The Steradian Trail praised
By Hitesh Shetty
Apostolos Doxiadis, NYT Bestselling Author of Logicomix, has praised The Steradian Trail as 'a beautifully written, stylish novel . . a gripping mystery’. IIT & MIT educated M N Krish's book The Steradian Trail is an engrossing cocktail of science and religion, mythology and technology, history and human greed. The plot includes IT and computers and people who work with them
Techgoss (TG): Please share with us your academics and IT background?
M N Krish: Went through the usual JEE race after school and studied Civil at IIT. Then went to the US to study at MIT. While at MIT, I found an area that absolutely fascinated me: Operations Research, which involves solving real-life problems using data and mathematics. Completed my MS degree in OR (along with another in Transportation) and been in the analytics and predictive modelling area ever since.
TG: You are a technology person. How did you first inculcate an interest in writing? Where did the initial motivation come from?
M N Krish: Yeah, I have a tech background, but I have always been interested in stories behind things, including technology. The initial motivation behind this series of books came from there, when I was a student at MIT, as I began to understand the strange connections between religion and culture and science and technology. There are many stories that are dying to be told there and I thought maybe I should give it a try. The idea grew on me and just didn’t let me go. The fact that other books didn’t explore this angle all that much kept me going. Here was an area where I could be original.
TG: Tell us about your experience in penning down your debut novel 'The Steradian Trail'? What is the central plot of the book? Do the characters in the book carry shades of the people working in the IT and BPO industry?
M N Krish: As I said before, the idea took root when I was a student in the late 90s. But I didn’t do anything about it till 2003 - that’s when I started writing it. It started out as a one-off thing but grew into a series over the next ten years. I wrote three books during this time. The first book, The Steradian Trail, which we call Book #0, went through 8 or 9 drafts of wholesale rewriting. The other two books weren’t so bad, they didn’t take so much rewriting. Yeah, it has taken a long while, not to mention all the energy and effort, but the outcome is good and that’s what matters in the end. I feel the books have shaped up really well and I’m pretty happy about that.
As for the central plot of The Steradian Trail, Jeffrey is a criminal genius who gets killed and his former advisor Joshua who is a professor at MIT is stuck in India because of that. He has to figure out what his ex-student has been up to. He can’t go it all alone and leans on his old friend Lakshman and his brilliant undergrad Divya. The three of them put their heads together and untangle strange connections between science, IT, religion, culture and an intelligent crime that will make readers go ‘wow’ in the end. Some of the early readers actually connected it with something that happened in real-life and began wondering ‘Oh my God! Is this what really happened?’ That kind of forced us add a reminder at the end of the book that this is a work of fiction. I believe the fact that people begin to think of the story as real is in itself a mark of success of the story.
Yes, the plot includes IT and computers and people who work with them, among other things, and readers will be able to connect with both the ideas as well as the characters who bring them to life.
TG: What were the factors that prompted you to dwelve your book around a combination of different genres? Which of these genres do you closely associate yourself with?
M N Krish: The book is a fast-paced mystery-thriller and that’s the main genre. That said, I must add that it’s not dark, grim or gritty. The tone and tenor is light with a touch of humour and tongue-in-cheekiness. There is also an undercurrent of high-concept ideas, which again is not dense and heavy but very very accessible, and I hope they’ll stay with the reader after they finish reading the book.
I love reading books like that, books that make a serious point or two while being a light-hearted, fast-paced page-turner you cannot put down once you start reading. I think that’s the main reason it came out this way, as sort of a combo pack of genres. You write what you like to read.
To answer the second part of the question, The Steradian Trail is a mystery-thriller, first and foremost, and cover-to-cover entertainment is the primary goal.
TG: You have studied at IIT and then MIT. Did you always wanted a lucrative career in tech or if given a chance would you have rather been a writer from day 1?
M N Krish: Not sure about that. Partly because I think I won’t be happy or content doing just one thing and nothing else. Also, I don’t think I would have been able to write a book like The Steradian Trail if I hadn’t had been working in the technical line. I believe I was able to understand some of the ideas and present them convincingly because I have worked with tech and done a lot of coding and programming myself. I could also get under the skin of some of the characters, think like them, only because I have seen and interacted with people like them. So I don’t think I would want to take a different path to get here.
TG: You have also done some writing for national media like Business Line and Business Standard? How did that happen? What did you write about?
M N Krish: I usually wrote op-ed pieces analysing new regulations or trends in the industry. It started a while ago. There were a lot of changes sweeping through the banking and financial landscape in India and I had some perspectives and points of view that seemed missing in the mainstream media. So I wrote about them and emailed them and the editors picked them up. I was lucky really because I did not know anyone or have any contacts in the papers. I just sent the first piece to the general editor@xxxx email ID and they read the article, found merit in it and went ahead and published it. That happened with both Business Line and Business Standard. What happened after that was that people read my articles in BL and BS and started approaching me to write for them. But I have been less regular at op-eds and popular press for the last few years, as I got a little too caught up with The Steradian Trail and The Infinity Cycle.
TG: Did you bring the same discipline of creating a computer system to writing your book? Or was it more spontaneous?
M N Krish: Good question. It was a mix of both. The ideas, characters and even the high-level plotline were a little spontaneous – they came naturally without much struggle. But putting everything together into a narrative that flows smoothly and coherently required loads and loads of discipline and persistence, very much like building a computer system. It was a struggle. There was a lot of trial and error and going back and forth to make sure the story seemed real and made logical sense and had no obvious gaps or loopholes. I was very particular about this because I expected the book to attract a lot of readers from the IT industry. They think systems, code and logic day in and day out and I cannot ask them to read a story with leaky logic. That’s partly why The Steradian Trail went through 8 or 9 drafts. Since you bring up such a perceptive question, I’ll confess that two of my first readers were computer scientists who helped locate and plug logic loopholes in the early drafts.
TG: You are working with a startup now? Why did you choose a startup over a more established MNC or Corporate giant?
M N Krish: I have worked for established MNCs before, so have that experience under my belt. Predictive Analytics is booming big time right now as a domain in its own right. It’s really breaking out now, moving from the sidelines and going mainstream. Startups are able to move much faster on new ideas than bigger companies and do exciting things. In fact, bigger firms turn to start-ups and smaller companies to deploy cutting-edge analytics into their businesses and make the most of their data. So I thought it’s the best time to give it a shot.
TG: What’s on the anvil now? Any project in mind yet?
M N Krish: The Infinity Cycle will continue after The Steradian Trail which is just Book #0. The next two books in the series, #1 and #2, are expected to be out in the next one to two years. I am in the process of doing research for Book #3. So looks like the series, the characters and their stories, are not going to let me go that easily. I have been living with them for over ten years now and I guess I have to stick with them a little longer.
Techgoss Note: More details at his website