We are in conversation with Saurbh Katyal, who talk about his first book, Seduced by Murder. He also speaks about various aspect of being an Author.
Team WordBite (TWB): Did you ever want to become an author
Saurbh Katyal (SK): Although I was always writing short stories ( I won an international short story completion, published a story in the Urban Shots: Bright Lights anthology, etc), articles and was an avid blogger, the genesis of this book was accidental and can be attributed to faulty plumbing lines of a rented apartment in Bangalore! That’s a long story.
TWB: We would like to hear about the story!
SK: Well, I woke up one day and to my surprise, there was two feet water all around me. Clothes and pieces of furniture were floating all around the room, to my utter surprise and dismay. I checked all the taps and could not detect the source for the flooding;the maid was resourceful, she called some of her relatives and they pumped the water out using buckets.
I resumed the daily regime at office and got busy with work. I returned home, watched TV and slept off. Next morning the same thing was repeated! Only this time the water level was higher.
I called a plumber who concluded that the two storey- house was old (it was constructed twenty years back) and the leak was coming through the pipes in the kitchen. The water was permeating through the walls, and the pipes could explode anytime! The solution was to shut the water supply, break the walls and replace the pipes. He gave me an exorbitant cost estimate.
I gave a panicked call to my landlady in the United States and she advised me to pay the plumber in advance, deduct it from the rentals and commanded nonchalantly, that I should shift in the floor below till the time it took to replace the pipes. The house below was locked for more than two years, sans any furniture and had enough dark corners and cow-webs to inspire Vikram Bhatt to shoot one of his haunted movies.
I had no choice. I shifted downstairs with some limited furniture and began my life as a hermit without any TV, internet or even a refrigerator. I took respite in the fact that I would move up again in a week. It took two months for the plumber to repair the pipes!
Now, the roof of the house below was perennially damp due to the water leakage on the upper floor. There was a steady stench of damp water and cement, so I made a habit of leaving early for office and hanging out with friends in a pub till late night. The idea was to spend as much time outdoors. One evening, four of us went or for a drink and the discussion steered to how there are no good murder mysteries penned down by an Indian author. We could think of some international titles, but among four of us, who were avid readers, we could not think of an Indian title. The evening came to an end and I returned to my damp existence. I opened the door and realized that the roof was dripping water. There was no way I could sleep inside. It was almost midnight and the plumber was not picking my frantic calls; I lamented for some time and then pulled out a chair and sat on the verandah with my laptop. With nothing to do, I decided to write a perfect murder scene further to the conversation I had had with my friends in the evening. The intent was just to write one scene. When I looked at the time, it was three in the morning. I had not realized three hours had passed! What I had in front of me was a murder scene and 5000 words. Thus began this book. Nine months later I had completed this novel!
TWB: How does it feel to see your dream coming true of becoming an Author?
SK: I guess I feel lucky to get published. Being an author gives you an outlet to express your creativity and views; in India many people dream about being an author and accomplish it too. But being an author and being a published author are two different things. For a debutant, the real struggle starts after you have completed the novel. There are many good novels languishing there still awaiting to be published.
TWB: So any advise for people who dream to become published author?
SK: Oh yes! You have to believe in your book and just persevere. If you have persisted and are still not able to find a traditional publisher, you can explore self-publishing. But don’t give up on the book.
TWB: Well who is Saurbh apart from your Author’s Bio? The readers want to know more about you.
SK: Just a regular guy working in the corporate world. Sodium (corporate) by day and Kryptonite (writer) at night.
TWB: What is your schedule? How do you manage your work and writing?
SK: My work keeps me busy. I write only in the weekends or during long flights.
TWB: Detective fiction is less famous here, how come you decided to venture over it?
SK: I wanted to create a murder mystery in which I keep the reader guessing till the last page. Also I wanted to involve the reader in deciphering clues and get an insight into what went through the protagonist mind. Both these were achieved by writing a book in the detective/thriller genre.
TWB: Who are your favorite detective fiction Authors?
SK: Actually my favourite authors are John Fowles, James Clavell and Graham Greene. Surprisingly none of them wrote detective fiction.
TWB: What is the most difficult part in writing a detective fiction?
SK: The most difficult part is creating a flawless web of suspense and mystery. The plot should be taut and there is no room for error. You should have enough red herrings and also put enough clues in each crime scene so that the reader gets a fair chance to guess the identity of the murderer.
TWB: Tell us something about the contents and characters of the book. Also the character that’s your personal favorite.
SK: The story starts when detective Vishal gets a call from his ex-flame Aditi, who had dumped him and married the rich Sunil Kapoor years back. Now, Sunil’s elder brother is found stabbed in a hammock and the first person she calls is Vishal. Past demons haunt Vishal, as he takes refugeThe story starts when detective Vishal gets a call from his ex-flame Aditi, who had dumped him and married the rich Sunil Kapoor years back. Now, Sunil’s elder brother is found stabbed in a hammock and the first person she calls is Vishal. Past demons haunt Vishal, as he takes refuge in alcohol and clashes with a villain who is truly a mastermind. The characters in the book are vibrant, colorful and entice you in their world.er in alcohol and clashes with a villain who is truly a mastermind. I have tried to make all the characters in the book vibrant and enticing; my favorite is the protagonist, the detective Vishal Bajaj.
TWB: What triggered your imagination to write this story? How did you imagine the concept, the characters, etc?
SK: For writing a mystery novel, especially one that has multiple murders like in Seduced by Murder, you have to outline the entire plot beforehand. For other genres, you can afford to keep building the plot as you keep writing. For writing a tight murder mystery, you should know four things before you begin writing the novel:
- who are the main characters and their connection with the crime,
- what is the motivation of the murderer in committing the crime,
- what is the motivation of the detective in solving the crime,
- and most importantly, the red herrings that you will lay in each murder scene that can give readers a chance to guess the identity of the murderer.
I had to make flow charts before I got all these parameters clear in my mind. I kept these flow charts in front of me the entire time as I wrote the novel.
TWB: What do you think is a challenging job? To pen down, to get published or to reach masses?
SK: All three are difficult but seeing the current scenario, I would say writing a novel, getting published and reaching masses in the increasing level of difficulty. Infact,
marketing is becoming a necessary compulsion for writers, and it does impede creativity to a certain extent.
Infact I was just talking to another debutant writer the other day and he remarked that writing has disillusioned him. Upon enquiring he said, ‘first you slog writing the book, then you slogfinding a publisher and then you slog marketing the book.’ I could see the truth in this. A good book may die a death of anonymity if not marketed well regardless of its literary merit; however a bad book has every chance to sell copies and become a bestseller if marketed well.
TWB: What is the best and the worst part about being an author in your opinion?
SK: The best thing about writing is that it offers a catharsis for your creativity; an author who is able to see his or her work published gets immense satisfaction because the creative effort has manifested in the form of a book.
The worst part is that being author is not enough. You have to make efforts to publish and market your book.
TWB: When was the last time you did something for the first time?
SK: Last week. I gave my first interview as an author.
Favorite author/s: John Fowles
Favorite book/s: Magus
Describe yourself in three words: Calm, confident and creative
TWB: Lastly any message for the readers?
SK: Keep calm and stay positive while you follow your dreams. In the immortal words of Johnny Walker, “Keep Walking.”