Why do you write?
I write to create bad characters and punish them. Because that isn’t happening in real life. That’s the short answer. But let me elaborate. I enjoy creating alternate, near-perfect worlds in which the bad guy gets kicked and his nose rubbed in the sand. Name any other occupation where one can create and destroy with such impunity?
Do you have a writing schedule?
No fixed schedule but I’m able to write better during the forenoon hours, that’s between 8 am to 2 pm. Afternoons, for me, are for reading, reflecting, wondering whether the North Koreans will really wipe us all out.
Coffee/tea/cigarettes numbers please while you are writing…
I make my own coffee and drink up to 3-4 cups a day. My wife makes tea and I like to have my desi doodhwali chai three times a day. Then there’s whiskey on the weekends and let’s not talk about numbers there.
Ever struggled with writer’s block?
Never had a writer’s block. But, like most writers, I do wrestle with self-doubt from time to time.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever got?
Ray Bradbury, who said, “Sometimes you just have to jump out of the window and grow wings on the way down.” I’ve been doing this all my life.
Do you keep a diary?
I used to, but now I jot down my thoughts directly on my smartphone.
Describe your favourite writing space.
I write on planes and sometimes in the toilets of restaurants. That said, I can’t write when I’m at the airport lounges, mainly because watching people is more fun. Especially the occasional flyers, who are a treat to watch: the deliberate shake of freshly-cut hair, impeccable beauty-parlour makeup, and the trying-to-be-casual body language. The regulars, on the other hand, are always tired, bored and too sleepy. But when the aircraft levels out in the air, I take out my smartphone and begin typing. And finally when I’m back home at my study, I sit down and stich it all up. Yes, about the toilets in case you are still wondering. For some strange reason, I get my best one-liners at a restaurant and since typing then and there might seem rude to my fellow diner(s), I use the privacy of the toilet.
Who are your favourite authors?
Among Indian writers, I like Ravi Subramanian and Manjiri Prabhu. The international list is long. As a teenager, I loved Sidney Sheldon and James Hadley Chase. As a young officer, I enjoyed Frederick Forsyth, Alistair MacLean, and Ian Fleming. Now, I like David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Jo Nesbo, and James Patterson etc.
Which book/author should be banned on grounds of bad taste?
I would say none. Who should be banned on grounds of bad taste? I think Bollywood screenplay writers. Most of them are pathetic. The movies are proof enough. Things are changing though and I’m happy that Bollywood is finally looking at our publishing industry with more interest. I’ve been approached by a few people for my Andy Karan series of spy thrillers and I can’t tell you how excited I’m with potential collaborations. More on this soon.
Which are your favourite children’s books?
The best books for children are my two daughters. They are my relief valve and I try to spend as much time with them as I can. Which is a lot of time as I work from home. But on a serious note, I have not read enough books to pick a favourite.
Which classics do you want to read?
Classics are good but they limit our understanding of the present. I find the comparison of contemporary literature with classics rather harsh, particularly when, and often that’s the case, people compare the two already convinced in their heads that the classics are better. The scriptures.
Who is your favourite literary character?
Not sure about this, quite a few of them. Jack Reacher, Harry Hole, Jason Bourne, James Bond, and of course, Andy Karan etc.