The Indian easy reading fictional market has seen an upsurge, ever since the path-breaking success of Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone. He may not have found much favour with literary critics but he certainly set the stage for a brand new opportunity for aspiring readers and writers alike. He reignited the genre of quick reads that entertain but do not necessarily edify. Many of the novels that are hitting the bookshelves today are written by inexperienced young Indian authors. While some of them are appalling in their utter disregard for grammar or artful storytelling, others like Sriramana Muliya's 'Frankly Spooking', reinforce the fact that with good writers, there is always potential to be better, and perhaps, even truly great.
As the title suggests, Frankly Spooking aims to spook, and the tools it employs are 30 bite-sized short stories, except for a couple which are episodic in nature. While some of the stories are versions of what we've already heard, others are genuinely fresh off the horror mill. For instance, one of the stories reminded me of the plot line of a Hindi thriller film. In this particular selection of tales, the majority are like short bursts of ideas, rather than structured stories with a steady build-up. This method of writing works because of the genre itself. It would be a miserable failure in a genre like romance, where the pleasure of gratification is impossible to experience without a gradual accumulation of events.
The author, Sriramana Muliya, has been posting scary short stories on his blog (imsri.blogspot.in) since a long time, and on the blog, one gets to see longer tales as well. The long-form format has more to offer to the reader as well as the writer in terms of an experience - it lasts longer, has scope to accomodate many different emotions, and allows the writer to experiment with structure, pace and characterisation. For this reason, I would have preferred a collection of fewer but longer stories, on the lines of 'Team Player', and 'Blogosphere', two of my favourite stories from the book. 'Team Player' is modelled on the existing concept of cannibalism but the story is woven well, which ensures that it makes for a suspenseful read.
Frankly Spooking scores high on the variety meter, with everything from gore, mannequins, evil earplugs and life-like tattoos making an experience. Muliya is clearly imaginative and unconventional, taking horror to realms other than ghosts and zombies. In fact, zombies are perhaps the only kind of haunting missing from the book! The book is free of grammatical and lingual errors, which unfortunately, is not the case with many published novels. The language is simple but not dumbed-down, which makes it a good choice for those who do not prefer heavy reads. The stories are entertaining enough that I would reach for a sequel. What better hallmark of readability than that?
And to answer the question you all have, yes, I was spooked by Frankly Spooking. Spook meter: 8/10.
Tete-a-tete with the author
1. Why do you have a penchant for writing horror stories?
I used to believe (still do in more ways than one) that horror was the only thing that got someone's attention almost instantaneously. Be it a conversation between two friends, a group of people, or a large audience, one immediately sat up and listened, or watched anything related to horror. In that sense, I will say the penchant was more to shock and grab attention rather than scare. But after having written a few horror stories on my blog, I realized that my morbid imagination could come up with these weird situations, wherein I could fit the elements of horror quite comfortably without having to explain a lot. I guess that was it. Started with the intention of luring readers to my blog, but then it became a habit after a while.
2. Would you attempt other genres as well?
By all means. My next work is a different genre already. I have written quite a few romantic and humorous stories on my blog.
3. Your writing hints at a good understanding of a younger audience as well. Would you ever write stories for children?
Why not? It's not on top of the list, but should the opportunity present itself, I would make full use of it.
4. You've had difficulties in marketing Frankly Spooking. Can you share some insights on how to get published and read?
I've written at length about this on my blog, but to cut a long story short, yes, despite a fair bit of coverage in the print and social media, thanks to my publishers HarperCollins India, the book didn't sell as it should have. There are various factors to consider - the genre, pricing, time frame and reach. Each one of these plays a very important role in propelling a book towards better sales. Especially these days when Indian English writing is coming of age, each book needs its own mouth-piece, without which it's really difficult to reach the intended number of people. I'm no expert on marketing and publicity, therefore I don't know any formula to that effect. All I can say is one should keep writing and try all avenues of promoting one's work. There are no hard and fast rules. Success of a book, like any other work of art, is ultimately a reader's prerogative. Some times it clicks, catches people's fancy, some times it doesn't. The key is to keep trying harder.
5. Tell us about your upcoming crime suspense novel.
All I can say at this point is, it's a story of a bunch of college friends, and how their past returns to haunt them once they grow up and assume their respective roles in the big bad world.
Who is Sriramana Muliya?
Sriramana Muliya works as a technical editor with Cisco Systems. Besides writing fiction, Sriramana also likes to blog and has been blogging for the last ten years at http://imsri.blogspot.in. He is an avid movie buff and loves watching quality cinema. Sriramana lives in Bengaluru with his wife and daughter. He tweets at @phatichar13.
Now go, get the book and review it yourself. That is, if your fingers aren't shaking so much that you can't type! :P
Amazon: http://www.amazon.in/Frankly-Spooking-Sriramana-Muliya/dp/9350297213 (Rs 175)
Flipkart: http://www.flipkart.com/frankly-spooking-english/p/itmdvcefzhs7gyxj (Rs 275)
Kindle: http://www.amazon.in/FRANKLY-SPOOKING-Sriramana-Muliya-ebook/dp/B00FJ3ECKC (Rs 166)
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