Author Selvan Srinivasan shares insights about his book, “Inner Alchemy”
In conversation with Unnati Shahi, Founder of The Bookish Gossips
Author Selvan Srinivasan, lives in Hyderabad with his wife, daughter, and two grandchildren. He is the Co-founder and Chairman of Hyderabad’s leading mental health services providing organization, PFP Psychological Services Private Limited. He is a mentor guiding participants through an online program called Awareness Journey. He also teaches a course in Alternative Therapies to postgraduate psychology students in a college in Hyderabad. He is a practitioner of energy medicine and a writer. I am happy to have you here Selvan sir, for this interview. Let me begin with my first question.
Can you provide a brief overview of your book “Inner Alchemy” and what inspired you to write it?
Selvan: Thanks Unnati, I am glad to be here talking about my favourite topic of bringing “Inner Alchemy,” a storybook, to fruition. When the idea of “Inner Alchemy” first took shape in my mind, I was conscious of the challenge that self-help books often face – the unconscious resistance that readers may experience when faced with a slew of instructions. It’s a natural response; we’ve all grown up with elders telling us what to do and what not to do all our lives. I wanted to circumvent this resistance by presenting the guidance in a different, more entertaining form.
“Inner Alchemy” is not your typical self-help book; it’s a light, entertaining story. I recognized that in the modern urban setting, people might be put off by a book that feels like another set of instructions. So, I chose to tell a story that almost everyone in such a setting could instantly relate to. Ayushi, the protagonist, represents the struggles and experiences that many individuals face in their day-to-day lives.
The inspiration behind “Inner Alchemy” stems from a deep-rooted desire to demystify the world of energy healing and alternative therapies. I was an Entrepreneur and Industrialist for four decades deeply seeped into the Capitalistic Corporate World. And then, as I went through a seemingly miraculous healing transformation when I was 55 years old, I was compelled from within to quit the career of my lifetime and don a new avatar as a mentor, life coach, and practitioner of energy medicine. It had inspired me to create a six-month online mentoring program that I called Awareness Journey. During the next five years, I have been blessed to come across many participants who have journeyed through this program with my guidance and have experienced similarly miraculous healing and transformation in their lives. These involved being cured of incurable physical ailments and mental health conditions, as well as emotional and relationship issues as well as career growth and financial issues. Such experiences provide the foundation for my books.
How does “Inner Alchemy” fit into the broader context of your “Awareness Journey Series”? What themes connect the books in this series?
Selvan: “Inner Alchemy” is the inaugural piece of a series titled “Tales from the Awareness Journey series.” The narrative unfolds in the bustling city of Hyderabad, India, against the backdrop of the challenging year 2021. Ayushi, a young software professional, grapples with the complexities of urban existence when her life takes an unexpected turn.
The pivotal moment occurs when Ayushi encounters Ranjan, the architect of an online transformative experience known as the Awareness Journey. Intrigued by the promise of profound change, Ayushi decides to enrol in this mentoring program, setting the stage for a significant shift in her life’s trajectory. Ayushi, a character inspired by numerous real-life students from my mentoring program, meets Ranjan, also known as Oogway in the tales. Oogway, a fictional version of myself, becomes a guiding force in Ayushi’s life.
The Awareness Journey comprises six modules, each spanning a month of daily online mentoring, including guided meditation audios, training videos, texting, and video calls. Each novel in the series corresponds to a specific module, and “Inner Alchemy” is associated with the first one, “The Happy Place Module.”
Over the next two years, I plan to publish the remaining five novels in this series, each continuing the transformative journey that begins with “Inner Alchemy.” The unfolding narrative promises readers not just a story but a holistic experience that blends entertainment, wisdom, and self-discovery.
Share insights into the development of key characters in your book. How did you approach creating relatable and engaging characters for your readers?
Selvan: My true-life course participants provided the threads out of which I could weave my fictional characters and their life story with ease. But completing the first draft of “Inner Alchemy” left me with a peculiar sense of incompleteness. At 61, I am a male mentor, guiding people through life’s intricacies. In contrast, Ayushi, the central character, is a woman half my age, navigating her own unique set of challenges. While my extensive experience in mentoring provided a foundation, it became apparent that to truly capture Ayushi’s essence, I needed a more authentic perspective.
To achieve this authenticity, I shared the initial draft with a select group of young women, seeking their insights and perspectives. Among them, my own daughter, Aarathi, a respected psychological counsellor with a substantial clientele, played a pivotal role. Their feedback led to a complete rewrite, shifting the narrative to Ayushi’s point of view. It was a collaborative effort that transformed the book from a mentor’s musings to a genuine portrayal of Ayushi’s journey.
During this rewriting session, a profound shift occurred. The narrative ceased to be solely mine; it became a collective creation, blending the wisdom of my years with the fresh insights of the younger generation. It was at this juncture that I experienced that surreal feeling accomplished authors or any creative artists are said to have felt after completing their masterpiece. The book now felt alive, pulsating with the amalgamation of diverse perspectives and shared experiences.
The title suggests a connection to alchemy. How does the concept of alchemy serve as a metaphor in your book, and what significance does it hold for the characters?
Selvan: “Inner Alchemy” is the story of one of my participants joining the Module One of my Awareness Journey mentoring program, which is titled “The Happy Place Module.” When I wrote the first draft, the book was called “The Happy Place within.” That name was meant only for me and my core team of advisors and editors. To me, it seemed more like an apt title for a self-help non-fiction book, and I was always looking for a better one.
Once the entire editing and rewriting process was completed, a long process of deliberate contemplation and brainstorming happened. It was an alchemical process deep within my consciousness, and it resulted in this name. “The Alchemist,” by Paolo Coelho, who I consider as one of my influencing mentors, was an engrossing story that fired my imagination during my youthful days. So I was in no doubt now that “Inner Alchemy” would be an apt title for a fiction novel.
Can you shed light on your writing process? Are you a meticulous planner or more of an intuitive writer? Any particular rituals or habits you follow during writing a book?
Selvan: I usually travel to some faraway destination while writing my first draft and return for the more cumbersome and time-consuming process of editing and rewriting. For this book, I went on a four-month sojourn to some of the most breath-taking places in the US. These included the banks of Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, the Potomac River in Maryland, Tybee Island on the East coast, and San Diego on the west coast. Since it was a long trip, I managed to write the first draft of not only this book but also my next book.
I was away from my home in Hyderabad and, therefore, free from all my daily routines. I used to be a meticulous planner during my corporate years, but now, although I make plans in my mind and sometimes even write it down, I allow intuition to carry me through and do not have any rigid timelines or disciplines.
What do you hope readers will take away from “Inner Alchemy”? Are there specific messages or lessons you aimed to convey through the narrative?
Selvan: Life can be smooth, easy, peaceful, and joyful despite the chaos and turmoil surrounding us. You only need to learn a few skilful things, as Ayushi did in the book, to transform your life. In fact, you need not learn too many things; you need not even embark on a journey into Awareness as Ayushi did. You can just enjoy reading a nice storybook, and while you are at it, you may find at least one easy tool that you can try out then and there and adopt it in your life.
This alone can bring about unimaginable improvements in your life situation, inspiring you to venture deeper. “Inner Alchemy” is not just a book; it’s a companion on your journey towards a more balanced and fulfilling life. So, I encourage you to seize the opportunity and order the book on Amazon. Its pages hold not only entertainment but also valuable guidance, offering a path toward a holistic, well-rounded life that many seek.
How do you balance the development of the plot with exploring the deeper themes in your writing? Is one aspect more challenging than the other for you?
Selvan: I don’t worry about such balancing acts because I am deeply focused on being grounded and balanced within, and from there it all flows out naturally.
For aspiring authors, what advice would you give based on your own experiences? Any pitfalls to avoid or key practices to embrace when navigating the world of writing and publishing?
Selvan: As a mentor, my advice is the same for everyone. Learn to be aware of your state of mind and come back to your “Happy Place Within” before doing anything important. Everything else will fall into place with ease when you operate from a grounded and present state of mind. Read my book to find out how to do this with utmost ease.