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 Aminah Sheikh

Author of the bestselling coffee table book – ‘The Indians’, a lawyer of international repute Sumant Batra’s dream is to mark Dhanachuli (in Uttrakhand) on the culture map. And this he hopes to do through his various literary initiatives, Kumaon Literary Festival (KLF) being one of them. Close on the heels of the second edition of KLF, Sumant gets candid with Kitaab.

Sumant Batra
Sumant Batra, Founder of KLF 

What gave birth to Kumaon Literary festival (KLF) and how do you view it as being different from the other festivals held in India? 

In strive for economic growth, the creative aspirations of the people of India have remained unarticulated. A nation that invests in cultural development as much as it does in economic growth tends to be a happier nation and achieves sustainable development. Creative industry feeds into the country’s soft power. Given the challenging times we live in, there is a need for investment in the creative industry. The idea of KLF stems out of this very belief. There is a whole eco-system comprising of projects and activities that are not limited or confined to the 5-day festival. The institutionalised approach is aimed at maximizing impact, optimize on resources and aim for measurable and tangible outcomes that are in addition to the festival.

KLF has had a successful inaugural last year. How do you see the second edition panning out with the festival being held at two different locations?

It was less than two years ago that I presented the idea of KLF to the world of literature. We could see the green shoots emerging at the end of the first season of the festival last year. The second edition is bigger in design.  Our focus, however, remains on quality than quantity.  This offers challenges of mobilising financial support. We have, however, held our ground, avoided commercial temptations and continue to navigate our way through pitfalls. There are mammoth restrictions and logistical constraints in organising a festival of this scale in a village that is part of an eco-sensitive area.  We have stayed respectful towards the restrictions and observed applicable guidelines.

Which are some of the books slated to be launched at KLF?

Lata- Sur Gatha – the biography of Lata Mangeshkar by Yatindra Mishra, The biography of actress Rekha by Yasser Usman, Shadows of the Northland by 14 year old Vishwesh Desai, and three more.