Solving the mystery of thriller!

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There’s new category of authors…India’s new wave of thriller writers. This new wave of homegrown writers is climbing the country’s bestseller lists, challenging the dominance of international heavyweights such as Dan Brown, John Grisham and Tom Clancy, and even Agatha Christie. Now we don’t have to patronize foreign authors anymore. To further explore this exhilarating genre, Smita Dwivedi interacted with a few Indian authors, who are best in this business with their words, thoughts and imagination. If we name authors like Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sydney Sheldon, Dan Brown, Jeffrey Archer, David Baldacci, etc, what comes to mind is a variety of emotions like excitement, suspense, high-level anticipation, uncertainty, surprise and anxiety. No points for guessing that we are talking about thriller and suspense novels. This genre, which is fetching brisk business in the west, is now a most buzzing segment in Indian market as well. So fast is this genre spreading that Delhi recently hosted India’s very first Crime Writer’s Festival…there is still a long way to go.

Passion for writing

Mukul Deva has traveled a long, winding road and shows no sign of tiring. With five successive bestsellers in five years Mukul is acknowledged as India’s literary storm trooper and one of the pioneers of the Indian thriller novel.We all love to read thrillers, but how it feels to write one, on asking the same we got interesting replies. Mukul Deva shared, “I always have been in love with the art of storytelling. This has been a passion for me ever since I was a kid … I can actually trace it back to the time I was in the 8th grade. That is why it did not surprise people who know me well when I started writing books. Now, having written 14 books, I am more in love with this art than ever before.”

Indian thriller writing still hasn’t fully arrived but it is taking off. There’s huge potential and it’s growing really fast. Indians are genetically designed to like thrillers and suspense. “The fiction of this genre is not widespread because its Hindi medium is not widespread. For namesake Hindi is our national language but mainly it is language of North India only. The Hindi books, unfortunately, sell primarily in four states only which are UP, MP, Rajasthan and Bihar. Eighty percent sale of Hindi books is in these four states and twenty percent in the rest of India. This is not the case with English which sells in every nook and corner of India,” says Surender Mohan Pathak.

Whereas Joy Gopal Poddar feels that this segment is going to be next big thing in India, and added, “The huge readership for foreign authors of such books speaks for itself. And this is not new; most of my generation grew up reading and loving thrillers and crime fiction books.

Inspiration behind characters

Juggi Bhasin first published book The Terrorist, a geo-political thriller was a big hit, and his new book The Avenger, is also creating a buzz.Choosing the plot and characters for thrillers, must be an interesting research. One must be always brainstorming to develop such storyline and its protagonists. On asking this to authors, they all shared that they use real life incidents and people to get inspiration for ideas. “A lot of my characters are based on real life. I do like to write what I call quasi real stuff – that is a creative blend of the real with fictional elements. My inspiration for these characters comes from real people – a lot of my characters for instance in The Terrorist are from Srinagar during the days of insurgency in the valley which I used to visit often for news coverage for DD news,” shared Juggi Bhasin.

“Since most of my books are what I call reality based – which means I try to ensure that fact and fiction is intertwined so closely that the reader has to work hard to separate one from the other – so a lot of my principal characters tend to be inspired by real-life ones. Depending on the topic at hand, I pick relevant characters from that arena and then fictionalise them enough… and of course, make them as interesting as possible, so that the reader is interested in what happens to them. So, for example, a lot of my characters in the Lashkar series are based on real-terrorists living in and operating from Pakistan, as also some ISI officers, who are involved in aiding and abetting them,” added Mukul Deva.

‘Fact finding’ and ‘soul searching’

Ravi Subramanian is an Indian author. A banker by profession, Subramanian has written popular thrillers about banking and bankers, including two Crossword Book Award winning titles The Incredible Banker and The Bankster. In 2008, his debut novel, If God Was a Banker, won the Golden Quill Readers’ Choice Award. The Incredible Banker won him the Economist Crossword Book Award in 2012.“It normally takes me one year to write a book – at least that has been the trend with the past ten books. Yes, it took me over two years to write The Garud Strikes, since that is a real life story of four Guards, an Indian army battalion, during the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh and this required interviewing over 200 officers and men who had fought this war. For every single book, I invest a few months in research and plot development – to ensure it is as realistic as possible. Regarding the soul-searching part – let me just say that a good thriller requires a lot of technical construct and research, which is done by the head, but the actual writing comes from the heart – then only does a book have soul,” revealed Mukul Deva.

As per Ravi, “Writing a book about banking was never a conscious thought. I was about 14 years into my career. I wanted to write a story. I was too lazy to research. There were interesting stories in banking and I knew it like the back of my hand. I jotted down 16 interesting instances and put the stories together. If six years back, someone would have told me I’d wrote six books and they’d do reasonably well, I would laugh. When I wrote my first book, I wanted to just write a book.”

Reasons for success of Indians authors

The demand and sales of thriller novels and books have seen positive growth in last few years and it is going to be steady for few more years as well. “We live in a fast-paced world where reading is a luxury that not many can afford. Whatever treasure of knowledge we have of the past is in the form of volumes which are bulky to carry and demand too much patience. The younger generation wants to read something on-the-go. Although the hunger for knowledge and information is there, they don’t like preachy stuff. They want something that is racy, contemporary and set in the modern times. They like to read books which intrigue them to think beyond what’s already given. It has to be intelligent enough to hold their attention,” feels Ashwin Sanghi.

Growing Market for thrillers

Ashwin Sanghi, one of India’s best-selling conspiracy fiction writers launched his first novel, The Rozabal Line, was self-published in 2007 under his pseudonym, Shawn Haigins, was subsequently published by Westland. His other books include Private India, The Krishna Key; Chanakya’s Chant.“Indian writing has definitely evolved over the last decade, more so in the last five years. In the days when If God was a Banker was launched, book stores would struggle to fill up a rack with Indian authors. These days they struggle to find space. Walk into Crossword and you would now find three or four racks filled up with Indian authors. The landscape of a book store has changed because of Indian authors. Retailers are more willing to stock new writers and thus give them a pedestal to sell their products from,” shares Ravi Subramanian.

Yes, times are changing and our Indian authors seem to be getting the attention they deserve back home.

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