I first met Vish Dhamija at Jim Corbet National Park; the venue for Kumaon Lit Fest, 2016. I was a debut author and he was there for the launch of his book Nothing Else Matters - a romantic thriller.
A skilled writer of crime fiction, a prolific author of numerous bestsellers; Vish is rightfully called India's John Grisham.
The list of his books :
Nothing Lasts forever (2010)
Bhendi Bazaar (2014) - this has been on Amazon India's Top 100 Crime Thriller list for years.
Deja Karma (2015) was his first legal thriller.
Nothing Else Matters & Doosra (2016)
Unlawful Justice (2017).
His latest release - The Mogul - will be launched by HarperCollins in July 2018. A racy and fast paced legal thriller, it's the story of Prem Bedi, the third richest man in country, who comes under the spotlight when he's accused of killing his ex-wife and her husband. So is Prem Bedi guilty and finally convicted or is he able to fight the wolves who are hovering when the lion stands alone?
I am eagerly waiting to read this one.
He spoke with me about his journey, books & more.
1. How did you start writing legal thrillers? You aren't a lawyer. Do you come from a family of lawyers?
Like I always say, life very rarely gives you a second chance to reverse a past regret. All I can say is I am lucky. I wanted to be a lawyer, even went to study law but dropped out after the first year—kismet, karma, who knows? Years later, I returned to practice law in a different way altogether—as an author writing legal fiction. I must be the only law-dropout (in the world) writing legal fiction, but hey I am a crime fiction writer and I'll keep broadening my horizons.
2. How do you get the legal speak in your stories?
Well, being part of the legal fraternity, even once, even for a little while, helps. Firstly, I understand law and legalities; I also read loads of legal fiction, watch legal thrillers to get the feel. However, while I dropped out of law school, my classmates progressed to become successful lawyers in India, and that is an immense help—to be able to pick up my phone and give them a call anytime. Like I said, I'm plain lucky.
3. Did you always want to write thrillers? What is it about this genre that excites you?
No. I write crime fiction; thrillers, suspense, mysteries—they're all are just a part of my repertoire. I've written noir (Bhendi Bazaar), I've written romantic thrillers (Nothing Last Forever, Nothing Else Matters) so I find it claustrophobic to be bracketed into any single subgenre. I am a crime fiction author (for the time being) until I start experimenting further. I'm thinking of a medical thriller—maybe I'll open that genre in India too, who knows?
4. Name a few thrillers that you have read and enjoyed. Your favourite thriller writer. A book that you wish you'd written.
The Third Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders—it's darker than you can imagine, and Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, which is a classic. My favourite thriller writer alive is Michael Connelly—he's (as media acknowledges) a crime writing genius, the greatest crime writer alive today.
I wish I had written Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent and its sequel, Innocent.
5. You are represented by lit agent Mita Kapur. What would you say is the benefit of having an agent? How does it help? Would you recommend author to get an agent? When did the association with Mita Kapur begin?
I'm represented by Siyahi, which is Mita's baby. A literary agency is definitely an asset. In my case, Siyahi goes through my submission—we have to-and-fro on the manuscript, it's the second real showcase of manuscript after my wife and UK editor (Patrick Whittick) and it is the true test/measure of the manuscript. Yes, I think literary agent should be made a mandatory requirement—often authors think they've created a masterpiece; the literary agent is required to bring us back to planet earth.
My association with Mita started way back after she read Bhendi Bazaar, and like all my other relationships I hope, it will be a lifetime one. Fingers crossed!
6. You are extremely prolific writer. First book was in 2010. In the last 8 years, how many have you published ?
Six. Seventh one is due this July. Although my first book—Nothing Lasts Forever—was published in 2010, I took a brief hiatus from writing and only returned to it in 2014 with Bhendi Bazaar. And I haven't stopped since. So in all honestly, it's been 6 books in 5 years. Like Mr Bachchan in Trishul aptly said: (if you remember)... Maine zara jaldi mein hoon.
7. How do you manage to write so much and so fast? What's your writing process? Typically, how long do you take to finish the first draft and then what? Do you give it to a beta reader? When do you submit it to your agent?
It's all about discipline, and nothing else. I guess the process is the same as any other author. I wake up very early, write in the mornings, I write when there's no distraction; I like music on in the background, and it's just me and my writing. How long it takes me to finish the first draft depends on the type of book I'm working one. Noir takes the longest to write, legal fiction is complicated too. But other capers or murder mysteries are a lot simpler. I'd say anything between 6-9 months is enough for me to finish the first draft of any manuscript.
8.When did the Rita Ferreira character happen? How did you get the idea and which novel did she make her first appearance?
Rita is close to my heart—no it's not someone real although I've been asked many times in conversations by others. Surprisingly, Rita didn't come first, Bhendi Bazaar came first. Rita Ferreira was the best character I could draw to lead the book. And there's been no looking back. I've had two Rita Ferreira thrillers so far, and the third one comes to life next year.
9. Are you a detailed planner kind of writer who plans meticulously very chapter before writing or do you just have a brief sketch of the plot and start writing?
I work on the plot first. At the very least, the beginning and the end; the how, the when, the who, and the where, are sorted before I begin. The twists, the subplots, all come to surface when I start writing and I immerse myself into the story.
10. Of all your books which is your favourite? Which took most time to write? I know this is an unfair question but still want to know.
Deja Karma, if I have to pick one. It is one book that didn't get the recognition it deserved after the initial sales, which had made it a bestseller on various charts. It's an offbeat crime/legal fiction with a soul. It took me the longest to write and it will stay closest to my heart for the longest time. It makes me laugh and it makes me cry every time I read it—not kidding, it's that real.