Its unusual that a bespectacled, serious and man of numbers churns out one thriller after another on the banking world, amazes the readers and sets a benchmarkk for Indian thriller - a genre explored less, a genre feared, a genre difficult to plot but mastered by this amazing author. He needs no introduction but personally I have felt he is one of the most humble and approachable authors, despite being a best seller. He is someone who acknowledges each critique and works on improving his writing by taking criticism positively. The fruits of the same being each work of his better than the previous one. Here we have with us none other than Ravi Subramanian.
1. When did you begin writing?
A: Writing for me was a journey I embarked on very late in my life. My first book, “If God was a Banker”, was pretty much my first attempt at writing fiction. Yes, had written a few short stories, a few poems when I was a teenager, pretty much the way most teenagers do. But serious writing began with If God was a Banker, in 2006.
2. What is your motivation behind the same?
A: The prime motivation behind writing a book was a bit philosophical. I wanted to leave a legacy behind, to be remembered. And I felt, at that time, that long after I am gone from this planet, a book in some library in some remote corner of the earth will remind people that someone by the name Ravi Subramanian walked the planet. No one remembers CEO’s, put people do remember creative outputs.
3. What was your journey like to publish the first book? Anything particular that you will like to share?
A: It was an amazing journey. I would recommend that everyone desirous of writing a book, should do so. The journey of publishing ones book, and the joy of holding your book in your hand is the closest any man can come to experiencing the emotions a woman goes through in childbirth. I went through the same.
I would consider myself lucky in the sense that I did not have to struggle to get a publisher. I sent the completed manuscript to four publishers and after two declines, one of them agreed to publish. So it was not much of a battle. They say that the easiest thing about publishing a book is writing it. The battle for eyeballs, for presence in stores, for getting stocked by retailers, for making sure readers buy your book, starts after that. I also had to go through the same challenges.
4. Apart from being a banker what attracts you to writing about banking?
A: I love writing stories based in the banking and financial services industry. It is an industry where you have money, people, relationships, crime, fraud, investigations, sleaze and greed – all ingredients which make a great potboiler. Strangely not many people write stories set in the backdrop of this industry, which touches every individuals life in some way or the other. I see myself writing a few more stories based in this industry for sure.
5. Tell us a little bit about your book The Bankster?
A: THE BANKSTER is a first of its kind corporate Thriller set in a foreign bank. The story juxtaposes real life incidents, which people can relate to both in their personal and professional lives with larger than life crime, which leads to intrigue and awe.
A Murder mystery, that too set in a bank ; a banking story that takes you to Angola, Vienna, Mumbai and Kerala; a story that takes a strange turn after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan – where else will you get all this and more in one book. And the icing on the cake is the ending – I challenge any reader to read the book, and guess the ending before he reaches the 300th page.
6. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
A: The stories that I write are set in the backdrop of the banking industry. It is quite a challenge to explain the most complex of banking transactions to the layman, non banking reader in the simplest of terms, and yet not sounding like a banking manual. Its very difficult to make sure that you don’t cross over the line and start sounding like a training program. As someone once said, Simple Writing is damn hard work.
7. What is the best part about being an author in your opinion?
A: The excitement to be able to create something new, the joy in seeing the story evolve, the ecstasy of seeing the final book in your hand, the ups and downs of good and bad reviews… all these add to the thrill and joy of being an author. The sheer ability to create characters out of blank pieces of paper is magical.
8. Who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
A: My favourites are John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer. John Grisham for his brilliant positioning (you think of stories set in a legal backdrop and you think of Grisham) and the way he structures his book. Jeffrey archer for his lucidity, clarity of thought and brilliant flow. I simply love his "once upon a time…" style of storytelling.
9. Broadly what are your next projects?
A: My next book comes out in September. It’s a thriller. You can read more about it here. http://on.fb.me/11SxIWT . I will be revealing more about the book in days to come.
10. Will you always write novels around Banking?
A: As I have earlier said, I will surely write a few more books in this genre, because there are a number of stories to tell. Whether I will experiment with any other genre is a difficult one to say. The day I feel that I am not able to churn out fresh stories set in the enormously sexy global banking industry, I will definitely stop writing about bankers and banking.
11. What is your opinion about writing as a full time career?
A: As of now, I don’t intend to make writing a full time career. The reasons for the same are not commercial. Writing as a profession has been kind to me and I make enough through writing to live a good life. However, today I hold a day job, and I am not dependent commercially on my writing. Also having a passion outside of work, makes work life that much more enjoyable. As a consequence, I end up enjoying both my day job as well as my writing stint. The day I quit my job and become a full time writer, books will become a necessity. It will become a job. A Job that has to be done. And that’s when I run the risk of writing becoming a chore. A boring chore. It will lose its charm. I dread that day, and hence I might never quit my job and become a full time writer.
12. What do you think about the current trend of writing in India? Is the current lineage of Indian authors ready for an international audience/market?
A: 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.
This willingness of the retailer to stock up on Indian books and the increased demand and a new found interest from the reading population, for books written by Indian Authors, has made this segment lucrative for publishers too. These days, unless you have a very bad product, it is quite simple to get a publisher to put you out.
That said, the competition is intense, and it is that much more difficult for an author to differentiate himself and stand out in this market and be noticed. The only word of caution I want to sound here is that before we celebrate the creative resurgence of Indian writing, we need to realize that most Indian authors write from their experiences – college, IIM’s / IIT, romance etc. And experiences give you fodder for at best a couple of books. Beyond that you need to really leverage on your creative instincts. How many of these young first time authors go on to write more books and establish themselves in this field is still to be seen. The day these writers go on to write their second third and fourth book, and give vent to their creative instincts is when I would say that the creative resurgence of Indian literature has happened.
13. Any advice for budding writers?
A: Most people who want to write, never even begin their journey because of two reasons – firstly they are unable to find time to write and secondly they keep waiting for the entire story to take concrete shape. The former is easier to handle throug proper prioritisation of time spent on daily activities. As far as the latter is concerned, I wish to tell aspirant authors that most of the writers do not wait for the story to take shape from end to end, before they begin writing. All they need is an idea. For example in The Bankster, the story has taken a completely different shape from what I had envisaged when I began writing. So if you have an idea, start writing. Like any other journey, the first five pages you write will give you ideas for the next ten and thereon the story will evolve. This is the best way to give yourself a realistic chance of finishing the all elusive book. Times have never been so good for an Indian Author as they are today. Publishers, distributors, bookstores and readers are all laying out the red carpet for you. Back yourself and prepare to walk bravely on the red strip.
14. Any message for your readers?
A: I would like to say a big thank you to all my readers for their love and support. Have a small request. In case you find anything in my books which you did not like, or felt could have been better. Please feel free to write to me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . I seek out and solicit negative feedback. It has only helped me improve. I remember when I wrote If God was a Banker, I got extreme reactions – some good, some not so good. When I wrote my next book, I went back to each of those who had given me a negative feedback, telling them that their feedback had been taken seriously and addressed in the second book. As readership base increases, this becomes difficult to do, but one thing I can assure you is that negative feedback will never be ignored. I have come this far with your support and owe my career as a writer to you readers out there. Thank you for everything.
I thank Ravi Subramanian for honest and in-depth response to all the questions.
I thank Ravi Subramanian for honest and in-depth response to all the questions.