An Interview With Nihshanka Debroy - Pralipta

Your very first creation Checkmate has just been launched. Firstly, a big congratulations for your success. What was your idea behind choosing this topic, as the subject of your writing?

Thank you – I am glad that Checkmate is now out in the Indian subcontinent. 

In some ways, I always knew I would write a book connected to chess, since this game was a large part of my childhood in India. After several years of competitive chess tournaments, I took a break for about a decade. Eventually, I found my way back to chess. But after several years of research, I asked more probing questions. Questions such as – when did chess originate? Do we know who created it? And why? I searched everywhere for the origin of chess, read several articles and books. However, I still had no answer.

That is when I began to imagine what might have been. I wished that such a story existed, so I began to write it. Checkmate is a fictional account of the origins of chess with two parallel storylines, one set in AD 455 and the other set in modern times. But as my characters emerged with goals and motivations, the story took on a life of its own. Subplots emerged, as did fresh characters. Apart from being a work of historical fiction, my debut book connects with the reader on certain universal themes – the bonds of familial love, a woman straining out of the large shadow of her father’s success, a son’s boundless devotion to his mother. Grief and loss, heroism and unwavering will, and the extent to which we go to save our loved ones and their memories. 

What were your expectations regarding your first book's publication? Are you getting readers' responses accordingly?

First and foremost, I am happy that Checkmate is out in the Indian subcontinent in all formats (audio, Kindle and paperback). I hope Checkmate sparks discussions and encourages healthy debate. I appreciate all the feedback so far and look forward to more to come.

One challenge I have faced is the inability to launch Checkmate in person, given the extraordinary times and the impact on travel. However, I would like to thank my publisher for the digital launch we have been able to pull off, and I hope someday soon to visit India and speak about Checkmate.

In the meantime, I am easy to reach electronically via my website (, Facebook or Twitter. Many more people than I had anticipated listened to the Audiobook for Checkmate – this was a very pleasant surprise.

Opportunities to chat with groups such as Pralipta will help me reach even more readers. So I thank you for this conversation. 

What’s the reason behind the name "Checkmate"?

Checkmate has two protagonists - a fifth century warrior determined to save his people, and a modern-day businesswoman trying to save her father’s legacy. In the face of adversity, strategy is essential for both protagonists. 

So the title Checkmate fits well for two reasons. Firstly, Checkmate suggests outwitting one’s opponent with strategy. Secondly, Checkmate is a recognizable term and, combined with the book cover, provides a terrific teaser as to the contents of the book.

How did you start your career as a writer? What pushed you in this field of uncertainty?

When I was about ten years old, I became a voracious reader. I read dozens and dozens of mystery and adventure stories. On average, I would finish a book every two days. When I ran out of books, I read them again. When I had read many of them twice or thrice, I tried writing a couple of stories. Soon after, chess entered my life.

With several years of chess experience, I was well placed to write a book about competitive chess. However, after years of graduate school, my thinking was centered around research. So, when chess returned to my life, the questions I asked were about the origins of chess rather than today’s world of competitive chess.

That was when chess, research and writing came together and led to Checkmate.

We have come to know, you are working on your next project. Would you like tell us something about this project?

I have multiple ideas in progress - the one closest to the finish line is a non-fiction book about a new way of looking at the world, that is, through numbers. In the coming months, I plan to share more previews and teasers for this idea (potentially, via videos).

    Meanwhile, a psychological fiction idea has been growing in my mind. 


Checkmate book link -

This interview was taken by Kakan Khanra.