Bay Area Teens Publish First Novel Amid Pandemic – Best American Indian Magazine | San Jose California
Three years ago, we sought to take a break from homework amid the pandemic. This resulted in the book, Another Close Call: European and Indian Adventures battles.
We started with excitement and inspiration – choosing plots, developing characters, creating environments. Our original idea was to have a conqueror dominating the world and to describe his exploits. By combining the names of Napoleon Bonaparte and Julius Caesar, we shaped them into a character called “Napoleon Caesar”. After some debate, the idea came to make him not a conqueror of the world but an aristocrat.
Napoleon Caesar is at the center of two converging stories set in 1871. Napoleon’s father and also internationally renowned merchant, Albert Caesar, is kidnapped by a mysterious Indian cult known as the “Babitites”. Napoleon gathers seven fellow travelers and ventures to British India to save his father.
Fight the babitites
Meanwhile, tensions rise in British India as the Babitites seize the opportunity to conquer much of the country. Three young Indians – Jamnalal, Shravan and Keshav – are conscripted into the British army in a desperate attempt to defend the colonial capital, Kolkata, from the Babitite onslaught. The three are then sent on a mission to destroy the Babitite artillery, but when they do, they are captured and sent to a Babitite slave mine. They end up leading a slave revolt, and their story continues from there as they lead the Indian efforts against the Babitites.
We wrote the first chapters of the book towards the end of 2018 and went on hiatus for a long time. Eighth year had been quite a difficult year, especially with the fact that one of our teachers in particular was quite strict and gave a lot of homework. Our first year of high school was as challenging as it was transformative.
Enter the pandemic
So how did we find the time? Enter the 2020 COVID pandemic. Online learning, in its early days, was very different than before, so schools released students early in the pandemic. In Ariel’s school, at the start of the confinement, for example, the letter grades were replaced by the “pass or fail” system. This allowed us to spend some well-deserved time working on their novel.
The combination of summer and the pandemic has been a game changer. Ariel and I were usually in India or Israel, but due to travel restrictions we were stuck at home. This prompted us to work on the book and we were able to finish it in a month.
And they persisted
Then, Mr. Rohit Handa intervened. Mr. Handa happens to be my grandfather and the author of two books, A Twisted Cue (2003) and Comrade Sahib (1974). For all of July and half of August, we called it every day, adjusting for the time zone differences between California and India. Mr. Handa gave us invaluable suggestions, including feasibility, grammar, and historical accuracy. For example, there was an entry in the novel where we used the word “Ottomans” ten times in a paragraph. He revealed the flaw to us and had us replace “Ottomans” with “Turks” and “them” so that there would be less redundancy.
And then, when remote learning started in August 2020, we couldn’t work on it every day, but we persisted in calling Mr. Handa every weekend. Finally, after four to five months of those weekend calls, we said the story was ready. Be published? Not enough.
Mr. Handa put us in touch with a prominent publisher based in New Delhi. She proved to be a useful resource in our journey by providing many comments, the vast majority of which were accepted.
The novel asked us to do extensive research. Sometimes sanctifying historical accuracy more than plot, we would go to great lengths to ensure that the technology used in the book was not invented after 1871, when the novel is set. Pranav also meticulously ensured that we would get correct soldier ranks, while Ariel thought in a more general way.
Both of us had our disagreements. Ariel cared more about the plot and was okay with historical inaccuracy for the sake of the plot. And sometimes Ariel used a lot of casual language in the novel, which Pranav didn’t think was appropriate. We have often compromised and our mutual concessions have created a literature of its own worth.
The novel consists of many colorful elements. If some may rightly think that the first novel of two teenagers would be an amateur work, we cannot ignore some of our prowess. We’ve managed to craft two separate stories and tie them together at the end, and we’ve written about dozens of fast-paced European adventures and titanic Indian battles. There was an adventure where Napoleon Caesar saved Ali Erbil, a notorious thief, from the stranglehold by breaking into the prison yard in a car.
Ali Erbil, although a minor character in this novel, is currently having his prequel written; we hope to publish it by mid to late 2022. Ariel has also written a novel with the help of Pranav which has yet to be published, about Another Close Call’s funniest character, Charlie Charles. The Misadventures of Charlie Charles chronicles his life during the American Civil War.
We are proud to be connected through literature and hope to publish many more books over our lifetimes.