Meet The Author
Christopher C Doyle
Author, CEO Coach and Founder, The Growth Catalysts
Bringing the perfect blend of science, history and mythology
Dreams of wars, dreams of liars, dreams of dragon’s fire…
Have you ever had dreams which played out like a blockbuster movie with vivid colours, stereophonic sound and breathless action? I’ve had amazing dreams like these since I was ten years old. A voracious reader, fed on a diet of Jules Verne, HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, J R R Tolkein, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, I would write stories in school that nurtured a deep rooted ambition to see my books alongside the books of my idols, in bookstores.
But my dream of being a published bestselling author would have to wait as I made my way through the corporate world, running businesses with leading multinational companies and finally running my own firm, which I do even today.
Unlocking the secrets of the past
Around 20 years ago, I read a bunch of very well written and scientifically researched books which propagated the theory that all mythology is based on a kernel of history which has been embellished through centuries of retelling. They presented fascinating research based theories that explained legends and myths from the Western world using astronomy, science and mathematics.
I began to wonder if there were any books written by Indian authors which had similarly explored Indian mythology, and particularly the Mahabharata, from a perspective of historicity even though I knew there was a significant absence of archaeological and historical evidence for any of the events described in the epic.
But my search drew a blank. It was then that I came across a fascinating book – The Hindu History by Akshoy K Majumdar, published in 1917, which contained a detailed study of the lineages and kingdoms of prehistoric India as described in the Vedas, The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, the Puranas and the Upanishads.
The analysis presented in this book intrigued me. Was it possible, I wondered, that there is a history of India that not popularly known, but which has been captured in the scriptures of India in allegorical or narrative form?
And was it possible that some of the stories from the Mahabharata could be explained by science? After all, there was science in ancient India — Susruta, a surgeon who lived around 1000 BC practiced surgical techniques, some of which are used even today.
However, the lack of physical evidence and research into this area meant that I could only explore these possibilities through fiction.
The story that became a book
In 2006, I set out to write a story for my seven-year-old daughter who is deeply interested in mythology and history. I wrote a story for her that was set in modern India and which connected the past and the present, using science, history and mythology. Over a period of two years, I wrote and narrated this story to my daughter and, in 2008, my first book — The Mahabharata Secret — was born.
The road to publishing the book was a rocky one and took 5 years to traverse. My manuscript was roundly rejected by 18 International literary agents and several Indian publishers before the book was published in 2013. The book became a runaway bestseller which led me to write The Mahabharata Quest series, releasing Book 1: The Alexander Secret in 2014 and Book 2: The Secret of the Druids in 2016.
Science, history and the Mahabharata
I do extensive research for my books. I started by reading the Mahabharata in its original form — all 1,00,000 verses — since my books are all based on the epic.
I also spend considerable time researching the science behind every book in The Mahabharata Quest series. While the connection between the science and mythology is fictional, the science is all based on real, cutting edge scientific research. I read books, white papers on each scientific topic that I research and consult with international scientific experts to ensure that my facts are correct. I do the same with the historical research. For each book that I write, I read maybe 100 or 150 books on science and history. I also have Sanskrit PhDs and reputed Vedic scholars who I consult to ensure that my interpretation of the Sanskrit is correct and credible.
Location research is also important. I travel to at least 90% of the locations that feature in my books. This means a lot of travel since a lot of locations I visit don’t eventually end up in a book. For The Secret of the Druids, for example, which links Irish and British mythology with the Mahabharata, I spent more than 5 weeks in the UK, visiting over 50 ancient sites in the company of archaeologists to ensure that I got my facts right.
In order to achieve a seamless blend of science, history and mythology, I begin by researching the science and talking to experts to form a (fictional) hypothesis that connects to the mythology. Once that is established, I research the history, and by the time I’m done with the research, the major plot elements are clear. This process takes two or three years, before I start writing. Writing the book itself is much quicker — anywhere between three and four months and I’m done.
The Quest Club: a community of adventurers
I always knew that my readers would be young, and so they are — more than 70% are below 30 years old. What surprised me was the overwhelming response from readers in the 14-18 year age group, since I never consciously targeted them. It could be because my first book was originally written for a child, but I think it is also because the younger generation is interested in mythology since they don’t have access to it from anywhere else. The old tradition of hearing mythological stories from the elders in the family has given way to electronic distractions for older and younger generations alike.
From the feedback I’ve received, it seems that my readers connect to my characters because they are realistic — simple, everyday human beings like you and I, who get into sticky situations and don’t always win. Sometimes the bad guys win. I think this makes my books different for readers who are accustomed to the usual “good wins over evil” situations in thrillers. In my books, the hero often ends up getting beaten up, as most of us would if we were in the same situations.
In 2015, I started The Quest Club, a free online club where readers could join for free and get access to verified and validated scientific and historical information (since I always validate my facts with international experts in their respective fields) along with access to my research — notes, videos and photographs of locations that I visit while researching. The Quest Club was a hit — we now have more than 11000 members in the club, from all over the world and hold regular Quest Club meetings in different cities as well as online Quest Club meetings.
It was then that I decided to give Quest Club members a gift while they waited for my next book. The Mahabharata Quest series is written in real time and The Alexander Secret ended with a promise that the story would continue after six months. So I decided I would write a series in six parts, which actually told readers what happened six months after the events in The Alexander Secret ended, continuing the series in a manner of speaking, and also serving as a bridge to the next book. This series was published at The Quest Club over six months (one part every month) and was read for free by Quest Club members.
To my surprise, there now came a deluge of demands to convert the six part online series into a book. Readers wanted a physical book — even if it meant paying for it — rather than an online series. That led to the publishing of A Secret Revealed – The Mini Sequel to The Alexander Secret: a 90 page novella published in March 2016. And this novella, too, became a bestseller.
I have learned two things over the last few years, interacting with my readers. First, physical books trump e-books. That’s why A Secret Revealed is in print. Second, if you give readers of any age a story that intrigues and interests them, they will read. I feel most gratified when young people come up to me and say, ‘I was never into reading, but after reading your books, I’ve become addicted to books.’ It is the most wonderful thing to hear.
What lies ahead?
In 2017, I realised that Book 3 in The Mahabharata Quest series was going to take another year or two, which meant that my readers would have to go without a book from me for perhaps 2 to 3 years.
It was then that I decided to write a new series — a fantasy thriller series based on Indian mythology.
Since I had already done almost all the mythological research that I needed for the new series (and there was no scientific or historical research required for a fantasy series), this series was easier and quicker to write and Son of Bhrigu: Book 1 of The Pataala Prophecy series was published in 2018 and became an immediate bestseller. Book 2 will be published in October 2019.
I now have my hands full with two series running simultaneously along with the research for The Mahabharata Quest series, so I don’t see myself writing anything else apart from these series for the foreseeable future.
Once both series are completed, I will look around for the theme of my next work.
Finally, a question which I am often asked: what advice do I have for aspiring authors? The answer is simple: read, read and read. And read some more. Across all genres. Fiction and non fiction. Only then should you start writing to be published. I read hundreds of books before I attempted to get my first story published. I believe that everyone has a story in them. If you read a lot, you have a better chance of writing a story that will eventually get published.