A big welcome to Karan Bajaj, #1 bestselling novelist in India of KEEP OFF THE GRASS (HarperCollins: 2008) and JOHNNY GONE DOWN (HarperCollins: 2010) with more than 200,000 copies of his novels in print. He was selected as one of the “Top 35 Under 35 Indian” by India Today and was nominated for all of India’s top literary awards—the Crossword Book of the Year, Indiaplaza Golden Quill and Teacher’s Indian Achievers Awards (Arts).
I first met Karan in April 2016 when he sent me an email requesting a review of his book, THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT, which was to be published by Penguin Random House worldwide in May.
After reading the book’s synopsis, I realized that it fit the genre of visionary fiction. So I agreed to do a review. I also took the opportunity to ask Karan to participate in a Q&A for the Visionary Fiction Alliance.
Imagine my surprise, when THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT turned out to be a #1 New Release on Amazon in the Metaphysical and Visionary Fiction category.
As of this writing, THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT has the Amazon Best Sellers Rank of #22 in the Kindle Store for Metaphysical/Visionary Fiction category. It also has 243 reviews, 90% of them 5-star.
Good going, Karan!
Interview with Karan Bajaj
MARGARET DUARTE: Our experience at the VFA is that most agents and publishers don’t recognize visionary fiction as a genre. Yet, even with a mainstream agent and publisher, THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT was released in metaphysical and visionary fiction. Can you share with us how this came about?
KARAN BAJAJ: Margaret, you have much to do with this! The novel was pitched and published as mainstream literary fiction. In selecting the Amazon sub-categories to list in, Riverhead had the usual suspects in mind—Asian American, literary fiction etc.—but when I informed them of my interest in the metaphysical and visionary fiction genre after our conversation, they agreed it would be an excellent fit for the book.
MARGARET: When you and I first connected on the Internet, you told me that you were not familiar with visionary fiction as a separate genre. With the VFA definition of visionary fiction as a guide, I’d like to ask you some questions about THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT. Your answers will show to what extent your novel falls under the VF label. Opening question: Is growth in consciousness central to your novel and does it drive your protagonist, and/or other important characters?
KARAN: Absolutely. The whole construct of the novel is a man transcending the individual to become the universal by shedding layers of identities and attachments—physical, emotional, and spiritual. So the growth in Max’s consciousness is the core of the novel.
MARGARET: Does THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT use reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal events, psychic abilities, or other metaphysical plot devices?
KARAN: Yes, but I haven’t thought of them as very deliberate plot devices. THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT is about a young American who travels to India to become a yogi in the Himalayas and as he goes deeper and deeper into his quest, metaphysical phenomenon begin to happen to him without him actually seeking them out. So in a sense, phenomenon like remembering past lives, reading people’s minds, and even walking on water, are very organic to his journey and are not treated as turning points in the plot.
MARGARET: Do you consider your work universal in its worldview and scope?
KARAN: Absolutely. I think a human asking “Who am I?” and forcing the silent, uncaring universe to give him an answer is the most fundamental of human quests. That’s the exact journey Max is on. Even the incidents that lead him to his questions about the cause of human suffering—his violent upbringing in the Bronx housing projects, his mother’s death etc.–are metaphorical since they touch on the randomness and seeming injustice of human pain.
MARGARET: Does THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT embrace spiritual and esoteric wisdom from ancient sources and make it relevant for our modern time?
KARAN: Yes! The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Buddha’s quest and eventual awakening were the key inspirations for the book. However, Max’s tough, arduous physical journey from the drug dens in Bronx to hidden night markets and surreal ashrams in the depths of India is very contemporary.
MARGARET: Do you as an author attempt to bring forth spiritual wisdom into your work so readers can experience this wisdom from within themselves?
KARAN: I do but at my core, I’m just trying to be a medium for the story to tell itself and relinquish all sense of author-ship completely. In that sense, I work on myself to be pure enough so that the words that come from me can be considered “spiritual wisdom.”
That’s why in my living in what I call a 4,1,4 model:
4 Years: Extreme goal-directed living—working at my corporate job, disciplined reading/writing/researching etc.
1 Year: Complete slack—taking a sabbatical where I do tough hiking, meditate, work in an orphanage, basically allowing myself the space to just be and become more still and pure.
4 Years: Return to corporate/goal-directed life.
…and so on.
I’ve done three cycles of this and usually write extensively in the sabbatical years so that I’m relatively still and pure when I’m writing.
MARGARET: Does your work envision humanity’s transition into evolved consciousness? If so, how?
KARAN: As you get deeper into the book, the concept that emerges is one of dharma. The tree grows and bears fruit, the water quenches thirst, in the same way every living being has a dharma, a certain innate tendency. Purifying your actions in accordance with your dharma rather than taking someone else’s dharma makes you lose your sense of self completely and gives you a glimpse of transcendence. In the novel, Max realizes his dharma was to live in the outdoors and serve and through that, he saw a glimpse of the ultimate truth. I think that’s my vision for humanity—to dissolve yourself completely by acting in accordance with your truth.
MARGARET: In your opinion, what is the relevance of VF in today’s world?
KARAN: VF wrestles with the biggest, deepest questions of what it means to be a human and the power of doing it with storytelling rather than philosophy/non-fiction is that the reader dissolves completely in the story. As a result, any learning the character has had in his journey seeps into the reader’s full being and becomes his or her learning. I can’t think of anything more powerful to transform the world.
MARGARET: THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT has been out for less than a month and it is currently #22 in the Kindle store for Metaphysical/Visionary Fiction and #10 in Asian American. It also has 243 positive reviews. What do you think accounts for your novel’s success?
KARAN: If you read the reviews, the one thing that stands out is that people have been deeply transformed by the novel yet they also stayed up all night to read it because the story is so fast-paced. I think this combination of page-turning adventure plus a story of transformation is unique and has worked well.
MARARET: Do you have any pointers for visionary fiction authors as to how to find their audience and bring attention to their work?
KARAN: Absolutely, I have listed some of my best marketing advice in this post where I cover the exact techniques that have allowed me to sell 200,000 copies of my books in India.
The same approach has led to THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT selling 10,000 copies in the 1st 3 months in the US, majority of them in hardcover, which is a pretty solid start for a debutante. So I know it works in the US as well.
Thank you Karan Bajaj for participating in this Q&A and for helping us with our mission of bringing visionary fiction into the mainstream.
I took the liberty of adding another link to a great post by Karan called: How to get published worldwide by a Top 5 publishing house.
Karan Bajaj is a bestselling novelist and striving Yogi. Born and raised in the Indian Himalayas. He now lives and works in New York, where he attempts to live a Yogic life in the heart of the material world.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at his website (http://www.karanbajaj.com).
Users who have LIKED this post: