Singapore-based writer signs with Penguin India

Singapore-based writer Krishna Udayasankar wants to understand the legacy the Buddha left behind.
Singapore-based writer Krishna Udayasankar wants to understand the legacy the Buddha left behind. PHOTO: ST FILE

Krishna Udayasankar to write a series on Buddha

Singapore-based writer Krishna Udayasankar has been commissioned by publisher Penguin India to write a series on Buddha.

The deal is said to be worth more than $20,000. The first two books in the series have been contracted, with the option of commissioning more.

In a telephone interview with The Straits Times, Udayasankar, 37, said she is "super excited" by the news. The writer, a Singapore permanent resident, is also a lecturer at the Nanyang Business School at Nanyang Technological University. She is represented by Jacaranda Literary Agency, founded and headed by Bengaluru-based literary agent Jayapriya Vasudevan.

Udayasankar has published five books, including a poetry volume. Her latest novel, titled 3, by Singapore publisher Ethos Books, is a socio-political work of fiction. Set in modern-day Singapore, it recreates the Sang Nila Utama legend.

On her book deal, she said: "I would not want to compromise on the story by rushing it through. I would like to finish the first two and see how much further I can take the narrative."

The works are still in the very early stages, she added. "The books are currently still an idea and I am doing my research."

Those familiar with her fantasy trilogy, The Aryavarta Chronicles, which was acquired by Hachette India, will know about her obsession with mythology and history.

"All my books come from the core of a character I want to understand. In the case of Siddhartha/The Buddha, I want to understand the legacy he left behind. These are some of the ideas I will be exploring in my research and writing."

Despite her literary success, she said: "I will be keeping my day job."

She writes whenever she can, though most of her writing is done late at night, after 10pm.

The opportunity to work with the Penguin imprint is "hugely exciting", she said.

"It is only now starting to sink in how big a deal it is."

International publishers have been showing greater interest in books from South-east Asia and by writers based in the region. One of the most recent international literary successes is New York- based Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians (2013), which tracks the lives of Singapore's ultra-rich. Last year, New York-based Singapore poet Jee Leong Koh's fifth poetry collection, Steep Tea, was selected as one of four works on the international daily the Financial Times' Best Poetry Of 2015 list.

In 2009, another Singapore- based writer, Shamini Flint, made news with her literary deal with international publisher Little, Brown. Asian detectives were relatively rare then and the international publishing giant bought the worldwide rights to her three crime fiction novels for a five-figure sum. Flint had self-published 3,500 copies of her first crime fiction novel, Partners In Crime (2005), and 1,500 copies of the second book, Criminal Minds (2007), before bagging the deal.

There has also been an official push for Singapore writing. From 2011, the National Arts Council has spent at least $50,000 to $60,000 every year helping writers and publishers showcase their work at festivals and book fairs around the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore-based writer signs with Penguin India'. Print Edition | Subscribe