Being a newbie book reviewer it was a happy moment for me when I was asked by Manish to review his debut novel A Murder in Gurgaon. Boy oh Boy I was thoroughly in for a ride as this book turned out to be a true page turner and one that grips your attention from the first page. Since then I have been a follower of Manish’s work and always read his articles.
“A Murder in Gurgaon” is a crime fiction that follows the life of three characters Leena Puri, Bindia and Varun Dixit. Leena and Bindia are good friends who are separated at a young age. Leena is an eccentric person who goes on many missing sprees while Bindia leads a normal simple life with her husband who travels often. One day Varun is found murdered in his flat at Gurgaon. Bindia lodges Leena’s missing complaint with the police. Both these cases are under inspector Ajai Singh who wishes to find Leena as well as find out Varun’s murderer. Things do not seem as simple as they seem to be. As both, the cases entangle Ajai Singh is involved in a confusion like no other.
It was a proud moment for me when Manish agreed to have a conversation and gave an interview for my blog. I am extremely thankful to him for sharing his thoughts and opinions. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
As easy as bearded shayars, I would say! On another note, I do get where the question is coming from. The curly hair conforms to a certain mental picture – if someone were asked to spot the lone author in a room full of strangers, they will probably point to the curly haired guy – but maybe I should try peddling my next one with a new hairdo to get to the truth (laughs).
Your first novel was a stellar debut (I truly loved it). So how is the feeling? Are you happy with the reception that your novel got?
Super happy (smiles). The reviews have been kind and commercially we are in a good space too. Of course, one’s always greedy for more! I’m particularly thrilled with the reviews, especially since I had opted for – rather my story had chosen for itself – an unconventional, risky if you will, narrative style. To get appreciated for that from seasoned reviewers such as yourself has been truly, truly satisfying. Of equal satisfaction has been the feedback from discerning readers about small touches regarding how people handle grief, the codes and routines couples devise around sex or the guilts parents often bury deep in their heart’s recesses.
A coffee shop plays an interesting part in your novel writing journey. Please take us through your journey of writing “A Murder in Gurgaon.”
This one’s gonna become some sort of an urban legend, I suppose. Basically, A Murder in Gurgaon (AMIG) started with the disappearance of one-half of a couple who were regulars at the coffee shop I usually hang in. He was much younger and she clearly came from a much posh background and they had the vibe of illicit lovers. Arriving in separate vehicles, leaving in the lady’s car, the guy returning to claim his bike after a while and things like that. And one fine day they just stopped coming. A few weeks later, the lady surfaced minus the guy and I started wondering what could have happened to the guy. AMIG essentially is one theory – the most intriguing one I could imagine at that point (so yeah, I have gone on to conjure wilder theories) – of what happened to him. By the way, I have yet to see the guy again.
Which genre interests you the most? Is your next novel also going to be a crime thriller?
Crime fiction, yes, but within that noir. Because noir allows you to imagine and to speculate on motives, impulses and flaws that drive both the deviant and the normal – if such a thing as ‘normal’ exists in the first place – to crime like no other sub-genre. And yes, my next is in the noir space.
Can you give some advice for aspiring authors in India?
Three things. One: Write. Write about whatever excites you, when you can, as much as you can. Two: Polish what you write till you can make it the best you can. There’s always, always room for improvement no matter how good your first draft looks. Three: Read whatever excites you, when you can, as much as you can. Nothing tells you about the possibilities of the written word and your own betterment as a writer more than reading.
Is it easy to get published in India?
Let me put it this way. The hardest part about getting published is putting together something readable. The second hardest part is marketing it, making sure that it generates enough interest for the reader to pick it from a crowded shelf and reach put for her wallet. The least problematic part is finding a publisher.
Self-publishing is today growing steadily. What steps should one take post-publication to reach out to the reader base?
I took the traditional publishing route myself but I am aware that self-publishing is no longer something one can sneer about like people were doing not so long ago or maybe are still doing. Before choosing the self-publishing route, the key question to ask oneself is this: Am I considering the option because I want to see my name in print or is it because of my work – despite traditional publishers not warming up to it – is worth taking to the world? If the honest answer is the latter, I would recommend going for the self-publishing option. Vanity though is not good enough reason.
Any specific genre, which you read more? Which are the latest books you have read?
There’s stuff that I am not into biographies, romance, science fiction, religious and spiritual fiction. Other than that and non-fiction which I get a solid dose of as part of my work as a policy analyst, I’m pretty much open to anything though I find myself drawn to contemporary Indian fiction and essays lately. In the current phase, I am particularly enjoying essays. People like Pankaj Mishra and Mohammad Hanif are just brilliant.
As you have a career as a political analyst, can we expect some non-fiction books from you in future?
I have a ‘never say no’ policy towards most things but the next few book ideas I have are in the noir space. When I do come around to non-fiction, it is probably going to be politics, cinema or cricket. If you follow The Wire or The Citizen, you will know those are the things I have been writing on regularly.
Which authors do you read the most? Any favourite books?
There are no particular authors I am partial to but if I have to pick a name, it would be Arundhati Roy. There are few others who write with similar command and passion. The list of books I’ve enjoyed is long. Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke, Mohammad Hanif’s A Caseful of Exploding Mangoes and Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, Siddharth Chowdhury’s Patna Roughcut and Anees Salim’s Vanity Bagh are the ones that come to mind immediately. However, if I had to recommend one book it would be B R Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste.
Are you working on any novel presently?
A noir piece, like I said.
Many aspiring writers lament that they do not get time to write due to their jobs. What is your advice for them?
Do what writers have been doing since time immemorial: find a benefactor, a patron. I am only half-joking here and the larger point is that the credit for any work is never the writer’s alone. There is invariably a family that gives space and forgoes time and friends and colleagues who chip in with encouragement and their contribution can never be recognised or appreciated enough, no matter how long and heartfelt the acknowledgements section. Findings those one, two or three people who believe in you and will back your dreams – it could be a spouse who works to so that the bills are timely paid or a boss who cuts you some slack at work – is important. And there are always such people. In my case, it was my wife. Without her, my head would just be a graveyard of stories.
They say that procrastination is the soulmate for all writers. How do you inspire yourself to sit down and write?
I don’t have a procrastination problem. When it comes to my writing that is. Meaning I postpone other stuff for writing. No inspiration needed either. The joy I draw from putting my hands on a keyboard is enough.
About the Author
Review for A Murder in Gurgaon: http://bit.ly/2oDyaLm
Author social media links: http://bit.ly/2owDVhd
Source for featured image: http://bit.ly/2nWCEi4