I will never plunge full-time into writing: Ravi Subramanian
August 31, 2008 was the first time I got introduced to the story-teller called Ravi Subramanian through a blue colored book jacket and an interesting title If God Was A Banker. Ravi has come out with a fine story every year since then in the scarcely explored Indian genre of corporate thrillers; so much so that his readers can proudly say: three years – three fiction books – three bestsellers – all three award winners – critically acclaimed and popularly loved! The word maverick is on a roll, this time with his 4th book – The Bankster. I loved the book, as in all of his earlier works for its gripping suspense moments and the clincher of a climax.
Here is the bestselling story-teller inKonversation, answering all those that I wanted to know from him. Read on:
A 4th banking chronicle in the form of The Bankster and a cracker plot yet again; A pattern I see here, is your blending the current affairs into banking stories, how intentional is that especially considering the popular notion that stories choose writers and not the other way round?
Most writers get inspired by reality. By individuals and incidents that they see around them. And then they weave a story around that inspiration. That’s what I have done with THE BANKSTER. I have woven the contemporary bankers life into current relevant incidents and developed it into an international banking, fraud, deceit and murder mystery. As afar as the story choosing the author is concerned, in my case, I believe it’s the broad subject that has chosen me, ad here I am writing on stories set in the amazingly intriguing world of global banks.
You had said sometime back that your aim as a writer is to be known as the Grisham of Banking, with all your three previous books on banking winning acclaim and the fourth one calling declaring ‘Meet the John Grisham of Banking – The Wall Street Journal’, its mission accomplished I guess. What is next on the agenda?
I guess the Wall Street journal has been kind in referring to me as the John Grisham of banking. It is both flattering and humbling at the same time. Having said that Grisham has accomplished a lot, and it will take me a long while to even consider myself worthy of that title.
Your only non-fiction title I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari was a very inspirational book dealing directly with contemporary Indian ways; will we see a non-fiction from you anytime soon?
I wrote I Bought The Monk’s Ferrari, way back in 2007, and yes, it was my first and only non-fiction work. The book went on to sell over 75000 copies, however, I feel that I have a lot more to offer the world of fiction. Hence it may be a while before people see me write another non-fiction.
We see a major surge in debut Indian authors these days, also publishers willing to accommodate the new talents and retailers sparing shelves for them. How was it back in 2008, when you were trying to get If God was a Banker published? What do you think has changed especially in publication and distribution?
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.
After an e-book of The Incredible Banker, this time you spearheaded a very innovative digital promotional campaign for The Bankster with the comic strips and a book trailer also in line with the comic strips. What was the inspiration behind promotionally going mostly digital? Do you think e-publishing will replace traditional publishing as is widely and popularly anticipated?
Most of my readers are in the age group of 16-45 years. And as we know this generation is the online generation. I refer to them as the WTF (WEB-Twitter – Facebook) generation. To connect with them, you need to be where they spend most of their time. Hence it was necessary to go digital with the promotion of my book. Also with social media campaigns one can effectively segment and reach out to the precise target audience in a very cost-effective manner. That’s the reason why I used Facebook as an effective medium for creating a buzz around my book.
E-publishing and e-books are revolutionising the industry at a pace which is probably more rapid that what most stakeholders are realizing. Ebooks will dominate the reading and the publishing world in the next three to four years. Sadly most Indian publishers are not gearing up for this change. Disintermediation, changing sales points (from book stores to online) and publishers becoming content managers rather than printers will all be a direct outcome of this revolution. The faster a publisher realizes this and adapts, the better it will be for him.
Three bestsellers and we still see Ravi juggling a full-time job and the passion for writing; any plans to plunge full-time into writing?
I will never plunge full-time into writing. Banking is my profession and writing is an avocation. It will always stay that way. The fact that I pursue writing as a creative outlet and don’t depend on it commercially makes it an interesting passion for me. The day I depend on writing for a living, it will become a job, and like all things thrust on us, writing too will lose its fun element. And the fact is that thus far, I have managed to balance both my career and writing quite well. I have not felt the need to give up one for the other.
Will we see a continuation of the banking chronicles next year with another exciting contemporary banking thriller? What is next on the literary front?
Not yet made up my mind. I am working on a few ideas. It will definitely be in the corporate thriller genre. How much of a banking linkage it will have, difficult for me to say at this stage.
Your words of wisdom to newbie writers.
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 through proper prioritization of time spent on daily activities. As far as the latter is concerned, 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.