Of myths and murders

Yen for thrillersRavi Subramanian

Yen for thrillersRavi Subramanian  

Ravi Subramanian on writing, awards and why he set his ninth novel in Thiruvananthapuram

It isn’t every day that Thiruvananthapuram, let alone the city’s Padmanabhaswamy temple, becomes the setting for a murder mystery in English. So when Ravi Subramanian wove the city into his latest thriller, In The Name of God , we couldn’t help but ask why.

The Mumbai-based banker says, “The Padmanabhaswamy temple is the richest temple in the world. Come to think of it, it is the only temple in the country which is so wealthy and still under the control of a private trust. There are six possibilities as to why people commit a crime — love, faith, greed, boredom, fear or revenge. The Padmanabhaswamy temple is a perfect backdrop for these motivations to come into play. That’s why I decided to write on this.”

Subramanian takes readers on a roller-coaster ride across three continents as parallel plots unfold in In The Name Of God , including a hiest at a popular mall in Dubai (a true incident). Homework involved visits to the places mentioned including Thiruvananthapuram, the diamond bourse in Mumbai and locations in the Middle East, apart from reading up on Kerala. “I even read the Supreme Court case details of the Padmanabha Swamy temple.”

Subramanian feels that awards do not translate into popularity or sales numbers, unless of course it is the Booker. “The only benefit is that it gives you the right to prefix ‘award-winning author’ to your name.”

Subramanian is hoping his ninth book does not invite controversies. “These days, everything becomes a reason for controversy. I have penned a short author’s note before the story requesting readers to read the book as ‘What could have been’ rather than ‘What is’. At the end of the day, it is fiction."

He clarifies that there is no walking away from his forte of banking thrillers. “I am not going to hand over that space to someone else on a platter.”

Even so, he feels that any author who restricts himself to one genre is not doing justice to the craft. “Moving out of one’s comfort zone is the only way to improve.”

Subramanian says that writing is for the thick skinned. “If you are afraid of being judged, you should not be in writing. It is not a luxury, rather a necessity as people will take pot shots at you. Have faith in your writing and everything will fall in place.”

Looking back, every book has been an exercise in improvement, says Subramanian, whose characters touch upon his educational background at IIM-Bangalore and experiences as a finance professional. “Most of the change has been driven by feedback from my readers. In the earlier books, my characters were largely black or white. These days, most of the characters in my book are grey. My story-telling has improved. I have learnt to balance plot, pace and the protagonists.”

Ten years and nine books later, writing, he notes, is not done with the intention to be prolific. “When you are passionate about something you prioritise it over everything else. I am always thinking of plots. Most of my plots are plagiarised from real life instances. I work very hard to string a series of real-life instances into a plot worth reading.”

Moving out of one’s comfort zone is the only way to improve

On a treasure hunt

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Gold Bug (1843) is about William Legrand’s adventures to discover a buried treasure after deciphering a secret message. He is assisted by Jupiter and an unnamed friend.

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