Today I’m sitting down with Mira Prabhu to talk about her new book, Krishna’s Counsel. The book is a modern epic of a girl growing up in South India during the 1960s, and it brings together a very unlikely but fitting combination of ancient Indian wisdom, the 60’s drug culture and the recovery steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Additionally, it is currently enrolled in the Kindle Scout Program and could be chosen for an Amazon publishing contract. Part of the process involves nominations by readers (like you!), and if the book is chosen by Amazon, everyone who nominates it will receive a FREE e-Book copy. To read the first chapter and nominate the book, go here. This Kindle Scout program ends August 15, 2016.
MP: I had no intention of writing a contemporary novel until my Manhattan-based literary agent suggested I do so, way back in 1999. Considering the unusual life I had led, she felt I could pull off a contemporary novel about an Indian woman who had moved from East to West and thereby grown in ways she could not even imagine. I mulled over her idea, but nothing happened until many years later when I found myself marooned in a guest house in Rishikesh in northern India: my friends had all left town since the ‘season’ was over and a wild festival raged all around me, keeping me captive in my suite. With time hanging heavy on my hands, I decided to sink my teeth into something that would engage my monkey mind—and in six months, I had written the first draft of Krishna’s Counsel.
Krishna’s Counsel is a patchwork of a thousand tales I heard growing up in India and in the West. The title and theme were inspired by the luminous advice delivered to Prince Arjuna of the Pandavas on the ancient battlefield of the Kurukshetra by his charioteer and kinsman, the Blue God Krishna. Arjuna does not want to fight—his enemies are his own kin who have turned viciously against his family and Arjuna would prefer to offer himself to the enemy as a sacrifice rather than stoop to destroying those who once cherished him. Then Krishna shows him a dazzling vision of the cosmos and convinces the doubt-stricken Prince to fight the good fight: in essence, Krishna’s teaching is that the spiritual warrior must never give up the battle against evil—instead he must first decide on the best course of action, and then pursue that action, disregarding the consequences.
The backdrop of Krishna’s Counsel is 60s India, which was a fascinating time of change on many fronts. A supernatural thread runs through this work, for as a child I was imprinted with mesmerizing tales of the supernatural. Sometime in my teens I learned about the brutal conversion of my own community by the Portuguese Dominican priests and it sickened me. Still later, I was struck by the tragic story of a beautiful heiress who had been victimized by a psychopath. All these elements came together to create Krishna’s Counsel. Pia, my protagonist—by her own admission a coward—is forced to fight her own battle against evil; it is the brilliant teachings of all her gurus who empower her to do what is right when she is confronted by a handsome and charming man who could also be a psychopathic killer.
Krishna’s Counsel is the second book in a trilogy. Did you already have all three books plotted out when you started, or did one grow organically out of the next? Do any of the characters or story lines overlap between books?
MP: My first novel, Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India, was born out of my love for the ancient philosophy of Tantra, which I found to be badly corrupted in both East and West. Its protagonist Ishvari is an intelligent and beautiful young woman who is elected to be the Royal Tantrika of a mythical civilization that flourished sometime around 2000 BCE. When Ishvari discovers that the Maharaja she is being sent to instruct in the high arts of tantric love-making is a narcissistic, devious and amoral tyrant, she falls into the most abysmal of gutters. Against all odds, and over the turbulent decades that follow, she rises up again to attain enlightenment.
Writing Whip of the Wild God convinced me to concentrate on sagas of enlightenment. Krishna’s Counsel too is about a child of 60’s south India who seeks answers via Eastern mysticism, and my third and final work-in-progress novel is Copper Moon Over Pataliputra, whose protagonist is driven by intense suffering to seek a permanent way to peace. Recently I came up with the idea of what I call THE MOKSHA TRILOGY (moksha means enlightenment, liberation, ultimate freedom in Sanskrit).
Okay, I have to ask: how much of Krishna’s Counsel is autobiographical? Do you find that the ancient teachings help you in your own modern life?
MP: Much of Krishna’s Counsel is based on something that happened to someone I knew or something that sort of happened to me: after all, we all write what we know. As for the ancient teachings, they are my raft on this often turbulent ride we call Life on Planet Earth! The gifts of the Eastern mystics have become real tools to me, and I use them to guide me through what was once a bewildering maze—and which has now turned into a simple but profound path to inner freedom.
How long did it take you to write this book?
MP: I wrote the first draft of Krishna’s Counsel in six months flat, then picked it up from time to time as I traveled the globe. I began serious work on it only after I settled in south India in 2009—so I’d say I gave birth to it in about three years of real time over a span of seventeen years.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
MP: I don’t think so since I never suffer blocks. What I do have to endure are long spans of time when I can’t write seriously. I call these my fallow times, when spirit and mind need to rest in order for the field to become fertile again.
Did you ever have a sense of the ancient ones looking over your shoulder as you wrote?
MP: I felt Whip of the Wild God was literally channeled through me. You see, my community (Saraswat Brahmins, some say we were India’s earliest priestly class) are said to be the original settlers of the Indus Valley Civilization in which Whip is set. Oddly enough, a Vedic astrologer predicted way back in 1993 that it was my dharma (destiny) to write this book. As for Krishna’s Counsel, it deals in part with the brutal conversion of my community to Roman Catholicism by the Portuguese Dominicans, who brought the dreaded weapons of the Inquisition to Goa centuries ago and proceeded to cruelly exterminate tens of thousands. As for Copper Moon Over Pataliputra, a shaman friend told me she had a dream in which she was instructed to order me to write it for the sake of my ancestors. Since Copper Moon is set in 300 BCE, I cannot name these specific ancestors; however, as one immersed in notions of karma and reincarnation, it’s not a stretch for me to envision my spirit having lived in that distant time too.
We all know writing can be therapeutic, especially stories of growth and transformation like this one. What did you learn about yourself during the writing process?
MP: Writing keeps me sane; it has taught me who I am, relatively speaking, and forced me to think deeply about the baffling nature of reality. If no one read my work, I would undoubtedly be sad, but I believe I would still continue to write because it is perfect soul medicine and keeps me happy.
The covers of your books are absolutely beautiful. Tell us about them and the artist who does them.
MP: Mishi Bellamy is one of the most brilliant artists I have personally come across. Her work defies easy description, but you can decide for yourself (links below). I met Mishi years ago when I was one of the emcees at the Jaipur Literary Festival in north India and we stayed friends. She offered to do my covers because she had enjoyed Whip—of course I jumped at her offer! She has just completed the cover of Copper Moon, the third book in The Moksha Trilogy and it is just as fabulous as her first two. Mishi's facebook page.
Can you give us a preview of the third book in the trilogy?
MP: Copper Moon Over Pataliputra is set against the backdrop of the magnificent Mauryan Empire in northern India in 300 BCE. It takes place during the reign of Ashoka, its third Emperor, who is considered by scholars to be one of the most powerful rulers of all time. A tortured man, Ashoka earned a reputation for appalling cruelty in his early days; later, influenced by the teachings of Gautama Buddha as well as by miracles that occurred in his own tumultuous life, he transformed himself into a benevolent dictator. Copper Moon weaves the fictional story of Ashoka’s daughter Odati who hates him so intensely for his violence against her beloved mother that she grows up vowing to take her revenge. Since she cannot strike directly at him, Odati concocts and executes a devilish plan to make him suffer. However, she has a spiritual awakening and realizes that she has sunk as low as her persecutor—whereupon her own journey of self-transformation begins.
Thank you, Mira, for the informative tour of your books, your homeland and your philosophy. How can people find out more?