Incredibly successful crime thriller author, Joygopal Podder talks to Spectralhues about his writing, his life as an author, his latest novel, ‘The Chief Minister’s Mistress’, his love for paperbacks instead of e-books and being India’s Marathon Author.
The author to write the most books in the shortest period of time: Joygopal Podder. You featured four times in the Limca Book of Records. What brought on this venture into the world of creativity?
Yes, I have featured for four consecutive years in the Limca Book of Records, and I will feature again in the 2016 edition. I hold the National Record for the most number of crime fiction novels published in the fastest time (14 books in 45 months). This record is featured in the 2015 edition of the Limca Book of Records. Earlier, in the 2012 edition, my record was 5 books in 9 months and in the 2013 edition, my record was 10 crime fiction novels in 21 months. I appeared in the 2014 edition also with 13 crime fiction books in 29 months. So, even my continuous appearance in the Limca Book of Records is becoming something of a record! I am really blessed!
I think the consecutive national records and some of my better selling books and a spate of newspaper and magazine articles on me also contributed to my ending in up in the Forbes India Celebrity Author’s list of 2014. I may appear again this year. But I personally think I have a long way to go still, and these are just milestones indicating I am on the right track.
I would also like to point out that, in writing, quality comes first. An author should not write to break records, or to become a celebrity; such aspirations do not drive me. The records have just happened because of the fast pace of my writing, which is not a deliberate strategy. I love writing and storytelling; I have a passion for it. So the output is fast.
How did I become an author? I came to writing at age 7, in London, where I was born and spent my childhood. My father was a surgeon with the British National Health Service, after a stint as a Captain with the Indian army. My first published story was at age 12 in a children’s magazine in Delhi, after the family returned to India. I was a freelance writer during my school and college days. Then I earned a gold medal in Law from the Delhi University, got job offers from multinationals, joined Brooke Bond and then Godrej, and a management career took over. Then I fell in love and got married. Two daughters followed. Writing took a backseat. The hardcore realities of life took over. Bills had to be paid, cars had to be bought, and a house had to be built… When I was 48 years, my wife nearly died of blood poisoning and I went through a financial crisis. My wife survived – but lost her kidneys. The unpredictability of life made me want to fight back – and leave a legacy of some sort. I decided to go back to my first great passion, writing. I floated a few blogs, and began the struggle to start writing my first book.
You are known as “India’s marathon author”. How do you do it? Do you ever face writer’s block?
Writing novels is a passion. This passion leads to four or five books a year. This kind of prolific writing is not new to the west or to the crime fiction genre which I specialize in. John Creasy wrote 600 crime thrillers. Gerard de Villiers wrote 170, Edgar Wallace 175, Erle Stanley Gardner 140, Evan Hunter wrote 94 and Agatha Christie 85. These are the names which spring immediately to mind, but there are others. This genre lends itself to such speed; there is so much happening in real life that one can draw regular inspiration from. Crime fiction is not a ‘happening’ genre in India yet; hence I stand out with my speed of writing. A time will come when there will be several other authors like me, I’m sure.
The question of writer’s block has so far not arisen with me. I have many more stories inside me, waiting to roll out. Newspapers are a daily source of inspiration, as also the human stories in the two sectors that have formed a part of my professional life: the social and corporate sectors.
Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing style. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I like to write the kind of books I like to read. This is perhaps the reason I’ve been able to write so many novels so fast. Thrillers and crime fiction happen to be my favourite genre when I select books from shops and libraries. So the plots for the first few books I authored were also inspired by criminal acts and terrorist conspiracies. I did not set out to be a crime fiction author. Those are the kind of stories which came naturally to me when I sat down to write my first nine or ten books.I would love to write a love story; but first I must get all the violence out of my system! On a more serious note, newspapers and real life experiences are the fodder for my novels and unfortunately crime and terrorism are quite at the centre stage in today’s world.
The first couple of plots emerged from my experiences in the NGO sector. I have been a director of three leading social organisations. The protagonists of my first two books were social sector activists who got tangled up in anti-national conspiracies – and then worked to defeat them. Both mini-novels were published together in one book “Deceivers”. My next novel delved into my earlier experiences in the corporate sector. I developed a story involving criminal activities which get tangled up with a corporate takeover battle and billionaire family intrigues. The corporations in this book “The Inheritance” are actually located in Udyog Vihar and Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, and most of the characters in the book also live in Gurgaon and work in industrial houses in Gurgaon.
The fourth book involved a serial killer, and this had nothing to do with any kind of personal experience from my life. I let my imagination run riot, but grounded my story in familiar geographical territory, namely Gurgaon, where I have my home. This novel “Millennium City” also traces the growth of new Gurgaon throughout the story, linking the past with the present. But it is essentially a crime thriller.
I have authored sixteen novels in five years; so the plots span a wide terrain. Bollywood and its stars and directors and producers provide interesting characters and plotlines for many of my books. Some of my novels are police procedural; others are devoted to human drama. My latest novel is also my first Political Crime Fiction novel. It’s just been released and it’s called “Chief Minister’s Mistress”. It’s selling very well and has been reviewed in the Indian Express and other publications and more reviews are expected. In a couple of months will be published my next Political Crime Thriller “Prime Minister’s Daughter”.
I will explore historical drama and humour novels at a later date. Yes, I have published one romantic comedy novel also (last year): “3 Mixed up Men”.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to write my crime stories in the manner of a person trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle. When I plot my stories, I create and put together many jigsaw pieces until I arrive at the full picture – which is the solution to the crime mystery, of course. I then break up the jigsaw I have put together and take the reader on a journey to solving it again.
In my latest book “Chief Minister’s Mistress” the leading lady, if I may call her that, is found dead in the first chapter itself. Her former lover sets out to solve the mystery, suspecting but not sure that the girl’s latest lover, the CM, is behind the killing. The reader walks and talks and agonises alongside the avenger as he unravels the mystery to the dramatic climax.
How much research do you have to do for writing your books? Do you travel a lot to gather facts?
I have 55 years of living and travelling all over the world, and a whole encyclopedia of experiences to draw upon. The internet helps with basic research.
Most of my books feature Gurgaon where I have my home. My plots travel all over India and the world, but the protagonists and usually grounded in Gurgaon. They live here, or work here, or both. The locales of Gurgaon are liberally sprinkled all over my books. The malls of Gurgaon feature in my books, as do the flyovers of NH8 and the parks and condominiums. The metro stations sometimes host dramatic situations in my books.
My latest novel does not feature Gurgaon. It features a mythical State in India with a mythical Chief Minister. But the next novel features the Prime Minister of India and his daughter, and several of the key actions and plot twists in the story occur at different places in Gurgaon.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Pace, tempo, ‘real’ characters who readers can identify with, witty dialogues, plots with many twists and turns, and some basic lessons I have learned from life which I like to share with my readers. Also, unexpected endings.
Are you working on anything at the minute?
My first political crime thriller “Chief Minister’s Mistress” has just been released; it is getting very good reviews and seeing good off take from bookstores. My publisher has a national distribution reach and so the book is available in most bookstores, which is very important to ensure success. The next novel is also a political crime thriller, called “Prime Minister’s Daughter”. It is due for release this December.
How do you feel about eBooks vs. paperback?
Both have a place in the publishing industry. Different readers have different needs. But I have grown up loving the smell and feel of paperback books: so for me the personal choice will always be paperback.
Any message for all the aspiring authors out there?
Read and read and read. Then write and write and write. There are no short-cuts to writing success. And write so that you are remembered for generations – not forgotten in six months.author Joygopal Podder Weekend Special