Joygopal Podder is an Indian author who lives right across town, in Gurgaon. He started his writing career two years ago at age 50. Joygopal Podder has already written and published 11 novels in 22 months including 10 crime fiction novels. 5 of these books are located in the Indian film industry. He features in the Limca Book of Records for two consecutive years as India’s fastest crime fiction author. His books are categorized into of crime fiction and thrillers.
Joygopal Podder’s 12th book “Vanished” releases in end December 2012.
Here is extract from an interview Author Joygopal Podder gave to Himani Vashishta.
Congratulations for your outstanding success and achievement. What kind of response you are receiving from your readers?
My readers are constantly referring my books to their friends and relatives (and sharing synopsis and reviews of my books on social media platforms). This is very inspiring to me; I have a dedicated and growing readership which waits for my new books.
My readers enjoy my fast paced writing. Some have appreciated my plots and characterization. One has written to me that I have a unique ability to describe and visualize in detail for the readers of my books dramatic situations and diverse locations and fast paced action, and give them the feeling that they are right in the middle of it all.
Please tell something about yourself… You started writing at the late age of 50. How
did that happen? What were you doing before that? What inspired you to write your first novel, and the books that came after that?
I work as Director – Fundraising of the International NGO and anti-poverty agency ActionAid. I have been working in the social sector in India for twelve years now. Prior to that, for seventeen years, I worked with leading companies in India and abroad.
I came to writing at age 7, in London, where I was born and spent my childhood. My first published story was at age 12 in a children’s magazine in Delhi. I was a freelance writer during my school and college days.
Then I earned a gold medal in Law, got offers from multinationals, joined Brooke Bond and then Godrej, and a management career took over. Writing took a backseat. 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. I saved my house – but with great difficulty. 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 to struggle to start a book.
I was struggling for many months to find a story. I first thought of writing teenage detective fiction on the lines of a popular series I used to write for ‘Target’ magazine three decades ago. Then I went for an office conference in Austria and discovered that my professional world was full stories of struggle and triumph and human drama. So I based my first book on the NGO sector, where I have been a Director for 12 years. I love reading thrillers and crime fiction, so that’s the genre I chose. What emerged was a thriller featuring a social sector activist.
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 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.
I have authored fourteen novels in two 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.
I will explore historical drama and humour novels at a later date.
Do you write every day and for how many hours? How long it takes you to complete a book? What motivates you to write so extensively? According to you how easy or difficult is the art of writing?
I write every day, normally in the evenings, after returning home from office or after a family outing on weekends. Writing is an efficient de-stressor for me.
I write for about an hour, sometimes two. On a holiday, I can go up to three hours. But I don’t time myself; I stop when I feel I’ve done enough for the day.
I write one book in two months, on an average.
When I started writing novels, I did not set out to break records. My focus was on writing every day, that’s all. The records (fastest published crime fiction author) just happened – because no Indian author of crime fiction writes faster than me. I have been fortunate that I have met up with publishers who appreciate my writing and are backing me. Writing novels is a passion. This passion leads to five or six books a year.
This kind of prolific writing is not new to the west or to the genre. 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 others like me, I’m sure.
Writing is like playing a musical instrument. The more you do it, the better you get at it. I am a better writer now, after my 14thbook, than when I wrote my first. Writing is easy for those who enjoy doing it – and for those who write for themselves as well as for their readers. Those who write specifically to get published will soon run out of steam…
I do not sleep over my books; that’s why readers find them so racy. I do not re-work sentences and word placement. While writing one book, the seeds of the next have already been planted in my mind.
When you write, what plays thru' your mind? Is it the murderer and the criminal, or is it the detective....which character is important for you?
Evil has cockroach endurance. Evil is fascinating, so long as it does not target you specifically, but is limited to the pages of a book or the silver screen. The criminal persona, even if it inhabits only the background of a story, with the investigators in the forefront, is the more interesting. That’s where the mystery and suspense come from. So the serial killer, the professional bank robber, the conman, these characters are more important to me than the detectives who catch them in the end.
Yes, we do need an India grounded detective character who can capture the imagination of the reading public. It will happen – Indian writing in English is maturing. I may not be in the forefront of this, as I would not like to find myself limited to particular characters and a specific style and sub-genre. I write a book every two months; this pace of work can be maintained only with ‘creative genre hopping’. With each book, I would like to go where the fancy takes me.
However, I have also developed a team of police detectives who appear in three of my books. These two detectives are from Gurgaon Police and have featured in three crime fiction books I have based there – ‘Millennium City’, ‘A million Seconds Too Late’ and ‘Beware of the night’. They are also the investigators in my soon-to-be-released 12thbook ‘Vanished’.
My 13th book, ‘Goddess’, is very loosely based on the lives of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, but in an Indian setting and with mystery sub-plots. My 14th book, ‘Dynasty’, is about the family members of a hotel tycoon who are stalked, attacked and warned but nobody knows why and by whom. There are many characters in this book, each with a history, unique personality traits and special motivations. There are no black-and-white stories; all the characters inhabit grey areas and have questionable motives and ‘human’ failings – and strengths.
How tough the publishing industry is for new comers? Is it tough? Were you initially rejected by some publishers?
The publishing industry is very tough for newcomers, but then so is the music industry, the film industry….I could go on and on.
The first novel I wrote was also the first book of mine that was published. The struggle for me was short, but it was intense. I went to bookshops and copied down the e-mail addresses or websites of various publishers from the book jackets. I did research on the internet for more publisher details. I then sent the manuscript to 14 publishers. The spate of rejections did not deter me; I focused on writing my second novel. The 14th publisher accepted my manuscript.
Do you have anything to say about the support you get from your family and friends while writing a book?
My family and friends have been inspiring me to reach greater heights in writing. My wife and daughters understand that I cannot be with them all the time after work, that I have a second career as a writer. My family tries to keep pace with my writing speed and read my manuscripts as they are being written and offer plot development and characterization comments. Their support cannot be quantified; all my books, so far, have been dedicated to my family – I think that speaks for itself.
What kind of books you like to read?
I read authors, not books. Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham, Arthur Hailey, P G Wodehouse, are amongst my favourites.
I do, of course, prefer to read crime fiction and thrillers as a genre. Amongst the classics, I favour the detectives Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. From contemporary crime fiction I would choose characters like Jack Reacher, Peter Decker and Harry Bosch. There are no favourite murders or crime scene descriptions, though I remember a striking sentence from an Agatha Christie book: “You would never have imagined that such a frail man had so much blood in him!” This sentence held the clue to the eventual solution of the crime mystery.
Amongst contemporary crime fiction writers, Lee Child (actual name Jim Grant) is a great favourite, for his gritty descriptions and racy style. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series is another favourite.
Would you like to offer any advice to aspiring authors?
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.
Could you tell us something about your future literary plans?
I write crime fiction and thrillers because those plots come to me the easiest. But I will be writing in all genres eventually. My daughters want me to write humour. I will. I want to try out historicals also.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still writing. Better known as an author. Perhaps seeing one of my books on the silver screen.
Any message for Himani Vashishta’s Diary readers...
If you want to write, or paint, or act, or sing – don’t wait for that great day when you think the inspiration will strike you. Just roll up your sleeves and get to work – now.
Thank you, Mr. Joygopal, for your time. We will meet again. Wish you good luck for your forthcoming novels.
Author Himani Vashishta