The Devil’s in the Details–Taking Your Fiction to Higher Level

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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There are a few common reasons most of us become writers: 1) We are not normal. Let it go. The Normal Ship sailed long ago while we were bartering for a cheaper price on a t-shirt and souvenir shot glass 2) We hopefully like to read and probably need a 12 Step Program for our book habit 3) We are Masters of “Things Few Know and Fewer Care About” 4) We are  pathological liars born storytellers.

This aside, just because we are born to write doesn’t mean we’re any good, especially in the beginning. I use this analogy. We could see some gal at a club who can really dance. She has great moves. This doesn’t mean she’s automatically qualified to tour with Katy Perry. Training (lots of it) and practice (more of it) and discipline (whoa, crap, even MORE of that) is required to go pro.

Today I…

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The Last (and the most infamous) Jury Trial of India

When was the last time did you see smitten ladies stamping their lips on 100 rupee notes and then throwing them at a handsome killer? When was the last time you heard of souvenirs and memorabilia dedicated to the killer and the victim being sold in the market? When was the last time you heard of a murderer being flooded with marriage proposals?

Well, anything could happen in the crazy 60’s which rocked the world. India was no less turbulent those days. Hardly a decade had passed since our independence and the angst ridden nation was desperately looking for a hero. They got an anti-hero instead. This is the story of a man, a killer, who caught the imagination of a country, drawing such a sympathy that the jury declared him ‘not guilty’ for a murder, subsequently forcing the government to do away with jury trials in India.

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On an afternoon in Bombay in 1959, a Naval commander KM Nanavati dropped his wife and children at a movie theatre and told them he would return soon.  He, however, proceeded to his ship’s armory and procured a pistol and a few bullets saying that he needed them for personal safety during a local travel. He came out knowing exactly what what he had to do and was prepared for the consequences. His wife was having an affair with his close friend – a rich playboy who no longer wanted to marry her.

Nanavati confronted the man in his house and asked him whether or not he will marry his wife and adopt his children. With a smirk on his face, Mr. Playboy said he cannot keep marrying every woman he is intimate with. Nanavati shot him dead on the spot. He then drove his car to the police station and surrendered himself.

The case was all about whether it was a premeditated and calculated murder or it just happened in the heat of the moment. Being a Parsi, Nanavati received ample support from the rich Parsi community. One of his sympathizers who used to run a tabloid named Blitz portrayed the Armyman as a hero and a man of honor. The amount of support Nanavati garnered can be estimated from the fact that the tabloid often sold for more than eight times its normal price. His supporters held regular rallies where thousands of people turned up.

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The wave of compassion went on to sway the jury, who pronounced Nanavati as not guilty, with an 8–1 verdict. Sensing something very wrong, the judge referred the case to the high court and it later on went to the Supreme Court where Nanavati was finally convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra is one of the landmark cases in the history of Indian Legal System, which led to the abolition of jury trials. The case transcript can be accessed at this link Nanavati Case Files.

This story had a good ending for Nanavati though. He was pardoned after spending 3 years in jail, after which he made it up with his wife and flew away to Canada. He died in 2003, away from the eyes of a nation which had once begun worshiping him.

Thriller Novel Publishers in India – 2

After covering the publishing houses which give special attention to thrillers written by Indian authors  in my previous blog Thriller Novel Publishers in India – 1, it’s time to cover the also-rans. The good thing is that even these publishers have a few superb thrillers up their sleeves. The only reason I call them the ‘also-rans’ is their inconsistency in doing so. They seem to have only a partial dedication towards the ‘Crime, Mystery and Thriller’ genre. Let’s have a look at them.

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HarperCollins: Worldwide, they publish so many brilliant thrillers. However, they don’t have much to show with Indian authors. Sporadically, one can name a few novels such as Cut Like a Wound by Anita Nair, initial works by Mukul Deva like Lashkar, Tanzeem , Salim Must Die etc. and The Caretaker by A. X. Ahmed. There have published a few semi-thrillers also like The Price You Pay by Somnath Batabyal, Johnny Gone Down by Karan Bajaj and Blood Red Sari by Ashok Banker.

Om Books International: Yet another publisher with a restraint in publishing thrillers. The Mahabharata Secret by Christopher C. Doyle and The Company RED by Shantanu Dhar are a couple of thrillers they have managed to publish.

Niyogi Books: This is one publisher which is shaping up well in this genre. In recent times, they have come out with thrillers like Baramulla Bomber by Clark Prasad and The Ekkos Clan by Sudipto Das (both history-religion based thrillers).

Leadstart Publishing: Leadstart has given chance to a lot of upcoming thriller authors. Though big names are missing in their list, they have to be given credit for launching thriller novels in good numbers. A sample of their titles (irrespective of whether they are good or bad): Rachel, The Madras Mangler, Field and Seems Sheena.

Vitasta Publishing: Again another publisher like Leadstart which has a big list of thrillers in print with no celebrity author in their ranks. However, in their camp, they have one interesting author named Joygopal Podder who has published some 11 thriller novels in 21 months. Prolific, I would say! A sample of their titles: A Million Seconds Too Late, Beware of the Night and A Naxal Story.

Wisdom Tree: One more highly selective (and may I say confused) thriller publisher. They have mentioned on their website that they don’t publish fiction. But they do publish fiction and have a catalogue for the same. A popular name whom they have published is Saad Shafqat, a widely read Pakistani author at Cricinfo. His book Breath of Death is a medical thriller worth a read. Another good title they have published is Prey by the Ganges by Hemant Kumar.

You might also want to read about Indian Literary Agents who look at Thrillers more favourably than the others at this link Indian Literary Agents for Thrillers

photo credit: i k o via photopin cc

10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing

Some fabulous Quotations on Writing.

Interesting Literature

Here are ten of our favourite quotes about writing, from those who should probably know the most about it – writers themselves. Some of them are witty quotes, others profound, some a mixture. We hope you enjoy them.

‘Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.’

– Neil Gaiman

‘God may reduce you on Judgment Day to tears of shame, reciting by heart the poems you would have written, had your life been good.’

– W. H. Auden

‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’

– Thomas Mann

Gaiman1

‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’

– Cyril Connolly

‘The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is that he’s given the…

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The Crazy Man and The Peepal Tree

One of the best real life stories I have ever heard has come from one of my teachers in my B-school. I am grateful to my teacher for this wonderful story, which I have tried to retell in my own words.

Near my college, there is a lush green park bordered by tall trees. Even at 4:30 AM in the morning you can find the park filled with people doing their yoga and morning walks. A few of them, like my teacher, however prefer jogging on a nice track which runs parallel to the outer circumference of the park.

Run for half an hour, watch the sunrise and then run some more – that used to be his daily schedule.

One day he was late for his run. The sun was already up by the time he hit the jogging track. He decided to make up for lost time and started running fast. Just when he was about to complete his third round, his eyes wandered towards an old man who was standing in front of a Peepal tree, looking at it with an unbroken gaze. Something was odd about the man. Dressed in white kurta and pyjama, he had long, white silky hair shining in the sun and an equally long Gandalf-like beard.

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My teacher chose to ignore the man and continued with his jogging. Run after run, however, he found the old man standing at the same place looking at the tree with dazed eyes. Is he mad? Has he lost a near or dear one? These were the questions which passed through my teacher’s mind momentarily. But, he shrugged them off and went home.

To his surprise, for the next three mornings he saw the old man standing at the same place, looking at the tree continuously, hardly batting an eyelid. My teacher could no longer remain unperturbed. Something was seriously odd with the man. He needed to see some psychiatrist. Doesn’t he have kids, who can take care of this mentally retarded man?

The following day, when starting from his home, my teacher decided to have a chat with this man. And maybe, talk some sense into him.

But, the old man was nowhere to be seen today. His regular place in front of the Peepal tree lay deserted. Where did he go? Is he alright? Battling questions tugging at his heartstrings, my teacher grudgingly decided to get on with his run.

To his relief, after one round, his eyes struck a familiar figure sitting on a chair at a far end of the park. The man had the same long hair and beard, but was not looking at the Peepal tree this time. In fact, he was fiddling with a cardboard stand mounted in front of him.

My teacher could not continue jogging. Desperately wanting to clear the air over this mystery, he started walking towards him. As he went nearer and nearer, his eyes grew larger and larger with astonishment. The cardboard stand was actually an easel holding a canvas. The old man was an artist busy in his work. His hands moved professionally, smearing shades of green, brown and yellow over the fabric, creating a deliriously beautiful piece of art – a Peepal tree.

My teacher stood there astounded. The mad old man didn’t need a treatment. He realized that the world however did.

The reason I told you this story in a blog dedicated to thriller writers is to help you draw some inspiration. The old man was not an idiot. He just had a different way of working, a different way of looking at things. For a moment, put the publishers and literary agents at my teacher’s place and yourself at the old man’s place. You will realize that you just need to keep working at your masterpiece with unwavering dedication, careless of the world’s questioning eyes. The world will someday admire your Peepal tree.

Don’t let rejections pull you down

Rejections and setbacks are an inherent part of an author’s life. Even the bestselling writers of today have had a phase when they were hardly known. But, they persisted and the results are evident. Below is a list of a few authors who look as if they have always been successful:

Stephen King: Carrie was rejected 30 times. One famous rejection quote was “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Frustated, Stephen threw his manuscript into a dustbin, to be later salvaged by his wife. Carrie went on to become a huge success.

John Grisham: A time to Kill, his first novel was rejected by dozens of publishers and literary agents.

 

Rejection letter for Conan the Barbarian
Rejection letter for Conan the Barbarian
John le Carre: His first novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, is hailed as the greatest spy novel ever written. On his submission, an editor passed a note to his colleague saying “You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.”

JK Rowling: Struggling as a single mother and author with lack of success, she had once contemplated committing suicide. How’s that for a now billionaire author?

James Patterson: He holds the Guinness World record for the most bestselling hardcover fiction titles by a single author. He achieved fame only on his eighth attempt Along Came a Spider.

Jodi Picoult: Her books have sold more than 22 million copies till now. She became a household name only after her tenth novel.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen: Their Chicken Soup series has sold more than 100 million copies till date. Their first book was rejected not 10 times, not 50 times, not 100 times, but for a whopping 140 times! Perseverance, that’s the word.

Indian Literary Agents for Thrillers

Every literary agent has a specialization. There are literary agents dedicated to traditional literature, to romance, to non-fiction and even to thrillers. Not every literary agent can look at your thriller manuscript with the same eye. It’s a truth that even the best of thrillers do not win the traditional literary awards, so they need a different pair of hands to be handled with.

Indian Literary Agents for Thrillers

The problem with India is that there are too few good literary agents. And I wonder how many out of them specialize in ‘Crime, Mystery and Thrillers’. Below are a few literary agents / agencies in India which have worked on a few Indian thriller titles.

Red Ink Literary society: Among known thriller authors, they represent Amish Tripathi, Abhisar Sharma, Upendra Namburi.

Writer’s Side: Has represented Oswald Pereira, Sharath Komarraju (works at Writer’s Side), Ismita Tandon Dhanker.

Jacarnada: Aroon Raman is the only thriller writer I could find. But being a renowned literary agency, I believe there would be more.

Literary agencies like Siyahi, Purple Folio, Sherna Khambatta and Authorz Coracle do not seem to be dealing much with thrillers. Their websites hardly have any reference to popular titles in this genre.

However, there is no need to get disheartened, because the thriller arena is still evolving in India and I am sure the traditional literary agents are also planning to bring thrillers into their ambit. It’s only a matter of time.

If you want to know more about Indian Publishers who are churning out more thrillers than others read Thriller Novel Publishers in India – 1

 

Note: This blog claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

Dr. John Watson, the killer

Agatha Christie, easily the queen of crime thrillers, has often used controversial elements in her novels which the writing Gods would consider taboo. Below is a nice story on one of the ‘rules’ of thriller writing she broke:

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not read ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ till now and have it in your to-be-read list, stop right there.

John Watson, the Killer

In one of their meetings, Agatha Christie’s brother-in-law suggested her an idea which she liked a lot. He said, what if, in a story Dr. John Watson, the narrator, turns out to be the murderer? Even Lord Mountbatten (yes, the man who saw the division of India) wrote to Agatha a couple of times, telling her to write a novel with such a structure.

While many would suggest that such a structure, in which the narrator is revealed to be the murderer in a final twist, would amount to cheating with the reader, Agatha went on and wrote the novel, a Hercule Poirot classic and her masterpiece, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. So who was the killer at the end? Well, I have given your enough hints.

Thriller Novel Publishers in India – 1

Best Thriller Publishers in India (Only Indian Authors)

Worldwide, ‘Crime, Mystery and Thriller’ has been a big money churner for publishers. Surprisingly, till recently, publishers in India do not have much to show in this genre. Thanks to the persistence of Indian authors like Ashwin Sanghi and Amish Tripathi (in spite of the initial rejections they faced) that we are now seeing a spurt in thrillers. While thrillers with mythological and religious themes have managed to make it big, sub-genres like Police Procedurals and Legal thrillers are still waiting for some exciting new talent. For the reader, however, good times are certainly ahead.

Indian Thriller Publishers

Based on titles and bestsellers, I have found that the below publishers among the few who publish thrillers with dedication. Let me know if you know of more.

Westland: The numero uno publisher of Crime, Mystery and Thrillers in India. Recently, they announced a Rs. 5 Crore book deal with Amish Tripathi (The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret Of The Nagas and The Oath of the Vayuputrasfor the rights to his future books in South-Asia region. For international rights, well, the figure might be four times as much. Other well known thriller authors in their ranks include Ashwin Sanghi (The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chants, The Krishna Key) and Mukul Deva (R.I.P.), who previously wrote for HarperCollins. Westland also has emerging authors Manreet Sodhi Someshwar (The Taj ConspiracyThe Hunt for Kohinoor) and Arnab Ray (The Mine) under their belt.

Pan Macmillan: Among Indian authors, they have Aroon Raman (The Treasure of Kafur, The Shadow Throne) and Madhumita Bhattacharya (The Masala Murder). But they have some seriously good international authors in their ranks e.g. Wilbur Smith, Robin Cook and Scott Turow, so their intention is pretty much clear – churn out good thrillers.

Penguin: Playing a catch-up game in this genre, but has the potential of becoming the number one in this genre. In 2013, they poached Ravi Subramanian, writer of financial thrillers, from Rupa Publications with a Rs. 1.25 Crore tw0-book deal. Under the Penguin camp he has launched Bankerupt.They also have a few solid titles from Shashi Warrier (Sniper and The Night of the Krait) and a slew of mythological fantasies by Ashok Banker. Among others, they have published “The Girl from Nongrim Hills by Ankush Saikia”, “A Convenient Culprit by Vibha Singh” and “The Terrorist by Juggi Bhasin”. The latest addition is “Ghalib Danger by Neeraj Pandey”.

Rupa Publications: Trying to play big in this genre. Have published novels like Red Jihad, Mumbaistan and Compass Box Killer in the past. Have a few thrillers from Ravi Subramanian (The Bankster, The Incredible Banker, If God was a Banker) as well.

Among the also-rans in this thriller genre are Harper CollinsOm Books International, Leadstart Publishing and Vitasta Publishing which I will cover in my next blog Thriller Novel Publishers in India – 2. If you know of any other publisher which churns out thrillers by Indian authors with dedication (not sporadically), let me know.

You might also want to read about Indian Literary Agents who look at Thrillers more favourably than the others at this link Indian Literary Agents for Thrillers

 

Note: This blog claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.