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Published in Author Interview, History & Culture


Published in Author Interview, History & Culture


Author Raphael Sohnn on writing first chapter of novel

Writing first chapter of novel is all about capturing the essence of the situation. Discover what essence the author mentioned during the interview

Many authors get stuck somewhere while writing the first chapter of their novel or book. As a result, the most crucial act of every book author is how to begin the paragraph.

Many of them must have separate chapters in order to remain optional. We discovered Raphael Sohnn's unique technique of selecting his chapter one and why while conversing with him in an interview.

About Raphael Sohnn

Raphael Sohnn is a British / Indian author and poet.

Raphael followed the traditional route of educating himself to either become a professional or turn his attention towards the family business – the latter of which he did. Though somewhat of a daydreamer in class and even during his years in further education, ideas began to take shape in his mind and eventually found themselves on the pages of his debut novel, The Captains of Legend, some twenty or so years later.

Set at a time, some 700 hundred years ago, when kingdoms were ubiquitous in what would eventually become India, the book is about the lives, loves, trials and tribulations of the residents of the palace – both royals and those that serve them – at the heart of the Kingdom of Bhagava. Very much a human story, in it, the characters must navigate not only the paths set out for them supposedly from birth but also the calling of their individual destinies and the cries of their hearts, knowing that war has shaped all they now have and may also be just around the corner.

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Interview with Author Raphael Sohnn on writing first chapter of novel

Have you ever wondered how to write the opening chapter of your book?

Raphael: Not really. Every story has to have a beginning, naturally. So for me it has just to be able to set the scene, as it were. In my book The Captains of Legend, I believe I’ve been able to encapsulate the main theme of the tale, the realisation that the relationship between the two central characters, Holasiyan – a young warrior, and Meena – the princess and his childhood friend, is becoming far more profound. It speaks quite early on as to the hurdles their blossoming love faces in that opening chapter.

There are numerous cases where the majority of the book captures the reader's interest in the first chapter of the book; what is your secret to achieving this successfully?

Raphael: Although my book is set somewhere in northern India very many centuries ago, the central issues are in my opinion timeless, especially those that concern Holasiyan and Meena. They can be transposed to today, and are I feel, struggles that many young people can relate to. In India as well as many other countries around the world, class or one’s perceived status still plays a fundamental role in relationships being favoured and hence blessed, or not, as the case may be.

Author Raphael Sohnn on writing first chapter of novel
Author Raphael Sohnn on writing first chapter of novel

What aspects did you learn or believe included crafting a superb first chapter of a book?

Raphael: Thanks firstly, for your kind words. Personally, I at times felt the opening chapter of my book to be a little uneventful, comparatively speaking as regards the rest of the book, though I suppose perhaps I’m looking at it through the perspective of he who knows what is to come. Again, I felt I had to capture the essence of the situation of the two young protagonists. I’m certain that was achieved.

What is the significance between writing the opening chapter of a book and writing the first paragraph?

Raphael: In my book the opening paragraph encapsulates quintessentially that which young Meena, the princess desires and the pursuit of those therein. The chapter from then on elaborates upon it, fleshes it out so to speak.


Tell us about your book, how your writing ideas evolve over time, and what inspires you the most.

Raphael: My book is about the lives of a host of people who live side by side, yet inhabit different strata in their society. It is a story of the protectors and those they protect, and how each individual’s existence is intertwined with that of the person upon whom their actions may have an impact, favourably or detrimentally.

As far as my writing ideas go, I’m not sure that I’ve been writing for long enough for it to have yet evolved. I suppose I’ll leave that for others to judge one day. What inspires me is anything which can move one on a purely emotional level, whether that be a painting, music, poetry or prose.

I recently purchased a print of the most majestically depicted lion I’d ever had the privilege to look upon (it appears in one of my Instagram posts on a wall behind me). Just the other day someone very close to me mentioned how wonderful a picture it was. I remarked that it caught my eye at the far end of an enormous furniture showroom. I was there to buy a bed, yet I couldn’t stop gawping at this image. I decided in that moment, bed or no bed, that painting was going home with me. It moved something within me. I hope I’ve done that experience justice in attempting to explain it and to further elaborate the point.

Aamir Khan Holding the Captains of Legend
Aamir Khan Holding "The Captains of Legend"

What is your favourite quote that motivates you and why?

Raphael: I’m not sure if I have one that stands head and shoulders above all others. That said, the poem If, by Rudyard Kipling is exceptional, and the final few lines are hard to beat.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

…now that’s inspirational.

What are the most crucial things you believe every aspiring writer should know about producing a killer first chapter in any genre of fiction?

Raphael: Again, I’m not sure it’s for me to describe the first chapter of my book as ‘killer’. Nevertheless, there have to be moments in the story as a whole that are capable of making one smile, laugh and even cry. I reckon I’ve been successful in that regard. Some of the very kind reviews I’ve had so far have spoken to that.

How do you prioritise your day, especially when you have outstanding chapters to rework and new ideas to jot down?

Raphael: When I’m writing, I simply sit at my desk and type away. I usually have a good idea about where I am – or the story, I should say – is heading. I already know what have to try and convey, and so it’s about getting that on to the page. However you are right when you talk of reworking. That is an ongoing process, and passages, lines, paragraphs and at times entire chapters must be revisited, then edited, re-written or removed altogether. It’s all part and parcel of the process.

What are your favourite novel's beginning characters, and why did you chose them?

Raphael: If you mean which are the favourite characters that I’ve created, then I have to say that I love them all; after all as mentioned, they are my creation, though I have to say that Dilawar Khan, the current captain is a character very dear to me. He is a paragon of virtue, brave and loyal, kind and yet a fearsome warrior. He is the perfect example of what it means to be a man, and a mentor without parallel to those under his wing, in this case his young charge, Holasiyan.


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