An interview with Ujjwall Uppuluri

I am an International Economist who enjoys reading in his spare time historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction novels. I studied economic history at the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh. I was fascinated by the history of the Byzantine Empire written by Treadgold and Ostrogorsky and I wished for this empire that once spanned two continents and was known for its diversity and wealth to once more be exposed to modern literary circles. To be added to my mailing list please send a message to ujjwalluppuluri@hotmail.com. To learn more about the novel and the characters in it, visit the following website: https://www.byzantinechronicles.com/

Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc.

I was born in India and grew up in the United States, and studied in the United Kingdom. Currently, I live in Washington D.C. and attended to the University of Edinburgh and the London School of Economics for my undergraduate and graduate studies.

What inspired you to author your book?

I had always been interested in fictional literature—more specifically historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy novels—and as a kid, I grew up reading Steven Erickson, Isaac Asimov, and Harry Turtledove. I was also quite interested in counterfactual historiography and what-if scenarios, and I thought why not create a novel that combines my interest in an alternate history with my interest in fantasy. As strange as it sounds, in middle school, I had a dream, and it left such an impression on me that I decided I had to put what I had dreamt about on paper. Of course, that was back in middle school, and as my writing ability matured, the current plot is quite different from what it was back then, though the essence of what I had dreamt is still present in this novel.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?

The inspiration for the book’s cover came from a graphic designer who I had hired to help design it. I felt that the sword and the crown best represented the nature of war and politics in the medieval period.

Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?

A Japanese author known by the pen name Ryukishi 07. He wrote a horror-mystery novel called Umineko When They Cry, and his writing style is one that focuses on the idea of the world being a chessboard and the actors in it pieces. These pieces follow a set of rules and interact with each other, but they don’t know that they are pieces. In the meta world, there is the player, and there is the game-master. The player is the reader. While the game-master is the author, his books emphasize that the story is a game played by the reader and the author where the author creates an illusion around the true meaning that he is conveying with the story, and the reader tries to break through that illusion to understand the truth.

What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?

The biggest challenge I found was that I would have times where the ideas would just flow, and I would make lots of progress, but at other times I would be stuck and not know how to proceed. Furthermore having to go back and edit a 100,000-word storyline by line was also challenging, but I overcame both challenges through perseverance.

Tell your readers about your book.

It’s the year 1071, and the Roman Empire is on the verge of collapse. Romanos IV Diogenes, the emperor, is overthrown by his military general Michael Ducas as nobles rise against the state. Smelling blood, and encouraged by the chaotic state of affairs in Constantinople, foreign powers vie to crush the once-mighty Empire. But not all is lost, yet. The Sword of Emperors, home to an ancient spirit, transports itself to another time and place hoping to find a worthy champion. Ending up in modern-day New York, it lands at the feet of the most unlikely candidate. Anil is a homeless, ex-operations commando making a living on the streets. Feeling the weight of his failures, all he wants is a chance at redemption. When Providentia, the spirit of the sword, appears to him, it shakes his world. Eager to redeem himself and to make his mark, he accepts the spirit’s request for help. Transported to 1071, he is the Roman Empire’s only hope. Will Anil survive long enough to prove himself and restore glory to the Empire or die trying? Through the lens of Anil and various historical figures, we are taken on a journey entwined with Imperial Constantinople, Hungary, Italy, the Near East, Persia and the Levant.

Who is your target audience, and why?

My target audience is fans of historical fiction and alternate history. The book has been written in a style to appeal to all ages, because I wish to share to the wider world the world medieval byzantine society. If you were going to give one reason for anyone looking at your book to read, why should they buy it? The reason why you should buy my book is that it is able to strike a balance between historical facts, adventure, and story, and war, leaving an impression in your mind about a once-great empire and the colorful historical figures who led it, fought against it, and who lived in it.

What do you consider your greatest success in life?

My greatest success in life was when I successfully completed my undergraduate thesis at the University of Edinburgh. The effort I put into that thesis from collecting data to writing the final paper, I not only a learned much about the period I was writing, but I was able to hone my skills as a writer and thanks to the marks i received in this thesis, I was able to enter the graduate program of my dream university.

What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?

One thing that sets me apart from other writers in historical fiction is that I am someone who tries to balance cultural diversity with character development and plot to create a book that not only tries to capture the state of a society in the past but does so with a focus on ensuring that the main and secondary characters grow as the story develops.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I leave the book for a bit and do other activities such as going for a walk. I also listen to upbeat music and try to think about where the story should go next.

What one piece of advice do you have for new authors?

One piece of advice I give to new authors is. In this modern world we focus a lot on character identity and diversity. While this is important, make sure that the plot does not suffer as a result and make sure that what defines your book is not the external features of your character but who they are internally. This is because people connect far better to a well developed character than to a caricature. That does not mean you should have character diversity, but don’t make that be the focus at the expense of character development. After all, I am sure no author wants Mary Sue’s or Gary Stu’s in their novel. Tell your readers anything else you want to share. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about me. I look forward to you’re thoughts on the novel and this being my first novel I ever published, I would love it if you do purchase the book to leave feedback.

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