Jan-Feb 2018: The HarperCollins Deal

The past month and a half has been so incredibly rewarding that I no longer have the slightest regret of overwork. It’s worth it.

For starters, HarperCollins India offered me a four-book deal. It’s apparently the largest (in terms of books) offered to a Sri Lankan author.

That’s me and Kanishka Gupta, my agent. He signed me on for book that I was working on in December; I talked about it a bit in my December update.

Well, things have gone quite far since then. The book, which I called The Inhuman Race, became the first of the Commonwealth Empires trilogy. It’s an alternate history accelerated to scifi timelines: to quote an interview I gave to Ceylon Today,

“World War I never happened. Britain quelled the American rebellion and held on to her Commonwealth. Her Majesty Elizabeth the Third rules with an iron fist and the aid of Her Tin Soldiers – walking dreadnoughts that can demolish entire cities. Ceylon – which the British keep for tea and thorium, is where Chinese and British trading interests meet. And in the first book, we explore a blasted, post-apocalyptic Colombo and an equally strange Kandy, in which is brewing a new type of civilization altogether.”

Harper offered for that one book plus the next two in the series plus Numbercaste, which they’d heard pretty good things about.

I wanted a foot in the trad pub door, but now it seems like I’ve got an arm and a leg inside. 

I traveled to New Delhi, met Kanishka, met Swati Daftaur, my commissioning editor, met the marketing team at Harper. We discussed print schedules, film rights (they’re eager to see if Numbercaste can be turned into a film – but more on that as it happens) and, most importantly, covers. Covers are important.

The Harper office is basically a cross between an office and a library, with thousands of books lying neatly in stacks everywhere you look. I took as many as I could carry home with me. Never turn down books.

I presented some preliminary research on nation-to-nation connectivity at one of India’s top universities. After which I got to spend some small time exploring Delhi.

Ashoka University is gorgeous. Most of January was spent polishing the research and having it picked apart in preparation for presenting. It went well, and I got to spend a day among Delhi academia.

Delhi is a place I need to come back and explore better – both in terms of space and in time. I picked up a jacket which we bargained down to a fifth of its price and the collected works of Plato in a secondhand bookshop.

Aand it looks like I’ll have to accelerate my pace of self-learning, and pick up not just data science, but also econometrics and some sociology.

So, plans:

  1. Finish the 16,000-word story for 2054, the anthology that I’m working on with JT Lawrence, Colby Rice and Jason Werbeloff. I outlined it on the flight from Delhi to Colombo and started writing it last night. I’m about a thousand words in, and it’s flowing smoothly. Deadline: March 16. 
  2. Take a month’s hiatus (say, April) to study. I need to finish the Johns Hopkins course and switch to the Stanford and Duke stuff already.
  3. Have the first draft of the Commonwealth Empires #2 by August. Rewrites September and November. December for backup planning.
  4. Begin slowly piecing together Ash (TBA) and collect my short stories for an eventual anthology publication.

Right. And now to work.



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