Crime fiction writer Vish Dhamija speaks to Kitaab on the sidelines of the recently concluded Kumaon Literary Festival, where his latest book Nothing Else Matters was launched.

vishWhat are your early memories of writing, how did your interest grow?

My earliest memories are from school days. I used to pen small articles for the school bulletin, like everyone else. Then I took to blogging for some time, but the interest waned over time since it took a lot of my time. Nevertheless, it taught me how to write once again and rekindled my interest.

How did you narrow down to writing under the crime genre?

It wasn’t something I sat down and contemplated or made a conscious choice. I had never read anything else except crime fiction— so when the first story idea came to my mind, it had an element of crime. To date, I honestly do not plot a story planning which genre it will fall under; I plot a story and often it is cross-genre: Déjà Karma was part legal, part psychological, Bhendi Bazaar was noir, and both Nothing Lasts Forever and Nothing Else Matters have elements of romance in them.

Tell us about how your first book – Nothing Lasts Forever. How did it take shape?

The story idea had been in the back of my mind since the early nineties but the usual grind of life took priority and I eventually wrote the first draft in 2008. I have to admit that while the basic premise of the story remained true to the original idea, the final story didn’t have much resemblance to what I had carried in my mind for decades.

What are the challenges crime novelists face?

The first thing any writer needs to learn is discipline and that’s irrespective of the genre. I’ve come across so many people who say they want to write a book but they never get down to writing the first chapter.

Crime writing needs a tight plot: what is the crime? How is it going to occur? How will the story unfold, and how will the protagonist catch the criminal? Or if the protagonist is the doer how will she/he get away with it? The story should be believable — the author should keep the narrative real but interesting.

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Rosemarie Somiah PixLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I started writing because someone was willing to pay me to do so. Otherwise I doubt I would’ve had the courage. Most of my first published works were commissioned and some of it ended up in performance. I still get paid, or invited, to write, and I use every such opportunity to say what I really need to say; to share a little of what’s banging and knocking around inside of me – all these questions that won’t go away. It’s still very, very scary, every single time.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I usually have a few things going on at a time, because letting it sit at the back of my head is part of my writing process. Right now there are three active projects: I am working on ‘The Never Mind Girl 2’ because there are still many questions that I need to ask there. Then, there is a children’s picture book that is somewhat dark but important, because it is very real. I’m hoping that the right illustrator will turn up. I am also very excited to be working with several people, including a very talented young musician, on a performance piece of poetry. It astonishes and delights me when I retell other people’s stories on their behalf and they seem happy with it and feel it represents them accurately. Especially as I reshape and tell it from my perspective.

Readers increasingly swapping Agatha Christie and Dan Brown for compatriots with a focus on fast plots and happy endings: The Guardian

book stall Kolkata
A stallholder waits for the customers at a book market in Kolkata. Photograph: Piyal Adhikary/EPA

At the Om bookshop in a mall in southern Delhi, Prabeen Kumar has been watching the browsers for years. There are the young people who usually head directly for the love stories. There are the “mature” readers who go to the classics. And now a new category has arrived, in search of India’s new wave of thriller writers. “It is a big thing now. There are more and more liking. All sorts of people … gentlemen and ladies,” Kumar enthused.

The new wave of homegrown writers are climbing the country’s bestseller lists, challenging the dominance of international heavyweights such as Dan Brown, John Grisham and Tom Clancy, and even affecting the tenacious local taste for Agatha Christie.