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Saturday, October 01, 2016

Shreyans Zaveri spins a gripping, fictitious tale of wit and valour — when hope is the only thing that can save what’s left of a war-torn nation struggling to end the streaks of fear, violence and destruction. Jagruti Verma talks to him about his first novel, The Fuehrer’s Blood

Shreyans Zaveri wrote his first story when he was 13-years-old and pretended that it was an actual book when he read the five-page story from the print-out to a friend. Little did he know that one day he would have a book to his credit. His first novel, The Fuehrer’s Blood, talks about the valiant bravehearts who went up against the odds during the Second World War. He sheds light on the characters from a different perspective, which he believes is rarely highlighted when dealing with the subject. He says, “While such stories generally end in Berlin, it is interesting how mine starts there!”

Basic facts versus a work of pure fiction — how did you know where to draw the line?
As a storyteller, I think it’s important for me to take readers on a journey that they can connect with and believe in. I usually draw the line when a particular topic falls into the ‘conspiracy theory’ category. That particular juncture is where I add my story because that’s where the proven facts end and I get an opportunity to instil my own characters into the story and use them as catalysts that take the events forward. This is why my stories usually start off at a very real place and time with actual characters and, after a point, turn to a direction that has never been seen before, explaining things that were never fully understood.

How do you maintain the authenticity of history in your work?
From the very beginning, I was clear that I wanted to write a fiction novel and not a text book. As I developed my story, I was able to weed out certain information, which had no long-term impact on my story. As for the research part, I have read over twenty-five thousand pages on the history of WWII to get my facts right. Also, I met many people who have been to Germany post-war, interviewed them extensively and tried to balance the first-hand information by referring to videos, text documents and more interviews.

Did you feel that it was becoming too difficult to go forward with the book at any point?
There were several instances when I felt that the book’s progress was slower than I had hoped it would be. Sometimes, I came across facts that had to be double checked for authenticity and the missing links proved to be a great hurdle. At times, the characters needed more humane qualities. The worst was when all of these problems cropped up together. At such times, music helped me. I would plug in my iPod and listen to music that matched the tone of the chapter I was working on. It helped me regain my flow and visualise better. In fact, with the help of a friend of mine who is a musician, I used these roadblocks to my benefit and succeeded in creating an original soundtrack for my book!

How did you feel when you first saw a printed copy of your book?
At first, I just kept staring at it. It was an amazing moment because something that was born in my head was now an actual physical product. Holding a copy of my very own novel was an overwhelming feeling. I have the habit of smelling a new book and that’s exactly what I did with mine. I took a whiff of my first novel and smiled to myself. My mind was going through a host of emotions. I was happy, anxious, excited and awed as I flicked through the pages of my book. The story sprang to life in front of my eyes as I revisited each chapter in my novel.

The process
When I started doing research for the book, the amount of work that had to be done seemed intimidating, but the journey was worth it as it changed me for the better. It made me much more resourceful, patient and resilient. The history of the era I was dealing with was extremely painful, but at the same time, it was also very interesting and moving. Since one topic lead to another, it was a task for me to not deviate from the subject of study. On a personal level, the research helped me to be grateful for the things that are taken for granted today.

A gripping read
As we turned page after page of this compelling novel, our curiosity grew. One fact that holds this book together is how little winning a war matters to those who are merely trying to survive. The novel goes back to the days when Berlin bled. It revolves around regret, betrayal, love, hope and the thirst for power. Shreyans has managed to capture the essence of a war-torn nation from different perspectives, brilliantly — collateral damage, power hungry diplomats and soldiers who lay down their lives for freedom. In a particularly heart-warming moment, a bee is attracted to a flower that has somehow managed to exist through the cracks of an underground tunnel. The buzz of the bee helps the soldiers escape and leads the reader to value something that humanity survives on — hope.

Another important aspect is love. While one of the book’s protagonists killed in the hope of reuniting with the woman he loved, the other roamed the bleeding streets to find the one for whom he was willing to leave everything behind. Although they both fought valiantly against the Russian forces, deep down they knew that they existed to see the end of the war, not just for its victory. It is the kind of novel that does not require you to be well-versed with history and since it was initially published in an e-book format, the chapters are short, making it an easy read.

Get your copy at for Rs 799 plus shipping, or the e-book from Amazon India for Rs 699. Happy reading!


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