Prior to A Convenient Culprit, you had done very different kind of writing for TV and films. How was the experience of penning a thriller?
Though this is my first book in this genre, I have written thrillers for TV shows. Having said that, writing A Convenient Culprit (published by Penguin under their Blue Salt series) was an extremely exciting process — right from research, initial plotting, racing against time to deliver by deadline; to the internal process of defining characters, who invariably, after being initially subservient, raise their heads demanding redemption.
The first impression while reading the book is that it’s based on the Jigna Shah episode. Did that case serve as a basis for your novel?
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For a writer, absorbing information at a subconscious level is as much a fact of life as breathing. Newspapers, books, gossip, observations of random strangers or close family relatives — everything is an inspiration. And for the craft, one is forever developing ‘what if’ scenarios.
To a reader, a character, a plot point, a thought or an instance may seem familiar given his/her information set, but that is not necessarily the writer’s intention, as also in this case.
The book gives an insight into how the world of journalism works. How did you gain that?
Having worked as a film and TV writer for more than a decade, I have been exposed to a lot of journalists, directly as friends and acquaintances, and indirectly through my associates who talk of their experiences. I have fed on that information acquired over the years. Besides, media covers a lot of stories about their colleagues, and as aware outsiders we witness the various avatars of mediapersons.
Also, in the ultimate analysis, reporters are as human as the rest of us. They operate in the predictable circle of ambition, greed, righteousness, compromise, hope, conscience and commercialism. One just has to consider a character’s response to the opportunity that she/he is presented with.
Finally, it is a work of fiction. So there is an element of fantasy in the work, rather than the imperative need to stick to facts.
What kind of research went into figuring out the functioning of the city police and other details?
The process for the research on police functioning was similar to that of media. Additionally, I was researching for a film story on policemen, so that research also came in handy.
Are you hooked to writing thrillers now?
I have always been hooked to thrillers. I love watching them and I am absolutely delighted to write them. Currently, there are possibilities of writing a medical thriller and an international spy thriller. I am going to toss a coin soon to decide which one to go with first.
Do you think in India the number of books in this genre are few? If yes, what do you think is the cause?
India has definitely had thrillers, especially in non-English writing.
I am not sure if the number of such books written thus far has been less, but there certainly has been a spurt in Indians writing thrillers at a pace that the genre demands. In fact, I just read somewhere that a Crime Writers’ Association of South Asia has been launched at the Jaipur Literature Festival, in association with the Norwegian Fiction and Non-Fiction Abroad.