For an author who now deals with horror, gore and thrillers, Arnab Ray became immensely popular with his humorous take on Hindi movies, politics and Indian society in the 90s on his blog, Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind. His debut novel, May I Hebb your Attention Pliss is an irreverent take on Indian popular culture, while his second novel, The Mine , is a dark horror novel.
The writer, who has been working as a research scientist at the University of Maryland, is in India to promote his latest book, Yatrik, that opens with the protagonist being told that he is dead. Talking about Yatrik , he says, “When I write a book, I work backwards. I build a climax and make a story that revolves around it.
I focus on the climax the most. Yatrik started off as a plug for a low-budget Bengali movie. The movie plan did not take off, so I decided to write a book.”
He adds, “It is a tale about Bengali politics, deals with the unionisation of the education system and the education system in the state and is also a treatise on parenthood. Parenthood is one of the underlying themes that define this novel.”
Bengali politics finds its way in the book, as Arnab argues, because of the manner in which it dominated life in the state when he was growing up. “We learnt a lot about Bengali politics and were aware of how the system worked. I do not expect everyone to get the references in the book.”
Arnab says, “Becoming a father has changed me a lot. I realised that my daughter will also start reading my books. Since MIHYAP is full of references to the India of the 90s and The Mine is a dark tale, I wanted to write a book that teaches her lessons in life in a non-preachy way.
This book came out of that realisation.”
Arnab contends that blogging was a means to an end. “I was tired of getting my submissions rejected and started blogging. I like writing books more. More than the medium, I like to write about topics that interest me. I blog less these days since I hardly get the time.”
“I do not like writing under the pressure of a deadline. I cannot come up with a story at random by just staring at a blank computer screen.
I develop my story by observing mundane things, occasionally building characters during a boring meeting at work or during long conference calls. I write a book in a cinematic manner.
Usually, when I sit down to write, I have a plot in place.” One of the main issues, Arnab faces is ensuring that dialogues do not lose its punch in English. “I have often felt that some of the dialogues get lost in translation. I take a lot of time to correct that. I do not like all my characters talking in Hinglish.”
Arnab’s literary inspirations range from the stories and plotlines sketched by Stephen King to the excellent character building that is followed by authors such as George RR Martin. “We tend to struggle with one protagonist. It is indeed marvellous that he is able to handle a lot of characters and keep them central to the main story.”
Arnab says that he hates being slotted into genres. “I have many book ideas. I am working on a book based on a mafia network in Delhi. I am also keen to complete a humorous semi-autobiographical account of an Indian student in the United States. I also want to write a horror story with the great Indian joint family as a backdrop.”