with several krav-kalar martial arts kicks and punches. She was methodical in her approach allowing each repetition to fully engage her muscles while she breathed in slow deep cadences.
She thought back to the moment Indra-jit had her up against the wall. Both had felt a sudden flare of power. The Asura had suddenly thrown her violently away from him. She had genuinely feared for her life. Was that the trigger? Did she have to be in a life-or-death situation for her power to manifest itself? She had briefly seen a vast sequence of ever-changing numbers and data that somehow represented a cage or prison. She instinctively understood her power lay shuttered behind this sequence of code. She had to find a way to break through this code to free her power. But just as suddenly as it had appeared, it had disappeared, and no amount of meditation or contemplation was able to bring it back.
Arya wrapped towels around her fists and feet and started hitting and kicking one of the stone pillars holding up her pavilion. With her frustration mounting she hit with anger and ferocity. Why was she not able to access her power? Why was she a prisoner here in this cursed garden? Why could she not melt Iraivan and Indra-jit like she had that monster, Sherpa-naka? She remembered the power flaring from her hands and searing the Asura woman. Arya could see her flesh bubbling as the power raked across her face. She remembered how both Dharma and Loki shot arrow after arrow that flared with violet energy as long as they were in contact with her. She had been the conduit but now she was inert. She yelled in rage and hit the pillar so hard she could see blood seeping through her towels. She sat down, crying in rage and frustration. She heard her father’s voice in her head.
“Hold it together my little Videhi. Be strong! Be calm. All will be revealed in time. There is a reason for everything and now is not the time to give in to fear. The universe has a purpose and each of us play a part in it. Accept what is now and wait for the moment when you can initiate change. Prepare for it and be vigilant. My daughter, I am so proud of you and love you forever!”
Arya cried even more as she thought of her father and her life back on Mithil. She remembered running into his brawny arms as a little girl coming home from school each day. She remembered his smell. It was the scent of forest mixed with metal. His bushy red beard would tickle her as she burrowed into his chest. She would fall asleep in his arms as he read stories to her.
“Daddy, I miss you so much. Please be well wherever you are!” Arya pleaded, looking up with tear-stained cheeks at the vast alien sky above.
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