Author V. Sanjay Kumar, often uses the buzz of a city as a backdrop. This time, he explores Mumbai through his latest crime novel, The Third Squad. Calling himself an inadvertent explorer, the writer explains that walking through these cities gave him the space to find answers and form his novel. In an interview, he takes us through the process of writing his book.
When did the idea for the book germinate?
In the beginning, there were characters, in this case three policemen. I wrote them, spent time with them, allowed them thereafter to shape the narrative. The plot evolved organically. My first draft was merely a stepping-stone to the second, the second to the third. I can safely say the core idea of the book took shape in the third draft. Five years had passed by this time.
Does inspiration strike you at the oddest of moments/places?
A degree of immersion is essential for inspiration. I was neck deep into the manuscript, and at the time I had titled it Blood Cinema — inspired by a sculpture by Anish Kapoor bearing this name. Then the idea hit me. There was no looking back after that. The narrative changed, as did the title.
You usually set your books in specific city backdrops. How intrinsic is the city backdrop to your plot?
The city is everything. The city is the writer Italo Calvino’s muse as well. In his book Invisible Cities he said, ‘You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.’
I have questions, many of them, and they arise when I walk the streets of cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata. I am an inadvertent explorer; I observe people and overhear conversations. These days, I measure my walks in sentences. Each sentence triggers a paragraph, sometimes a page.
Which book do you keep revisiting time and again?
I like to go back now and then to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I don’t have to read all of it. A page or two is enough.