By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) In 2006, Christopher C. Doyle, a growth catalyst and CEO coach, set out to write a book for his seven-year-old daughter who was deeply interested in mythology and history. Today, he is the hugely successful author of the “The Mahabharata Quest” series with two books released, a third due later this year and one or two more in the pipeline. He has also hit pay dirt with his “The Pataala Prophecy Series” with two books out and three more envisaged.
“There were a couple of options available to me. I could have written a fictional fantasy story, inspired by the Mahabharata, setting the plot in an imaginary, fantasy world, like JRR Tolkein was inspired by Nordic and British mythology, which found expression in Lord of the Rings.
“Or I could write a fictional retelling of the events in the Mahabharata, setting the story in ancient times and using charactersfrom the epic to flesh out the story,” Doyle, who now publishes with Westland, told IANS in an interview.
“I had already written a story for my daughter, in 2003, which was set in a fantasy world and was inspired by Indian mythology so I decided against the first option. And the second option didn’t appeal to me because I wanted to explore a scientific explanation for some of the stories in the Mahabharata. My intent was to write a story that was based on the premise that the mythology of the Mahabharata could have been based on events and concepts that can be explained using real scientific facts not science fiction or speculation,” Doyle, a graduate of Delhi’s St Stephen’s College and who holds an MBA from IIM-Kolkata, explained.
So he decided to write a story for his daughter that was set in present times and “which connected the past and the present, using science, history and mythology. Over a period of two years, he wrote and narrated this story to his daughter and, in 2008, his first book – “The Mahabharata Secret” – was born.
Noting that he has always been keenly interested in the Mahabharata – he belongs to the generation that grew up watching B R Chopra’s television adaptation of the epic – he began to wonder if there were any books written by Indian authors which had similarly explored the Mahabharata from a perspective of historicity even though he knew there was a significant absence of archaeological and historical evidence for any of the events described in the epic.
“But my search drew a blank. This was a field of study that no one seemed to have attempted to explore,” Doyle said.
It was then that he came across a fascinating book, “The Hindu History” by Akshoy K Majumdar, published in 1917, which contained a detailed study of the lineages and kingdoms of prehistoric India as described in the Vedas, The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, the Puranas and the Upanishads.
“The analysis presented in this book intrigued me. Was it possible, I wondered, that there is a history of India that not popularly known but which has been captured in the scriptures of India in allegorical or narrative form. And if there is little known about these people of India from 6000 years ago, is it not possible that their knowhow of science and technology, as described in The Mahabharata, was forgotten as well,” Doyle said.
The lack of physical evidence and research into this area meant thathe could only explore these possibilities through fiction. That was where his interest in this genre began.
“The Mahabharata Secret” had been written as a stand alone and not as part of a series and given that 18 International literary agents and several Indian publishers rejected the manuscript before the book was published by Om Books in 2013, he was unsure of how the Indian audience would respond to the book.
“However, the book was a runaway bestseller and there was a clamour for more books along the same lines,” and it was then he began researching and writing “The Mahabharata Quest” series, releasing Book 1: “The Alexander Secret in” 2014 and Book 2: “The Secret of the Druids” in 2016.
Speaking about his research, he said the foremost thing was to read The Mahabharata in its original form. He read the entire Mahabharata twice – all 100,000 shlokas – in two versions: the K M. Ganguli prose translation and the M N Dutt translation (a shloka by shloka translation).
“I also spend considerable time researching the science behind every book in ‘The Mahabharata Quest’ series. While the connection between the science and mythology is fictional, the science is all based on real, cutting edge scientific research. I read a lot of books, white papers on each scientific topic that I research and consult with international scientific experts to ensure that my facts are correct.
“I do the same with the historical research. For each book that I write, I read maybe 100 or 150 books on science and history. I also have Sanskrit PhDs and reputed Vedic scholars who I consult to ensure that my interpretation of the shlokas is correct and credible,” Doyle explained.
Location research is also important. He travels to at least 90 per cent of the locations that feature in his books. This means a lot of travel since a lot of locations he visits don’t eventually end up in a book.
“But physically visiting a location helps me get an accurate feel for the place which enables me to paint a realistic and accurate picture in my books. For ‘The Secret of the Druids’, for example, which links Irish and British mythology and the Mahabharata, I spent more thann five weeks in the UK, visiting over 50 ancient sites in the company of archaeologists to ensure that I got my facts right,” Doyle said.
How does he see the road ahead?
In 2017, he realised that Book 3 in “The Mahabharata Quest” series was going to takeanother year or two, which meant that his readers would have to go without a book from him for perhaps two to three years.
It was then that he decided to write “The Pataala Prophecy”, a fantasy thriller series based on Indian mythology – “so that I could give my readers one book every year. (And I have managed that; with the exception of 2015 and 2017, I have released one book every year between 2013 and 2019 and I should be able to release one book in 2020 as well)”, Doyle said.
Since he had already done almost all the mythological research that he needed for the new series (and there was no scientific or historical research required for a fantasy series), this series was easier and quicker to write and Book 1, “Son of Bhrigu”, was published in 2018 and became an immediate bestseller. Book 2, “The Mists of Brahma” was published last October.
“I now have my hands full with two series running simultaneously along with the research for ‘The Mahabharata Quest’ series, so I don’t see myself writing anything else apart from these series for the foreseeable future.
“I expect to release Book 3 of ‘The Mahabharata Quest’ series in 2020, after which there will be three more books in “The Pataala Prophecy” series and another one or two books more in “The Mahabharata Quest” series. Once both series are completed, I will look around for the theme of my next work,” Doyle concluded.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at [email protected])