What gave birth to India’s Most Haunted?
Ghosts and imaginary entities have literally been my friends since childhood. Whenever I visited a new town or city, I was more inclined to know about its haunted places rather than other attractions.
When Prerna, our editor proposed an idea to write a big book on haunted places, I was thrilled to the core. Thirteen months later, the idea has become India’s Most Haunted — Tales of Terrifying Places, the biggest compilation of haunting stories (50 to be precise!) from real places in a single volume.
What kind of research went into the writing of the book?
Since the stories are based on real places, we had to double check every place that we selected. We went through the internet, news articles and even connected with people wherever possible.
While writing, of course, I had to take certain liberties so that none of the stories sounded similar. The writing style is old school and inspired from the masters like Satyajit Ray, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, etc.
Have you visited any of the places that you have mentioned in the book?
I have visited few places that are listed in the book. In fact, I have taken original photographs of the places and you can find those in the book. There are places that I could not visit due to work commitments and health issues. Hopefully, I will visit them sometime soon.
Any real-life spooky experiences?
I will tell you something that happened to me while we were shooting for Bhram (web series on my book The Other Side Of Her). We were shooting in the woods of Shimla.
The shoot had got shelved one day because of rains, and I chose to stay back in the woods with my director. There was an old wooden cabin, and we were sitting inside.
As the sun set, we had this beautiful orangish light peeping in through the only window in the cabin. I started clicking his pictures while he was going through his phone.
The pictures were all perfect and I planned to post it the same evening once I reached my hotel. But when we checked it in the night, all the pictures appeared blurred. Both of us couldn’t believe what we saw. Was it just our bhram or something didn’t want us to share the pictures?
Writing about the supernatural is not easy. What, according to you, are the key ingredients of horror books?
Everything horror is not supernatural. Some of the most horrifying acts in history have been committed by humans. So, horror broadly accommodates supernatural elements like ghosts, spirits, goblins as well as non-supernatural entities like psycho killers, extra-terrestrials, cannibals, etc.
Key ingredients of writing books (any genre) is the core motive behind the idea. What is the message that you want to send out to the readers through your story? Once that is fixed then you need a beginning, a middle and an ending (not necessarily in that order).
For horror books, you need to be descriptive, especially when it comes to describing the atmosphere and the state of mind of the characters. The reader can only visualise through the writer’s words. So, it is important to choose the right words and keep it as simple as possible. Sounds also play an important role.
Do you think horror as a genre doesn’t get its literary due?
n I believe it has a lot of scope because we can always club other genres with horror and find more readers. My second book That Frequent Visitor (2015) is a horror story woven around a love story of the deceased protagonist.
Similarly, the last book The Other Side of Her (2018) has a protagonist with PTSD, and the elements of horror are purely psychological.
Where do you get the inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from real life. The stories in India’s Most Haunted are all different versions of stories clubbed together. The truth behind the stories is what your mind chooses to believe.
People have a choice whether to believe in rational or the supernatural explanation when it comes to horror stories. I write these horror stories keeping an objective view, so that readers can decide which side they want to be...and I always believe that truth is much simpler than fiction.
Who are you favourites from the horror genre?
I have read so many stories during my school days. I don’t even remember many of the stories or writers now. However, I can recollect a few that have made a deep impact on my life:
Face on the Wall by E.V. Lucas (short story).
The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Ananth Babu’s Terror by Satyajit Ray (short story).
Pet Sematary by Stephen King.
The Butcher Theater by Jonathan Kellerman.
Film adaptations of books:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola).
The Innocents (1961)
Rosemary’s Baby — I have paid tribute to the film by naming one of the stories in India’s Most Haunted after a fictitious book which appears in the classic movie.