Interview with “Turbulence” Author – Samit Basu

turbulence

“Turbulence” is one of the best-selling superhero sci/fi novels in India and was critically-acclaimed when published in the UK last year and now “Turbulence” reaches US shores.  Delhi-based novelist Samit Basu poses the question in “Turbulence” – “What would you do if you have the power to change the world?”  Samit’s superhero novel has it all – action, humor, fun and the right dose of reality.  Our Retrenders team got a chance to interview author Samit Basu on his international break-through novel “Turbulence.”

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RTNDR:  I’ve just finished reading the book and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  For me, it reminded me of old school Marvel comics I’ve read from the 1980s.  What was your influence in writing this superhero novel?

Samit:  It started out as a book about a group of young people, in a part of the world that really needed change, not preservation, suddenly getting what they really want, the power to make that change. But along the way, when I realized that strange physical powers would make anyone in our times think of superheroes, it became a superhero book. So the plot is really its own thing, as are the themes within it, but some fantastic comics I’ve read were definitely inspirations in terms of seeing how superheroes might actually fit into the world and change it – books like Powers, The Authority, Watchmen, apart from the standard Marvel/DC classics.

RTNDR:  In Turbulence the characters mention various pop culture references, like the X-men.  Did you grow up with reading lots of comic books, movies, and sci-fi flicks?

Samit:  No, not really. I grew up in India without those things being available. But I made up for lost time as an adult, after I became a writer, engorging myself on a steady diet of comics, films and TV shows, starting with when I lived in London as a student. Books, though, I always had. But this book is really a post-Internet book; it couldn’t have happened without it, and was deeply affected by it. Now, of course, we get our pop culture fixes in India too. That’s happened over the last decade. For me, it’s been more a process of diving into it and trying (and failing) to catch up rather than growing up with it.

RTNDR:  I really enjoyed the many characters in Turbulence, especially the good guys and that the characters developed and grounded with a dose of reality.  How did you decide on developing the characters – like through your own life experiences, or this character has this power so you can move the plot along?

Samit:  A mix of both, to be honest. The main characters were all decided on the basis of – what do people want now? What are the key desires of the 21st century, what would people be most likely to deeply want? Some of them are classic powers because those desires never go out of style – but Aman’s power wouldn’t have been central in a pre-Internet world, just as Uzma’s power wouldn’t have been key in a world before this celebrity obsession began. Some of the less important characters, though, got their powers because they would serve a scene – like the really big superhero brawl in the middle of the book, at the mansion in Goa – or because they would look really cool and serve the plot. That was a lot of fun.

RTNDR:  What I like about Vir, Aman, Tia and the other characters in Turbelence, is I really felt that I could visualize these characters in my mind and really wanted to root for them.  Of course I like Aman, Uzma, Tia and Vir, but the character I enjoyed the most was Tia as she can make multiple versions of herself and whatever the multiple versions gain in experience is also part of the original Tia and that is cool.  So what is your favorite character in the book?

Samit:  Definitely Tia. If I could pick a power, I’d pick hers. I think specially nowadays in a world full of opportunities and choices we spend a lot of time thinking about other lives we could have led. To be able to live them all would be fantastic. Not that I’d mind any good power, really.

RTNDR:  As for a little insight, how do you put a novel together or the process of you putting words onto the page?  Do you just turn on a computer and just write or jot stuff down on paper?

Samit:  I tend to plot and plan quite rigorously, because I’m terrified of the idea of moving ahead with a story and then finding I’m stuck. So I always do a good amount of research, and make sure I’ve got everything outlined before I start. That said, once the characters become people they sometimes don’t go according to plan, so I usually have to keep modifying the plot to accommodate their actions. But it’s good to have a map before you start; you might wander off-road but you won’t get completely lost.

RTNDR:  Okay, I’m just throwing this out there, I can picture Raza Jaffrey as Vir and Sonam Kapoor as Uzma.  If this was made into an actual movie, have you thought of what actors might play these characters?

Samit:  Good choices both! I actually don’t think about actors when I’m writing something – they have faces in my head. So I’d be quite easy about casting if any actor fitted any role – if you wanted to make this film now with these actors, I’d certainly be on board! There’s been some interest in the film rights, and I’m hoping to get something sorted soon-ish.

RTNDR:  What is like to have Turbulence published and released in the UK and now in the US?

Samit:  It feels incredible. India has never been particularly interested in fantasy/SF literature beyond mythological stories, and when I did a book tour in the UK there was an odd sense of coming home – both the writers and the readers were people I could immediately relate to, and I had several fanboy moments meeting writers I hugely admire. The US is Superhero Central, of course, so I’m thrilled to have the book out there, but also hugely nervous. So far it’s been great, though.

RTNDR:  And what can you tease us with in the Turbulence sequel “Resistance” coming in July 2014?

Samit:  It’s set in 2020, all across the world, with a lot of the action happening in New York and Tokyo. It’s a world dominated by superheroes, and humans aren’t too happy about it. Let’s say if Turbulence is the Superman book, Resistance is the Batman book.

RTNDR:  In Turbulence you mention the Justice League and X-men, so are you a DC Comics or Marvel Comics guy?

Well, film-wise definitely Marvel. Comics-wise I have a lot of reading left to do and so far just honestly love both. If I had to pick one, though, I think the Vertigo titles give DC an edge.

RTNDR:  And lastly, where can the fans find your latest works, projects, book tours and updates?

Samit:  On Twitter, @samitbasu, and my website, samitbasu.com . Thanks very much! Retrenders would actually be a very cool hero team name.

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Retrenders would like to thank Samit Basu for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a couple of “fanboy” questions on his sci-fi superhero novel “Turbulence” and Tom Green over at Titan Books for setting up the interview.  Please head to Samit’s website @ samitbasu.com for his latest projects and updates and go to:  Titan Books for their amazing catalog of sci-fi/fantasy, horror, steampunk and crime books.

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