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'A kaleidoscope-like exploration of love': UNC student writes novel with D.C. fellowship

Ananya Mallik, a sophomore at UNC, recently finished writing her new book, Endless. Mallik poses for a virtual portrait from her home in Atlanta, GA on Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021.

Sophomore Ananya Mallik has always known that she wanted to go into business. 

She’s studying business administration at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and co-founded Lux Libertas Ventures, a student-run venture capital fund. 

But, in the summer of 2020, she got a newsletter about a fellowship through the Washington D.C.-based Creator Institute, a program that would help her to write and publish a book in a year, and she jumped at the chance to be a part of it.

Ten months later, Mallik is now in the middle of the pre-sale process for her debut novel "Endless: A Villain’s Love Story," which she described as a cross between "Romeo and Juliet" and the psychological-thriller show, "You."

“The book itself is like a kaleidoscope-like exploration of love, brokenness and ambition,” Mallik said. “I really wanted to mess around with the idea of appearances can be deceiving and that you shouldn't really trust anyone.”

Mallik said she read constantly when she was young, and that love of books followed her to UNC. She came to college with some of her general education requirements already completed and decided to pursue a second major in comparative literature before the bulk of her business classes. 

“I really wanted to continue pursuing writing because it was a good creative outlet from all the business things I'm doing,” she said. “That was definitely a big part in why I wrote this book. It was a way to explore my other passions and also, in a way, to put the English major to good use.”

The Writing Process

The goal of the Creator Institute is to help people finish a publishable draft, founder Eric Koester said.

“Writing a book is a hard process —  two percent of people that start writing a book will ever finish,” Koester said. 

He said he has had about 600 authors publish through the program over the past three years, writing books about everything from the future of space law to fictional novels, like Mallik’s. 

“I never tried to tell people that they need to write a particular book because there's a market for it or whatever it is,” Koester said. “It's like how do we take what you care about, and actually make it into a great book?”

Sophomore Juhi Gulati said she talked to Mallik throughout the writing process and that it was interesting to see how the book progressed so quickly.

“We always used to joke that she was going to be a librarian with the (comparative literature) major, but I’m not surprised that she gets an opportunity like this because she is genuinely one of the smartest and most capable people I know,” Gulati said. 

Mallik said that much of the literature she read both in and outside her English classes inspired aspects of "Endless," especially "A Hero of Our Time" by Mikhail Lermontov, Anton Chekhov’s plays and Greek tragedies.

Campaign for "Endless"

"Endless" is told non-chronologically, following the five-act structure of a traditional Greek tragedy in novel form. It follows the complicated story of protagonist Alana and her two love interests, Milan and Riaan.

“The first half is like Bollywood in a book,” Mallik said. “They're having fun, they're doing all these crazy things. And then the second half just takes a darker and darker turn into a murder mystery or suspense.” 

Sophomore Annette Varghese, a neuroscience major and one of Mallik’s friends, said she is excited to see how the book turns out.

“If she didn't actually want to do business she would just totally just do writing as a full-time job,” Varghese said. “She would take time out of her schoolwork just to make sure that everything was on track with it.”

Through the Institute’s partnership with New Degree Press, Mallik will keep the rights to her book once it is published. She said she needs to pre-sell 120 to 150 copies and raise $5,000 to cover the publishing costs before the campaign ends on May 2. 

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"Endless" will then move into its final editing stages and Mallik will work with a designer for the book and its cover before the final publication in August.

“We’ll look back on (summer 2020) as a very challenging period for internships and jobs,” Koester said. “People could have kind of clammed up and she said ‘No, listen I'm gonna sit down and write a book.’ And kudos to her for leaning into it and producing something great.”

You can pre-order "Endless: A Villain’s Love Story" and support Mallik here.