In the world of fiction, where imaginations run amok and creatives experiment with their thoughts, there often comes along a writer who sets the bar too high for others to compete with. Taking espionage, drama, and thriller to a whole new level, we have Puja Guha, a wordsmith, and mistress of weaving compelling stories you cannot get enough of.
Guha is the author of The Ahriman Legacy – an espionage thriller series jam-packed with secrets and lies, complex characters, and to-die-for high-flying action. Reading her work is like watching movies at the cinema; it creates a compelling world in your head.
The series’ latest installment is Ahriman IV: Reckoning from the Shadows, a title that has drawn the attention of seasoned readers of all genres.
Let’s reverse-engineer the Ahriman Legacy! What went into making this extraordinary series?
Every great idea or story stems from that moment of inspiration. It is like a gift of words whispered into your ears. What’s next? Magic. The kind where, somehow, the story almost seems to write itself. The genesis of Puja’s journey as a writer dates back to the first installment of the Ahriman series, The Spirit of Destruction. She was editing a compelling dialogue between protagonists Petra Shiraziand Kasem when she realized how much she enjoyed writing and how good she was at it. Among the revisions and reworks at the start of the series, she knew she was on the cusp of something big.
Ironically enough, Puja’s inspiration for her writing is not a particular person or a single concept. She siphons nuances from everything around her. For instance, Lake Tanganyika in Burundi turned out to be a major aspect of the setting in Reckoning from the Shadows, with the whole of Burundi being her inspiration for the sequel.
She has, however, acknowledged author Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, to have helped her narrow down her writing process. The book helped address the fear one experiences when discovering their calling – a key element in Guha’s books.
But the most impressive notion in Pressfield’s work was his idea of a muse, and he quotes:
The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
Writing a book is one thing, but weaving an entire universe is another.
The Ahriman series began with the main protagonist, Petra Shirazi, and her conviction. Puja has revealed that she always approached the narrative of the protagonists’ stories as a series. She originally planned four to five books in the Ahriman Legacy. Where most stories originate from concepts, Guha’s books are solely led by her characters.
With a series, you have plenty of freedom to develop your characters and slowly let their storylines build. This is why the characters of Petra Shirazi and Kasem truly bloom and resonate with audiences. Puja molds their topsy-turvy relationship delicately and with much thought. Only a good writer – on their way to becoming great – knows to prioritize the pacing of their story with respect to their characters and the audience.
The real challenge is to keep the momentum going; write, write, and write. What makes Puja a good writer is her ability to portray life’s challenges in her writing. Guha’s writing style is ferocious, with just the right touch of suspenseful and intriguing.
We were curious and wanted to ask which character Puja related to the most… And not to our surprise, it was Petra Shirazi herself!
To Puja, Petra’s vulnerability, alongside her courage, are the two aspects that make her a reader’s favorite. Petra’s fire and charm can be seen throughout the series; Shirazi is bold, confident, and complex – all at the same time. But interestingly enough, Petra is not Puja’s favorite of the lot. It’s Petra’s love interest in the book, Kasem!
The beauty of the Ahriman series is the way not just the main protagonists but the side characters, too, have been written with great attention. She’s even teased some spinoffs coming our way soon.
Amongst those characters, it’s the women that truly shine through. “And it’s about time,” Puja said.
Women have been part of the espionage genre since its very inception. Yet somehow, they have been on the sidelines in fiction. With characters like Petra and Veronica (one of the main protagonists in Reckoning from the Shadows), it’s a breath of fresh air. There is something about the authenticity derived from a woman writing a female protagonist rather than a man, which can be seen in Puja’s work. Hopefully, we’ll see more authors continuing the revolution Puja wishes to bring through her books with an ensemble of amazing female characters.
A compelling protagonist is incomplete without a worthy antagonist to complete the storyline. As ferocious as Puja’s girls are, the antagonists Puja has manifested in the series speak for themselves. She revealed the secret behind writing these villains: it’s all about the approach. Puja approaches writing these villains as their own characters and doesn’t force “the bad guy narrative” on them. Whether these characters are antagonists from the get-go or reveal their ulterior motives later, you will not be disappointed.
What is writing to our badass author? In her words, it is a significant part of who she is and what makes her happy. Some days are hard, but like Petra, Puja keeps moving forward with unwavering zeal.
And good news for those who were left teased at the end of Ahriman IV: Reckoning from the Shadows. Puja has announced a fifth book on the way. This time we see Petra and Kasem return to Iran to confront the rogue military operative, General Majed, who captured Kasem and created the Ahriman in the first place.
Lastly, for all the upcoming writers, much like herself, Puja sends a message telling them to put in the work. Inspiration will eventually find its way to you only if you give yourself the time and space for it to happen. Everyone’s journey is different, and it is easy to falter when you do not see the results you should. As Khalil Gibran puts it best in his book, The Prophet:
“Your reason and passion are the rudders and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder is broken, you can but toss and drift or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone is a force confining, and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.”
Puja continues to embark on her own espionage-esque mission as a writer, penning down some exciting new storylines and characters for her fan. She doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
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