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Spooked out

Tuesday, 31 December 2013 | Divya Kaushik

Faraaz Kazi talks to Divya Kaushik about his second book, a collection of 13 horror stories. He shares why no one from India has attempted this genre majorly despite having a rich folklore

If it’s spooky, it will definitely work, seems to be the mantra of the season. After a number of horror shows and films, now it seems there will be rise in the number of horror books. After gaining accolades for his debut novel Truly Madly Deeply, Faraaz kazi has come up with his next with Vivek Banerjee, The Other Side-Dare to Visit Alone?. It is a collection of 13 tales of the paranormal world “that our eyes refuse to see, our ears deny hearing and our senses ignore the feel of.” Faraaz further adds, “This is the book for someone who is brave enough to take up this invitation to journey through uncharted waters along with us.”

Faraaz says that as a kid, he grew up on spooky stories narrated by grandmother and elder aunts, stories of regions and people around us, stories that made him curious about the world of the paranormal. “Later on, I wolfed down a lot of spooky stories with gutso and this has led to a great deal of fascination in not just ‘the other side’ but also the art of horror writing. I believe in the power of light that guides us in our darkest times. There are thousands of instances for which even science has no rational explanation. There are hundreds of incidents, which we encounter in our daily lives, where we witness life-altering events taking place right before our eyes. Whether I believe in such stories personally is immaterial. What matters is passion and having an open mind. As I mentioned earlier the book is inspired by the world of the unknown around us. Whether it is a reality or just a train of thought is decided by a thin line separating the two in the readers’ minds. But some stories like The Mystery Lake and The Mark of the Beast have their roots in reality or rather the legends surrounding Roopkund lake (a lake filled with skeletons that actually exists) and the abominable snowman respectively,” explains the author who won YCOF National Excellence Award and National Debut Youth Fiction Award 2013.

Be it TV shows, films and now literature, horror stories seem to be the flavour of the season. Faraaz says, “This wasn’t the trend until a couple of years ago. Having said that, the market is actually ripe for such stories as people want to seek out something different, a fresh take on a subject and this is what The Other Side delivers. Popular fiction, mostly romantic in nature, has been enjoyed for over a decade by the reading masses but now even they need something else to delve into. New-age horror movies made by filmmakers like Vikram Bhatt and a realistic take on the subject by certain TV shows to churn out something fresh in the market has also made an impact. Also other factors like increase in disposable incomes and literacy levels have contributed a great scale to the growth of this genre. However, there are no notable names who have written hardcore horror in Indian literature. Most people will name HP Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Blackwood, Bram Stroker as masters of horror and in modern times, Stephen King and Dean Koontz to some extent, come close and that is it. India has such a rich heritage of mythology and folklore yet no one has ever taken the reigns of this genre in their hands and set to achieve something on this scale. No one from India has attempted that genre majorly even though we have a richer folklore. And it isn’t like there are no horror readers in India. There are lakhs of people who thrive on reading the spooky stuff but they have no Indian alternative to the names I mentioned, may be because of lack of risk taking so far on part of the writing community in deciding not to foray into something other than the conventional genres which are widely accepted.”

Talking about some of his favourite spooky stories, he shares, “The Shining by Stephen King. This novel slowly grows in horror, starting with mild unease, moving up through sweaty palms and dry mouth, to pure, gut-wrenching terror. Jack Torrance’s slow slide into madness is paralleled by the growth in power of the hotel’s dark miasma, and his son, Danny Torrance’s extraordinary capabilities. This book will lay bare all your childhood terrors and make you realise why you were afraid of them in the first place. It is one of Stephen King’s best works for sure. The other is The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. In this goosebumps-inducing book you have a mother and her 12-year-old daughter’s bond shaken, faced with a state of mayhem immersed in a struggle for survival and triumph over adversity, you just feel for them immensely and love them for their solitude to prevail. You must have seen the movie but the movie could not capture the entire novel, there is much more to it than what was shown.”

After writing a romantic novel and earning a name, it was an easy deal with the publishers for the second time. “Being a known name surely helps. With the amount of books being churned out today by established and indigenous publishing house alike, it’s very important to build an author platform. And if you have one, then it’s imperative you make use of the same to talk about your work, your passions and your life. After a point of time, it’s not the work that sells, it’s the brand. So if Chetan Bhagat were to write even a blank book with a cover citing ABCXYZ it would still become a national bestseller overnight. But having said that, it’s a writer’s responsibility to respect their readers and the following they have,” says Faraaz.

The author says that he would love to explore non-fiction some day. “Right now, I am working on my dream project which is a literary undertaking and deals with a coming-of-age story of a woman who was sexually abused as a kid. The story has wider social repercussions in the present day context,” he concludes.

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