Q&A with Nandan Gautam, author of The King of The Sea: A Metaphysical Novel and Musical Odyssey

1. What is THE KING OF THE SEA: A METAPHYSICAL NOVEL AND MUSICAL ODYSSEY about?

The short answer – Love, Loss and Redemption in the context of a spiritual journey. The long answer is that it’s a real psychological journey of a man who is struggling to find his peace and his spiritual enlightenment. The idea was to write a book which wasn’t just about the usual spiritual bits of wisdom that are peppered into a mythical story, but to actually weave in the real elements of my life into it. The book is a mythical book, set in the medieval times, but it’s also absolutely real because the novel is actually embedded into my journal, which moves from date to date, describing the most significant scenes in my life and juxtaposing them with what I was seeing in my imagination. Obviously there is a strong link!

2. You decided to combine music and soundtrack with the book. Why did you make that decision and what was that process like?

It was an intuitive decision (to link the themes and chapters with specific songs). Not so orchestrated at all. I happened to be composing music at the same time that I was writing the novel/journal, and my protagonist is a Lute player, so the whole thing just fell into place naturally. Mainly, I found that the music I was creating was in many ways truly representative of what I and my protagonist were actually feeling. Music has the ability to reach places that the written word cannot. The decision to combine these two mediums in the same project was to truly immerse the reader into the character and the story in a way that a book alone would not be able to do; and yet leave it all to the imagination of the reader which is what is great about a book as opposed to a movie where you are more or less spoon fed the story, the visuals and the music. It was a fascinating process, because the music could complement the story at times but it could also run counterpoint to it… for example, the chapter could be a little introspective but the music could sometimes be a bit more happier, or vice versa. It added a new dimension and sometimes the music tells a story that you may not be able to even find in the novel!

3. What was it like writing a metaphysical novel and why did you decide to write a novel rather than a traditional spiritual self-help book?

Firstly, because I just loved the creative aspect of being able to make the reader feel things as opposed to telling him her/him what life is all about. Self-help books have a very different purpose. The good ones can really help a person get a handle on things and consciously take steps to evolve. A novel is a whole different animal. The good ones pull you in and grab you by the throat. They allow you to live another life and go through all the things that the writer/protagonist go through. I think Kafka said something to the effect that a good story functions like an axe that can break the frozen seas within us. What a beautiful metaphor! Perhaps that stayed in my subconscious like a seed (I read that line when I was in college in the US) and finally emerged as my novel twenty years later. I was deeply affected by his writing at that time because he actually made me feel things. There was no question of talking down to the reader. He moved me. In fact he opened himself up for all of us to be able to look in. It was a visceral experience and it takes courage to do that…

4. What are you hoping readers will learn from the main character’s journey.

Life is not simplistic. The deeper you go into anything, the more you realize that what you know begins to crumble. It’s about facing up to oneself. A spiritual journey is simultaneously a destructive and also a very healing process. Pain and suffering are great teachers if we can have faith and believe in ourselves. So many of the most significant things that affect our lives are way beyond our control – like the loss of a loved one for example. I wanted to put the reader in my shoes, in my protagonist’s shoes – and then decide for themselves what they would do. How they would feel… How would they process things when faced with a challenging situation? I think by affecting the reader and leading them to untouched places within them, great freedom and healing can be found. And that’s exactly what my intention is. I can’t say much more.

5. The book dives into the deepest layers of the subconscious. What sort of self-discovery have you learned about yourself and life by diving into your own subconscious?

I believe each of has an outer life and an inner life. Some of us prefer to focus on the outer. Some, on the inner. I don’t believe in that either/or paradigm. That’s a cop out. Why not do both? It’s very easy to venture inwards when you haven’t done much on the outside. On the other hand, you can get so caught up with the outer world that you forget that your happiness and peace comes from within, from your inner world. Ask yourself: would you prefer to be a happy gardener or a miserable but famous director. Most of us, (myself definitely included!), would choose to be the miserable but famous director. And now that I am aware of this fact, I have no choice but to dive a bit deeper to find out why I would actually prefer an unhappy life. Why this irrational behavior? Is my need to be appreciated by others greater than my own happiness? Why so? The answers can be found in the subconscious and the subconscious alone.

6. You were originally a graphic designer for USA Today. Then you went back to India to study yoga and meditation. And today you are based out of Baku, teaching meditation, writing and making music. Why did you leave your job with USA Today and what was that like?

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been introspective – always wondering what this life was all about. It always felt a bit pointless. We go about like little rats running after a piece of cheese and then we die all of a sudden with no warning! What a crazy situation to find oneself in! And in between you are supposed to find your calling, find your soulmate, buy a house and a car, win an academy or a grammy award or whatever and then quietly die in your sleep from natural causes, haha. How to come to terms with that? This was always a challenge. So when I met my teacher Bharat Thakur in India when I was on vacation, I just knew that this was the way forward. I guess at some level the outer things simply weren’t doing it for me. Working at USA Today was fantastic! I had a great job and my boss, Ray was such a sweetheart. So also the team that I worked with – very diverse and very chilled out, and each one with a great sense of humor. So the decision to quit wasn’t easy. Even financially, I lived in my mother’s house and didn’t earn a penny for the next 2-3 years. And whatever I had saved up I foolishly lost in the stock market! Then in 2002 I remember earning Rupees 400 (9 USD) for my first yoga class. It felt great. And my teacher had all of his apprentices living in his apartment for free! So the first thing I did was go out and buy a six pack of Budweiser beer! Never enjoyed a beer more that evening, sitting on that terrace in the Delhi summer heat… Very fond memories. Priceless actually.

7. Did you experience any serendipity or synchronicity throughout your journey? If so, what?

Serendipity is a strange entity. It’s like cupid or one of those angelic fairies… the more you want to see them, the further they run from you. And sometimes when you give up all hope in life, and you’re lying there fully embracing your utter failure, it happens like a bolt of lightning. My advice – stop constantly trying to find it, looking for signs etc. Otherwise you’ll be content with seeing a few favorite numbers or whatever. Follow your instincts and your passions. That’s when the biggest miracles happen. And that’s when you can barely speak about it. It’s too huge. It’s something divine. And you are too humbled to even utter a word…

Comments

  1. Lisa Abercrombie says:

    Nandan,
    Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey.
    Your humanity shines through.
    You’re so easy to love.

  2. Annie F Mathews says:

    Brilliant forays into the realms of consciousness of the Author Nonpareil Nandan Gautam 👍😊Thanks Jyothi Nambiar🤗❣

  3. Padma says:

    Hi, I’m still reading the book and the pages I read so far did make me think and look inside me. The interview sounds very truthful and from heart. This will surely help me understand the book better. Thank you

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